Last night, Riki Lindhome and Natasha Leggero’s new series Another Period debuted on Comedy Central. It’s a double-edged sword with both ends facing outward, satirically taking aim at bottom-feeding reality programming like Keeping Up With The Kardashians as well as the pearls-and-furs historicity of Downton Abbey. An unlikely fusion of genre parody, to be sure, and yet it works perfectly in part because the disparate programs’ obsessions with wealth and status sync up so nicely.

Lindhome and Leggero star as the preening, terrible Bellacourt sisters; as Lillian, Leggero introduces herself as “the pretty, smart, funny, ambitious, nice body, soon-to-be-famous one” and Lindhome’s Beatrice announces herself as “the pretty one,” in actuality marking herself as ‘the dumb one’.

Her boundless stupidity is played for laughs, but not in a jeering look-at-the-pretty-dummy way.# She’s not just stupid, she’s barely human. Beatrice’s mental absence runs so deep that she occasionally falls asleep with her eyes open mid-sentence, her impulsivity so untethered that when a minor fracas breaks out, she knifes Helen Keller’s aide Anne Sullivan. (In her words, “I didn’t know what was going on. I just knew I wanted to stab somebody.”) She doesn’t even come close to being a fairly-developed, well-rounded sitcom character, but neither does anyone else, and the show’s all the better for it.

Beatrice’s uptick from simple-minded to clinically insane perfectly encapsulates the spirit of what I like to call ‘Waincore’, a specific comic sensibility into which Another Period and a host of other standout programming aired over the last decade fit snugly. Though comic mastermind David Wain# only appears in a minor supporting role as Beatrice’s closeted husband, the show pulses with his influence.

Waincore: noun; a comedic mode defined by its blithe disregard for the limits of reason and plausibility, exacerbating character tics until they explode in full-fledged absurdity.

It’s not uncommon for a ‘meh’ joke to land, and for the characters to then repeat it until how long it’s been happening becomes the joke. But then they push it further, until it becomes unfunny, then it becomes kind of funny again, then not so much, et cetera et cetera, to the point where the audience begins to question their own grip on existence. And no subject’s too dark or taboo for Wain and his pals’ loony touch. On Another Period alone, murder, rape, and incest all make for golden punchlines.

The fixation on incest also extends to Waincore’s casting strategies. With a rotating lineup of the same three dozen-or-so comic geniuses, Waincore films have a free exchange of cast members. Take, for instance, the original members of The State. In 1993, MTV took a gamble by handing the reins on a shiny big TV show to a bunch of NYU grads fresh out of improv rehearsal. This gangly gang spawned a half-dozen titans of modern TV comedy, including Party Down’s Ken Marino#, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Joe Lo Truglio#, Reno 911!’s Kerri Kenney-Silver#, Thomas Lennon, and Robert Ben Garant#, in addition to Wain, Michael Showalter, and Ian Black.

Countless others have entered Wain’s orbit and shone, lending their personalities to their friends’ projects. They’re the townspeople from Parks and Recreation, the supporting characters on Kroll Show, the best friends in studio-made romcoms that inevitably outshine the lead. In all honesty, the label of Waincore belies the highly collective nature of this sort of comedy, in which supremely capable talents are given freedom to follow their wildest instincts, wherever they might lead the group. But hey, we had to call it something, and Wain’s the one directing most of these uproarious hang-out seshes.

Below, we’ve provided our readers with a blow-by-blow breakdown of this lovable subgenre in order to keep track of this rapidly expanding oeuvre.

The State (1993-1995)
Where it all began. All of the elements of a Waincore production were in place, even those that extended beyond the show itself. The sketch program was loose and surreal and exhaustively funny. But during the show’s 28-episode run, it met with the characteristically lukewarm reviews that always accompany a Waincore release, only to be inevitably revised years later upon critical reappraisal…

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
…which is precisely what happened with Wet Hot American Summer.# The first of what would be many tone-perfect genre parodies, this film boasts a god-level cast including Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks#, a gloriously unstable Christopher Meloni#, and Janeane Garofalo# as the various counselors and staffers of Camp Firewood on the last day of the 1981 season. Every line can and has been quoted to death and back to life again.

For a while, it was something of a shibboleth between comedy nerds, but the film’s second life on Netflix (not to mention an eagerly-awaited episodic revival that’ll arrive next month!) has brought it more of the acceptance it so richly deserves. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this stupid article and go watch it. If you’re at work, quit. I’m not joking.

Stella (June 2005-August 2005)
They were all linked to one another back in their The State days, but Wain also joined forces with Michaels Showalter and Ian Black for another improv group all their own, called Stella. From 1998 to 2002, they were responsible for things like this:

So with that in mind, the fact that they lasted for ten whole episodes before Comedy Central pulled the plug is kind of a victory in itself. Right?

The Ten (2007)
This comedy anthology keeps the Waincore sketch ethic strong by binding together ten shorts, each structured around a different Commandment. In ‘Thou Shalt Not Take The Lord’s Name In Vain’, a dowdy librarian has a steamy affair with a soft-spoken Mexican (played by Justin Theroux, because sure, why the hell not) who turns out to be Jesus Christ. For ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’, Winona Ryder falls in love and deep, unsettling lust with a ventriloquist’s dummy.

The best of the bunch is ‘Thou Shalt Not Murder’, which sees a Ken Marino-played surgeon shocked to find that he’ll be sent to jail after killing a patient as ‘a goof.’ It’s not just sacrilegious — it’s sacri-larious!

