Reviews: Bonus Stage


In my honest opinion, no TV show, film, play, or book has ever reached the level of pure hilarity achieved by Bonus Stage. Don't get me wrong...there are a few forms of media more entertaining overall, but if you judge solely on humor, Bonus Stage is by far the best. What is it about the show that's so great? The meaningless story arcs? The wacky one-dimensional characters? The terrible one-liners? It's probably the over-all insanity. Without being a direct parody, the show sometimes feels like a direct caricature of sitcom-style writing. It appears to aspire to be like Family Guy, except it's even more insane and self-referential. One episode even has a title card that says "Bonus Stage is for referencing video games and making friends." If you put Family Guy, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and a small dash of Homestar Runner in a wouldn't quite have Bonus Stage. You need to have a writer-director-creator [Matt Wilson is a one man show] who believes he's making something stupid. He KNOWS it's not art. It's this sort of self-loathing cynicism that makes Bonus Stage awesome. But why debunk what makes the show so good? I'm not Roger Ebert. I'm just a crazy fanboy. I'll just talk about how Bonus Stage IS THE FUNNIEST THING EVER. YOU WILL DIE OF LAUGHTER. The show has aged very little, but that can change fast. For example, there used to be a Bonus Stage Wiki, almost identical in structure to the Homestar Runner Wiki. I LOVED that site. Unfortunately, it closed down for reasons I'm not sure of, thus helping to make the gags in Bonus Stage that reference the fandom seem dated...especially a scene where Phil directly mocks someone who edits the Wiki. And once Family Guy and Aqua Teen Hunger Force become things of the past, Bonus Stage's twist-on-popular-styles will seem somehat dated. One thing's for sure, though: Bonus Stage IS the best webtoon ever...and a potentional contender for the best THING ever.

Great back then, holds up okay today

Let's face it; Sturgeons Law isn't strong enough to cover the sheer level of shit out there on the web. This was especially true after Homestar Runner managed to make garbage trucks full of money; just about every asshole with Adobe Flash and thirty seconds of free time was trying to pull some of that precious cash for themselves. Bonus Stage started out as another one of these blind followers, but after a while managed to find its own voice in a sea of mediocrity.

The show is about as basic as it comes. Joel and Phil are roommates that don't get along. Joel is an eccentric inventor, Phil is an alcoholic loser. Their neighbor, Elly, is the target of Phil's affection, but she only has eyes for Joel. Later additions include Rya (a Deadpan Snarker robot that wishes outright death on the entire cast), Jessica (Phil's mom de-aged via a Freak Lab Accident), Andrew (a guy that randomly becomes Ely's boyfriend), and an assortment of poorly-characterized, one-trick-pony characters. (Those were the author's words, folks.)

The humor consisted of a slew of Shout Outs, constant Take Thats, and enough random jokes to make Family Guy proud. Death Is Cheap and Negative Continuity were the law of the land; the same character would sometimes die seven or eight times in the same scene. Matt Wilson also hated his fans, and made damn sure everyone knew it. (An entire episode consisted of a Bonus Stage Fan Convention, and another had crappy fan art invading the series.) The last season made a few attempts to add a story, but the entire series was canned thanks to Matt's increasing frustration with fans, financial woes, and general Artist Disillusionment.

This is honestly one of the few series I can name where random gags are actually funny. An episode can go from trying to start a musical number, to building an underground city. Every character is a Jerk Ass that deserves their repeated deaths. Almost every line is quotable, with or without context. And to be honest, it's the only series that has literally made me fall out of my chair laughing. (Damn you, Big Fat Guy!)

I recently rewatched the series (thank god for You Tube), and it's actually held up pretty well. Check it out there, if you wish. (It's certainly easier thank working the Wayback Machine.)