''Stella" is the kind of sitcom that makes a reviewer want to throw up his hands and say, ''Oh, just watch it." And that's not because Comedy Central's ''Stella" is so amazingly wonderful, although it certainly is a fresh kick for viewers who like willfully offbeat shows such as ''Reno 911!" No, just watch it because it's so freaking odd, and so original, that it's really, really hard to describe.
In its promotional push, Comedy Central has been likening ''Stella" to the Marx Brothers, and there is truth in that lofty comparison. But the show, which premieres tonight at 10:30 p.m., is also built around an ironic sensibility that feels altogether contemporary and ''Mad TV"-esque. It follows the Manhattan adventures of three bumbling men in suits -- played by Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, and David Wain -- as they suck innocent bystanders into their web of modern surreality. Acting like big kids, they charm a co-op board by doing a zany dance, and they perform heart surgery on their landlord with a butter knife. In short, they're an interactive seminar in absurdity.
The series began its life as a New York stage revue that Black, Showalter, and Wain developed after serving in the comedy troupe the State. And it does play a bit like sketch comedy, with its roots in theatrical improvisation. But then ''Stella" is definitely a crafted sitcom, a single-camera series that breaks the laws of time and space in the manner of an animated show. As they do their Marx Brothers-meets-Monty Python-meets-Three Stooges shtick, the men fall into all kinds of studio-manufactured reality warps. At times, ''Stella" may remind you of the edited kookiness of that 1960s TV classic about the prefab-four, ''The Monkees."
As with ''The Monkees," you have to enjoy stupidity for stupidity's sake to embrace ''Stella." If you're willing to stop thinking and submit to its neo-vaudeville stylings, you can stumble across a laugh or two or three. There's plenty of tight slapstick in each half-hour, as Black, Showalter, and Wain move with a synchrony that comes from years of working together. They stretch their faces into all sorts of exaggerated expressions, looking like the Fab Five one minute and ruthless politicians the next.
In an upcoming episode, they wear long faces, literally, which the performers make funnier than it sounds. The guys also make the most of their low-level word play, such as when they insist to the co-op board that they aren't skunks because they're wearing skunk tails; they're ''skunk people."
Ultimately, ''Stella" is a light exercise in controlled anarchy. It makes sense, and then it doesn't make sense, and then before you know it, you find yourself not caring much about sense at all -- just like its trio of flip heroes.
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.