In Netflix’s workplace bro comedy Tires, Shane Gillis wants to be offensive but can’t be bothered

Edgelord stand-up comic and podcast host Shane Gillis brings a sense of authenticity to his bro-y Netflix vehicle Tires—but also a pervasive apathy, with Luke Buckmaster criticising its risqué yet mild humour.

Comedian Shane Gillis co-created, co-wrote and self-financed Tires, then sold it to Netflix, which has already greenlit a second season—the dream trajectory for a passion project financed by your own coin. The show’s a workplace comedy centred around employees of an auto repair shop including its perennially flustered boss Will (Steve Gerben) and his incorrigible cousin Shane, played by Gillis. There are whiffs of The Office, although the former is too dorky and timid to be a David Brent-like figure, while the latter is too knowingly offensive—the atavistic American man who enjoys being indecorous.

So too, it seems, do Gillis himself, and his fellow writers (Gerben and McKeever, the latter also directing) who signpost where things are going, comedically speaking, in the first episode, when Will announces an initiative to “corner the market for women.” Not long later Will and Shane are asked by a journalist how they’re intending to make women feel more comfortable, to which Shane responds: “massage.”

By this point it’s clear Tires will trade in “I can’t believe they said that!” comedy—but it’s only mildly subversive, presented as doofus humour rather than in-your-face vulgarity. Even the very concept of this show—centred around mostly male, trash-talking car people—feels vaguely out of step with current culture, and that’s exactly the point. The creators want to push the envelope but not too much.

In the third episode, Will shows off his multilingual skills, singing happy birthday in Mandarin. Gillis responds with praise—”that was fucking good, dude”—then contributes to the discussion by speaking in a caricature Japanese accent. Gillis has gotten in trouble over similar things before; this is him doubling down and reminding us that racist accents are a hill upon which he’s prepared to die. So-called “cancel culture” has been kind to comedians like him: they get to cast themselves as brave contrarians simply by making lame, unfunny, outdated jokes, sometimes with no punchlines or point other than to arrive with the scent of inappropriateness.

Talking down the “lamestream media,” Shane’s clearly the sort of man, or manchild, who listens to Joe Rogan and thinks 9/11 was an inside job, if he could be bothered thinking at all. His dialogue includes commentary such as “she’s hot as fuck” and, because variation in screenwriting is important, “she’s horny as fuck.” These are things ordinary people say, of course; it’s characterisation rather than comedy per se. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, although in Tires there’s lots of the former and little of the latter. The show’s biggest problem is not that it’s exhaustingly meatheaded and masculine (which it is) but that it’s not very funny.

Such things are subjective, of course, though here it’s also partly structural: the show is too casual to build to punchlines or even for the most part comedic crescendos. There’s barely even any plot. The tone is “guys lounging around, talking shit.” Part of Gillis’ appeal as a performer is his projection of nonchalance: the feeling he doesn’t seem to care about himself, or what he says, or even if his comedy works. There’s something refreshingly lowkey about this, but in Tires, it’s so lowkey it doesn’t cut through. There’s a sense both Shane the character and Shane the creator are too busy goofing around to do much work, for the auto repair business or for the show itself.

This is almost certainly not true—scripted comedy is a tough grind. Maybe he bent over backwards. But the apparent effortlessness tends to work against the show despite, paradoxically, reflecting some of its strengths, in that it feels like a genuinely lived-in world. The writing doesn’t pop or crackle but you don’t doubt the authenticity of the characters—their tics and idiosyncrasies gradually eked out and the cast given room to find their rhythms.

Gillis walks around with a weirdly distant gaze in his eyes, as if assessing each moment for potential offendability and holding himself back, repressing his inner cartoon. Despite his gravitational pull towards un-PC comedy, Tires dwells in the mild: it’s mildly risqué, mildly untoward, and mildly amusing.