The 100 Best Things in Comedy We Were Witness to in No Particular Order of 2017
Now that 2017 is officially over, here’s our year end list just like we did last year. You know this is where we say “you know the drill”. Enjoy.
1. Jen Kirkman’s special Just Keep Livin’-Jen’s latest special was one of the first comedy specials released in 2017 and, given how much of 2017 was taking down the patriarchy, a perfect start to the year.
2. @scorpiondagger-Remember those great animations from Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Well, James Kerr, better known as Scorpion Dagger, has made an entire Instagram and book of “collage animations from old paintings” that hit that same nerve as if he was a funny, more cohesive Hieronymous Bosch.
3. James Adomian as Sebastian Gorka-After Trump won, James Adomian followed up his spot on impression of Senator Bernie Sanders, as fitting with the zeitgeist, with an only “somewhat exaggerated” impression of former Trump advisor Sebastian Gorka.
4. Christina Catherine Martinez-Martinez is a great bridge between many different disciplines including performance art, stand up, and clowning, which we were lucky to see her blend effortlessly together all throughout 2017.
6. 555-Of the things that you’ve seen John Early and Kate Berlant in this past year, we’d hope one of the things you’ve seen (and treasure most) is their great Vimeo mini series 555 they made with Andrew DeYoung that’s equal parts surreal and satirical.
7. Shamilton-the improvised musical team Baby Wants Candy does an improvised musical in the style of Hamilton (all dressed up like Hamilton) though focused on another famous person. Though made up on the spot, it does feel like you’re watching a full fledged, fully developed Hamilton parody of sorts.
10. The Big Sick-Rarely did a movie in 2017 have something for everyone. The true story of how Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon falling in love actually did live up to that distinction and might be a rare commercial, critical, and awards success as a widely released comedy.
11. Myq Kaplan’s album No Kidding–Kaplan’s last album is a great summation of his command of the English language, his undeniably playful nature, and the intensely interesting and progressive life he leads. It just might be his most compelling record yet.
12. My Brother, My Brother and Me-It’s really quite unfortunate that Seeso had to shudder its doors as the My Brother, My Brother and Me is one of the best TV adaptations of a podcast that has ever been made. May the McElroy Brothers live on and continue their professional shenanigans in a televised form.
13. Jackie Kashian’s album I Am Not the Hero of This Story-This album is so damn good for how well-crafted, deeply emotive, and honest it is that we now want to get a tattoo of one of her jokes.
14. “Infertile” by John Murray and Silvia Ojols–Murray and Ojols’ struggles with getting pregnant was the impetus for a great sketch show that highlights the absurd lengths one might go through to have a child. The show itself is so clever and witty that folks who don’t want kids can enjoy it.
15. Connor Hurley actually pretending to be three kids stacked on top of each other in a trench coat-You see it all the time in cartoons (namely BoJack Horseman’s Vincent Adultman), but to see it done live by one adult, namely Connor Hurley, as if he were three children is a whole other great sight to behold.
16. Mary Holland-At this point, the odds are in favor of having seen Mary somewhere whether it be on the multitude of shows she has had a role in, Wild Horses, podcasts, etc. etc. When it comes to improv these days (even if done semi-dramatically), Mary is one you need to go see live as soon as you can.
17. Last Podcast on the Left/Last Stream on the Left-This past year, Last Podcast on the Left won a Webby Award, became the namesake of their own podcast network, and continued to be one of the best dark (and we mean really dark) comedy podcasts around. Last Stream on the Left, their companion livestream show is the one show where we actually enjoy people watching Internet videos and riffing on them, though that has a lot to do with Henry Zebrowski, Ben Kissel, and Marcus Parks having such great chemistry.
19. The Wheel Show-All (Joe Kwaczala, Alex Hanpeter, Trevor Martin, Joe McAdam, Andrew Smreker, Chris Stephens, Kristen Studard, Conor Sullivan, and Jude Tedmori) transplanted from Chicago, this uniquely modular, highly disciplined troupe makes some of the tightest and silliest bits and sketches in LA.
