Danny McBride was invited ?to join the Apatow/Stiller/Ferrell ?komedy klub after they dug him as a boorish martial-arts instructor in his 2006 indie schlock comedy The Foot Fist Way; soon he was popping ?up in Tropic Thunder and Pineapple ? Express, and on Ferrell’s Funny or Die website. Some folks consider Foot Fist a grungy classic, but I think Eastbound & Down, McBride’s new sitcom about a broken-down ex?pro baseball player, is the funniest thing he’s done to date.
McBride plays Kenny Powers, who flamed out as a fastball pitcher due to egomania, drugs, and some very politically incorrect comments about his teammates. Now Kenny finds himself back in his hometown, living with his older brother (Deadwood’s John Hawkes, looking eerily like a world-weary DJ Qualls) and furious at himself because he’s seriously considering a job as a phys-ed teacher at the local middle school.
Playing arrogance and anger as likable qualities is McBride’s secret weapon as a comic, and characters don’t get any more arrogant than Kenny. He’s a nonstop offender, coming on to the art teacher (curvy Katy Mixon) — an old flame now ?engaged to the clueless principal (clever Andrew Daly) — and arranging for the services of a prostitute on the phone in his brother’s living room, shocking his sister-in-law (deadpan Jennifer Irwin) with his very specific sexual demands.
What lifts Eastbound & Down away from mere crudball humor is McBride’s ongoing love affair with the lower middle class: He revels in getting all the details right, from his brother’s cramped suburban house to the frowsy bar where ? Kenny drinks boilermakers in the front and hoovers coke in the back-room. Plus, you’ve just got to love a sitcom that uses the Freddie King version of Don Nix’s great stormy blues-rocker, ”Going Down,” as a theme song. Eastbound & Down is a winner about a real loser. A?