Forgive us our frailties, for we sometimes seek diversions from the horror of watching war and destruction on our TV screens. Diversions are a way of coping. It’s not about moving on from it. It’s about dealing with the impotence of our anger and the feeling that compassion isn’t enough.
There is more than comfort to be found in comedy; there is strength, too. Wit and laughter are acts of banishing the darkness. With that in mind, here are three unique and recommended comedy treats from streaming services.
Porno y Helado (Porn and Ice Cream, streams on Amazon Prime Video) is a daft and endearing comedy from Argentina. We meet two sad-sack young men, Pablo (Martin Piroyansky, who also created the show) and Ramon (Nacho Saralegui), who are both more man-child than adult. The title comes from their habit of meeting up regularly at Ramon’s place to watch porn and eat ice cream. (No porn is shown, to be clear.) Things liven up suddenly when they meet Ceci (Sofia Morandi), a young woman with more courage and sass than both of them combined. She’s a good scammer, too.
Pablo gets jealous when an old school friend turns out to be an up-and-coming music star. He decides to be a musician. But, first, he just carries around a guitar case. Ceci demands the guys form a band and she will manage the act: “I hate to work, I love money, I’m a great liar. So, I should be the manager.” One thing leads to another and their hopeless attempts to make music actually turns them into local stars, because they’re just weirdly hopeless. The eight half-hour episodes (in Spanish with English subtitles) are a delight, full of drollery and finely honed running jokes. Ceci names the band, The Feeble Minded, to which the guys understandably object. She’s outraged: “Do you think people believe the Eagles are real eagles?” she says, to kick off a brilliant rant. This is charming, delicious humour, a gem from the bars and backstreets of Buenos Aires.
Catherine Cohen: The Twist …? She’s Gorgeous (streams on Netflix) is new and a very different kettle of comedy. Cohen, you could say, specializes in too much information. The role she plays in this one-off comedy special (snapped up by Netflix when her stage show won an award at the Edinburgh Festival) is me, me, me. In fact, she begins with a song that tells the audience, “Look at me!” Playing a self-involved woman concerned mainly with clothes, her body and boyfriends, isn’t unique. But there’s something unnerving about Cohen, who is doing more of an old-school cabaret routine and stand-up comedy.
Her mantra might be, “I can’t really keep a single thought to myself” and that goes for body parts, sex and sex-musings about inanimate objects around her. You need an appreciation for theatricality to really savour the material and the tone, which tends toward the filthy. For others, it might be unclear if Cohen is mocking herself, or engaging in performance as therapy. A star on the rise, mind you. Be prepared for strong language.
Love, Life & Everything In Between (streams on Netflix) is a series of short films made by directors around the Arab world; the eight episodes (all with English subtitles) are less outright comedy than off-kilter takes on love. The series amounts to wry vignettes from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian territories, Tunisia, Lebanon and Morocco. (One is now regularly reminded to be grateful for a streaming world that provides so many different perspectives.)
On the evidence of the opening episode, O Brother (from Egypt, directed by Sandra Bassal), the emphasis is on down-to-earth humour and the ordinary rather than the epic. On Valentine’s Day, a village chief (Salah Abdallah) is telling his daughter that although it’s the day of her engagement party, she can call it off if she doesn’t love the guy. Daughter Shorouk (Passant Shawky) is taken aback, with now-you-tell-me attitude. You see, she was in love with a dirt-poor famer, but then she got engaged to an engineer, assuming it would please her dad. Then a cow goes missing, distracting dad, and shenanigans ensue. There’s an awful lot of charm here, the humour coming sideways, mostly from women, when men aren’t listening.
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