Gabriel Sunday’s ‘Dope State’ is the way forward for stoner comedy
“Marijuana will one day be legal,” comedy legend Lenny Bruce once predicted, “because the many law students who are now smoking pot will one day become members of Congress and legalize it to protect themselves.”
This YouTube series is the first major stoner comedy after the ban.
Bruce, a legendary fearless performer, was arrested multiple times in the 1960s for freely speaking out on drugs, religion, politics, sex, and other taboo subjects of the day. He also wrote and published a satirical booklet called The Pot Smokers, which coolly mocked the hype and hysteria of the cannabis era.
His prediction of imminent legalization may have taken two generations longer than promised, but at least in most of the country.
But while the stoner humor has certainly evolved since Lenny Bruce’s day, the ban is what Up in Smoke, Friday, Dazed and Confused, Harold and Kumar, Pineapple Express, Broad City, High Maintenance, and other touchstones of the genre have in common.
Dope State is the first major stoner comedy after the ban.
It features performances by Dan Harmon, Adrian Grenier, Sam Jay, the Lucas Brothers, Dana Snyder, and Ron Lynch, and you can binge it on YouTube for free right now.
Roll one up and watch the trailer.
Years in the making
I first spoke to Gabriel, inventor of Dope State, in 2015 when he contacted me as part of his earliest research into the life of a cannabis journalist. I spoke to him on the phone for a few hours, sharing stories from my long stint as a High Times editor and more recently as a columnist and video host / producer at VICE.
To be honest, I never expected to hear from him again.
To me, watching Dope State was like screening Spinal Tap, if you happened to be a roadie for Led Zeppelin.
Instead, he would turn up every few months with a new question about his character or some aspect of weed culture. I could tell that he really wanted to do his homework instead of relying on tired old tropes and stereotypes. But nothing prepared me for the pleasure of seeing a rough cut of Dope State for the first time.
I can only describe the experience as sort of a screening of Spinal Tap if you happened to be a roadie for Led Zeppelin or Best in Show if you are a judge at the Westminster Kennel Club. It’s not just the quality of the humor, it’s the specificity of the characters and the dedication to making them real people in a surreal setting.
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To this end, Sunday not only plays the intrepid reporter Tyler Gopnik, but also plays many of the outlaws and entrepreneurs Gopnik encounters while hosting and producing a guerrilla-style documentary (aka Dope State) that explores the world of the legal Concentrated weeds in California.
In Episode 1, he’s both Birdman – the unfortunate inventor of a THC-infused energy drink called Tree Jizz – and an over-the-top Instagram influencer called TazzyDabzs.
Rick & Morty Energy
Dope State is most enlightening when it comes to profiling OG heads from the weed underground who are struggling to gain a foothold in the corporate new cannabis economy.
In Episode 2, it is referred to as Cooter by Rick and Morty, co-creators of Dan Harmon, a longtime weed dealer who understands all too well that he is being ousted from the marketplace by the predatory forces of late state capitalism.
“I’m a dinosaur, I know that,” says Cooter. “I have no illusions.”
Psychoactive spider technology
What makes Dope State so special is that instead of knocking Cooter down as a bearded, disheveled relic, we find that his criticism is true. After years of arrest and imprisonment for growing and selling cannabis, the new threat to “legacy operators” comes from all Silicon Valley investors and Wall Street D-Bags who are seeking cannabis now that it is legal.
Entourage star Adrian Grenier plays a tech titan who is conquering the nanotech cannabis spider market.
Like tech titan Elon Shparker – played by entourage star Adrian Grenier – who sees cannabis as another industry to dominate, particularly by cornering the nanotech robotic spider market as the next level cannabinoid delivery system.
“My character is a technology innovator and a magnate of cannabis culture who promises to revolutionize the industry if he really works out a plan for world domination.” Says Grenier. “Gabe’s characters and the world he built are wild, but it actually feels grounded to me. Yes, there are robotic weed spiders on this show, but I’ve met a lot of people in the cannabis industry and that’s not too far from reality. I have no doubt psychoactive spider technology is around the corner. “
Behind the redwood curtain
From start to finish, the most adorable characters in Dope State are those who come there from a place of true love for the plant. One of the best of them is Martin, an old school hippie (played again until Sunday) who tries to turn his unlicensed weed farm into a real “bud and breakfast” so as not to go under.
Martin and his wife fight corporate robbers during the day and Ripper at night to steal his crops. They hope to find a place for mom and pop fans like them amid all the luxury brands and corporate consolidation.
Filmed on location on a real Northern California cannabis farm, we are taken “behind the redwood curtain” and gain an insight into the idyllic world of the Emerald Triangle, where growing weeds – with or without a license – remains a way of life.
“A love letter to California cannabis culture”
It makes sense that Dope State is so ingrained for the underdogs.
You wouldn’t know by a glance, but the six-part series was filmed in a very small space. Sunday wrote, produced, directed and edited the series himself and played seven different roles.
“Dope State is a love work and also a love letter to the Californian cannabis culture I grew up in.” Sunday says. “We shot independently across the state, including real weed farms, and always smoked real weed with real weed people. Everyone is stuck at home right now and we all miss getting up with our friends. I hope people get a kick out of meeting these characters. We’re definitely taking some satirical nudges into the ‘green rush’ excitement, but it’s all out of love. “
Veteran cannabis journalist David Bienenstock is the author of How to Smoke Pot (Right): A High-profile Guide to Getting High “(2016 – Penguin / Random House) and co-host and co-creator of the podcast” Great Moments in “Weed Story With Abdullah and Bean. “Follow him on Twitter @pot_handbook.
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