20. The President Show-Few get to the level of satirizing Trump exquisitely done by Anthony Atamanuik and company. As such, this is one of the few things that make fun of Trump that we’re still really excited about these days.
21. Norm MacDonald’s special Hitler’s Dog, Gossip, and Trickery–Norm MacDonald has definitely been aging like a fine wine. More specifically, the long winding road that he takes us all through in his jokes have gotten more refined, making his jokes even land even harder as they do in this latest special.
22. Adam Pally as a late night guest-In a world where late night’s main concern is roasting the news, Adam Pally still knows how to be the consummate late night guest by making grand entrances and bits and subsequently making fun of them.
23. Rick and Morty-don’t let the McDonald’s Szechuan sauce fiasco make you forget that one of the best shows on television continued to operate at the highest level in its 3rd season, organically developing its characters, and shattering all sorts of expectations at the same time.
24. Hasan Minhaj’s White House Correspondents Dinner Address & Netflix special Homecoming King–Hasan Minhaj has had one hell of a landmark year. Between his no-pulled-punches WHCD address (the first one that a POTUS has not attended in case you didn’t remember) and his stellar solo show/stand-up special Homecoming King, we’d be surprised if Hasan didn’t get his own show in 2018.
25. Music video for Broken Social Scene’s “Vanity Pail” by Kevin Drew-Though slight, music videos, specifically funny, narrative music videos are having a bit of resurgence and it’s surreal, absurdist visions like Drew’s Vanity Pail that keep this trend on the rise.
26. Sean White’s album Angry & Alone–White’s first album was a concept album about death, specifically about his life with his several family deaths coming one right after the other. Thus, the perfect follow up would not only have such a title as “Angry and Alone” but expertly distill the feeling of isolation into enjoyable long form bits.
27. Maria Bamford-Bamford essentially has a comedy empire built out of sheer positivity emanating thickly shrouded forests of mental illness. See her hour special Old Baby, the second season of her sitcom The Lady Dynamite, and her web series Ave Maria Bamford as evidence.
28. Ruben Östlund’s The Square-Most satire these days is satire that is less funny than it is intentionally infuriating (and it’s all pretty much just about Trump in some way). Östlund proves he is one of the most comical satirists in cinema with, The Square, his follow up to Force Majeure. Both comedically dissect the fragile male psyche, but The Square goes even further to poke the 1% and the highly pretentious art world with a very sharp stick.
29. Ian Abramson’s set on Conan-TV has yet to get to the point where they’re shocking contestants on reality competition shows, but Ian Abramson put himself through his own gauntlet by allowing an audience member to shock him via electric shock collar if he didn’t like a particular joke.
31. “Super Mario as a Real Life Plumber” by AOK-Of the real life parodies of cartoons and video games that have been made, AOK took Super Mario to its darkest timeline in the real world, which is still pretty fun because of those giant hands.
32. Jim Tews’ album I Was in Band-Though you might not notice when you’re listening to it, NYC based Tews’ album stands as a great example of a modern man being able to express his feelings openly and honestly, despite potential judgment, and make fun of them in a way that’s altogether uplifting.
33. Bellevue: Seinfeld, a Double Header-NYC based improv/sketch group not only performed a pitch perfect spec episode of Seinfeld, but very impressively improvised one from scratch (Seinfeld stand-up episode bookends included).
34. Ahamed Weinberg as Banksy-Over the last few years, we hope you’ve enjoyed Ahamed Weinberg’s stand-up and short films. This year, we got to see him stretch his creative legs further by playing a Banksy character or rather, a Banksy that has so clearly run out of ideas. Go see Ahamed live and you might just catch him in character.
35. Mike Drucker’s Sh*t Arcade-While there is plenty of precedent for shows of watching people playing video games, Mike Drucker specifically has upped the ante by having comedians play and riff on the absolute worst video games in existence, making for something beautiful.
