'Parks And Rec's Lil Sebastian: What's The Big (Lil) Deal?
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You are probably reading this article because you are burning up with one of two questions: either you thought the Parks & Recreation character of Lil Sebastian was hilarious and you would like to understand why, or you didn’t understand one bit why everyone loves that lil horse and are looking for a lil answer.
Lil Sebastian was featured in only two episodes of the show (three if you count his hologram in the series finale, and probably more if you count any appearances of his likeness in photographs that may or may not be sprinkled through the rest of the show), but it only took those couple of appearances for him to trot his way into the comedy hearts of viewers everywhere. In this article, we’re going to determine why by going behind the scenes.
Where Did Lil Sebastian Come From?
‘Duh, Cracked, he came from the Parks and Rec writer’s room!’ Sure, but which writer thought up the miniature horse? That answer is lost, even to the writers themselves. According to Greg Levine, who worked as a writing assistant on the show, the genesis of Lil Sebastian came from the discussions of the Harvest Festival: “I’m not positive who came up with the idea. I remember that when the Harvest Festival arc was being conceived, there was a lot of discussion on various types of hometown super heroes. Like, the famous celebrity who happens to live in a small town, or that famous mascot for the high school, or that special critter who always pops-up at different people’s houses.”
And so of course they arrived on the miniature horse, based on Einstein, a real horse dubbed “The Smallest Stallion.” “I cannot for the life of me remember who pitched the name Li’l Sebastian,” said Levine, “but it was an instant winner.”
Why Does Lil Sebastian Work So Well As Character?
Well, first we have to tip our hats to the performance IRL tiny horse Gideon gives in his role as Lil Sebastian. Gideon is a real stud - “He's pretty much the smallest guy. He lives with full-sized horses. Actually one of his girlfriends is humongous” says his trainer, Morgan Bateman. And yes, you read that correctly: Gideon has multiple ladies in his life. But there is one that stands out above the rest (and above him) – Melena, an Andalusian.
Of their sultry romance, Bateman says “If you take them apart from each other he'll whinny for her and make lots of noises. I think she doesn't really care as much about him as he does about her. He fits underneath her. They're funny, like the odd couple.”
Well, good job on your horsin’ around lil fella! You gave the role your all and it shows!
In part, what makes Lil Sebastian into the workhorse (heh) character he is comes down to the reactions of everyone around him. It is a well-worn comedic tool to make the normally impassive react emotionally at the silliest thing – however, that is not used here, as having a strong response to Gideon/Lil Sebastian’s appearance is not silly. It is in fact the most normal and human reaction imaginable.
Ron “Nick Offerman” Swanson, nearly emotionless in every other scene of the show, is overcome with delight upon seeing the horse. “Well done, Leslie, well done!” he proclaims as Jerry/Gary/Terry trots the miniature horse into the office. It is this performance from Nick Offerman that shatters Ron Swanson's normally-stoic-demeanor and sells the bit (not to diminish the acting of the rest of the cast).
We would be remiss, however, to not mention Adam Scott’s Ben Wyatt, as the Yin to Ron Swanson's Yang (Ron's Yang is probably made in America.) “I’m gonna be honest, I just don’t see what the big deal is.” That’s okay Ben, that's only because you don’t have any appreciation for hometown pride, what with yours being ruined by your disastrous tenure as the mayor.
Okay, Great, But Why Is He Funny?
Our hypothesis is that the funny bone being tickled here is the same funny bone stimulated when you see videos like these:
Yes, the infamous internet cat. Animals being cute or ridiculous has been a cornerstone of the internet since time immemorial, basically since your parents and grandparents started to use the web. There is just something so mesmerizing and entertaining about seeing animals do things animals don’t do (A cat, playing an instrument?? C’mon, get outta town!!).
However, in Lil Sebastian’s case, the humor script is sort of flipped: instead of being an animal that does something ridiculous/fantastical, he literally does nothing besides just be small. In fact, he gets an honorary degree from Notre Dame just for being small.
So there you have it: Lil Sebastian is funny because he both inverts and subverts the classic cat meme structure. Have a look and decide for yourself, because while Lil Sebastian may just be 5,000 candles in the wind for the people of Pawnee, he will always be with the rest of us thanks to the power of streaming.
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Top Image: NBC