The right kind of funny
July 1, 2016 9:56 PM   Subscribe

I enjoy taking in funny stuff as a relaxing escape from my intense social service job. Perhaps I can distill my personal sense of funny to: cerebral, not reactionary/racist/misogynist/etc, sometimes weird/surreal. I am a little bit snobby. I don't like violent comedies. Not so much looking for websites but that's OK in small amounts. International/subtitled OK! Please advise:

Some stuff I find funny:

Terry Pratchett
Hitchhikers Guide
Steve Martin's Cool Shoes (yes to weirdness)
(Not as funny to me: Christopher Moore - more clever than funny?
Bill Bryson - just... didnt' make me laugh?)

Master of None
Broad City
Original Arrested Development
Lady Dynamite
(Didn't like: Louie - too uncomfortable! Portlandia - eh! Most sit coms I've ever tried to watch - just not funny to me!)

Pootie Tang
Galaxy Quest
The Muppet Movie
Monty Python
Hollywood Shuffle
Zanier early Woody Allen (but I don't watch him anymore because morally abhorrent)
Charlie Chaplin
(Not funny to me: Cohen Brothers - too violent [loved Raising Arizona])

@MrGeorgeWallace on Twitter - always funny!
Sarah Silverman
I don't really know who else I like in stand up as I don't follow this world but I have been pretty consistently liking Two Dope Queens because they choose pretty funny guests, and if the guest isn't so funny, they are not on very long!
posted by latkes to Media & Arts (50 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Comedians: Eddie Izzard (history-based jokes, off the wall), Hari Kondabolu (cerebral, sociological), Dave Gorman (I can't really describe him, but he's great. Cerebral and a genuinely strange person, extremely funny. There was a stand-up special with him on Netflix, but it seems you'd have to find it elsewhere currently).

TV shows: Modern Life is Goodish (British show by Dave Gorman), The Mighty Boosh (British; very weird, sometimes with a dark undercurrent).
posted by wintersweet at 10:04 PM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Comedy Bang! Bang! (both the podcast and the TV show.)
posted by theraflu at 10:09 PM on July 1, 2016

Best answer: Bill Bailey? Cerebral, and teeters on the glorious British edge of 'off-the-wall'

e.g. his Chaucerian pubbe gagge

You might also like Dylan Moran + Bill Bailey in Black Books
posted by idlethink at 10:10 PM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

TV Shows: The Middleman, Blacks Books

Books: Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels, starting with The Eyre Affair
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 10:11 PM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

TV: Flight of the Conchords.

Comedians: Gary Gulman, John Mulaney and, since you like Lady Dynamite, Maria Bamford's comedy albums!
posted by Merinda at 10:20 PM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

I hope you didn't just forget to include it, because it's really mean to make someone think they're introducing you to Peep Show for the first time.

Being There

The Larry Sanders Show (might be too much)
posted by rhizome at 10:58 PM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Hot Fuzz
posted by EKStickland at 11:00 PM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Newhart is relaxing and occasionally cerebral with frequent microdoses of weird/surreal, although it's more like the books you mentioned than the sitcoms you mentioned.
posted by Polycarp at 11:00 PM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes, definitely Peep Show!
posted by delight at 11:04 PM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

30 Rock
Parks and Recreation (start with the second season)

(They're both technically sitcoms but are more like Arrested Development and Broad City than, say, Modern Family. I think they're both a bit more mainstream/polished than those shows, but with similar sensibilities)

For stand-up: you have watched Maria Bamford and Aziz Ansari's specials, yes? You may or may not also like Mike Birbiglia. Oh and try Tig Notaro.
posted by lunasol at 12:27 AM on July 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

I feel like you might enjoy Spy with Melissa McCarthy. I watched it while going through an intensely sad and stressful time this spring and to my surprise I laughed out loud through the whole thing. I couldn't believe how much it lightened my mood.

As far as I'm concerned it was a breath of fresh air for passing the Bechdel Test without breaking a sweat. I loved how it portrayed women's friendships (how awesome is Miranda Hart?) and that it made fun of the assumptions and stereotypes society has around gender, weight, singledom, age. And I must reiterate: I thought it was utterly hilarious.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:30 AM on July 2, 2016 [6 favorites]

I should note that since she is actually a spy, there's some minor violence because other agents are trying to kill her and she defends herself. Several people get shot at/shot, for example. But it's not gory or what I'd consider gratuitous. It's not Cohen Bros. level violence, and I didn't find it disturbing, for what it's worth. But I thought I'd give you a heads up.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:35 AM on July 2, 2016

