Inside the Offices of I Can Has Cheezburger

What you're watching.
Nov. 7 2012 7:30 AM

Another Day at the LOLffice

Inside the conference room at I Can Has Cheezburger.

William "Will" Sharick in Bravos' LOLwork.
William "Will" Sharick in Bravos' LOLwork. Yes, the ICanHazCheezburger folks have cats in the office.

Photo by Kevin P. Casey/Bravo.

If while blindly channel-surfing you happen across LOLwork (Bravo, Wednesdays at 11 p.m. ET), you may get the impression that this half-hour series is a sitcom—a mockumentary about a make-believe workplace. Smooth young men with “fancy hair” wriggle wry eyebrows, and their female colleagues hyperventilate like Aaron Sorkin dames and pout morbidly like Aubrey Plaza.

But this is the staff of ICanHasCheezburger.com, the blockbuster humor site responsible for attaching captions (subliterate interior monologues, generally) to photographs of adorable animals (especiawwy wittle kitty cats—LOLcats). According to corporate policy, their job is to make the world laugh for five minutes a day. According to a commonplace, clowns are sad. Aided by snappy editing, these people express feelings of tedium, frustration, and contempt in a generally amusing fashion, and the series succeeds as light comedy. The members of the cast should feel satisfied that all those improv classes they took back in the day have paid off.

Here we are in sunny Seattle. Ben Huh is the CEO of Cheezburger and the husband of its editor-in-chief, Emily. Ben is friendly but eccentric to the point of aloofness. He’s the kind of guy who keeps a computer mounted above his treadmill in the middle of the office, and he leaves the corporate enforcement to Todd, the chief revenue officer.

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In the second episode, Todd informs the troops that the office will be hosting a career day for a local middle school. On a Saturday. Because he’s trying to butter up the headmaster and get his kid a spot there. Sucks to be them, yes, but it’s all worth it for the footage LOLwork got of the kids and the employees—who are all at about the same level of emotional maturity—sparring in the boardroom. “It’s not what Paul and Will taught me,” cracks one tyke, “It’s what Paul and Will didn’t teach me. They didn’t teach me anything useful.”

Much of the intra-office interaction on LOLwork concerns matters of ethics and aesthetics. Why exactly is it that sleeping dogs are so often funny, especially in comparison with dead ones? Is a video of a cat with a frustrating wad of packing-tape stuck to its butt not in fact a laughing matter? What about diversity issues? “They’re saying it’s a lot of American shorthairs, and we need to have more different breeds ...” That’s a moderator named Ali, who might be my favorite character. The craziness of her popped eyes bolsters her claim to being “fluent in cat lady.” When someone else suggests during a pitch meeting that an idea is too “pedestrian,” Ali simultaneously bubbles and seethes: “Do we want to have a big-word party? Cause that sounds like fun!”

These lines of philosophical inquiry are entwined with spats, flirtations, creative tensions, grudges about drudgeries, solo riffs of cubicle absurdism, meaningful stares across conference rooms, and scenes of the principals laughing at the hammy antics and adorable foibles of animals. Here’s Ali again, melting in guffaws at a clip of puppy paws spwashing water, cooing that the pooch is too cute: “I just want to drop-kick him!” LOLwork, presenting an office as a kennel for humor-minded show dogs, constitutes a solid stupid pet trick.

Troy Patterson is Slate's writer at large and writes the Gentleman Scholar column.

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