By all accounts, 2016 was not a great year for most of us. Thankfully, there was plenty of very good comedy created across all mediums that incorporated the year’s many horrors to create titanic works of laughter, all the while helping us stave off The Dread. Here’s a collection of some of our favorite comedy nugs from the past calendar year!
This year saw the long-running, cultishly adored weekly radio show/pioneering comedy podcast come into its own once again, with the release of several instantly memorable and boundary pushing episodes, but one hugely experimental and mind-expanding ep stood out. Billed as a “lost episode” originally aired in 2006 but not released for public consumption until Election Night, November 9th, the “Classic Best Show” episode slowly and subtly revealed itself as something much more complicated, mirroring the insanity of the real world events happening outside the bubble of the show.
The Nice Guys
Folks, there weren’t a ton of great comedy films released this year. It was a great year in general for movies, but stuff like Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, and Arrival aren’t exactly grinding out the chuckles. “What about Deadpool?” you might find yourself asking, “That was a very popular and successful film that was certainly marketed as a comedy.” No. You’d have to pay me $50 to see that damn thing and even then I’d complain about it the whole time. Anyways The Nice Guys was an amazing movie and super funny and one of the most purely entertaining movies I’ve seen in years. You should watch The Nice Guys tonight. It’s probably still in Redboxes nationwide.
Who would’ve thought Adult Swim would’ve been home to a new classic of holiday television? Joe Pera, the singularly talented former Funny Human of the Week, released a pair of specials this year on Adult Swim, including the very charming Joe Pera Talks You To Sleep, his holiday special, Joe Pera Helps You Find The Perfect Christmas Tree, is a perfect showcase for his folksy, warm persona, with a devilish side subtly peeking through the cracks. This is one you’ll be returning to each December, I know it.
It’s no secret we’re big Aparna fans here at BYT. She’s the best! She also happened to release one of the year’s best comedy albums on the very familiar sounding Bentzen Ball Records! Critics were quick to jump on board, praising her dry, cynical outlook and cutting observations. Aparna’s one of the best comics going today and anyone who hears Just Putting It Out There will have to agree.
Comedians James Adomian and Anthony Atamanuik made gold out of a shit year of politics, creating legendary, platform-hopping works of political satire appearing as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, respectively. They held crass, hysterical debates on Comedy Central and Fusion, starred in a series of video sketches, and went on a nationwide tour, having out every night at venues across America. In a landscape full of toothless and superficial impersonations, Adomian and Atamanuik are miles ahead of the competition.
Hollywood Handbook is an insane feat of strength from two comedy writers, a complex work of deep character mythology, and hands-down the funniest and most consistent podcast of the year. Nobody does dumb comedy better than the show’s two hosts, Hayes Davenport (writer for Vice Principals and Divorce) and Sean Clements (writer for The Grinder and Workaholics), bringing guests like Chris Gethard, Jon Daly, and Julie Klausner into their absurd, wildly stupid universe. And, for fans of “cringe comedy,” check out the suffocatingly awkward appearance from Mike Lawrence that is one of the most uncomfortable bits of audio you’ll hear all year!
Anything Maria Bamford produces in a given year automatically becomes one of the comedic highlights of that year. Alongside her excellent new album 20%, her Netflix series Lady Dynamite captured our hearts this year like few other shows on TV. There’s nobody like Maria and that’s why she’s the absolute best.
If you’re a comedy podcast fan and you’re not listening to 2 Dope Queens, fix your damn life. We’ve loved Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams for years now, and their podcast, now released through the very cool and good public radio network WNYC, is a perfect showcase for these two incredibly funny comedians. 2016 was truly their year.
SNL’s Black Jeopardy sketch
Once in a blue moon, Saturday Night Live cranks out a brutal piece of cultural commentary. Black Jeopardy was a particularly incisive and nuanced sketch from the folks that, let us never forget, positively showcased our current President-elect just over a year ago. It’s hard to let that one go, but if they keep producing work like Black Jeopardy (and the dark, perfect Farewell, Mr. Bunting [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ie6LpKOJVf0]), it’ll get easier to forget.
Hannibal Buress’ Comedy Camisado
Of course Hannibal’s on the list! His latest special, Comedy Camisado, was released on Netflix early into the year, setting a high-watermark that few others could aspire to reach. The special is based around a collection of set pieces that each rank among his best material, buoyed by shorter observational bits and an unavoidable discussion of his role in the public downfall of Bill Cosby, which Hannibal handles with the aloof goofiness we’ve come to expect.
This House Has People In It
Another Adult Swim special from another BYT favorite that perfectly captures their essence! Wow! This House Has People In It, produced by the geniuses at Wham City Comedy, walks the line between visceral horror and surrealist comedy while hinting at a larger mystery that lies outside the special buried across the internet. It’s dark and insane and unlike anything else you’ll see this year. Love that Wham City.
It can’t be said enough that the 2016 election was immensely difficult, a parade of horrors and debasement of ideals that was previously unimaginable. Few were able to successfully wring comedy so directly from these events as well as the men of Hard Nation, which we’ve made our affection of well-known (https://brightestyoungthings.com/articles/funny-humans-of-the-week-hard-nation). If talk radio’s combativeness hooked up with Comedy Bang! Bang!’s improvisational anarchy, you’d end up with something like this topical treat.
Veep’s fifth season wrapped just as the Summer began, constantly one-upping itself with wild scenarios and seemingly unlikely political disasters. Jonah running for Senator is one of the show’s most inspired arcs to date and was a terrifying indication of the vulgar horrors that approached as the year marched on.
Keith Stanfield as Darius on Atlanta
Atlanta is a constantly surprising delight full of richly drawn characters, none more entertaining than Keith Stanfield’s elevation of the stoner sidekick as Darius. Stanfield brings a weightless, thoughtful approach to what could have easily been a conventional wisecracking friend, a Jim Jarmusch character dropped into the Twin Peaks for rappers.
Kate Berlant’s episode of Netflix’s The Characters
Netflix’s collection of eight half hour showcases of some of comedy’s freshest up-and-coming sketch comedians was, naturally, a little all over the place. Bentzen Ball alumn Kate Berlant’s knack for dead-on caricatures of fancy artists, acteurs, and yoga scenesters are one of the many reasons why we love her, and her Characters episode does a great job condensing her hyperspecific perspective into a cohesive narrative. It’s also just funny as hell! Pull it up, it’s very much worth a watch!!