The Best Of 2018

2018’s been a strong year for comedy, on the stand up circuit there’s been some amazing shows produced and tv and online-wise there’s lots of essential viewing, and only the film side of things let the team down. The following is a list of Top 10’s for stand up, tv, online and film comedy, and a bit more besides.

Tv Comedy:

10) Barry – Hitman comedies have been done to death but Bill Hader’s HBO series breathed new life in to the genre in this beautifully dry insight in to an assassin who wants to quit and become an actor, and the quietly devastating ending means the second season should be equally as good.

9) Vic and Bob’s Big Night Out – Celebrating their twenty eighth year of being on tv together in the best possible way by bringing back an old show and making it better than ever, this is Vic and Bob at their best.

8) The Shivering Truth – Surreal, bizarre and full of moments which might psychologically scar you, it also contained some beautiful wordplay and imagery that will make you laugh every time you think about them.

7) Bojack Horseman – Possibly a little too bleak this year, what with Bojack strangling his co-star / lover in a drug fuelled rage, it was still filled with amazing ideas and extremely funny jokes and though not quite as lovable as usual it was still bloody good.

6) Kidding – Jim Carrey’s comedy about a children’s entertainer struggling with the death of his son was incredibly moving, but also full of moments that made me laugh hard, and in a lesser year for tv comedy this would have taken the top spot.

5) The Good Place – Michael Schur’s show had been set in the afterlife previously but this year saw the gang return to Earth and yet still be constantly must see tv. All of the cast are on great form but special mention must go to D’Arcey Carden and the episode Janet(s) where she played six different characters seemingly effortlessly.

4) Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – The third season was fairly bleak (and essential viewing due to this) but the fourth sees Rebecca on the up and there’s been some outstanding songs and hilarious moments in every episode.

3) Inside No.9 – I was blown away by the live episode, it was Shearsmith and Pemberton at their very best creating not only something that had lots of laughs but which was genuinely unsettling as well.

2) The Venture Bros. – Back after a two year break and the slightly disappointing season six, this was the show at it’s absolute finest, not only resolving all of the issues with the previous season but then having an amazing seven episode run which ended with Hank’s incredible fever dream. Who knows when it’ll be back but if it’s as good as this year’s episodes it’ll be worth the wait.

1) The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling – A superb two part documentary which examines the great man’s life through interviews with the people who loved him and a lifetime of personal journals, private letters, audio and video footage, this was touching and beautifully created, and easily the best thing Judd Apatow has ever done.

Almost made the list: Lots of stuff, including Taskmaster Series 7, Joe Pera Talks With You, The Tick, Corporate, Touretteshero: Me, My Mouth and I, Mike Judge’s Tales From The Tourbus, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (certain episodes, at least), Bob’s Burgers, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Atlanta, Harvey Birdman, Pls Like, Mom, and Forever.

Film Comedy:

10) Destination Wedding – Not particularly that special but Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder have a certain amount of chemistry in this amiable rom-com.

9) Deadpool 2 – I guess this superhero flick is a comedy and it certainly has some fun moments, and because of the lack of alternatives it makes the list.

8) A Futile and Stupid Gesture – An extremely likeable biopic about the people behind National Lampoon, some of the portrayals may not be spot on but there’s a lot to like here, even though the final half hour is rather gloomy.

7) Ideal Home – Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd are a couple on the verge of breaking up when they suddenly have to look after Coogan’s grandson. The advertising for it was terrible but it is in fact a very funny film.

6) Eighth Grade – Bo Burnham’s directorial debut this is rather (deliberately) cringeworthy at times and brings back the horrors of being a teenager, but it’s also very funny and sweet in other places and definitely worth checking out.

5) Blackkklansman – Spike Lee returns to this form with this piece where a black man goes undercover in the KKK via a collection of phone calls. Often bleak but also full of laugh out loud moments.

4) Heavy Trip – Extremely lovable movie about a Heavy Metal band in Finland who are desperate to escape their tiny village. Almost the definition of a feel good movie.

3) The Breaker Upperers – A superb comedy about a platonic friendship between two women who run an agency specialising in breaking couples up.

2) Sorry To Bother You – The best satirical film of the year is filled with unusual delights and comes complete with a twist which has to be seen to be believed. And even then you might not.

1) Isle Of Dogs – Not quite as great as The Grand Budapest Hotel but this is Wes Anderson’s second best film, which sees a bunch of dogs have adventures in a grim futuristic Japan and is full of deadpan humour, contains an amazing cast and is beautifully designed.

Almost Made The List: Um, very little really. I suppose Game Night had it’s moments, The Favourite is supposed to be great but I’ve not been able to see it yet, and I hear Crazy Rich Asians is fun, but there really weren’t many great comedy films released this year.

Live Comedy:

10) Any Suggestions, Doctor? – An extremely fun and lovable show where these amazing improvisers gave us a story far more interesting than anything Chris Chibnall produced this year.