Fawlty Towers is such a gem
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:36 AM on July 2, 2016

Best answer: I think you will like Stewart Lee.
posted by mymbleth at 12:37 AM on July 2, 2016 [7 favorites]

Also check out Limmy on social media (especially Vine)... Very bizarre humour.
posted by mymbleth at 12:53 AM on July 2, 2016

I always recommend The Office. I think it's hilarious and I like that it has story arcs rather than everything resetting every week. You can skip season 1 since they change Michael's character a bit, season 2-6 are great. I also like Parks & Rec and again, after the first season Leslie's character changes a bit so you can start with season 2. Both are on Netflix! (I recommend these as someone who doesn't enjoy sitcoms.)
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:28 AM on July 2, 2016

I'm hugely into British panelshows. They're rarely highbrow, but there's rarely the nastiness where the comedian goes after someone like in American standup.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:34 AM on July 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

Podcasts? Like Wait Wait Don't Tell me, or Ask Me Another. (I've also listened to Car Talk reruns from time to time).
posted by microcarpetus at 2:10 AM on July 2, 2016

British panel shows/quiz shows are a great suggestion, especially Would I Lie To You and Mock The Week.
posted by Pizzarina Sbarro at 2:54 AM on July 2, 2016

Best answer: Spike Milligan's war memoirs had me in tears. Besides being funny as hell, he has these little moments of just plain beauty sprinkled in there too
posted by speakeasy at 4:00 AM on July 2, 2016

Another vote for Mock the Week. Would also add No Such Thing as a Fish and particularly The News Quiz.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 4:56 AM on July 2, 2016

Seconding Stewart Lee, for whom I bought a region-free DVD player specifically so that I could watch the Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle series on DVD. Here's a clip from that series where he ironically points out the absurdity of (specifically British) xenophobia, and possibly all of existence.
posted by skoosh at 5:21 AM on July 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

You haven't mentioned radio, but if its a medium you enjoy, there are several British radio series that might fit your criteria:

The Mighty Boosh - The radio version preceded the TV series, and is to my mind both more surreal and funnier.
Flight of the Conchords - This also has a later TV version, but the radio version is superb. Might not be up your street if you don't enjoy musical comedy, however!
The Unbelievable Truth - This is the radio version of Would I Lie To You, recommended above. I find it to be more cerebral, a bit less silly, and much more enjoyable. It is hosted by David Mitchell, who I think does a better job than Rob Brydon (who hosts the TV version).
Heresy - Victoria Coren asks her guests to argue against received opinion on topics ranging from the silly to the very serious. Very funny and also remarkably thought provoking.
Just a Minute - Guests must speak for a minute without "hesitation, deviation or repetition" on a given subject. Funnier than that description makes it sound, and chaired by the fantastic Nicholas Parsons, who has been chairing the show since its first broadcast in 1967(!)

TV wise, nthing recommendations for Black Books, Fawlty Towers, Peep Show and The Mighty Boosh. I wonder if you might also enjoy The IT Crowd or Community, both of which are to my mind sitcoms that skew towards the surreal end of the comedy spectrum.
posted by bored_now_flay at 5:28 AM on July 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

Airing on Comedy Central this summer, you have the faux-1905-doc Another Period, which is frequently both very stupid and very smart in very specific ways. They also have the daily game show @Midnight, which brings in 3 comedians per episode and is usually pretty funny.

Veep might be too uncomfortable to watch, but it's worth a shot.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:13 AM on July 2, 2016

Brooklyn 99 is a fun, weird US sitcom.

In stand-up, if you try and like Maria Bamford, Jackie Kashian frequently tours with her and has a similar aesthetic.

Currently in theaters, and far funnier/weirder than we expected, is Central Investigation with the Rock and Kevin Hart.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:24 AM on July 2, 2016

Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle is also now on Netflix.

You might like Preston Sturges' comedies. Give Palm Beach Story or Sullivan's Travels a whirl.

My SO is suggesting a lot of musty dusty movies that it might go without saying that you have seen, like Fish Called Wanda and Top Secret and Deathtrap. Splash was better than people remember, if they do at all; Broadcast News, Evolution, some mildly funny things. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Tristram Shandy: a Cock and Bull Story, Clueless, 50-50, Tootsie, Zero Effect, About a Boy, Les Compères, Triplets of Belleville, Kung Fu Hustle, Shaolin Soccer though not very cerebral now eh. My SO is veering in weird directions I don't know what to think.

Rango was weird and cerebral and fell through the cracks; Puss in Boots had maybe the funniest split screen joke I've ever seen, it had this sprinkle of self aware absurdity that went under-appreciated perhaps.

