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Western Animation: China, IL
I see you at UCI.
"Well, there's somethin' I been meaning to tell you,
'bout the college on the edge of the town:
No one should ever go there,
You know it's bad, bad, bad
It gets worse every school year
But man, the freakin' teachers are rad..."

Brad Neely's China, IL started as a 4-part series of 3-minute shorts that aired on [adult swim] in 2008, combining his long-running characters of The Professor Brothers (Frank and Steve) and Baby Cakes. In 2011, Neely was given a 6-episode first season that further expands the universe (and adds some unexpected celebrity voices like Dave Coulier and Hulk Hogan as The Dean). Tonally, the show is similar to other Adult Swim fare like Super Jail, but with Brad Neely's trademark humor.

The series mostly follows the Professor Brothers, Frank and Steve Smith; their TA, Pony Merks; and perennial student/confidant/drinking buddy Mark "Baby" Cakes, as they try to survive day-to-day life at "the worst school in America". Stories revolve around them dealing with their students, the impossibly macho Dean, the Strawman Christian Mayor... oh, and gay ghosts, time-traveling ex-presidents, and a colossal, murderous baby. Hilarity Ensues.


This show provides examples of:

  • Ascended Extra: Students play a bigger role in season 2 though they're not the same students in season 1.
  • Aerith and Bob: The four main characters are Baby Cakes, Pony Merks, and...Frank and Steve Smith.
    • The Super Deluxe shorts and the pilot episode reveal Baby Cakes' real name is Mark Cakes.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation (in-universe): "Total Validation" has Steve state the protagonist of "Toy Movie 3" is completely insane, with an unnatural attachment to his toys.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Pony. She has to inform everyone that she's Mexican.
  • And This Is for...: Frank goes ballistic on the Dean during the Season 1 finale.
    Frank: This is for the black kid! *slap* This is for Cakes' hot students! *slap* And this- *cocks gun* -is for me!
  • Art Evolution: Well, yeah. The original shorts were just a series of still images with Neely providing voice-overs. The series is fully animated.
  • Berserk Button: Frank seems to have quite a few. In fact, this seems to be his default reaction to most situations.
    • For Steve it's music by "The Beach Boys".
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Barely avoided. Baby Cakes almost nails his hippie sister, Mattie.
  • Butt Monkey: Frank.
  • Camp Gay: Professor Harold, voiced by a gloriously hammy Jason Alexander.
  • Call Back: "Dean vs. Mayor" and "Baby Boom" have Freeze-Frame Bonus jokes about the disappearance of Jackie Lather (the host of the kids' talent show from the first episode).
  • Captain Ersatz: Toy Movie 3 anybody?
    • There's also a combination of Applebee's and Chili's called "Chilibee's", with a giant bee with a chili for a tail as the mascot. Denny's is also replaced with "Din-Din".
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Baby Cakes, though somewhat less so than in the Super Deluxe shorts.
  • Dark-Skinned Blonde: The Dean's wife.
  • Disproportionate Retribution\Karma Houdini: In "Prank Week" Baby Cakes kidnaps 5 people and makes everyone think a serial killer on the loose but when the truth comes out he gets a celebration due to everyone misinterpreting it as a huge prank since it was Prank Week.
  • Dirty Old Woman: Sammy Davis, another member of the History department faculty.
  • Eaten By Pigs: Happens to a one-shot character's girlfriend (and his parents) in "Wild Hogs", in which the eponymous hogs invade the campus.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: The Dean expected The Governor to be a giant dude, like himself. Turns out he's a miniature, Penguin like guy.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Like the shorts that appeared on YouTube and Super Deluxe - this trope is practically a Brad Neely staple.
  • Funny Background Event: See Freeze Frame Bonus.
  • Future Imperfect: Apart from Pony, the history department of UCI is comically misinformed about their historical facts.
  • Gainaxing: Pony's breasts bounce with considerable detail in the opening.
    • The episode "China-Man Begins" culminates in a hormone-crazed Baby Cakes picking up Pony and shaking her up and down for this reason.
  • Gentle Giant: Baby Cakes.
  • Godwin's Law of Time Travel: In the first episode, Ronald Reagan and Steve travel back in time and completely change the course of man, including having Adolf Hitler circumcised and giving him a Jewish upbringing. When they return to the future, Hitler is leading a Jewish version of the Nazi party in overtaking the world.
  • Half Hour Comedy: The second season is a half-hour long instead of 11 minutes. The show's frenetic pacing is slowed down somewhat, while the characters are explored a little more.
  • Large and in Charge: The Dean, and The Mayor.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: It's stated by Pony that Steve needs someone to look down on as she finds out firsthand due becoming the 'new Frank' since the actual Frank was banished.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Sammy used to look exactly like Pony when she was younger. And continued to look like her until she turned 80. Then she became...Sammy.
