America, 80s, Self Destruction, (Beheadings, Too!), Cynical-Comedy: On the Apocalyptic Mood in “Too Many Cooks”


Today, I came across an article about a new video that has gone viral (as of now it’s near 2 million views on youtube). In the midst of infomercials, at 4am, there is a fifteen minute clip, entitled “Too Many Cooks.” It aired recently for the Adult Swim audience.

Yes, there are too many cooks: too many characters, too many repetitions, too many clichéd themes, too much TV. But when a parody of the Falcon Crest show emerges it interrupts the repetition and extends time; things change dramatically. It turns into a murderfest. Characters are murdered, one is chased down by a man with a hatchet.  She runs for her life, but her cast name follows her around, exposed her through the closet she hides it, and leads to her bloody death.

Some characters do the Clark Kent thing, spin, and become superheroes.  But they also get their heads cut off.   They die with the superheroes they became.  And, near the end, a cannibalism moment in the house where the man-with-the- machete is seen eating heads.   He is blasted away.  But the video affects, ultimately, destroy themselves, too: in the grand finale we have the self-destruction of video simualcura (words and images destroy each other).

Walter Benjamin, at the end of his famous essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Self Production,” might see this kind of pleasure at aesthetic self-destruction as a sign that humankind has gone to its Apocalyptic end. And the proof is that it “can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.”

Mankind has changed.  Walter Benjamin tells us how:

Mankind, which in Homer’s time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.

Too Many Cooks visualizes the process of self-alienation that Benjamin sees as leading to a pleasure in humankinds self-destruction. But, really, this is a more specific, American kind of self-destruction. And it is comical.

In Gargoyles by Thomas Bernhard, we find a voice from Europe whose awareness of this comic self-destruction is astonishing. It comes from the main character, the Prince, who sounds a lot like many a Dostoevsky character in his seriousness and pathos. In this scene, he dialogues with his son and aesthetically discloses his alienation which he sees as different from the world’s, which is comic:

These noises, I said shatter everything for me. Pain and noises are the same thing, I said. Possibly, I said to my son as we reached the bottom of the gorge, these noises and this pain are no more not less than my fatal illness… “Whenever I look at people, I look at unhappy people,” the Prince said. “They are people who carry their torment into the streets and thus make the world a comedy, which is of course laughable. In this comedy they all suffer from tumors both mental and physical; they take pleasure in their fatal illness…Comedy! Every person I see and everyone I hear anything about, no matter what it is, prove to me the absolute obtuseness of this whole human race and that this whole human race and all of nature are a fraud. Comedy.

I wonder if the viewers who are making this viral are as cynical as the Prince. He has lost all hope in humanity which, in his view, is self-destructive. It’s a biter comedy without hope. And…it doesn’t seem he has hope either. After all, Bernhard shows us that he also has “too many cooks,” and they seem to be destroying him. They are noise and for him, the solitary cynic, every noise is pain. Too Many Cooks is a lot of noise…and a lot of pain. And the humankind that is destroying itself is the self-destruction of a time and all of its celebrated and familiar images.

When there are too many cooks, where there are too many characters, what happens to life? Does excess destroy itself? Is it us or is it TV that destroys itself? Too many cooks, too many questions….too much cynicism.

2 thoughts on “America, 80s, Self Destruction, (Beheadings, Too!), Cynical-Comedy: On the Apocalyptic Mood in “Too Many Cooks”

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