Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager Review
Created by aspiring filmmakers Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda, this comic masterpiece became one of YouTube’s biggest early hits, and was even nominated for Best Original Web Comedy Series in TV Guide’s 2007 Online Video Awards. The two auteurs were shooting low-budget comedy films for their local cable-access channel when a friend suggested they make a Star Wars parody. After kicking the possibility around for a while, they came up with the idea of having Darth Vader’s younger brother work as a day-shift manager at fictitious grocery store Empire Market. Despite the premise, this is no simple Star Wars spoof as “Chad” Vader experiences endless personal and professional traumas throughout the eight-episode first season, giving it a sense of originality to go along with the satire.
The parody aspects, however, are still very much evident. Chad (Aaron Yonda) refers to Randy (Brad Knight), the store’s general manager, as both “master” and “emperor,” and kneels before him as well. He likewise labels the employees under his management as “commanders,” and when grouped together, “squadrons.” One of them, Jeremy (Paul Guse), goes so far as to don a black Imperial helmet and even mimics Sir Alec Guinness’ movements through the Death Star in an attempt to cut the power to Empire Market, ending up trapped in a trash can—just like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia were trapped in a garbage disposal in the original Star Wars. And when asked why he wears a breathing mask, Chad explains that he was in a bicycle accident. “I lost control on a road and I went over an embankment, down a hill, into a volcano,” he deadpans.
Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda also sprinkle the eight Chad Vader scripts with direct quotes from the Star Wars saga. “You have failed me for the last time;” “We meet again at last, the circle is complete;” “You will join me or die;” and “I am altering the deal, pray I do not alter it any further,” all make their way into the web series. The catch, of course, is that they are spoken by Chad out of context and ultimately ring hallow as events unfold around him. Other classic lines are paraphrased, such as “I sense a disturbance in the store” and “I like this job—it is my destiny.” The web series even makes use of such Jedi/Sith techniques as utilizing the Force to choke someone and moving objects via telekinesis, while also equipping Chad with a lightsaber (which is used at one point to light another employee’s cigarette).
While such homages and spoofs are indeed entertaining, Chad Vader would eventually grow tiresome, even in the web series format, if it contained little else. Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda realized this as well, and populated Empire Market with an assortment of oddball-yet-recognizable characters, including deranged night cleaners, sleepwalking customers and catatonic cash register operators. The duo also utilize visual humor along with standard one-liners, and at times even venture into slapstick. Chad trips on a banana peel in one scene, for instance, foils a shoplifter by telekinetically bombarding him with rolls of paper towels in another, and chases a dog Keystone Cops-style through Empire Market in yet another.
More importantly, Sloan and Yonda created Chad Vader as a fish-out-of-water narrative about a character with tremendous power who has an inability to fit in with everyday life. The eight episodes that comprise season one portray these average challenges through the mini-saga of Chad’s rivalry with night-shift manager Clint (Matt Sloan, who also voices the title character in a remarkable James Earl Jones impersonation). This annoying, obnoxious and vulgar “archenemy” eventually steals the day-shift job away from Chad, and even attempts to woo his love interest, Clarissa (Christina LaVicka). Chad is later forced to find new employment in what can only be described as a series of classic comedy scenes involving the younger Vader making failed attempts at telemarketing, operating a photocopier and driving a taxi. In the end, however, Chad learns something about himself and rises above the turmoil in order to achieve redemption.
Chad Vader is “must-see-TV” of the web series variety for any fan of both Star Wars and Kevin Smith-style comedies. As for the future, let’s just say that it will be interesting to see what Madison, Wisconsin, can come up with next.
Anthony Letizia (April 21, 2008)