This column was reading one of the American papers the other day. Admittedly not a wise choice at the best of times. There was a headline in one of them that blared: “Happiness won’t save you.”
The article was very long, at 6,687 words, no less, and its very existence was worrying. Who in the name of sanity spends more than 6,000 words on the topic of happiness being a crock? And at a time like this? This column’s eyes were jaded from reading it, and quit the thing, exhausted. The phrase “happiness won’t save you” should not be allowed in print unless it’s being used as the title of a collection of angry adolescent poetry.
If you want to believe happiness is a crock, good luck to you. But, come here to me now. Do you know what will save us? Laughter. Here are three comedies to soothe and charm you.
Ari Eldjarn: Pardon My Icelandic (Netflix) is gentle comedy of the best sort – that is, the Icelandic sort. Eldjarn, who is huge in Iceland, apparently, sticks to self-deprecating humour about his home country (where he used to be a flight attendant) and how odd it is to be from such a tiny population. That volcano that erupted there a few years ago, grounding flights to and from Europe? At first, Icelanders were proud of their power. But as soon as somebody on TV, unable to fly, said, “I hate Iceland,” there was panic. Icelanders are, according to the comic, laid-back and wary of change. Back when everybody was told they needed a PIN to do banking and such, nobody in Iceland could get it together. He says anyways. If you’re familiar with Nordic-noir crime drama, you’re introduced here to Nordic humour, as Eldjarn jokes about the people of the Faroe Islands, the Finns, the Norwegians, and he has a very good bit about how Icelanders feel about the alleged Nordic personality of Marvel’s Thor hero. Also, a very good section about the Eurovision Song Contest. Comedy as gentle as a warm summer day.
Chelsea Peretti: One Of the Greats (Netflix) has Peretti, familiar now for portraying Gina Linetti on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, doing a stand-up special that, in part, deconstructs stand-up specials. Peretti’s been doing stand-up for years and begins by mocking the various attitudes and personalities she adopted to try to be funny for a live audience. She also ridicules the standard, ostentatious setup for a TV special, with the star arriving at the venue and proceeding to the stage to loud applause. Here, the audience has various figures, including a dog and a baby, who look puzzled by what’s happening. Her routine has some excellent, cutting but funny segments, including a vicious take on male comedians who talk about sex on stage. There’s also a good bit about taking advice from women’s magazines to overcome social anxiety, and a very good section in which she wishes she could text her dog when she’s bored or uncomfortable. She can be blunt, but not for titillation or to create outrage, and her energy and warmth are her real comic strengths.
Bridget & Eamon (Amazon Prime Video) is a gloriously daft sitcom from Ireland’s public broadcaster, RTE. Absurdist and a merciless send-up of Irish life in the recent past, it has a Father Ted vibe to it. It started as a running sketch on another show, but the two main characters, Bridget (Jennifer Zamparelli) and Eamon (Bernard O’Shea) are ideal building blocks for a madcap sitcom. It is set in the early 1980s, when Ireland was a repressed and depressing place. The married Bridget and Eamon live somewhere in the Irish Midlands and could be seen as cruel caricatures if the material wasn’t so outlandish. They have “six to eight kids” because they’re never quite sure. Bridget always has a cigarette in her hand and Eamon is formidably lazy. Bridget’s answer to most crises is, “here, have a Valium.” They call condoms “Protestant pleasure packs” and Eamon worries he and Bridget might be turning Protestant after he wears a turtleneck sweater and she declines to cook spuds for dinner. Silly, childish at times (four seasons of six episodes available), lacking plot, it’s as broad and ribald as a pantomime. This column was in stitches watching it, hooting with laughter, and happy.
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