Funny Girl

It's depressing that we're still having a bullshit cultural conversation about whether women can be as funny as men, because it's abundantly clear that neither sex has a monopoly on hilarity. Happily, the walls are crumbling faster than ever, with shows like Inside Amy Schumer, Broad City, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend dominating the watercooler conversation in the past few years. I have limited experience with that trio of shows, though, so today, let's talk about a different trio of female-driven comedy.

First up is the sophomore season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The inaugural season landed on my Top Five of the Year, and I came into this new batch of episodes with high expectations. If the first season was about Kimmy's wonder and delight at the world that she's been locked away from for 15 years, this new season is about her starting to deal with the trauma her kidnapping caused.

That makes it sound like a super-serious batch of episodes, but the show never strays far from the absurd laughs it's so good at wringing out of people. Still, Kimmy takes concrete steps towards putting the bunker behind her, from working with an alcoholic therapist (Tina Fey) to confronting her negligent mother (Lisa Kudrow). Meanwhile, her friends are dealing with their own issues. Jacqueline is trying to scheme her way back to financial security. Lillian is fighting encroaching gentrification. And in the most welcome change, Titus finds himself in a confusingly stable relationship.

Not everything works - Jacqueline has some bright spots, but is mostly wasted throughout the season - but Kimmy and the gang are as hilarious as ever, and the third season can't come soon enough for me. That show is all about subverting expectations with insanely clever writing. Something, though, all you want is a string of goofy sight gags. Angie Tribeca to the rescue! Think Police Squad! but set in modern day Los Angeles, and with Rashida Jones taking point as the titular character.

Dad Jokes and puns rule over this show, and for anyone who's a fan of such ridiculous humor, you're going to have a great time. In fact, I showed it to my actual dad, confident that he'd love it, and he dissolved into a puddle of giggles within five minutes. It would be a waste of time to even try and describe any plot beyond the basic framework of it taking place in a police station, because the entire show is just a joke delivery system. The second season just started, but as a cord-cutter, I've only been able to watch the first one so far. I'm looking forward to catching up with the new episodes as soon as they're streaming somewhere, but in the meantime, go check out that first absurd season on Hulu.

When I talked about Bojack Horseman last year, I alluded to the fact that one of its biggest strengths was that it was able to find the comedy in crippling depression. Still, even at his lowest points, Bojack could always take comfort in one thing: He's fictional. What about trying to tell the real story of a real person with bipolar disorder? And make it funny at the same time?

Enter Maria Bamford and her Netflix show, Lady Dynamite. Created by Pam Brady and Mitch Hurwitz, it's loosely based on Bamford's life, including her popular, manic commercials for Target (called Checklist in the show) and her time away from the entertainment industry as she tried to recover from a breakdown. Doesn't sound overly funny, does it? Indeed, it starts off a little rough, but around episode 3, it suddenly snaps into one of the most remarkable shows I've seen in a long time.

Just about every name in comedy stops by to guest star, whether it's as a character or as themselves. Just about all of my favorites pop up (Sarah Silverman, Tig Notaro, Jenny Slate, Missi Pyle, and many more!) and the antics surrounding Maria's failings and her attempts to atone for them and to pull her life together get funnier and funnier as the show goes along. Given the subject material, I honestly don't know if there's enough to put together a second season of this, but even if this show exists as just a small little capsule of what the state of comedy is like in 2016, we should count ourselves lucky.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Season 2: B+
Angie Tribeca - Season 1: B+
Lady Dynamite - Season 1: A-


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