37. At Home with Amy Sedaris-In a way, this show is a dream come true as Amy Sedaris gets to make a “slightly” off-kilter crafting show and we get to see Amy Sedaris regularly on television again.
38. Jamie Loftus’ i lost my virginity on august 25 2010-the ever innovative Jamie Loftus created a solo show about, as you can guess, losing her virginity is unlike any other, especially since she revisits the event from several different points of view a la Rashomon and has a kiddie pool with Dr. Pepper in it.
39. Rory Scovel’s special Rory Scovel Tries Stand-Up for the First Time-If you don’t know the name Rory Scovel by now, we honestly don’t know how you even got to reading this list. Scovel, above so many comics, is one that undeniably bridges so many gaps between audiences by being unapologetically silly in between sharply drawn observations.
40. Ingrid Goes West-Had this very clever psychological thriller comedy been released in the last couple of months, it might have gotten more awards consideration like all the other awards worthy comedy this year. Aubrey Plaza and director/co-writer Matt Spicer made that good of a movie.
41. Follow That!–Matt Lieb and Jason Webb really put comedy’s power of bringing levity to humanity’s most dramatic and heart wrenching moments by having stand-up comedians perform after screening “cry videos”. It’s one of our favorite emotional roller coasters to go on.
42. Megan Koester’s commentary on her ex-husband’s Soundcloud-Koester called an audible during a variety show where she thought pure stand-up was the wrong move. What she opted to do was lie down flat on the stage, have her ex-husband’s noise music on Soundcloud play, and unapologetically open up while simultaneously roasting her husband. Unironically, it was truly great comedic performance art.
43. Kristen Lundberg-We saw Kristen and her violin at 2017′s Riot LA Comedy Festival and was dazzled by her Jim Carrey like abandon on stage while playing such a refined instrument.
44. Barbara Gray’s bit with a minature chair-Basically, Barbara has come up with ingenious postmodern, feminist take on the well worn comedic trope of humping the stool.
45. 50 Lady Bits–Sara Schaefer led the charge of dozens of female comedians, from all sorts of backgrounds, tell their joke about their “lady bits”. It was unforgettable night of solidarity as well as a great example of how diverse you can be in talking about one topic on stage.
46. Full Moon Comedy–Lindsay Adams and Aaron Weaver really lean into the notion of doing a comedy show into a mystical supply shop by doing things such as prescribing crystals for comedians based on their sets. We love them for it.
47. Bad Dad: The Game Show–Mary Sasson and Marissa Strickland’s game show celebrates how “not-around” and terrible dads can truly be. It might be one of the better coping mechanisms for not having a great father figure that has ever been devised.
48. Freestyle compliments rapped by Zach Sherwin with beats provided by Drennon Davis-There’s plenty of comedy now that speaks truth to power and goes as dark as it needs to. Sherwin’s clever rhymes in the form of compliments to Davis’ improvised beats are a welcome positive addition to this list.
49. Ryan Singer-Singer is a rare comedian that not only tackles the subjects that ranges from mysticism to artificial intelligence, but massages it into hilarious, very accessible bits of comedy.
52. Rebrand with Mekki Leeper-Essentially, Nathan Fielder is to “small business solutions” as Mekki Leeper is to “marketing campaigns”.
53. Heather Anne Campbell Presents The Anime Show-One of the best improvisors on the planet, Heather Anne Campbell, assembled a crack team to improvise the finale of an anime series they’ve never seen only based on the show’s intro. Even if you don’t love anime, it’s pretty amazing.
55. I Love You America with Sarah Silverman–Silverman emphatically answers the call for more empathy and caring for each other in 2017 by specifically talking to folks that are ideologically different from her. Of course, Silverman is still a bit of a blue absurdist, but definitely hosts this Hulu talk show from the heart.