9) Jordan Brookes – Not quite as good as his debut show but this still impressed a great deal, and the unique set up reminded me of Chris Morris which is the highest of praise.

8) Steen Raskopoulos – A stunning bit of comedy which is mostly improvised around audience suggestions, he’s a comedian I plan to see again and again.

7) Marcel LuCont – Just an absolute delight, his prepared jokes elicit a huge amount of laughter and he’s the master of audience interaction as well.

6) Jim Gaffigan – I’d never been a fan before but his wife almost dying has led to his material becoming a lot more fascinating, and gives it a much needed edge as well.

5) Marc Maron – He was only due to perform for 50 minutes but clearly was having a ball as he stayed on stage for two hours, and his material was impressive indeed.

4) Michael Brunstrom – A beautiful bit of incredible daftness where Michael took on several characters, involved the audience in sublime ways, and told a fascinating tale as well.

3) Bridget Christie – Her 2016 show disappointed a little but this was a real return to form, with a much needed bout of anger towards Brexit and the way women are treated in the industry.

2) Maria Bamford – Because she’s my favourite comedian and finally getting to see her was a joy, as was all of the material she did.

1) Natalie Paladimes – One of the finest pieces of comedy I’ve ever seen, six weeks on and I find myself thinking about it daily and wish I could witness it again.

Almost made the list: Jen Kirkman, Andy Storey, Bob Saget, Andy Kindler, Say My Name, and Thor & Loki.

Streaming / Tv Stand Up:

10) Adam Sandler – 100% Fresh – No one saw this coming as the man responsible for some of the worst comedy films of the last decade put out a very likeable special filled with decent jokes and short songs which are pretty enjoyable too.

9) Holly Burn – Best of the Burn – Holly presents a wide selection of characters all of which had me grinning from ear to ear when I wasn’t laughing.

8) Alexander Fox – Ringo – A tale of one man’s love for drumming and The Beatle he corresponded with, it’s superbly told and full of fantastic moments.

7) John Robins – The Darkness Of Robins – It’s a game of three halves, Brian, or three thirds if you’re pedantic, the opening and closing sections are incredibly strong but it’s let down by a rather bland middle segment.

6) Laura Lexx – Tyranosaurs Lexx – Laura struggles with the concept of post marriage happiness in this special filled with very funny jokes and sentiments that made me laugh a lot.

5) James Acaster: Repertoire – All four of Acaster’s previous shows were put up on Netflix this year and all of them were pretty damn superb. You can see how he grows as a comedian and the fourth is the best, but all of them contain a lot of fantastic material.

4) Stewart Lee – Content Provider – For the first time I had some minor issues with Lee’s stand up, he’s used the “That part of the audience are getting it, but that other part of the audience aren’t” device too many times now without offering anything new and it’s starting to frustrate. There was still an enormous amount to like about the show though, but it wasn’t his best work.

3) Max and Ivan – The Reunion – Better than Stewart Lee? Yep, you read right, it might not be as good as Lee’s best but it’s far more consistent and most importantly it’s strong narrative is a delight from start to finish, it’s packed with killer lines and the two show off their impressive acting skills as they take on a variety of characters. It’s worth signing up to NextUp to watch this alone, but then stick with them for all the other fantastic comedy they’ve provided.

2) John Mulaney – Kid Gorgeous – I’d liked Mulaney for a while now, even if his sitcom is weak, but this special made me an enormous fan. It’s mostly clean, family friendly comedy but enormously funny and Mulaney’s stunning storytelling made me laugh time and time again.

1) Hannah Gadsby – Nanette – Incredibly powerful stand up with a message which will hopefully resonate through the industry. It’s not faultless and some of the first half could be a little stronger, but the second part is devastating and Gadsby has created something truly unique here and has left pretty much everyone wanting to see what she does next.

Almost made the list: Mat Ewins – Live From The BBC, Ed Aczel – Is Edward Aczel Infinite, lots of Netflix and Comedy Central specials I’ve since forgotten about. Sorry.

Best Online Comedy:

10) Comedy To Watch Interviews – Egotistical I know but Tony Law, Suzy Bennett, Alasdair Beckett-King, Danielle Ward, Andy Kindler, Alexis Dubus, Michael Legge, Michael Brunstrom, Athena Kugblenu, Evelyn Mok, Joe Jacobs and, well, everyone else we spoke to gave interviews that were not only fascinating but also very funny.

9) This, That And The Other – A fantastic UK sketch duo put out some great comedy in this must listen to podcast.

8) Le vieux Macdonald – A short film from Australian comic Ben Volchok it’s very silly and very funny, and I hope to persuade him to put it on youtube soon.

7) Comedy Bang! Bang! – Scott Aukerman’s podcast went from strength to strength this year and was as listenable to as ever.

6) Digitiser The Show – Infectious fun as Paul Rose, Paul Gannon and co reviewed old games and argued a lot.