Now she's suggesting Winter Sleep which is the complete opposite of a comedy so I think she's done.

Jasper Fforde was mentioned, though I fear you might find him more clever than funny. The Fourth Bear, tho; just read that one.
posted by nom de poop at 7:28 AM on July 2, 2016

I know I've suggested this a billion times but Parks and Rec. Parks and Rec. Parks and Rec!

That's my go-to show if I am feeling shitty or stressed out.
posted by littlesq at 7:41 AM on July 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

DEFINITELY Wet Hot American Summer, the original movie and the recent Netflix TV show. Goofy, weird, heartfelt, and very very funny.
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:12 AM on July 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

What about old episodes of the British show QI? Most of them are on YouTube now.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:46 AM on July 2, 2016

the daily game show @Midnight, which brings in 3 comedians per episode and is usually pretty funny.

I've been playing around with making a post about @midnight. It can be very, very funny and it's rare that all three comics are bad. It's also diverse and features a lot of women.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:52 AM on July 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sometimes, due to mood, tiredness, general whatever, something will just not strike me as funny, but on re-read/watch, I find it somewhere on the amusing - hilarious spectrum, so maybe give some stuff a 2nd try.
posted by theora55 at 10:04 AM on July 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

BROOKLYN NINE NINE. It does take a few episodes to get moving, but it's an amazingly charming show that makes me laugh out loud regularly, and constantly amazes me with the progressive directions it goes in and its self-awareness. I'm pretty sensitive to reactionary/racist/misogynist/etc TV, and I keep expecting this show to let me down but it hasn't.
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:20 AM on July 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh, oh, Angie Tribeca is legitimately continuing the tradition of Airplane! and Police Squad. If you don't like the first 500 jokes there are 500 more. Or you could try episode two.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:04 PM on July 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you enjoy comics? If so, Kate Beaton is great. She primarily does historical things with a few self caricatures, too. She's released a few books if you don't want to trawl through the archives.
posted by carrioncomfort at 1:35 PM on July 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

The office. The characters are warm and good and it is so frickin funny.
posted by pintapicasso at 4:19 PM on July 2, 2016

Best answer: For books, are mysteries that are not thrillers okay? If so, I'd suggest: Donna Andrews, whose Meg Langslow series starting with "Murder with Peacocks"; Charlotte MacLeod, especially the series set at Balaclava Agricultural College; Lisa Lutz for the Spellman Files; Dorthy Sayers wrote one Lord Peter Wimsey book that I think qualifies as humor, "Murder Must Advertise."

For movies, do the witty screwball comedies like this list from wikipedia appeal? Or do they reinforce stereotypes too much? What about the barrage of jokes in Airplane! and its ilk?
posted by SandiBeech at 4:29 PM on July 2, 2016

Mel Brooks movies, Pink Panther movies.
posted by irisclara at 4:31 PM on July 2, 2016

Also check out Drunk History. It started as a web series; now it's on Comedy Central. Stories from history, lip-synced by a troupe of actors.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:05 PM on July 2, 2016

Best answer: I just started listening to Wooden Overcoats, a fiction podcasts about rival funeral directors on a tiny British island. Try Cabin Pressure too.
posted by book 'em dano at 7:25 PM on July 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, this is so great. I am happy and surprised to see a lot of recommendations for things I haven't heard of or tried. Zany and smart stress reduction, here I come!

Quick question: realizing a secret ingredient in Comedy I Like is Britishness. Seems I can find some of these exported on Netflix or YouTube. But stuff like BBC radio programs... any idea how a USian can get a hold of these?
posted by latkes at 1:01 PM on July 3, 2016

OP said cerebral humor, Web sites OK in small amounts? So I would throw these two links out there which I find/found funny, respectively:
posted by forthright at 6:54 PM on July 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Very happy you asked since I have similar tastes. British TV show "Couplings" was really funny (I think you can get it on hulu now)

I liked Transparent - not a traditional comedy but had some scenes that really made me laugh as well as better writing and character development than the usual sitcom.

