Saturday, February 18, 2023

My Sense of Humor, Part 1

I love to laugh.

Accordingly, there is really nothing better than finding a good comedy.  Something that really makes you laugh heartily, from the depths of your soul.  

They are getting harder to find now.  More diffused among the myriad of streaming platforms and litany of films released each year.  So much harder to find, that the moments that really make you bust a gut stand out so starkly among your other experiences.  I can point to one specifically last year in getting to binge Only Murders in the Building.

In that spirit, I thought I would share my sense of humor.  The comedies that formed my humor, for good and bad.  Given the scope of the assignment, I've split it into two parts, with today focusing on the television comedies that have shaped my personality and the films to come later.

With that in mind, in no particular order, here are the top ten television series that have truly informed my sense of humor and continue to tickle my funny bone.

  • Coupling (The Original British Version) - I still say this is hands down the funniest show that I have ever seen.  Before I even knew the series name, I searched for this show.  When I first went to London and Scotland, I remember watching the episode The Girl with Two Breasts with Dad the night before we returned home and laughing harder than ever before for a television show.  The title is a reference to a misstep in translation and the episode was split into two versions, one showing the events from the English cast and then one showing the same events from the Israeli girl who was the object of Jeff's affection.  For the longest, I could never find the name of the show, but thankfully stumbled across it again on BBC America.  A bit bluer in discussion than American television, but otherwise similar to an American sitcom.  I also highly recommend the episode The Man with Two Legs.
  • Spaced - This is nerd humor.  Humor steeped in the fandoms that I love, performed by actors whose work I greatly appreciate.  I love the Cornetto trilogy that grew from this and this show is a great entry point to that.  Deeply British, but wonderfully done. Two seasons is too short.
  • Pushing Daisies - This shows off my love of puns and whimsy.  While this show is not laugh out loud funny, it never fails to leave me with a smile  I love what Bryan Fuller does on television.  His vision for set design and color and how that all contributes to the mood is incredible.  And it was all incorporated so well into Pushing Daisies.  Such a unique concept, a forensic fairytale about a piemaker who can touch the dead and wake them for a minute.  Gone far too soon.
  • Freaks and GeeksSpeaking of gone too soon, a one season show that really launched so many careers.  For all the shows that have mined the 1980s for nostalgia, this one got it so right.  For anyone who was not in a popular clique at the time, this really resonated and its comedy was so genuine.  It felt like that type of comedy you developed as a defense mechanism if you didn't fit in.  Or just the general reminders of parents in the 80s.  "And you know what happened to him - he died."
  • Frasier - To me, Fraiser is the perfect definition of a situation comedy, in that the enjoyment of the show comes from identifying the situation that Fraiser gets himself into and then seeing the hi-jinks that will ensue as he tries to get out of them.  There are so many tropes that are done so well here.  A Servant of Two Masters, Upstairs/Downstairs, mistaken identities, overlapping promises.  When it works, it works so well.  Amazing for a spinoff from another classic sitcom.
  • Seinfeld - The show about nothing.  In many ways, the opposite of a situation comedy.  This is humor derived from character.  Put a character in an environment and the humor comes from how they would interact.  Plus, it helps show the humor in everyday situations.  Waiting at a Chinese restaurant for a table.  Getting a smell out of your car.  The characters might not be the most likable people in the world, but they are certainly funny.
  • The Muppet Show - This is a current rewatch, going through all five seasons on Disney+.   It's part parody, part variety show, part Goes Wrong Show, and sometimes just weird.  The key is, it's all done with heart.  It's the earnestness the modern versions of the Muppets are missing, but it shines through in these episodes.  Plus its fun to watch the kids crack up at a gag, like when the characters get turned into a chicken or fall off the mountain singing The Happy Wanderer.
  • The Good PlaceOne of the smartest shows that I've seen in a long time and the definition of a smart comedy.  It deals with heady topics, but does so in a thoroughly entertaining way.  It does take getting through the first season to get to the twist for it really to take off, but it's worth it.  While not the best on theology, the exploration of morality and philosophy is excellent and the premise and show is genuinely funny.  Great characters and truly charming.
  • Arrested Development (The Early Seasons) - One of my favorite comedic tropes - the straight-man surrounded by the absurd.  Told in such an inventive way, the trials of Michael trying to deal with his crazy family are consistently entertaining.  This so way ahead of its time and struggled to find an audience on network because of it.  As a plus, in our current environment, it really does benefit from binging.
  • Golden Girls - I've said it before and I don't care.  This show still holds up and if I'm feeling down, there is nothing else I'd rather watch.  I want to picture Sicily in 19-whatever, be regaled with stories of Saint Olaf, and do thank you for being a friend.   The comedy is in the mix of personalities. There are Saint Olaf stories I still laugh at, like the tiny little ginsu knives.  Bea Arthur's snark continues to impress.  And Estelle Getty steals the show. I'll claim this one for a lifetime.


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