5) Overthinking With Kat & June – An odd couple comedy from youtube this is a smart and fun series about two women who end up being roommates together despite having nothing in common, it’s easily the best thing youtube have put out that so far.

4) Paul F.Tompkins’ Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom Of The Opera – Tompkins gives a commentary to this black and white classic and provides plenty of laughs over the course of two hours.

3) Onion Film Standard – The Onion’s film critic Peter K. Rosenthal went from strength to strength this year, supposedly reviewing films but often going on strange and bizarre tangents that are beautifully funny, with the majority being a joy to watch.

2) Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast – Sometimes weak but when Herring has a great guest on it’s filled with comedy gems, with Ross Noble being a recent highlight when he told some gorgeously funny stories about Mel Brooks.

1) The Adam Buxton Podcast – Even better than RHLSTP is Adam Buxton’s superb podcast where he interviews a variety of guests and really gets the best out of them, Simon Pegg’s episode is particularly insightful and funny but the ones which feature Tim Key, Bob Mortimer, Aisling Bea and Diane Morgan are also essential listening.

Almost made the list: Nothing, but there’s loads of stuff I haven’t listened to or seen this year.

Best Old Comedy I Discovered This Year

10) We Need Answers – In joint 10th place is this panel show from 2009 / 10 I somehow failed to see it when it originally aired but Alex Horne and Tim Key appear in it so that should be all you need to know as to why it’s so much fun and even the occasional nothing-y guest doesn’t spoil things.

10) We Are Klang – It’s a shame that this is a little uneven or it’d be much higher up the list, at it’s best it’s joyously daft comedy and Greg Davies is superb throughout, but the odd patchy episode means it only takes joint tenth place.

9) Unbelievables – An unaired pilot from 1999 this was the subject of a recent One and Done piece and it may well be the best show I’ve covered yet, as it revolves around a bunch of retired superheroes struggling with domesticity. It stars Corbin Bernsen, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Tim Curry and it’s a crime that it wasn’t given a full series, one which should be punishable by ten years prison time.

8) Detroiters – This great series about two ad men only debuted in 2017 but I didn’t see it until this year, it’s now sadly been cancelled but don’t let that put you off checking it out as it’s filled with hilarious moments.

7) You’re Whole – Michael Ian Black’s spoof of infomercials aired on Adult Swim in 2012 and 2013 and it’s a bizarre crazy parody that is filled with some amazing jokes and unusual scenarios. Black’s perfect in the role and ever since I saw it I’ve hoped he might one day bring the character back.

6) The Suicide Shop (2012) – An animated musical comedy from Patrice Leconte, director of The Hairdresser’s Husband and Monsieur Hire. Vaguely like a french Addams Family but where a deranged family run a shop which sells everything you need to help you commit suicide, from poisons to rope to samurai swords, but then a third, happy, child is born to the couple and their world is thrown in to disarray. It’s got great songs, a dark but also daft sense of humour, and for me is one of those “Where have you been all my life?” kind of films.

5) Austentatious – I’m extremely fond of Jane Austen and love Joseph Morpurgo a disturbing amount, and Rachel Parris and Cariad Lloyd are superb comedians too, and yet for some reason I’d never seen this live show. But due to finding their dvd in a charity shop I finally rectified this and found it to be a rather hilarious and incredibly engaging piece of comedy.

4) Billy the Kid and The Green Baize Vampire (1987) – An enormously fun musical comedy about snooker? Yep, you heard right, this 1987 flick is filled with great performances and an enormous amount of daftness, along with truly catch songs. Expect an Our Favourite Films article about it next year.

3) Citizen Dog (2004) – A musical romcom from Thailand, it’s brightly lit strong colours and magical realism reminded me of Amelie though this has it’s own unique sense of humour and tone. Plus songs! Lovely lovely songs. It’s one of those “Everything and the kitchen sink” films when it comes to playing around with ideas, and pulls all off with aplomb.

2) Lemonade Joe (1964) – This Czech musical western is a right old bizarre thing being an odd battle between a lemonade seller and a bar owner in the wild west, it looks incredibly beautiful, the songs are shockingly charming, it’s playfully filmed and has the most absurdly daft happy ending I’ve ever seen.

1) Love & Peace (2015) – Which just proves you never know what you’re going to get with Sion Sono, who often makes fairly disturbing movies and so I certainly wasn’t expecting one of the sweetest and loveliest films I’ve seen in ages. It warmed the cockles of my heart an enormous amount and it may well be my second favourite work of his after Love Exposure, and after Lynch he’s definitely my second favourite director now. It’s a fantastically christmas-y film with a healthy dose of magic realism and perfect viewing for this time of year.

Almost made the list: Sitcom (1988), Lord Love A Duck (1966), The Heroic Trio (1993), Guys and Dolls (1955), What’s Up Doc? (1972), The Lonely Guy (1984), The Return Of Captain Invincible (1983).

Alex Finch.
https://twitter.com/comedytowatch

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