  • Large Ham: The Dean and the Mayor, though most of the cast counts in one way or another.
  • Little Brother Instinct: When Steve gets shot during the Dean's List challenge, Frank goes from weak and whiny, to a Ramboesque asskicker.
  • Levitating Lotus Position: Steve and Ronald Reagan do this after being in stopped time for the equivalent of 100 years.
  • Mad Scientist: Prof. Leonard Cakes (Baby Cakes' father), and most of the "Super Science" department at UCI.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Dream Reamer.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Baby Cakes + Robin Hood wig = Kevin Costner. Obviously.
  • Photo Doodle Recognition: Subverted, when Baby Cakes kidnaps five professors, among them is his dad, because he thinks they're witches and wizards and locks them in his basement, the news reports their disappearances and people are lead to believe a serial killer is loose among the college. When the police releases a sketch of the suspect which is basically a face of a generic hairless person, Baby Cakes fails to realize that's him and thinks a wizard is killing the people that looks like his prisoners. He is lead to believe it was Steve after setting a square bottle on the wanted poster that leaves a stain on the eye of the face which inspires Baby Cakes to draw a pair of glasses and hair on the side.
  • Power Walk: Baby Cakes, Frank, Steve, and Pony during the opening credits.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: God himself admits this when he comes back to Earth as a surfer dude. He states that when he wrote the original ten commandments, he was just winging it and "No rape" really should have been on the list.
  • Robot Me: The faculty resorts to building robot versions of themselves to avoid teaching the students. Which leads inevitably to...
  • Screw Yourself: Steve asks who else is f—ing their robot and every hand goes up. But it ends badly when the robots become clingy, jealous, pony-killers.
    • No, not that Pony. Just a regular small horse.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: In one episode the Dean learns of rising college tuition costs, and decides that he won't be outdone by other colleges and raises China Il's tuition to $500,000 and lowers the professors salaries to minimum wage. Baby Cakes is the only one brave enough to call the Dean out on this and when he's ignored he takes inspiration from Kevin Coster's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and begins stealing the expensive things being purchased by the Dean and gives them to the students and faculty under the guise of Kevin Costner. While this enrages the Dean to the point where he puts a $500,000 reward on Kevin Costner's head, Baby Cake's actions have virtually no effect on helping the cash-strapped students and teachers. The Dean eventually catches Baby Cakes and attempts to hang him until Pony shows up with the real Kevin Costner and collect the reward to pay for her own tuition. So in conclusion, all of Baby Cakes' actions solved absolutely nothing and the Dean's ludicrous rules are still in effect.
  • Shipper on Deck: The entire town of China is convinced that Pony and Steve either are together or should be together.
  • Shout-Out: To Hamlet, of all things. When executing a 90-year old mass-murdering giant, always remember: the traditional method is to pour acid into its ears.
  • Something Something Leonard Bernstein: Baby Cakes can only get through "Should all acquaintances be forgot" before he devolves into literally singing "Blah Blah Blah".
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside: Frank is implied to be this out of resentment for Steve.
  • Stereotype Flip: Pony is a girl of Mexican descent who knows absolutely nothing about Mexico except stereotypes she's seen.
  • Stout Strength: Baby Cakes is a huge, misshapen lump of manchild and immensely strong. He frees Pony and Steve from the Mayor's punishment by pulling the stocks apart with his bare hands.
  • Suddenly Voiced: Many of the secondary characters from the YouTube shorts.
  • The Quisling: Frank, after the Mayor takes over the campus.
  • Third-Person Person: The Mayor.
  • Took a Level in Dumbass: The Dean he went from Crazy Awesome in season 1 to Man Child in season 2.
  • Refuge in Audacity
  • Verbal Tic: Mayor likes to end his sentences with amen, amen.
  • Will They or Won't They?: There are a few hints of this between Steve and Pony, most notably her offering to marry him right then (and his never actually turning her down) when she finds out about the premarital sex ban when the Mayor takes over the school.
    • And something went on between her and his robot double. From the sound of it, it wasn't impressive.
    • Eventually, the entire school starts egging the two of them on to hurry up already and admit they love each other. Neither Steve nor Pony are happy with this situation, as every man and woman they try to sleep with is telling them the two of them ought to be together instead; eventually, Steve tries to set Pony on fire just to make people stop saying they were in love.

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alternative title(s): China Illinois; China Illinois
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