59. Dave Ross and Pat Bishop’s short film Number 5-You might currently have seen the names of Pat Bishop and Dave Ross as one of the creators of the upcoming dark workplace comedy Corporate and co-host of Suicide Buddies. Just think of this short film following a serial killer and a potential new victim as a nice precursor to what they do now.
60. Lady Bird–Greta Gerwig’s debut as a writer/director is every bit the knee-slap-laughing tearjerker that you’ve heard about. From opening credits to the end, it’s simply one of the best movies of 2017.
61. Kelly MacFarland’s album You Woke Up Today-This was the first comedy album we truly enjoyed in 2017 for MacFarland’s candor as a middle-aged stepmom and we firmly stand by enjoying it now that 2017 is over.
62. Zach and Viggo–Zach Zucker and Viggo Venn represent the forefront of what it means to be a silly, non-sensical clown in these times. In fact, they’ve even proved the notion that a “hat on a hat” being too much in comedy can be wrong.
63. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri-If you like your comedic films served up so dark that they have been burnt to a crisp and they’re also nihilistic as all oblivion, Martin McDonagh’s latest film might be the film for you to reckon with.
64. Witch Taint Live-Dave Hill took his famous Black Metal Dialogues (wherein he posed as a kid from Gary, Indiana trolling a Norwegian black metal record label) and created an entire stage show for it, complete with corpse make-up and actual death metal song he sent to the label. It was everything we imagined it would be when we first read the Dialogues.
65. Andrés du Bouchet as a clown protesting IT and a representative of Boliviguay protesting exclusion from the World Series-As far as sketches in late night are concerned, du Bouchet is one of its finest treasures as shown by these two sketches.
66. Nathan For You: A Celebration-In a follow-up special for small businesses that had been on Nathan For You in the past, Nathan Fielder finds, yet again, truth is both stranger and funnier than fiction (more than he could have ever planned).
68. @aparnapkin-Twitter’s best roaster of Trump.
69. Sadie Hawkins Day: Love Knows No Bounds–John Reynolds and Matt Barats reimagine the concept of a Sadie Hawkins dance in the most absurd way possible and come out the other side with a brilliantly stupid comedy.
70. The Lego Batman Movie-Even though this installment of a film franchise based on plastic toy blocks is technically a parody of one of the most well known comic book franchises around, there is still enough cleverness and heart for this movie be enjoyed on its own, separate from LEGOs and Batman.
71. Comedy Show at Gelson’s in Silverlake–Brendon Walsh, Neil Hamburger, Melissa Villasenor, Johnny Pemberton, and magic duo Mystiki really did put on a comedy show at supermarket that was so good that all those that were watching forgot that the Dodgers were playing in The World Series in the background.
75. Big Mouth-The animated series from Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Jennifer Flackett, and Mark Levin about puberty (a cartoon that’s so dirty that it’s kind of meant for adults) is strangely sweet. Also, they probably have the best dark joke of 2017 (hint: it involves Garrison Keillor).
77. John Early’s Toni Collette fan site-this is wonderful relic from a bygone era of the Internet and just happened to be created on a very important date in American history. Whenever John Early presents the remnants of his Toni Collette site live at shows, it’s something you’ll never forget.
78. The Disaster Artist–James Franco not only nails how to do a Tommy Wiseau impression, but brings a certain three dimensional humanity to Wiseau that makes a great adaptation of a book that was the tell all story of the making of The Room.
80. Sauce at Desano Pizza-From humbling beginnings three years ago, Sauce at Desano Pizza is now one of the best weekly comedy shows in LA.
81. Judah Friedlander’s special America Is The Best Country in the United States-Originally conceived as a concert film, Judah Friedlander’s latest comedy special on Netflix shows off Friedlander’s uncanny ability to riff off off international tourists at NYC’s Comedy Cellar while in character as well as offering a peek behind the curtain of Friedlander’s process.
83. Thor: Ragnarok–Taika Waititi made sure to leave his unique brand of wry comedy stamped all over a property of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which resulted in one of the most satisfying MCU movies yet.
