Ilana Glazer’s three-part, highest-holiday Comedy Central special, Time Traveling Bong, has a specific audience baked in; the bordering-on-offensive takes and extra-adult jokes seem written expressly for Broad City’s stoned-est fans. But even the least 4/20-friendly viewers will appreciate the way Glazer’s bizarre little event unlocks the underappreciated appeal of actor/writer Paul Downs.
Fans of Broad City know Downs from his role as Trey, Abbi’s scattered and spandexed boss at the gym. (He’s also a writer on the show, and on this special.) His bits have always been funny, but it’s taken three seasons for the show to move him from sexually ambiguous punch line to weird, but still sweet, love interest — a role he deserves. Time Traveling Bonglets him show off a third side: the post-Apatow stoner.
The overtly druggy riff on Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which debuts today, hands Downs a bong, pairs him with Glazer, and lets him hoist his freak flag, well, really high. And then that titular bong takes Downs and Glazer from ancient Greece to the Salem witch trials to the civil rights era. The comedy goes broad enough to let Downs do his strange, wonderful, and fairly uncategorizable thing. He’s a neurotic stoner, aware but not woke, and a maybe-pansexual bro (both his lack of a sex life and his sexual fluidity are running jokes). Downs checks all the boxes I didn’t even know needed checking: Sort of weird to look at, but in an oddly appealing way? Check. The jittery antithesis of the stoner-slacker? Check. (Thank goodness.) And offscreen, a feminist comic writer? He’s cowriting an all-female 21 Jump Street spin-off with his girlfriend and writing partner, Lucia Aniello. That’s a check. So I’m calling it now: By next 4/20, we’ll be in the midst of a Paul Downs takeover — though you probably won’t remember I predicted it.
This piece originally appeared in the April 20, 2016, edition of the Ringer newsletter.