For the second year, I’m sharing a list of some of my favorite laughs of 2017. Comedy specials, live performance, movies, and TV all made the cut this year. Please note, these were far from the only things that I laughed at…not even close. But they were the ones that, when I look back on the year, stood out most clearly.
American Vandal (Netflix)
Between not having been a “Serial” person, and having missed the flurry of excitement over Making a Murderer, I wasn’t sure if I was going to “get” this spoof of investigative true-crime documentaries. Oh, but I got it. It’s pitch perfect: from the style of the interviews, to the systematic disqualification of suspects, to the deliberately vague ending…it’s all the trappings of the form, but you get to giggle about dicks. What more could you want?
Rhea Butcher, Back to Back Tour (live/iTunes)
Sadly, this year marked the end of Butcher and Cameron Esposito’s Seeso show Take My Wife, but I am pleased they took the show on the road. After riffing together for a shared set, each comic got their own set. Butcher’s, in particular, impressively addressed our current political climate without being preachy, and detailed their struggles with gender dynamics in society in a way that felt emotional and hilarious at once. The special is now available on iTunes, so go get it if you missed their tour stops!
Cristela Alonzo, Lower Classy (Netflix)
I’ve had a special place in my heart for Cristela since her explosive appearance on the NACA National stage in 2014. So anytime she’s winning, I’m smiling. Her first hour was a delight, as she spoke about her love of football (albeit for a shitty team), her upbringing in a poor family, and even the passing of her mother. Between Lower Classy and her turn as Cruz Ramirez in Cars 3 (I bet it was a left turn- HA), it’s been a great year for Alonzo- here’s to much more of her in 2018!
Detroiters (Comedy Central)
I’ve described this show as “Broad City, but with boys,” and yet I think that diminishes what longtime friends Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson have built. As local ad men Sam and Tim, they managed to hit several things I love: advertising on TV, the silliest moments of friendships, and the earworm of a jingle that is “Devereaux Wigs” (sing/screech along if you know it!). If you haven’t watched it yet, catch up before we get season 2 in April 2018 (pro tip: “Happy Birthday Mr. Duvet” is the closest to a perfect episode of television I’ve seen in a long time). And don’t ask me if I can do anything that month- I’m busy.
Hamlet (Public Theater)
Stay with me on this one. Despite being a drama, and one of Shakespeare’s sadder ones, there’s a consistent lightness to Shakespeare’s writing that often gets overlooked in dramatic stagings of the play. While you might expect the levity in this production to come from Keegan-Michael Key, it was actually Isaac who managed to find and put on display the humor inherent in Hamlet’s character. Isaac’s comedic timing is stronger than we generally give him credit for- can we please get him in a comedy next year?
Manny Jacinto as Jason Mendoza, The Good Place (NBC)
I have said multiple times, and will continue to harp on this for as long as it applies. While The Good Place is a great show in its own right – one of the smartest on TV right now – Manny Jacinto is doing something VERY special as Jianyu/Jason. The Buddhist monk “turned” Jacksonville party boy provides the oddest and most welcome comic relief to this band of misplaced misfits; in this second season, he’s managed to elevate the humor as a partner and foil to the occasionally stuffy Tahani (Jameela Jamil). Still holding out for a flashback to a performance by Dance Dance Resolution: We Resolve to Dance; Manny, in the highly unlikely event you’re reading…let me know who to ask about that.
Michelle Wolf, Nice Lady (HBO)
Michelle Wolf, Nice Lady (HBO): near the end of Wolf’s debut hour, she relates a story about dating a trainer from her gym and the resulting text thread. She has an audience member check her phone to confirm the texts are real; I played that role at a Providence show. Like the texts, Wolf’s show is refreshingly real about the uncomfortable parts of womanhood. Shrill voices, the grossness of balls, and needing to be “nice” are all fair game with Wolf’s trademark perspective. When I talked with her for the IBang ahead of the special’s release, she mentioned her goal was to share things that men normally talk about from a female perspective. That viewpoint was welcome, and resulted in one of my favorite specials of the year.
Roy Wood, Jr., Father Figure (Comedy Central)
We have no shortage of comedic content in this world right now, which I love BUT also means that a rewatch is a rare occurrence. This special got one. Wood’s Comedy Central hour, centered around the advice he wants to give his infant son, provides an insightful and hilarious look at Blackness in our present society. From how he imagines Oprah got smacked in Selma, to the best time to go to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the special carries a welcome amount of Wood’s wit that has been so welcome on The Daily Show. Well, apparently, not quite enough because I needed a second round of it.
The Standups (Netflix)
Netflix gave us at least an hour of comedy every Tuesday in 2017. On July 4th, they gave us three, built by six comics on the rise. This series gave us tastes from club comics like Nate Bargatze and Nikki Glaser, adept writers like Beth Stelling and Dan Soder, and from TV actors and standups like Fortune Feimster and Deon Cole. I like this format as a means to introduce viewers to “new to them” comics, and am excited it’s coming back for more in 2018. This sextet turns in hilarious sets; I’d seen five of the six comics live before, and yet still found new things to double over at. Keep an eye out for the second installation, and give these a few watches while you wait!
Thor: Ragnarok (Disney/Marvel)
Marvel, let Taika Waititi touch ALL your stuff. In a genre that takes itself very seriously, the director’s comedic take on Thor’s latest chapter drew me in from the first trailer. Previous installments touched a bit on Chris Hemsworth’s comedic talents; Ragnarok harnessed them beautifully. If the end of the world is coming, I hope we’re able to find humor in it the way that this movie did.
Wayne’s World 25th Anniversary Live Reading (Clusterfest, San Francisco)
My “what I did on my summer vacation” essay would prominently feature this three day comedy festival, the inaugural effort from Comedy Central. If I’m honest, this full reading, gender-bent and complete with live performances from Tia Carrere and Crucial Taunt, was truly worth the full cost of admission to the festival. Ilana Glazer as Wayne. Abbi Jacobson as Garth. RON FUNCHES AS STACY. I would have been supremely disappointed if I missed this, as Wayne’s World is one of about eight movies I know every word to. Didn’t diminish this experience in the slightest.
And, because I can’t ignore my own entry into the genre this summer, my grand debut from this past August:
What’d you laugh at this year? Anything you’d add to the list? Anything I should be looking out for in 2018?