‘The Vince Staples Show’ Review: Dull Deadpan Comedy With A Pinch Of The Surreal

There have been shows in the past that are based on the ‘experiences’ of a real-life celebrity. The experiences are not necessarily real, but for an artist whose imagination is too strong for their own good, they might have an encounter in their head and it might appear real. Something similar seems to be happening in The Vince Staples Show, where real-life rapper Vince has some odd experiences as he tries to navigate his personal and professional life. It’s like Louie, but a little dull, and Vince doesn’t yet have those stories from his real life that can be sublimated to get weird half-hour episodes. 

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It’s evident from the very first episode that Vince will not ‘act’. That is for other performers to do. He will simply ‘be’. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but then the scenario has to be molded in such a way that the comedy works even if Vince stays ‘chill’. The first episode is where Vince ends up in jail. Now, the social commentary about the police being biased is too on the nose, which enhances the comedy. The episode becomes a commentary on the incarceration of black people in America, but it’s done through Vince dealing with the inmates—some want to impress him and some want to beat him up. The other characters, like the singing inmate played brilliantly by Christopher Meyer, enhance the comedy by being the perfect foil to Vince’s deadpan delivery. In fact, most of the characters do just that—enhance Vince’s acting and try to elevate the scenes—but for how long can this continue? 5 episodes?

The mark of a good sitcom is not only that one wants to continue watching it—to binge it—but also that they feel that the show has just the right flavor of comedy so that they can remain immersed in that world. The Vince Staples Show is a little short on the rich experiences that could keep the viewers interested and ends up looking like a meta-commentary on black culture in America. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when the show is named after a real-life celebrity, one expects to see something uniquely personal. Now The Vince Staples Show does well on the ‘unique’ part, but strangely doesn’t feel all that personal, which is strange because Vince is talking about family and relationships at one point. The show is written by Vince, and it is evident that there is not too much of a premium placed on baring one’s soul, and that too for a comedy! But I feel if you are open to deep diving into the recesses of the mind, which I’m sure you have to do to make a semi-autobiographical sitcom, then comedy is a genre that asks for a lot more depth and vulnerability. In this show, we get a few moments of awkwardness, but the writing is nowhere near revealing what Vince Staples’ comic persona truly is. Apart from the awkwardness, which is wrapped in surrealist humor at times, we get a cliched point of view of Vince’s sometimes, which is too predictable. 

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In an episode, Vince goes to a bank, and it’s Vince’s bad luck that the robbers barge in. They turn out to be Vince’s friends, and there is a long drawing out of the episode until Vince gets a loan. This theme of the proximity of crime is fleshed out and dramatized in a funny but generic way. Sure, the writing is such that it gives a sense of how the robbers are related to Vince, but as Vince’s character is such that he remains aloof and deadpanish, the scenes don’t seem to have his involvement. Vince Staples, the actor, retains a very amateurish tone in delivering some of his dialogue as if he is not totally imbibing the intention behind the lines. That may have added to the deadpan humor in some special cases, but it doesn’t truly work here. 

There is no stable rootedness in the story. The episodes don’t carry the progression of an idea. It’s the day-to-day affair of Vince Staples, and the burden is on the writing and the stylish filmmaking to make something worthwhile. The comedy remains dull, and the drama is not hard-hitting. The social commentary is not something we haven’t seen before, and we don’t necessarily see it in a fresh voice either. The show damages itself the most when it follows other characters and lacks the ‘going through the motions’ vibe offered by Vince to contrast the scene with. It has nowhere to go other than to bring in a critique of society in the most direct manner possible. One such instance is when Vince’s girlfriend Deja talks with a store manager in a theme park and then later goes on to talk to two darker-skinned ladies who call her ‘white’. There is no Vince here, and this vignette sticks out like a sore thumb.

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The show had to narrow down the kind of emotional episodes Vince had to be in. Of course, it’s the others, like Vince’s mother, his uncle, and his friends, who have to ‘play’ the scenes to invoke an emotion, but in the end, these episodes are too haphazardly placed over the course of the show. The nerve-wracking but hilarious robbery comes in the second episode, while a fight with the girlfriend comes in the fourth. One never knows how the graph will go. Some of the scenes, like Vince watching a magic show and then going on to buy food from a creepy chicken store, feel like a hybrid of David Lynch and Luis Bunuel. They generate great emotion—pathos even—but how is that related to what Vince is going through in his life? There are elements of the stoner comedy here, but they’re not explored, as if Vince didn’t want to go there. The Vince Staples Show is one of those shows that promises a great deal at the beginning. However, it gets bogged down by the purposelessness of the almost impersonal deadpan humor and realizes too late that it doesn’t have enough in its surreal arsenal to keep up with the expectations it has set.


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Ayush Awasthi
Ayush Awasthi
Ayush is a perpetual dreamer, constantly dreaming of perfect cinematic shots and hoping he can create one of his own someday.

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The show had to narrow down the kind of emotional episodes Vince had to be in. Of course, it's the others, like Vince’s mother, his uncle, and his friends, who have to ‘play’ the scenes to invoke an emotion, but in the end, these episodes are too haphazardly placed over the course of the show. 'The Vince Staples Show' Review: Dull Deadpan Comedy With A Pinch Of The Surreal