Ashamedly, until today, I had never heard of Action Figure Therapy. And truth be told, even if someone described it to me, “It’s a web series featuring 80’s action figures, who give advice, vent frustrations, talk politics in a uniquely explicit, military jargon all while being filmed in a faux therapy session,” I probably would have said “I’ll pass, thanks.”
But then, I watched it. And I laughed.
I discovered, quite quickly, that I am not the only one who thinks its funny. As it turns out, this low-budget, ultra profane, therapy spoof is a hit!
In web terms, the Action Figure Therapy phenomenon has garnered over 23.5 million views and has 53,000-plus subscribers on its YouTube channel since its inception in 2010.
Although the show was designed for everyone, its popularity is due largely to the cord it strikes with military personnel (roughly 70% of the viewership has military ties), a fact creator and writer Dan Bialek talked about when Military.com interviewed him last year.
“We get tons of e-mails and commentary from fans, so many of them convinced we’ve been in the military,” Bialek said. “We don’t ever want to come across as some stolen valor bullshit, last thing on earth we want to do is claim to be something we’re not.”
While Bialek never served, he does know about the sacrifices that come with being soldier. His father was a Vietnam Vet, who had a sharp tongue and a penchant for violence.
“According to my mother, who divorced my father in 1996, after my father got out of the military he came back home very different person. Prior to his military service he had been very quiet, meek and polite. And he really drank. After Vietnam he came back very angry, loud and belligerent. He also drank at least a 12-pack of Budweiser a day. And he was prone to getting into fights with anyone. He had said many, many times “I thought I was going to die every day for a year of my life. After living through that, I’m not afraid to die. Everyone can go fuck themselves. If they don’t like it I’ll kick their ass and snap their neck.”
However, his father wasn’t all piss and vinegar. He had many redeeming qualities.
“He could also be a very kind and generous man,” Dan said. “He was the hardest worker I have ever met in my life…By 30 years old, my father had started his own successful company that began by purchasing used, broken machinery out of junkyard and cobbling it together. By 40, he owned several homes and had begun collecting classic automobiles.”
It’s this balance between outright military badass and civic-minded, hard-working grunt that Bialek imparts to his characters. The result is comedy gold. Of course, the variety of therapeutic topics help too, which range from a Honey Badger Blood Orgy to Bar Fights, Mustaches & Hookers to the ever-popular impending Zombie Apocalypse.
In any event, I can keep trying to articulate the shows’ charm, or you can check it out for yourself. Post your feedback and thoughts below.