Nirvanna the Band the Show is the most innovative and genre redefining comedy series in recent history, but you probably don’t know that; you probably wouldn’t have guessed it was even a comedy series. You probably don’t know that because it also has one of the worst titles for a comedy series ever, likely by design. The show, which is named after the titular Nirvanna the Band (which in turn is named after the band Nirvana), is an uproariously hilarious romp that feels unlike any other show on television. It follows life-long best friends Jay McCarroll and Matt Johnson as they concoct increasingly elaborate plans to get their band, Nirvanna the Band, booked at a bar restaurant in Toronto called The Rivoli.
The show is filmed in mockumentary style; however, it blends that style together with candid footage and improv, featuring people unaware that the show is even filming. Ultimately, it comes off as a bizarre Canadian hybrid of The Office and Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat. The show frequently features references—and even straight up recreations—of popular films and television shows, in particular those of the 90s. On top of that, Jay and Matt will often break character or start talking to the camera man, breaking down the fourth wall entirely. Nothing appears to be off limits for the Nirvanna the Band boys.
Part of the fun of the series is the question of what is real and what is not. A lot of the scenes are filmed in public with unknowing participants being filmed as part of the show, but as the scenarios become more and more surreal it begs the question: how much of what you are witnessing is real and improvised and how much of it was staged? This ultimately culminates in the series hilarious climactic episode, “The Bank”, which is in and of itself an episode-long reference to the film Dog Day Afternoon. The episode sees Jay and Matt accidentally become embroiled in a bank robbery while they were concocting a plan to get a gig at The Rivoli. It is arguably one of the funniest half hours of television of the past decade.
While its title may be confusing, and seemingly imply it is a documentary or program of some kind about the real life band Nirvana, Nirvanna the Band the Show is truly one of the best works of comedy television in recent memory. The first season alone features classic episodes, such as an episode that takes place entirely at a Chinese Buffet with real patrons of the restaurant unaware of the comedy show that is taking place on the table next to them. Another noteworthy episode sees Jay and Matt abducting an apparently terminally ill child from the hospital in order to convince him to use his Make-A-Wish wish to get Nirvanna the Band to perform at the Rivoli. It is all completely ludicrous, but the mix of reality with real life people participating in scenes makes the show truly something different and special in a comedy landscape that is growing dull in an increasingly politically correct society.