This is a picture of me and my best friend Caropi hanging out with Baman and Piderman. It was drawn for me by Lindsay and Alex Small-Butera, creators of the show “Baman Piderman”. It’s the background image on one of my work monitors. It’s nice to be greeted by a silly piece of art that lifts my spirits and makes me smile. Even if the smile dissipates just as quickly as it appeared, when you move past it to actually start working, when you’re confronted with the sometimes unbearable ughness of everyday existence. It just… helps, somehow.
“Baman Piderman” is a wonderful animated show on the Mondo Media network (makers of Happy Tree Friends and Dick Figures, among other things). It stars Baman and Piderman, two oafish and childlike next-door-neighbors. Baman and Piderman occupy an alternate dimension, ungoverned by conventional laws of physics or logic, a blank canvas world where raindrops are shards of glass, snowflakes are monstrously gigantic and houses can be steered away from danger. Despite what their outfits may suggest, Baman and Piderman have very little to do with Batman and Spider-Man; instead, those characters were a mere starting point for something much stranger. Baman is an amorphous blob with the ability to grow extra limbs. His best friend Piderman is hapless and given to panic attacks. They share their world with Baman’s girlfriend Tuba (an actual sentient tuba), their friend Pumkin (a mild-mannered and vaguely hipstery pumpkin, with a body), Pumkin’s love interest Squib (a genderless mess of green tentacles from another dimension). a couple of basement-dwelling “villains” (named That Guy and The Other Guy, too dumb and affable to be actual villains) as well as a few other supporting characters. The show follows Baman and Piderman as they plop around laboriously, give each other presents, go on adventures in alternate dimensions and escape the cakes.
I have a hard time articulating what I find so compelling about this relentlessly bizarre show, so I invite you to watch this video; it compiles the first 15 episodes of the show:
There are 8 more episodes after the ones collected above, and they’re great– arguably the best of the series. You can find those starting here. If you’re initially put off by the nonsensical stories and non sequitur dialogue, stick with it. It gets progressively more layered and story-driven; as Lindsay and Alex grew as animators and storytellers, their vision for Baman Piderman also became more refined. The episodes got longer and more elaborate, displaying a surprising amount of depth and character development as well as a remarkable sense of in-universe continuity. In short, it gets better the more you watch.
At the heart of it, beyond its pop culture appropriation and clever trope subversions and deliberate kookiness, it’s just a sweet show about friendship. The kind of unconditional friendship and support that most people want to have but is actually pretty fucking rare; where all the platitudes about how “friends are the family you choose” ring true, almost painfully true, beyond the level of feel-good Hallmark greeting card fluff. In all its stupid simplicity, it touches on something profound: how that childlike level of devotion fades slowly as we grow older and more cynical, and friendships become more about posturing and killing time and networking. Baman and Piderman need each other in a very real way, a very pure way, and every character they welcome into their absurd social circle becomes another set of arms to lean on (except for when they don’t have arms, like Tuba). I know it sounds ridiculous for a show that, on a surface level, doesn’t look like much more than a parody of two ridiculously ubiquitous comic book characters that have already been parodied to death, but it really did evolve into its own, uniquely beautiful thing.
The show was woefully put on hold by Mondo in late 2012, and it’s laid dormant ever since. Today, however, Lindsay and Alex unveiled a Kickstarter campaign to fund the show’s final five episodes and bring the story to a satisfying conclusion. They’re also releasing a staggering amount of sweet merchandise as perks to campaign donors. If you dig the show, if you dig animation, surreal stories and ukuleles and cake, please consider donating to their Kickstarter page (also, be sure to watch the campaign video, which is wonderful in its own right). Everything comes to an end, yes, but some things deserve to end the right way. Tuba, enjoy your dinner.