I have such a profound respect for what comedians are capable of. Anyone can make people laugh in a conversational, casual dinner party type way, and everyone has an anecdote or two sure to make their friends giggle. But to stand in front of an audience you don't know who come from different backgrounds and talk at them for an hour hoping they won't completely hate you is a feat only known to comedians and pastors.
I've been really getting into comedy recently. And because of Netflix's thorough assortment of comedy specials, I've been able to watch quite a few recently. So, without further adieu, here is my list (unordered) of my favorite comedy specials. Please note, this is only my particular comedic taste and I haven't watched everything available. But, if someone were to ask me for a suggestion, this is the direction I would point them in.
1. Colin Quinn's New York Story
My parents make everyone who walk into our living room watch this. That is not an exaggeration. Quinn's portrayal of the history of New York City through comedy is poignant, hilarious, and education (somewhat) as he goes from the time of Native Americans to the Dutch all the way through immigration waves of Italians, Puerto Ricans, Chinese and more. You probably won't understand all of this show if you're not from here. Some of my friends who live in the city but aren't FROM the city (meaning they moved here as kids, their parents didn't grow up here) don't necessarily get it. That being said, if you are from New York, this piece is a spectacular cultural immersion. (And it's funny too).
2. John Mulaney's Comeback Kid
From the Catholic Church to Bill Clinton, marriage to Real Estate, the 80s and dog training, Mulaney has effortlessly crafted a juxtaposition of the wholesome and obscene. He has this childish energy about him that makes me smile watching him over and over. I've watched all of the John Mulaney comedy specials, and this is by far my favorite. If you want to feel metaphorically hugged with laughter, to feel safe and smiley, the Comeback Kid is a must.
3. Hasan Minaj's Homecoming King
This one I can't watch over and over. Minaj's comedy style is reminiscent of the original definition of comedy by Aristotle himself. It's not just about making people laugh in a senseless void- it's about being able to artfully manipulate the audience's emotions; to make them cry and then laugh and then cry again. Hasan tells the story of his life as an Indian American growing up in California. He makes us hate the girl who stands him up for prom, appreciate his supportive parents, and laugh at racism as a bizarre, irrational hatred that doesn't make any sense. So this one isn't a go-to for background noise or a quick laugh- but it is gorgeous nevertheless.
4. Ryan Hamilton's Happy Face
"Happy Face" is similar to a John Mulaney style of comedy in that Ryan Hamilton comes off as such a wholesome, happy person. In fact, he makes fun of the fact that his resting face is one of a ecstatic bright eyed boy from Idaho (yes, he's from Idaho). Covering such topics as cocaine on the New York City subway, growing up in a small town, and hot air balloons (I kid you not, there's about 15 minutes of hot air balloons), you won't regret clicking on this one.
5. Jen Kirkman's I'm Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine)
Jen Kirkman is the first female comedian whose style I really vibe with. I have to venture into more female comedians, but some of the mainstream ones I have watched (including Amy Schumer and Sarah Silverman) just don't strike the comedy chord in my bones. Kirkman's style reminds me of the fictional Marvelous Mrs. Maisel from the Amazon series of that name. She can be crude at times but on the whole she is clever, relatable, and you really get the sense that she's truly being herself through her comedy.
6. Trevor Noah's Afraid of the Dark
Maybe I'm just a sucker for a good honest mixture of historical education and a good laugh, but Trevor Noah's Afraid of the Dark is fantastic. It didn't make me cry like Homecoming King, but it's definitely along a similar vein of recounting his experience as a person of color (or, as you learn in the special, a way more complex way of viewing race in South Africa). Trevor Noah does a great impersonation of Nelson Mandela and really challenges the American understanding of race and culture.
So those are the objective BEST comedy specials on Netflix. The end.
I am kidding, of course, but I do want to leave you with one last thing. This list isn't perfect. In fact, making this list of my favorite comedies made me realize that I would really love to get immersed in a more diverse group of comedians including those from other countries and cultures. If you have any comedians you would recommend, please do! Although I'm starting uni soon and won't have as much time to binge, I could always use a little laughter. :)
PS- In the process of this post, I also came up with a list of comedy specials I absolutely can't stand. Let me know if you would be interested in hearing some of that tea.
As I’m lounging on my couch sick at home, John William’s brilliant soundtrack to The Empire Strikes Back resounds across the living room as Luke Skywalker grapples with his potential origins in the dark side of the force. Boxes of tissues are scattered across the room so that with very little effort I can keep lounging and blowing my red nose, but luckily, my mind is more focused on thee grammatical patterns of Yoda’s endearing speech.
If I had to pick a religion that most echoes the world of Star Wars, I might pick Hinduism. And in fact, many sources suggest George Lucas holds Hindu beliefs, and so many other before me have made the same connection, pointing especially to the “Force” as a reflection of Brahman.
But if the Force is an echo of Hindu beliefs, it is a very diluted one. For one thing, although the Force apparently is in all (and can be used for either good or bad), the Force is not all. There is nothing to suggest beings themselves (for example Darth Vader and Princess Leia) are anything but distinct, lacking the monism of Hindu cosmology. Furthermore, such an extreme dichotomy between good and evil (the dark side and the light) is more representative of a Judeo-Christian ethos than a Hindu one, in which destruction is necessary for recreation and morality is dependent on dharma and the maintenance of the social order.
Chewbacca seems to be making fun of me as I have these thoughts. Perhaps having missed school today (and subsequently my World Religions class), I am trying to make up from it by referencing my class material. Of course, George Lucas was not tied down to perfectly recreating a Hindu worldview in his filmmaking and I’m certainly not suggesting he was trying to at all. But there is an interesting note to be made in how Western pop-culture uses belief systems and cultures, especially that of different cultures. It has gotten to the point where words like karma and reincarnation are more likely to remind me of an twenty-something year old hippie playing guitar in Washington Square Park than an actual Hindu practitioner of Indian descent. But it’s hard to truly engage in conversations of comparative religion and worldview when our conception of belief systems are so far removed from their original culture. The reason Star Wars can’t perfectly replicate a Hindu cosmos is partially because that Hindu cosmos is intricately intertwined with the geographical, social, economic, and political history of its people.
I don’t really know where I’m going with this particular post. Maybe it’s the consistent sinus pressure or the fact that Han Solo has just been encased in carbonite. I guess I’m trying to say that although connections between films and religion/philosophy are fascinating and worth a thought or two, we cannot rely only on the plots of Hollywood blockbusters to critically analyze the implications of world views. Simply put, The Empire Strikes Back may end in a victory for the Rebel Alliance but the cyclical universe of Hinduism doesn’t include an ending at all.
- Alexandra Kytka