REVIEW

By: Richard Walker

Photos: Various

ILLUSTRATIONS: Various

Need a laugh? Look no further!

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Inject some laughter into your day with this pick of the funniest comedy around. Because let’s face it, we could all do with a good giggle right now.

They say laughter is the best medicine, and with the exception of a coronavirus vaccine, that’s as true today as ever. Happily, the medicine cabinet is choc-full of comedy elixirs ready to chug down, across every type of digital platform from Twitter to Netflix to actual physical platforms that you can touch and smell, like books and live comedy. There’s even a strange in-between format that used to be called radio and is now called ‘podcast’. Below are some of our favourite humorous vehicles from each of the above. Regular laughter has been proven scientifically to prolong your life and give you the appearance of a happy-go-lucky person. Or a mentally disturbed person. But who cares what you look like when you’re having this much fun.

PODCAST – Rule of 3

Listening to comics talk about their craft might seem like watching a TV chef cooking – it looks yummy, but all you’ve got for dinner is half a jar of green pesto and a bag of wholewheat pasta twirls. Contrast this with the podcast Rule of 3 (a reference to the joke-writing structure using three clauses) where comedy gold-standard bearers like Eddie Izzard and Charlie Brooker are actually funny while talking about other people being funny. Izzard praises John Lithgow in 3rd Rock from the Sun while explaining his own approach to comedy, “… two kippers, a monkey from outer space, and the Pope, and the barman says, ‘ok who’s first?’”. While Brooker gushes over his favourite movie, “Airplane is very clever but it’s also really stupid”. One thing all the guests have in common is a preference for talking about themselves far more than their chosen subject. Which is also funny.

Listen to 5’s own podcast on humour and viral memes, where we explore why they are so popular and what, if anything, they can achieve?

TV SERIES – The Midnight Gospel

This new animation for adults is from the makers of Adventure Time, Pendleton Ward and Duncan Trussell. It follows the adventures of Clancy, who lives on a spaceship and selects – with the aid of his computer, the Simulator – various exotic worlds to visit.

In the first episode, Clancy visits Earth in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and meets the US president of that time. They discuss meditation and drug use in an educated podcast style while fighting off zombies. Other episodes feature a planet populated by baby clowns and a journey through the cycle of birth, life and death. Unhinged, yes. Funny and clever, yes, yes.

INTERNET – The Room Next Door

Political leaders are often not fluent or even coherent when addressing a live audience, so it is plausible that hidden away backstage there’s a downtrodden media adviser linked to the leader’s ear by microphone and headphones.

Read more about the changing role of political satire in 5’s new article ‘What happens when satire gets serious?’

“This answer has already turned into a bath of baked beans”

Michael Spicer

This is Michael Spicer’s character, edited in so it looks like he’s trying and failing to feed sense into the mouths of Boris Johnson: “I’ve run out of paddles for you … this answer has already turned into a bath of baked beans”; of Donald Trump: “Say that again and I’ll have to scream into a cushion”; and of Prince Andrew: “Deny everything … it couldn’t have been you because you don’t sweat”.

It’s watching a car crash press conference from inside the car. Spicer’s not what you’d want from an in-ear media adviser, but he is spit-your-morning-coffee-everywhere funny and all over the Twittersphere @MrMichaelSpicer.

BOOK – The Best of Me by David Sedaris

Put one mildly unreasonable person and one slightly petty person in a confined space and a vintage Sedaris melee of mangled manners unfolds. Some of the stories in this new collection of the author’s favorites read like lost scenes from Seinfeld, but even better since we can hear the author’s righteously indignant inner monologue.

In Turbulence, Becky just wants Sedaris to swap seats with her husband so she can sit next to him. “It’s only a ninety-minute flight… what, is he going to prison the moment we land?” The author spends the rest of the journey worrying he’s in the wrong, filling in a crossword with bitter reproaches. Then he accidentally coughs a boiled sweet into Becky’s lap.

“This was what a chicken might wear to a Halloween party”

David Sedaris

Sedaris’ best stories distill our anxieties and flaws and force us to laugh at ourselves, even though we seem to be laughing at him. And then sometimes he just starts talking about stuffed owls. “‘What we’ve done’, he boasted, ‘is stretch a chicken over an owl form’… I mean, please! This was what a chicken might wear to a Halloween party if she had 10 minutes to throw a costume together.”

LIVE OPEN MIC COMEDY – Give it a go

We’ve all enjoyed making a group of friends laugh and then wished our comedy genius was more widely available. Sober again, we wonder how anyone but a lunatic has the chutzpah to get up on stage.

The English language stand up comedy scene has been exploding around the world in recent years, with thousands of new clubs popping up offering bills of mixed experience, from leathery old stalwart comics to wobbly kneed novices.

To make your debut just sign up for a five-minute slot on an open-mic night. Sure, it’ll make you feel a bit nauseous before you go on, and having a bucket or large hat nearby is prudent. But the sound when you get that group of strangers laughing is golden earhole nectar. Most of the world’s big cities boast open-mic nights and a good MC will always ‘protect’ a Bambi by putting them on mid-way through the first half (audience warm, expectations not yet high). So get out there and make us laugh!

Great clubs for newbies:

Cosmic Comedy – Berlin
Nutty Anita Comedy at the Nieuwe Anita Club – Amsterdam
Comedy Virgins at The Cavendish Arms – London
Rox Comedy at the Glebe – Sydney
Good Heavens Comedy – Tokyo