“They ain’t the bravest heroes, but they are the only ones we got!”
I once heard that good parody comes from knowing your source material down to the letter and then mocking it in all the right places. I can think of few other cartoons that utilize on this formula as perfectly as Dave the Barbarian.
Created by Doug Langdale as a Disney Channel Original series, the show takes place in the fictional medieval land of Udrogoth, a Flintstone-esque society, where the Barbarian Royal Family resides. The hero of the show is Dave… the most excessively muscular, tall, cowardly, allergic, sissy, delicate, clean freak barbarian that has ever walked the world or ever will. Dave lives in a castle with Candace, his older sister, de-facto governor of the kingdom, compulsive shopper and a slave of fashion; Fang his little and violent sister bent in a quest to make his brother suffer until he becomes a barbarian hero; Uncle Ozwitch a small, hairy, ugly, pathetic wizard who lives to fail everything he ever attempts; and Faffy, Dave’s pet dragon, a yellow flying potato that burps lightning and possesses an IQ lower than a house plant.
The show takes the daily life of the family and places them against outrageous and laughable enemies, not to mention logic-defying situations even for a show plagued with magic. Dave the Barbarian pokes fun at virtually every heroic, action hero archetype that’s ever existed, gleefully pulling their collective pants down around their ankles and laughing! I verily say that you will rarely find a show that utilizes parody so effectively… mostly because it’s a show that never tries to take itself seriously. Even when it’s mocking, the jokes are never mean, offensive or repetitive.
It’s truly a shame that the show only lasted a single season and now is trapped in permanent hiatus. In essence, Dave The Barbarian was a show that wasn’t ashamed to embrace every aspect of its silliness. Every hero is pathetic, every villain is an idiot… even the Narrator is aware that he is wasting his talent here. And yet, every background character is distinctive and the world, full of minor details and in-jokes, is anything but dull. Also, if you’re looking for examples of excellent self-aware comedy—go no further, this show was a MASTER at that type of humor with several jokes based on the fact that they are cartoon characters and all those jokes deserving of a hearty laugh!