Michael And Michael Have Issues (July 2009-August 2009)
Perhaps after watching Stella die a quick and unceremonious death, Ian Black and Showalter believed their hard work would never be extinguished that quickly again. They were right and wrong — their next show would die even faster.

Playing lightly fictionalized versions of themselves, the Michaels bickered and sniped at one another while working behind the scenes of a metatextual comedy sketch show, also called Michael And Michael Have Issues. Let’s add it all up: 2 alienating leads + 1 prohibitively high-concept premise + 1 sense of humor predicated mostly on being mean = 7 episodes.

Role Models (2009)
Role Models is something of an odd bird. Wain directed the film, everything turned out fine, it’s a perfectly funny movie. Still, the Wain touch was light with this one. Leading man Paul Rudd was one of very few Wain regulars to appear in the cast, and even though the jokes all connect, none of them combust with the volatile absurdist energy of Wet Hot American Summer. Not to be ungrateful! This is, after all, the film that gave us this scene:

Childrens Hospital (2010-present)
Adult Swim would provide a nurturing home to the Waincore sensibility, connecting resolutely off-beat programming with viewers on the same frequency. With a far more game audience, the Adult Swim shows have enjoyed greater success and longevity, starting with Childrens Hopsital. Make note of the missing apostrophe; this isn’t a hospital for children, it was founded by Dr. Arthur Childrens and bears his name.

That kind of dementedly inspired wordplay is typical of the show, which weds outright craziness with staggeringly specific parody of Grey’s Anatomy. The hugely popular medical soap opera kind of plays like a comedy already, so series creator Rob Corddry only had to ratchet the silliness up a small notch to achieve such transcendently insipid plotlines as an old black man and a racist teen that arrive in the emergency room impaled on the same flagpole.

NTSF:SD:SUV:: (2011-present)
Swapping out Grey’s for the interchangeable likes of NCIS, CSI and SVU (the incomprehensible title, which stands for National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sport Utility Vehicle::, is starting to make sense now, huh), Paul Scheer’s quarter-hour comedy satirizes the tropes of procedural programming.

Sample plotline: terrorists hide a bomb in the space where the ‘President of the Navy’ should have a beating heart. Scheer’s arrogant agent Trent Hauser must rally his team to find the missing vital organ before the bomb explodes.

Wanderlust (2012)
One of Wain’s more intently philosophical works, this film sees regulars Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd uprooting their go-go-go New York routine to give life on a hippie commune a shot. Scenes in the film get weighed down with clumsy meditations about the stresses of modern life, and whether a ‘purer’ mode of living can actually be achieved, but there’s still time for Aniston to drop acid and quote R. Kelly while preparing to jump to her death from a tree, so we can’t call this one a total loss.

Burning Love (2012-present)
Working in the quarter-hour format online before making the jump to TV, this series trains its sights on the idiocy of The Bachelor/The Bachelorette. The core phoniness of the reality-dating competition’s very conceit makes for the series’ best joke, as season one’s leading man Ken Marino confesses to roughly a dozen women that he could only ever truly love her.

The many contestants poked fun at particular tropes of the show, with Jennifer Aniston’s character donning a panda mascot suit so that she won’t be judged by her looks, and Malin Akerman# playing a woman desperate not to get booted off the show back to her life as a homeless vagrant.

They Came Together (2014)
Rom-coms in the vein of You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless In Seattle take the hot seat in this film. A happy couple (Amy Poehler and, once again, good ol’ Paul Rudd) tell the impossibly charming story of how they first met, burning through cliches like an entire packet of matches set ablaze at once. Rudd confides in his conspicuously diverse group of buddies during a friendly game of B-ball, Poehler’s got a best friend that seems completely unconcerned with her own life and exists solely as an accessory to the protagonist, and Michael Shannon even makes a surprise appearance as Poehler’s disgruntled ex late in the film. As we all know full well, Movie Law clearly states that Michael Shannon’s involvement only ever makes movies better.

Another Period (2015-present)
Which brings us to the present. Lindhome and Leggero carry on the Wain flame in heroic fashion, spreading unrestrainedly ridiculous premises and exaggerated character work to the historical-drama genre. Comedy Central’s been good about wrangling professionals and giving them room to be brilliant (see: Amy Schumer, Nick Kroll, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), so if this world be kind and god be merciful, we’ll have plenty more seasons to enjoy in the years to come.

American comedy audiences are getting smart, more open-minded, and more discerning, so while Waincore struggled in a pre-Internet world, in the present day, when Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter ensure that everyone on the face of the Earth knows when something is funny, the style’s time has come. Waincore’s hour is nigh, and you can say that again.
Waincore’s hour is nigh, and you can say that again.
Waincore’s hour is nigh, and you can say that again.
Waincore’s hour is nigh, and you can say that again.
Waincore’s hour is nigh, and you can say that again.
Waincore’s hour is nigh, and you can say that again.
Waincore’s hour is nigh, and you can say that again.
Waincore’s hour is nigh, and you can say that again.
Waincore’s hour is nigh, and you can say that again.
Waincore’s hour is nigh, and you can say that again.
Waincore’s hour is nigh, and you can say that again.
Waincore’s hour is nigh, and you can say that again.
Waincore’s hour is nigh, and you can say that again.
Waincore’s hour is nigh, and you can say that again.