84. Conner O’Malley-midwestern outlet malls didn’t need to worry about ISIS and the real truth, according to conspiracy theorists that live in basements, will be found thanks to O’Malley’s characters.
85. John-Michael Bond’s Dungeon-Though comedic versions of Dungeons & Dragons have been made before, Bond’s version simplifies the gameplay so comedians, especially D&D uninitiated ones, can really enjoy delving into fantasy land much to the chagrin of the audience.
87. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee’s Not the White House Correspondents Dinner Special-As Trump broke with tradition and opted out of attending the White House Correspondents Dinner (which put the fate of the WHCD up in the air for a minute), Sam Bee and company came through and made a great TV special that kept that spirit of the WHCD alive and well.
88. I, Tonya-Again, truth can often be funnier than fiction. That is especially the case when the truth is obscured because of conflicting interviews of Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly that got adapted into a stellar biopic by Craig Gillespie, Steven Rogers, Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, and Sebastian Stan.
89. My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean by Amy Dresner-Few comedians, even with the sort of reputation with vices that comedians typically have, own such stories about addiction like the ones that Amy Dresner lived through. Her memoir shares them in an unflinchingly honest way and, in doing so, finds the humor in places where there would seem to be nothing to laugh at.
91. “LA Song” by The Cooties-the juxtaposition of such upbeat melodies and harmonies from The Cooties and unapologetic, too-close-to-home lyrics about everything that’s wrong with Los Angeles offer up a song that is still a pretty, pleasant anthem for this city.
92. Janicza Bravo’s film Lemon Starring Brett Gelman-This portrayal of an acting teacher/struggling actor going through a breakdown really shows off how great Gelman can be in a whole new complex and nuanced way. Also, it has the best performance and use of the song “A Million Matzoh Balls”.
93. Helltrap Nightmare-Chicago’s own live horror-inspired comedy show led by Sarah Squirm/Sarah Sherman (with The Shrimp Boys [Wyatt Fair, Luke Taylor & David Brown], Scott Egleston, and Ruby McCollister) stopped by LA and we couldn’t have marveled at their finely tuned silly nightmares more.
94. SMILF–Frankie Shaw took her critically acclaimed short film of the same name and turned into a critically acclaimed television series on premium cable and managed to upset the Catholic Church. Pretty nice going for a first timer, no?
95. Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell-In its 3rd season, Dave Willis and Casper Kelly’s workplace comedy set in hell that there is still plenty to laugh at in a place of utter despair and hopelessness.
96. Liz Climo-Climo’s illustrations between talking animals are undeniably heartwarming, though not overly so as they bring a smile to the faces of the most cynical adults. She has a book full of them, which you might want to keep close if you need something to put a smile on your face.
97. Too Funny to Fail-The story of the unfortunate demise of The Dana Carvey Show is captured so well in this documentary from Josh Greenbaum, especially with all the interviews from the writers and cast, which, as you well might know, when on to be some of the best and brightest in comedy (Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Robert Carlock, Charlie Kaufman, Jon Glaser, Robert Smigel, and more)
98. John Mulaney & Nick Kroll w/Oh, Hello on Broadway and hosting The Spirit Awards-From their track record that they’ve been on the last couple of years (especially with their Broadway show that was born out of sketch characters and awards hosting gits), don’t be surprised if Mulaney and Kroll earn an EGOT together in the not so distant future.
99. The Jackie and Laurie Show-The friendship dynamic between Jackie Kashian and Laurie Kilmartin is so amazing that a podcast where they just see what’s going on each other’s lives provides us with one of our all time favorite podcasts.
100. Mike Birbiglia’s Thank God For Jokes-Mike Birbiglia served up another fantastic comedy special and, at the same time, offered up the best treatise in defense of telling jokes that we have ever heard. Thank Mike Birbiglia for the whole thing (as well as watch the special).