HBO’s Tour de Pharmacy Brings Massive, Inappropriate Laughs

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Since departing Saturday Night Live, Andy Samberg has done well for himself. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is one of TV’s funniest comedies, Popstar: Never Stop Stopping was far better than it had any right to be, and his first HBO Sports mockumentary, 7 Days in Hell, was a major success.

That brings us to tonight’s Tour de Pharmacy, the second in the HBO “Legends of Sport” series, focusing on the 1982 Tour de France and the doping scandals that have rocked the sport of competitive cycling. For the effort, Samberg again teamed up with King of the Hill and Girls writer and executive producer Murray Miller, and the results will have you on the floor laughing.

This is one you may not see live, because it’s Saturday night and you might not be in front of the television, but make sure to set your DVR. It’s such sophomoric humor that every single joke works, in much the same way MacGruber did in 2010. Incidentally, Will Forte is a part of the Tour de Pharmacy extended cast as well, just as he was for 7 Days in Hell two years ago. It also has its share of interesting sports cameos and personalities, all of which perform admirably.

You may not be a Joe Buck fan, but Joe Buck seems to be a good guy. He’s somebody you’d probably want to have a beer with. He’s willing to have the fun Bob Costas never would, both in this year’s breakout IFC hit Brockmire and now in Tour de Pharmacy. He doesn’t play a big role, but he’s good when he’s on screen.

It’s tough to actually list everyone that appears, as much as I’d like to credit these people, because it almost feels like a spoiler. One of my favorite things about this 50 minute laugh riot are the surprises, but we can talk about the main five at least, and that should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Samberg plays Marty Hass, a cyclist who claims to be from Africa but is known to play true music from his homeland, including Bob Marley. Orlando Bloom, Daveed Diggs, and Freddie Highmore are three fellow riders from the 1982 race, and the fifth is John Cena. Folks, Cena is in rare form here. Here, we have another guy willing to do whatever it takes for a laugh, in much the same way as we’ve seen from him in films like Sisters and Trainwreck. He plays ball, and because this is a Samberg/Murray collaboration, he also plays WITH balls. Cena is terrific, as are his four fellow riders.

If you’ve found the entire doping situation in sports ridiculous, particularly in cycling, there’s no way you won’t find this bracing, uproarious skewering of the sport utterly hilarious. If it were a 90 minute feature film, it would be far too long. It’s too filled with unbelievable content, sight gags, and zaniness to work on any larger of a scale. Just as with 7 Days in Hell, making it around 45 minutes allows Tour de Pharmacy to cross the finish line efficiently, maximizing each minute rather than filling for time.

Samberg and Miller have tried this format twice, and both are major successes. There will be some who will find this fictional treatment too absurdist or perhaps too salacious, but my advice to them is to just sit back and enjoy it. If ever there was a sport that deserved to be treated in this fashion, it’s cycling. From the leads to James Marsden’s “journalism” during the race, to the bike experts, to the anti-doping personnel, to the celebrities, and one of the more “own it” performances in memory from Lance Armstrong, Tour de Pharmacy scratches a comedy itch few can reach.

It’s funny, while being almost entirely inappropriate. I felt dirty watching Armstrong, but I also found his sequences an attempt to rehabilitate a shattered image. At first I hated it, and then I loved that he tried it. If Mike Tyson can come back from his situation, I suppose Lance can Livestrong one more time. Oh, and Tyson is the only other person I’ll mention that’s in this film. He’s great, and the writing surrounding his appearance is magic, especially if you grew up around the time I did. You’ll understand after you see the special.

7 Days in Hell director Jake Szymanski returns to helm Tour de Pharmacy, and the short version is if you liked that film, you’re going to like this one. I’m not sure which I enjoyed more, but both were well worth the modest time required to consume the content. What this effort proves is there are again a wealth of funny people in this world, and we’re lucky many of them decided to do what they do for a living. It also proved something else.

We need one of these every year. With so much crap in the world on all sides, sitting back and laughing at a collection of talented, over-the-top jackasses poking fun at a REAL collection of jackasses…

wins a permanent yellow jersey.

Watch this folks. You’ll laugh your fucking ass off. Make sure the kids are in bed and out of ear shot. And then laugh your fucking ass off.


Written by Jason Martin