God bless America

Alex Green sticks up for US comedy

There are some things that just don't work. Whether it be on paper, on-screen or the mere idea in one's head. Let's take US remakes, for example. Some of them could work well, and some of them have. The Office was recreated for America, taking the loveably pathetic David Brent away and replacing him with the loveably pathetic Michael Scott. Though they were both given the essentially same traits, they were performed in different ways, and the individuality of the characters, despite being based around characters from the UK series, made the whole thing successful. But, some have not.

The Inbetweeners has received an MTV US makeover. For many of you, reading that sentence will cause you to either throw up, simulate throwing up, feel a little sick, sigh, tut, scream, swear or Punch the screen. The trailer for the show received a brutal beating on YouTube, allowing for their multiple daily UK vs. US debates to ensue in the comment section.

I watched it myself, but my blood didn't boil, I didn't type aggressively into the comment section with a scrunched up face - I simply laughed. Not the deliberate laughter the show hoped for, the ‘Oh, they've got this all wrong’ laughter. Though it's a common and generally incorrect assumption of American humour, they did genuinely miss the irony in the show. Will was handsome, and one of them was a ‘funny fat one’, which was the main superficial problem with it.

But I'm not here to pass judgement on America's comedic faults. I'm here to praise them for what they have done well. Because, no matter what the success-to-fail ratio of US remakes may be, they've spawned some of the funniest stuff you could hope to see.To me, some of these gems make these US remake decisions forgiveable. After all, we don't pump out solid gold on a regular basis. Much of it is simplistic nonsense, or desperate sniggering satire.

The US has stunk the joint out with their piss-poor sitcoms, but so have we. The US has made some memorable comedies, and so have we. We've given them Fawlty Towers, and they've given us Friends.

The US also brought us Arrested Development, a brilliant and surreal single camera comedy series, possibly loosely based on Dallas. The subtle yet stellar performance of lead Jason Bateman and his on-screen offspring Michael Cera carried most of the show, and the madcap performances of the likes of Tony Hale and David Cross made it the perfect blend, the Nescafe Gold of sitcoms, if you will. Arrested Development has been brought back to life through an upcoming Netflix season. Some people would probably be sceptical about the show passing its sell-by date, but fortunately, the comedic genius of Mitch Hurwitz - the show's creator - and a cast that could part seas has allowed mostly optimism from fans. Let's hope they can keep the magic alive.

I could mention the obvious in The Simpsons, which is highly regarded as one of the greatest comedy series' ever, with some of the most recognisable characters in history. More people would probably recognise Homer over Jesus Christ himself if shown pictures of both. They've championed a collection of adult cartoons, including Family Guy, which in my l opinion has long outstayed its, and has become woefully unfunny.

However, South Park continues to be one of the most fierce satire organisms in the world, putting your BBC One primetime Ian Hislop quips to shame; Family Guy's sister show American Dad is still experiencing its glory days, Stan Smith being one of my personal favourite Seth MacFarlane creations. In the world of children's cartoons, Adventure Time is one of the most imaginative you could find, something I wish I could have watched every day as a child. Regular Show also deserves an honourable mention, not too much money spat away on expensive animation, just simplistic and heart-warming visuals.

Sketch shows haven't been their biggest comedic output, but the likes of Mr. Show can rank among the greats. Saturday Night Live, although extremely hit and miss, is a national institution, and has birthed a gob-smacking amount of comedic talent, from Chevy Chase to Will Ferrell to Tina Fey to Kristen Wiig, the cream of the comedy acting crop has been birthed from this comedic powerhouse. Human Giant was a short-lived yet brilliant sketch show that deserves to be dug up from the archives and bowed to.

Of the new herd, there are a handful of brilliant shows that have failed to see the light of day over here. Parks & Recreation starring SNL alumni Amy Poehler is one of the funniest mockumentaries around, and for a show that was originally planned as a spin-off for The Office USA, it actually turned out to be funnier than its original source. If you can find it, watch it, and fall in love with the Parks & Rec department of Pawnee, Indiana.

Community starring six talented comedy actors, with such chemistry and brilliant performances that'd put the much-loved Friends to shame - has been given a slot on Sony TV. Sony what? What TV? Yeah, exactly. It's suffering on that virtually unnoticed channel. Put it on BBC One weeknights at 9PM. Or, as a compromise, E4 instead of 2 Broke Girls.

The Guardian's Guide magazine recently published an article presenting a bunch of reasons as to why Louis CK's artsy comedy series Louie should be broadcast in the UK. CK - who is my favourite comic at the moment - blends his fearless stand-up with short stories that tackle all kinds of crazy. The show sometimes stretches the definition of comedy, sometimes favouring serious issues, as with an episode where CK has a frank exchange with a fellow stand-up (played by Doug Stanhope) about his desire to commit suicide. It's not only a great comedy, it's brilliant television. It has heart, it has balls, and it can get a little disturbing.

Speaking of stand-up comedy, there are a plethora of comedy specials out there that you can feast on. CK, Jim Gaffigan, Aziz Ansari and Twitter's anti-christ child Rob Delaney have all released stand-up specials online for a tiny price. Bo Burnham, Zach Galifianakis, Sarah Silverman, Nick Kroll, Donald Glover, Hannibal Buress (who is making waves in the UK too), TJ Miller, Pete Holmes, John Mulaney, Patton Oswalt, and many many more are worth at least having a small peak at. The Comedy Central Roasts can be extremely tasteless, atmospherically bizarre, and make some of our shock comics look precious - if you want to see ruthlessness, look no further.

In the podcast world, they put out some of the best gems. Comedy Bang Bang! is a favourite of mine, hosted by Scott Aukerman, it brings together comedians, musicians, writers, actors and all sorts to talk nonsense and play games. Many, including the aforementioned Nick Kroll, have been known to play characters throughout the show, for improvisational hilarity, these are worth listening to. Who Charted?, WTF With Marc Maron, You Made It Weird With Pete Holmes, Gelmania and How Did This Get Made? are also worth a moment of your ear time.

Is that enough for you? I'd hoped so. Settle into these, and then maybe you'll forgive them every time a TV spot for Mike & Molly or a remake of The Inbetweeners flashes in front of your eyes. After all, there's nothing to be proud of when it comes to the likes of Mrs. Brown's Boys.

Published: 18 Sep 2012

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