Robot Chicken is the brainchild of veteran actor Seth Green and Mathew Senreich. It’s hard to believe the show has been running for ten years now, but that’s the reality of the world and in that time the show has produced three Christmas specials.
The show is basically an animated version of ToyFare magazine’s Twisted ToyFare Theater that sees popular toys dropped into humorous sketches. The focus is mostly put on turning old action figures, like Mattel’s popular Masters of the Universe line, into puppets to create stop-motion sketches. The integrity of the old toy is retained but it’s often modified to include more points of articulation to create better animation. Other times the show creates its own puppets or finds random toys to repurpose into new ones. Sketches vary in length, but it’s not uncommon for one to last merely a few seconds. In that sense they’re often like micr0-sketches when compared to a traditional sketch comedy program. Usually there’s at least one longer sketch that may last a few minutes that serves as sort of the feature sketch of the episode with each episode only lasting around twelve minutes.
The show is pretty funny, and I suppose it would have to be to have lasted ten years, and the fact that each episode is so short has helped to prevent the show from becoming stale. While it’s rare for all sketches in a single episode to be laugh out loud funny, there’s usually enough there for the show to be entertaining for its short duration.
As a result, it’s hard to really review a single episode like the Half-Assed Christmas Special. And in truth, both of the other two Christmas specials (DP Christmas Special and ATM Christmas Special) are basically just as good. And since these are actually the few shows I do not have a copy of, it’s hard to recall which sketch came from which special, so I’m just going to mention some I remember.
Since the show is stop-motion it’s naturally suited to parody Rankin/Bass productions. There’s a sketch that tries to discover who murdered Santa Claus where everything is basically done up at the North Pole Rudolph style, though a cocaine-addicted Frosty is present as well. The anime Christmas sketch features Santa enlisting the help of Goku and his son to save Christmas from Composite Santa, who’s half-Santa half-Frosty, and eventually a showdown with an Akira-esque Mrs. Claus occurs. The origin of Composite Santa is also detailed in his own sketch when a mad scientist tries to create an irresistible holiday character but he turns out to be genocidal.
Hermey from Rudolf shows up in “Hermey’s Dentistry,” where we see Hermey actually knows nothing about being a dentist and fails miserably at that and other professions. He returns to Santa to beg for his old job back and then the sketch turns into a Godfather Part II parody. “Co-opting Santa” sees Kris Kringle voice his displeasure with the Coca-Cola Company for co-opting his image for over 70 years in a very violent manner. A simple, but effective sketch, also features Santa getting mistakenly murdered after he had a sudden urge to drop a deuce while on the job. This simple, but crude, setup and execution pretty much sums up Robot Chicken in two minutes.
Unfortunately, Robot Chicken’s Christmas themed sketches aren’t available in one volume, to my knowledge, so if you want them you have to buy each individual season. Thankfully, Adult Swim is pretty good about broadcasting the specials every year a couple of times around Christmas and I would assume the same will be true for 2015. We may even get a fourth Christmas special if we’re lucky. Individual sketches are also available on Youtube. The Robot Chicken specials are too short to really feature any actual Christmas cheer, it’s basically just a funny use of Christmas imagery. It’s certainly not going to bring about those warm fuzzies other specials will, but they’re pretty good at getting laughs which makes them a unique entry in this top 25.