Ten Films and TV Comedies You Can Stream to Brighten Up Your Week
From hilarious 80s satires to heartwarming rom-coms, these flicks and shows will provide you with some much-needed comic relief.
March 27, 2020
You've had a bad day, you're feeling tense and stressed, you've received some news you wish you hadn't, or things just aren't looking as rosy as you'd hoped. We've all been there. In fact, we're all cycling through these exact scenarios at the moment — and being glued to your social media feed, TV or go-to news site 24/7 is probably taking its toll.
As the old cliche goes, laughter is the best medicine. Really, actual medicine is always the best medicine. In response to COVID-19, preventative actions such as social-distancing also rank high on the list. But there's nothing wrong with needing an amusing, rib-tickling, gut-busting distraction from all the seemingly non-stop coronavirus updates at present — and we're here to help with ten sources of hilarity that'll help brighten your day, even if only momentarily.
With BoJack Horseman and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on its slate, Netflix has become home to a number of episodic comedies that tackle mental health in a smart and thoughtful way — but Lady Dynamite just might be the most bizarre and playful of the bunch. Created by South Park alumni Pam Brady and Arrested Development's Mitch Hurwitz, it stars Maria Bamford as a version of herself, following her ups and downs as she endeavours to get her career back on track. That might sound like a standard sitcom setup, but Maria has just spent six months in treatment for bipolar disorder, and no one around her quite knows how to handle her return. Also featuring a standout performance by veteran comedian Fred Melamed as Maria's agent, and boasting appearances by everyone from Jenny Slate, Tig Notaro and Patton Oswalt to Judd Apatow, Andy Samberg and 'Weird Al' Yankovich, this is a comedy that swings big, dives deep, and knows how to be both delightfully loopy and astutely candid at the same time.
Lady Dynamite's two seasons are both available to stream on Netflix.
GARTH MARENGHI'S DARKPLACE
Matt Berry crooning a slick 80s-style tune about romantic woes, complete with an awkward rap segment by Richard Ayoade. A TV medical drama where one of the doctors is an ex-warlock (Matthew Holness), another is occasionally psychic (Alice Lowe), and worrying about a hellmouth, mysterious cats, flying objects and extraterrestrial broccoli infections is all in a day's work. Behind-the-scenes commentary about said ultra low-budget series, with "author, dreamweaver, visionary, plus actor" Garth Marenghi (also Holness) and his publisher and publicist Dean Learner (also Ayoade) among the folks providing their thoughts. That's all part of six-part 2004 sitcom Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, which serves up the best three hours of TV comedy made this century. Filled with sublimely offbeat scenarios, off-kilter gags, witty wordplay and purposefully over-the-top performances, the weird and wonderful show has a cult following for a reason — and not just because The Mighty Boosh's Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt also show up.
All six episodes of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace are available to stream on iTunes.
Sometimes, if you're Kevin Bacon, you're struggling with a dancing ban in a small town and you're starring in 1984's Footloose, you just need to punch-dance out some rage. And sometimes, if you're Andy Samberg in 2007 comedy Hot Rod, you just need to gallop into a wooded glen and do the same in a stellar parody of the 80s flick. Gleefully ridiculous even when it's not satirising decades-old dance flicks, Hot Rod has plenty of other highlights. Samberg's pre-Brooklyn Nine-Nine stint as the eponymous wannabe stuntman is one of them, as is the great supporting cast that also includes Danny McBride, Bill Hader, Isla Fisher and Deadwood's Ian McShane. Overall, though, it's the surreal and silly vibe of the whole film that shines brightest — which won't come as a surprise given that The Lonely Island, Samberg's comedy trio with Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone (and the driving force behind Saturday Night Live's 'Dick in a Box', 'Lazy Sunday' and 'I'm On a Boat') are behind it. Oh, and the rousing scene soundtracked by John Farnham's 'You're the Voice' helps, too.