Just watched Andy Barker, PI with Andy Richter. He is a CPA turned PI and it is just silly. They only made one season so it is a short binge watch.
posted by metahawk at 10:25 PM on July 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am British but brit stuff seems to have been covered pretty well (Stewart Lee, YES) so here are a couple of closer-to-home recs for you:

- On TV, Adventure Time: it looks like a kids' cartoon but it is in fact the weirdest, cleverest, and most delightfully surreal treat you will have seen since the Monty Python animations. Watch it through from the beginning for maximum enjoyment, episodes are only short and if you're like me you'll regularly gorge on two or three at a time .
- Podcast, I picked up on Throwing Shade from a mefi recommendation, it's largely chat and discussion of feminist and LGBT issues but they have this tendency to go off on absurd tangents which really tickles me, regularly find myself laughing out loud on the bus
posted by greenish at 5:54 AM on July 4, 2016

Mike O'Brien has a series of videos called "Seven Minutes in Heaven" where he interviews other funny people awkwardly in a closet. They are part of the Above Average Network on YouTube.
posted by soelo at 11:59 AM on July 5, 2016

For TV, I think you'd do well with British comedies:

-Green Wing
-Black Books (again)
-Psychoville (it's super weird)
-Detectorists (it's super light/subtle and beautiful)

-Episodes (has Matt LeBlanc, from friends, playing himself as a washed-up actor. Seasons are short. First one is a little brutal, but essential for character building, and it's all gold from there).

Also, have you seen Rick and Morty? It's not really relaxing, and it's not quite non-violent, but it's cartoony and gross and cerebral and maybe one of my favorite things on TV. At first it seems like it might just be gross-out humor, but it winds up being intelligent and wonderful. Shares a creator with Community (also a recommendation).

As far as stand-up, Mitch Hedberg is my reliable go-to.

If you're interested in podcasts, give Hello from the Magic Tavern a whirl. I couldn't understand why I found the first episode so funny, but I just did. And then it built and built and got even better.
posted by taltalim at 6:52 AM on July 6, 2016

Whites is a British comedy about chefs at an upscale countryside restaurant. Very funny and dry, but only one six-episode series. Available on Hulu.

Can't believe no one (especially me!) has mentioned Garth Marengi's Darkplace. It's another British show, a spoof of 80s hospital shows with a secret. On YouTube.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:25 AM on July 6, 2016

Greg the Bunny was a super funny TV show developed by Seth Green. We watched as a family when my high school aged daughter was sick and needed a distraction. Everyone thought it was very funny. It reminds me of Fawlty Towers (John Cleese, of Monty Python and Connie Booth -a classic British humor, see that too if you haven't already) jokes build and come the satisfying resolution at the show. The premise is world where puppets and human are all people together. It is about the back stage antics of Greg the Bunny and his co-stars of a small time Mr Rogers children's show. (The humor is not for small children but also not embarrassing to watch with your teens)
posted by metahawk at 8:53 AM on July 6, 2016

The Hippopotamus by Stephen Fry might be one of the funniest books I've ever read, and he's written a couple of other novels as well, though I haven't read them.

Also, like speakeasy said, Spike Milligan is HILARIOUS. My only complaint about Puckoon is that it is way too short.

As far as TV shows go, I've been watching and laughing at a lot of Rick and Morty lately, which has some cartoon violence, but focuses much more on high concept sci-fi and family dynamics. Season 3 is supposed to come out soon! Also fully on board with the Adventure Time suggestion--season 1 is a little random, but once they hit their stride in season 2, it really is very good.

And I can't remember if anyone has said it already or not, but The IT Crowd is extremely funny and has the benefit of being both a British comedy and on Netflix (at least last I checked.)

Also YES YES YES to metahawk's Greg the Bunny suggestion. I didn't care as much for the IFC reboot, but the original run on Fox is still one of my favorite things if you are able to track it down.

Speaking of things cancelled before their time, Wonderfalls is delightfully weird and loaded with perfect snark. I think most of it is on YouTube, but I think the finale doesn't have any sound? It's a bummer.

I don't watch as many movies as I used to, but the one movie I recommend to everyone is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It's a who-dun-it, LA noire-style plot that also has the benefit of being one of the funnier movies I've ever seen. And because I'm secretly a 15-year old boy, the South Park movie, Super Troopers, and Coming to America are all personal favorites as well.
posted by helloimjennsco at 9:25 AM on July 6, 2016

But stuff like BBC radio programs... any idea how a USian can get a hold of these?

The BBC seems to have at least *some* current stuff available to the US. That list is everything, so I suppose you can only know by poking around, but the first two I tried worked.

There's a huge world of British Radio Comedy:

Morecambe & Wise
The Goon Show
I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue
posted by rhizome at 12:20 AM on July 7, 2016

Response by poster: Hey all, this is great advice. I really appreciate it and my mental health is the better for it. It will take me a while to work my way through it (which is awesome!) but for now I'm on season 2 of Black Books, which seems to be a nice intersection of written by people with sharp brains with ultimately harmless and goofy.
posted by latkes at 7:43 AM on July 13, 2016

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