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The Geiger Counter: Looking for a laugh

Hannah Gadsby performs during her stand-up show “Douglas.” It and “Nanette” are just a few options for enjoying comedy at home.
Image from Netflix

 

Don’t know what to do this weekend? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Pull up a seat to the counter, and I’ll tell you about everything that’s hot and happening.

April Fools’ Day is right around the corner, and I like to celebrate the occasion with some comedy. While it’s not possible for everyone to head out to Warren Station Center for the Arts’ upcoming stand-up shows, there are plenty of ways folks can find opportunities for a chuckle or two in the comfort of their own home.

The last comedy show I saw in person was Piff the Magic Dragon at the Silverthorne Pavilion for Valentine’s Day 2020. He could be classified more as a magician than stand-up comedian, but there were still plenty of laughs to be had.



Watching a stand-up special can’t replace the joys of sitting in a theater and feeling the energy as everyone bursts out laughing, but I’d rather take a taped show that at least has an audience over a monologue where a host reads jokes off a teleprompter to no one but the camera.

If you find yourself browsing streaming services on the hunt for something funny, here are a few of my favorites:



Billy Crystal’s “700 Sundays:” A film version of the Tony Award-winning one-man Broadway show, this isn’t exactly traditional stand-up fare. However, Crystal is a stellar comedian who knows how to tell a story centered on the time spent with his father. It was one of the first comedy offerings I watched on HBO and exemplifies why the network has been a giant in the industry.

Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette” and “Douglas:” Netflix is now claiming the comedy throne with its specials, and these two are some of the best. Gadsby is a master of social commentary and discusses mental health, LGBTQ issues and misogyny in a way that makes you laugh, cry and angry all at the same time.

Tig Notaro’s “Happy to be Here:” I would have seen Notaro in Breckenridge last April if not for the pandemic, so I settled for a taped special. I’ve been a fan of her deadpan delivery since she broke ground bearing her mastectomy scars on stage, and her second set showcases more of her excellence.

Zach Galifianakis’ “Live at the Purple Onion:” I watched this many times in college after I was introduced to Galifianakis from “The Hangover” and “Between Two Ferns,” but I only recently discovered this came out before those way back in 2006. His dry and nonsensical humor is still there, especially with him portraying his brother Seth — a precursor to him doing a similar joke on the FX show “Baskets.”

John Mulaney’s “John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch:” Technically a children’s musical special, Mulaney blurs the line with this absurd parody and tribute. Only Mulaney could get André De Shields, David Byrne and Jake Gyllenhaal to do skits and songs about math, papier-mache volcanoes and music for kids.

Hello from the Magic Tavern:” This isn’t a stand-up special since it’s a podcast, but I’m including it because the Chicago-based show is made up of many improv comedians. Telling the story of a human entering the fantastical world of Foon, he befriends a wizard and a shape-shifter while interviewing other locals, played by guests such as Jason Mantzoukas, Paul F. Tompkins and Thomas Middleditch.

Jefferson Geiger
What I’m Watching

‘Frasier’

I spent a good chunk of last summer bingeing the entirety of the classic sitcom “Cheers,” and I then followed that up with all seasons of “Frasier” to complete the saga of one of the longest-running characters on television.

I find the bachelor psychiatrist turned media personality who has eclectic tastes living back home with his dad to be extremely relatable, almost terrifyingly so, and the humor holds up well all these decades later. Ironically, Niles’ germaphobic habit of wiping down coffee shop chairs doesn’t seem out of place these days.

Sitcoms may occasionally be pedestrian, but that sort of television comfort food can be rejuvenating after a long day.


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