MONSIEUR HULOT'S HOLIDAY, MON ONCLE AND PLAYTIME
French filmmaker Jacques Tati only directed six feature-length films — all of which he wrote and starred in, too — but his body of work left an enormous imprint on comedic cinema. Offering a wry, subtle, irony-laced brand of physical comedy, he's rightfully considered one of the genre's best both in front of and behind the lens. In his breakout 1953 film Monsieur Hulot's Holiday, in which he introduces his eponymous (and clumsy) on-screen alter-ego, he takes visual satire to sublime lengths while pondering class differences. In his 1958 Best Foreign-language Film Oscar winner Mon Oncle, he unleashes his prowess while tasking his in-film surrogate with contemplating the rise of consumerism. And in his masterpiece Playtime, which took three years to make and features one of the most stunning sets ever seen on screen, he tackles a futuristic, highly industrialised Paris. All three are currently available to stream — and, once you've caught the Tati bug, so are his other three features Jour De Fete, Traffic and Parade.
Monsieur Hulot's Holiday, Mon Oncle and Playtime are all available to stream on SBS On Demand.
PARKS AND RECREATION
She's the government worker we all wish could be in charge of, well, absolutely everything — and she's the Indiana city of Pawnee's most devoted employee and biggest fan. We're talking, of course, about Leslie Knope, Amy Poehler's super passionate waffle-loving character in iconic sitcom Parks and Recreation. Willing to work hard in any situation and always ready to lean upon her friends and co-workers, Leslie knows how to handle almost anything. In one particular fifth-season episode of the Nick Offerman, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Adam Scott and Rob Lowe-costarring series, that also includes grappling with a pandemic. Created by The Office's Greg Daniels and Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Michael Schur, Parks and Recreation may have only come to the end of its seven-season run back in 2015, but the sitcom has been an instant classic from the get-go for one reason: focusing on relatable characters, the minutiae of their lives and the time working in local government, workplace-based comedy has never felt more kind-hearted, or — thanks to the show's penchant for letting its main players talk directly to the camera — so inclusive.
All seven seasons of Parks and Recreation are available to stream on Stan.
THE MUPPET MOVIE AND THE MUPPETS
It's impossible to watch The Muppets, Jim Henson's most famous creations, and not have a smile plastered across your face. Seeing the late, great puppeteer's furry characters talk, joke and get up to all kinds of sketch-style antics — witnessing Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy's melodramatic romantic back-and-forth, Gonzo's zany stunts and the Swedish Chef's mumbling cooking segments, to name just a few — is warm, joyous and often absurdist fun, pure and simple. You can't really go wrong with whichever Muppets film or TV series you pick, and there's plenty to choose from; however two stand out from the crowd. Go old school with 1979's The Muppet Movie, where Kermit and the crew follow the stars in their eyes by trying to chase their Hollywood dreams. Or, join Jason Segel, Amy Adams and the usual felt-covered suspects as they attempt to save Muppet Theatre in 2011's delightful big-screen comedy-musical The Muppets.
The Muppet Movie and The Muppets are available to stream on Disney+.
THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES (NEW AND SELECTED)
Before Noah Baumbach charted the end of a couple's wedded bliss in Netflix's heartbreaking Marriage Story, and before Adam Sandler tried dealing diamonds in the streaming platform's tense and glorious Uncut Gems, they paired up for another of the service's other great films in recent years. That'd be The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), one of Baumbach's perceptive comedy-dramas about the ties, woes and dysfunctions that bind people together — in this case, a family of adult siblings (Sandler, Ben Stiller and Elizabeth Marvel), as well as the sculptor father (Dustin Hoffman) who still proves a considerable presence in their lives. As seen in the likes of Frances Ha, While We're Young and Mistress America, too, Baumbach's sense of humour is bittersweet, honest and insightful. It's also simultaneously loose and sharp, never feeling too tightly wound but never letting a clever moment pass by either. All of that is on display here, as are a winning range of performances, especially from Sandler, Stiller and Hoffman.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is available to stream on Netflix.
Images: Lady Dynamite, Doug Hyun/Netflix. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix.
To find out more about the status of COVID-19 in Australia and how to protect yourself, head to the Australian Government Department of Health's website.