Tiffany Haddish (Night School)
Ali Wong (American Housewife)
Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead)
Nicole Byer (All About Nina)
Richard E. Grant (Logan)
John Early (Late Night)
Reggie Watts (Pitch Perfect 2)
Tig Notaro (Star Trek: Discovery
Amber Ruffin (Drunk History)
Jermaine Fowler (Robot Chicken)
Tessa Thompson (Westworld)
Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians)
Michelle Dockery (Downtown Abbey)
Bird Town is a strange place where the trains are slithering snakes, the neighbours are stoned plant-people and “sex bugs” get put on trial. Promising madcap adventures, this metropolis provides the setting for Tuca and Bertie, a new Netflix animation that feels like a natural successor to Broad City.The show’s creator Lisa Hanawalt, known for her work on nihilistic cult favourite Bojack Horseman, has rendered this new universe with a lighter, fizzier touch. The result is a rare thing – an adult animation made by women about women (albeit women in bird form). And, in a particularly canny bit of casting, Tuca and Bertie has signed up two of the buzziest comics around.
Tiffany Haddish, the breakout star of Girls Trip and the most extraordinarily candid celebrity ever, plays Tuca, a gobby, gumptious, hot-pant-wearing toucan who is in need of “constant positive reinfofo”. She gets it from Bertie the song thrush, her steadfast but neurotic BFF voiced by Ali Wong, the standup who soared to fame for her perineum-splitting comedy specials about pregnancy (Baby Cobra) and parenthood (Hard Knock Wife). Co-starring are Richard E Grant and Tig Notaro – and it’s clear they’re all having a clucking riot. Never have fowl been so foul-mouthed.Bertie has always been there to buoy up Tuca with reminders that she won’t ever leave her – and that “most girls would kill to have such a curvy beak”. But Tuca is now moving out of their apartment to make way for Bertie’s boyfriend Speckle (played by Steven Yeun, AKA Glenn from The Walking Dead). By day, Bertie is trying to get a promotion in her office job at Conde Nest. By night, she’s desperate to keep the spark alive in her relationship (with help from Nests of Netherfield, her Downton Abbey-esque porn substitute) and fulfil her dream of being a pastry chef. Tuca, never one to conform, ribs her incessantly for all this “normie lifeplan bullshit”. Eventually Tuca wanders into a neighbourhood called Adulthood, replete with shops called Matching Crockery and Furniture Already Put Together, but ends up committing instead to a new forever friend – a purple jaguar she names Jackie.The whole show is a topical sendup of our age, tackling the cult of Facebeak, the #Metoo movement (via predatory rooster bros) and even Marie Kondo. But the writers have also put in the hours dreaming up every possible bird gag – from the local birdega to the musical Nest Side Story. So if bird-pun-spotting is likely to ruffle your feathers, you may be in the wrong place. In comedy terms it’s more rolling chuckle than laugh-out-loud, and there are sometimes slightly jarring shifts in animation to lo-fi claymation or even sock-puppet styles. Those aside, this is a chirpily realised world that stays true to its experimentalism – and its pleasures are consistent, if deliciously twisted, and very surreal indeed.At one point, Tuca and Bertie race past a woman on the street and the show morphs into a Mrs Dalloway-esque piece of metanarrative. For just a second, the action falls away as words ping up around the woman, sharing her story in a hilariously succinct way: “Sandy Q Piper. Rich interior life. Not part of this show. You will never see her again.” The series plays out like a feminist fairy tale, one “where Mother Goose is not defined by her ability to lay eggs.” At its core, Tuca and Bertie is about the many and complex joys of female friendship, about navigating the sometimes crushing world of adulting with your best bud by your side, about growing together, bolstering each other – and buying sex-bug ointment together.