Favorite Comedy of 2023
2023 had a lot of great comedy, in a lot of different varieties! Here are some of my favorites:
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off (TV Series) - I have not yet finished the season, but already it is some of the most inventive TV I have seen in a long time! It somehow manages to maintain a relaxed nature while not being overly meandering. It even pokes fun at the 2010 Scott Pilgrim movie, one of my comedy favorites from that year – which just goes to show the unexpected and delightful twists and turns that the show makes.
Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm (Movie) - This movie was wild in a great way – I wasn’t sure how the creators would manage to extend the TV show idea into movie length, but I thought they did a really good job at sustaining the momentum in very original ways (including pulling back a level to the two alien characters, calling attention to the fact that it is a movie in a way that reminded me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail). A movie that manages to be truly weird, but at the same time truly funny and fresh throughout.
Only Murders in the Building Season 3 (TV Series) - This season managed to do a great job at maintaining strong ethos, with some legitimately teary-eyed moments, and still landing solid jokes (with thanks to Steve Martin and Martin Short). I really enjoyed the chance to see Martin Short’s character in his element, and although I didn’t get all of the theater joke references, I still found them funny simply because I knew some really well-informed theater nerds were behind them. Guest turns were a very great part of the season – Meryl Streep helped round out the emotional depth, while Paul Rudd did the same for the comedic side.
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (Movie) - While this movie is one of many “franchise” movies that comes out these days (i.e. a movie based on a known quantity), what sets it apart and makes it a legitimately successful comedy is that it knows when to play it comedically (and very comedically) and when to play it dramatically, which it allows it to keep a light tone throughout, and allows the comedic scenes to hit hard, while still making you care for the characters and for the world. The disciplined/structured tone that made this movie an effortless watch is as opposed to other well-funded movies that try to play to all sectors, and lackadaisically mash dramatic and comedic moments together into a grayish mass of dissatisfaction. Poetic enough?
Stand-Up: So many great specials this year! John Mulaney started off the year with a great hour (Baby J) that, despite it being centered around some very serious life events of his, managed to not be a “special episode” of a comedy special (another way to phrase it: one man show), but managed to leverage the drama and seriousness to be that much funnier. Shane Gillis’ special (Beautiful Dogs) was another standout, with gut-punch laughs that also pointed to some astute political/historical understanding. Joe List’s special (Enough For Everybody) was another great one – similarly to John Mulaney, Joe uses his honesty, relatability, and self depreciation to connect and deliver laughs. John Early’s special (Now More Than Ever) was very inventive, having a variety show feel, and included pointed and refreshing takes on modern world frustrations. Finally, Joe Pera’s special (Slow and Steady) showcased his distinct, slow-paced style that brought me to his unique but still funny wavelength, keeping me there to great effect for the entire hour.
You People (Movie): I really enjoyed the relaxed tone of this movie (it seemed improvised to me, which might partially be the case) as well as the humanistic message about race and interconnectedness in today’s world. It was great to see solid comedy performers like Jonah Hill and Eddie Murphy bounce off of eachother, showcasing their comedic talents with grounded roles that also spoke to a larger message.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia S15 (TV Series) - Somehow, in its 15th season, this show managed to be fresher than ever! The showrunners, writers, and performers swing for the fences every time and it is very apparent that there is a lot of heart behind each episode – I have greatly enjoyed that recent seasons play with the aging of these characters. They are still comedically reprehensible, but in this most recent season we got to see that combined with the fact that they are in their 40s, as well as their disdain for the coddling of today’s youth and the modern world’s automatization/phone centralization.