Let’s face it, we all need something to laugh about at the moment. As we approach the gloomiest January yet, here’s our guide to the best new comedy to watch during the holidays:
Soho Theatre, Amazon Prime, 3 December
Before the pandemic, Dean Street’s Soho Theatre was the centre of London’s comedy scene, functioning like an all-year Edinburgh Festival in the middle of the West End.
With its live shows sadly absent all summer (even as much of Soho, and a handful of other theatres, roared back into life), the comedy institution has at least managed to sign an exciting deal with Amazon Prime to stream some of the best shows from its recent back catalogue.
The first batch of stand-up gigs arrives on 3 December, with offerings from the likes of Dane Baptiste, Jen Brister, Jessie Cave, Nish Kumar and Josie Long.
King Gary, BBC
While BBC comedy continues to take flak from its critics for its lack of balance, online channel BBC Three has been putting out hit after hit in recent years – at least when it comes to sitcoms.
Like Ladhood and This Country (both of which are still on iPlayer) before it, King Gary is a well-observed and affectionate tribute to a certain slice of 21st century British life – in this case, the uber-competitive world of ‘new money’ suburbia.
Six-foot-seven Tom Davis stars as the eponymous King Gary – a pot-bellied tradesman on a mission to win the respect of his father and neighbours alike. Expect a second series after this year’s Christmas special.
Yearly Departed, Amazon Prime, 30 December
Are you just about ready to say goodbye to this miserable year once and for all? Amazon Prime has assembled a squad of some America’s most caustic female comedians to send out 2020 in style: by delivering their own ‘eulogy’ to everything that was lost in the year of the pandemic.
Appearing alongside Sarah Silverman, the undisputed queen of shock humour, will be the likes of Girls Trip star Tiffany Haddish and Shrill’s Patti Harrison. Let’s hope they find time to stick it to some of the rules and restrictions that have also played their part in making the year such a drag.
Frankie Boyle’s New World Order, BBC
Ever since the sad demise of Charlie Brooker’s annual Screenwipe (its cancellation being the inevitable result of the Black Mirror creator’s exclusive deal with Netflix), Frankie Boyle’s New World Order has served as the perfect substitute for those who like their review of world events laced with scabrous humour.
Though Boyle’s pugilistic content has moderated over the years, his real talent has always been his ability to pen an exceptionally tight joke. And with a year like we’ve just had, he won’t go short of opportunities to do just that.
Last Woman on Earth with Sara Pascoe, BBC
Comedy travelogues have become common fodder in recent years, but there’s no denying that, when they work well, they work very well indeed – just look at Sue Perkins’ recent ventures to Japan and the Mexico/US border.
The BBC’s Christmas offering sees Sara Pascoe head out on a multi-continental venture to meet craft workers performing some of the most endangered and rarest jobs on earth, in a bid to learn their arts and become a ‘living filing cabinet’ of niche skills herself.
Destinations include Cuba, Georgia and Finland, with jobs ranging from gun-smiths, ice carvers, and a tour guide at the Stalin Museum.
Vir Das: Inside Out, Netflix, 16 December
Indian comedy sensation and Bollywood actor Vir Das has already had three full-length Netflix specials, writing clever routines skewering both his home country and westerners’ perceptions of it in equal measure. His fourth show sees him perform live from his Mumbai residence to a legion of fans around the world.
Other Netflix specials released over the Christmas period include full-length shows from Icelandic funnyman Ari Eldjárn and Edinburgh Fringe favourite London Hughes.
Upstart Crow, BBC
Remember at the beginning of lockdown when you couldn’t go a week without hearing how Shakespeare had apparently written King Lear during a plague outbreak?
Now Ben Elton sets out to subvert that Pollyannaish nugget of optimism with a Christmas special of Upstart Crow, showing us what really happened when Shakespeare found himself in state-enforced quarantine. David Mitchell stars once again as the Bard, donning that ghastly balding wig once again.