With the university term over, the question on many of our minds will be how to entertain ourselves until lockdown is relaxed further. I have personally found it helpful to fill my time with easily-accessible materials that provide an immediate distraction to my mundane lockdown routine. All of the shows and books provided I found to be educational as well as comedic. I cannot recommend these comedians enough as demonstrations of how comedy can be simultaneously light-hearted and challenging.
Ricky Gervais: Humanity
Gervais manages in Humanity to explain all of the seemingly endless ways in which modern society frustrates him. From unpacking the criticism he faced after his hosting of multiple Golden Globe Awards ceremonies, to the frustration he feels when people talk to him about their children unnecessarily, there are moments within the comedy special that everyone can relate to. Gervais is currently focused on creating TV content, with his show After Life also featuring on Netflix and inspiring even more people to love his comedy, and it’s exciting to be able to watch Gervais’s comedy material so easily. Humanity is definitely something you can watch with family, as all evening you can discuss with each other the pet-peeves Gervais describes.
Bo Burnham: Make Happy
I watched Make Happy for the first time last year, and I watch it frequently even now as it’s the most insightful and introspective comedy special I have ever seen. Burnham rose to fame over a decade ago by posting comedic songs online, an art which he has clearly perfected as seen in Make Happy. Songs are spaced sporadically throughout the special, and the topics they are based on range from a parody of country music to a commentary on the mental-health issues he has faced due to the demanding career path he has chosen. Not only is this comedy special incredibly moving, it’s one of the few specials which represents the life of a comedian off-stage. Burnham is a wholly unique performer: you cannot watch this show without laughing and sending his content to others to enjoy, but it also leaves you thinking about the demanding relationship between the performer and their audience.
Ali Wong: Baby Cobra
Having watched Wong in the movie she co-wrote and co-produced called Always Be My Maybe on Netflix, I was determined to explore her career more. Her humour and delivery is so effortless that when acting or doing stand-up you can’t help but feel completely enveloped in her jokes and their narratives. For lack of a better description Baby Cobra is laugh-out-loud funny; something which is hard to achieve through an online comedy special. Wong perfectly summarises the confusing nature of being a woman in modern society, and how comical the balance of playing into and challenging stereotypes can be. You can’t help but seek out more of Wong’s work after seeing a snippet of it, as you wonder what other unique perspectives she holds about the world around us, and how to see comedy in challenging topics.
Dolly Alderton: Everything I Know About Love
Though the title markets Alderton’s book as one which would fall within the self-help or romance genre, I found this book to be a clearly comedic and educational explanation of the importance of friendships in your early twenties. Though it is an autobiography, there are lessons and experiences within Alderton’s book that we could all learn from. It’s the kind of book you read in one sitting and upon completion you feel empty without. The narrative she provides about the mistakes she’s learnt from in her youth, and the ones she recommends you never make, interweaves with her comedic voice and makes for an incredibly special read. I recommend this book consistently to all of my friends, and I strongly believe it is something that every young person (who enjoys comedic relief during the confrontation of challenging topics) would enjoy.
Michael McIntyre: Live and Laughing
Being the first book I ever read regarding the topic of stand-up comedy, I can argue this is my favourite comedy and autobiographical book I have ever read. McIntyre details his entire life story and the difficulties of breaking into the comedy industry. The book effortlessly flows through McIntyre’s life, and modestly touches on the successful portion of his stand-up career. Having grown up mere minutes from where McIntyre did, and attending the same university, I found Live and Laughing to be an incredibly relatable, heart-warming and comedic read. It’s the perfect book to whet your appetite for stand-up comedy specials, podcasts, and books. It touches on sad and happy topics, as every autobiography must in order to portray an accurate depiction of life, but it maintains the chatty and accessible humour that led to McIntyre’s worldwide success. Live and Laughing is also available on Audible, but I would only recommend that if you don’t mind laughing out loud in public.
Featured illustration credit: Cameron Somers