Published Jan 11, 2016
5. SNL's "Meet Your Second Wife" sketch
At the risk of hyperbole, this might well be the most perfect Saturday Night Live sketch, let's say… ever. After a couple of years of hobbling with its new cast and writing staff and some of its worst episodes in decades, SNL has occasionally radiated glimmers of genius this season, and "Meet Your Second Wife" is an absolute crown jewel of comedic revulsion and fulfillment.
Featuring Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler as the hosts of "Meet Your Second Wife," a game show three male contestants unwittingly agreed to participate in, the sketch gleefully attacks older men who date younger women by introducing a sampling of dudes to the young girls that they'll eventually ogle and seduce. It's a space-time continuum premise that is executed wondrously, with the in-studio audience genuinely shocked by the concept and its remarkable ability to one-up itself as it goes. "Second Wife" is a truly stunning feat in television comedy.
4. Ron Funches' The Funches of Us
When you can break up a room simply by chortling like a four-year-old, your set has a head start. Funches is a charismatic, laid-back dude whose manner is as funny as his material.
On The Funches of Us (Comedy Dynamics) turns a bit about pets into an allegory about racism and discusses the joy of raising his autistic son by suggesting he's a pint-sized gangsta. His crowd work is edgy enough that a member of his audience is placed in a test-of-character what-if scenario involving an ultimatum from terrorists.
Whatever he's delving into and giggling through, Funches is a charming master of misdirection, and the trip here definitely takes a scenic route.
3. Norm Macdonald breaks down on his last Letterman appearance David Letterman fans were already feeling pretty low in the host's final weeks as the pioneering television master that every late-night staff and figurehead tries to emulate. Then, one of the most irreverent and absurd comedians of all time broke down in tears after destroying the room with a perfect set.
Norm Macdonald hit the stage in his customary, seemingly indifferent manner, but had clearly prepared an airtight set of jokes for the occasion. Everything he said was astoundingly funny; he killed. When it hits him that his time is up, he tries to tell a deeply personal story about his love of comedy and what Letterman has meant to him, and he sobs. Then, he tells the tale and delivers a joke by Dave himself before crumbling for good, as the unsentimental host walks over to rescue and thank him. It's one of the most touching moments in the history of Letterman's career and, as always, Macdonald's timing was impeccable.
2. Scharpling & Wurster break out with The Best of the Best Show
After years as an underground phenomenon, radio duo Scharpling & Wurster toured extensively for the first time and showed up as guests on Late Night with Seth Meyers and WTF with Marc Maron. Why? Ostensibly because this past spring, the Numero Group released a massive retrospective box set called The Best of the Best Show.
This thing is a landmark, a comedic milestone that captures the unparalleled genius that Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster have conjured via scripted phone calls on Scharpling's radio program, The Best Show.
The duo have perfected a subtle form of observational humour that manifests itself via a bizarre cavalcade of characters that are cartoonish, yes, but evoke people (typically with an interest in music or pop culture) that seem all too familiar. Wurster brings them to life via really high-level acting, often tapping into their surreal delusion, while Scharpling plays the role of the curiously empathetic and bemused host who's doing his best not to hang up.
Compiling fan and personal favourites over a 16-CD box, Scharpling & Wurster have done comedy fans a service with The Best of The Best Show. Whether this represents a memory jog or an intro, the bits here are revelatory.
1. Amy Schumer ran the world, the world was fine with that
From revolutionizing TV sketch comedy on Inside Amy Schumer ("This is where my poop comes out," she informed ass fetishists), writing and starring in the critically acclaimed box office Judd Apatow smash Trainwreck, an ingenious turn hosting SNL, releasing a Chris Rock-directed comedy special recorded live at the Apollo Theatre and basically making news highlight reels whenever she made a speech or photo-bombed Kanye and Kim, Amy Schumer clearly won 2015.
Schumer smartly played dumb, subverting stereotypes about race, sex, gender, substance abuse and more. She raised some ire along the way, but who doesn't in this age of outrage? Everyone's angry; few people can turn that into comedy. Amy Schumer fights back in such a nuanced and hilarious manner that no one knows what to expect whenever she's around. She's a rare talent, not to mention a strong contender for entertainer of the year.