2016 was an absolute nightmare, but thankfully comedy was there to keep us somewhat sane. From the world of television to movies, podcasts, web series, humor writing, and beyond, it was another big year for comedy news, and whether you’d like to make sure you’re up to speed with all of 2016’s significant comedy happenings or just want to revisit some of the year’s biggest stories, we’ve compiled a comprehensive month-by-month collection of some of the most popular, noteworthy, and interesting news, video clips, interviews, and features from the year, from January to December:
2016 started off with a bunch of new beginnings, including the launch of NBC’s streaming site Seeso, Broadway Video’s Latino-focused comedy channel Más Mejor, and Anthony Atamanuik and James Adomian announcing their Trump vs. Bernie tour. Comedy Bang! Bang! added new bandleader Weird Al Yankovic, Bill Hader and Pete Holmes got shows at HBO, and Jordan Peele and Tracy Morgan got a show at FX. We gave you the first look at the writing staff of Samantha Bee’s TBS show Full Frontal, reviewed new shows like Idiotsitter, Baskets, and The UCB Show, and looked back on older shows like Community, The X-Files, The Venture Bros, and Andy Richter Controls the Universe. In late night, Conan O’Brien traveled to Qatar, Larry Wilmore interviewed Bernie Sanders, Seth Meyers signed on to stay at Late Night through 2021, and Jimmy Fallon chatted with future presidential election opponents Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. We recommended the Michael O’Donoghue books you should read before you die as well as episodes from The Best Show, Analyze Phish, and The Dead Authors Podcast. We talked with David Cross, Alan Spencer, Amy Hoggart, Matt Besser, David Wain, Tom Segura, Artie Lange, Jonathan Krisel, Sean Donnelly, Big Jay Oakerson, The Katydids, and Max Silvestri, and we animated Marc Maron’s “Nicotine Diaries” from Day 1 to Year 10. Do you have to move to New York or LA to make it comedy? We answered. Is there a place where you can see every reference to Kenneth’s immortality on 30 Rock? We created one. Did John Krasinski actually, maybe, possibly love Jenna Fischer during their time together on The Office? Absolutely not.
The comedy world lost a legend when Bob Elliott passed away at 92, so we took a look back the time he and his partner Ray Goulding stormed Carnegie Hall in 1984. Full Frontal premiered on TBS, and we gave you a sneak peek of the set. Louis C.K. surprise-released his new show Horace and Pete, and Funny or Die surprise-released a movie starring Johnny Depp as Donald Trump. New sketch shows were ordered by NBC, Netflix and Fox, Second City announced the Harold Ramis Film School, Dan Harmon’s Great Minds premiered, Conan O’Brien traveled to South Korea, Jordan Klepper went to a Trump rally, and Chris Rock hosted the Oscars. We rounded up the best web videos of the year (so far) and we reviewed shows like Love, Animals and Broad City. Roseanne Barr got stoned and talked about dildos, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog starred in his first election special, and Eric Wareheim and Aziz Ansari made the perfect TV pair in their own show. We interviewed Eric Andre, David Spade, Gillian Jacobs, Hannibal Buress, Nikki Glaser, Oz Rodriguez, Giula Rozzi, Daniel Sloss, Kwon Swank, Lance Bangs, Ari Shaffir, and the guys behind Delco Proper,Those Who Can’t, Animals, and Trump vs. Bernie. We took a closer look at Mike Birbiglia’s Thank God for Jokes as well as podcasts like Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast, My Brother, My Brother and Me, Beyond Yacht Rock, Wrestling with Depression, and The Todd Glass Show. We told you how to get a job as a writer’s assistant, why political correctness isn’t ruining comedy, and how Craig Ferguson’s Late Late Show departure signaled the end of the “talk” part of late night talk shows. We looked back at The Chris Rock Show and episodes of Futurama, NewsRadio, Scrubs, and Modern Family, and we broke down Rachel Dratch’s many faces on 30 Rock, the forgotten years of the Friends saga, and Pete Holmes’s intimate You Made It Weird chat with Harris Wittels. Also: Kristen Wiig as Peyton Manning, Chelsea Peretti roasting tech nerds, a Comedy Bang! Bang! tour announcement, and a new comedy podcast network from the UCB.
Hillary Clinton stopped by Jimmy Kimmel Live and Broad City, Bernie Sanders stopped by Jimmy Kimmel Live, and Donald Trump was the subject of a 1300-word rant by Louis C.K. We chatted with Lauren Lapkus, Rob Corddry, Kulap Vilaysack, Chris Gethard, John Early, Josh Gondelman, Aparna Nancherla, Dan Soder, Michelle Wolf, Jonny Sun, Natalie Morales, Pat Stango, Reformed Whores, Austin Martinez, and Superego, and we reviewed Full Frontal, Younger, Those Who Can’t, Teachers, Neal Brennan’s 3 Mics, Netflix’s new sketch series The Characters, and episodes of TV shows (How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock, South Park) and podcasts (We Hate Movies, Comedy Bang! Bang!). Chris Gethard launched his new podcast Beautiful/Anonymous, Chloe Moretz hosted the Korean version of Saturday Night Live, Stephen Colbert reunited with his favorite teacher from fourth grade, and John Oliver’s “Donald Drumpf” episode of Last Week Tonight broke HBO viewing records. We explained why fake columnist Carl Diggler was the election’s best pundit, how native marketing works, how to network in the comedy world, why standups should embrace, not revile, improv, and how comedians feel when they bomb onstage. Remember when Cheez-It blatantly ripped off Tim and Eric in an ad? Or when we were treated to Joe Pera Talks You to Sleep? Or when Adam Conover brilliantly explained why millennials don’t exist? Or when Mike Birbiglia explained to Stephen Colbert how to acclimate an indoor cat? The month wrapped up on a sad note when Ken Howard passed away at 71 and Garry Shandling passed away at 66 the next day, and he received an outpouring of love and memories from friends, fans, and collaborators like Conan O’Brien, Kevin Nealon, his comedian/basketball buddies, and many more. After his death, we broke down his fictional special that preceded Larry Sanders, The Garry Shandling Show 25th Anniversary Special.
The cast of David Wain’s National Lampoon movie was revealed, so we created a photo guide to show you just how insanely great it is. Conan O’Brien’s special in South Korea aired, Ted Cruz made his Tonight Show debut, and New York comedians held their first-ever Women in Comedy photo shoot. We reviewed Chris Gethard’s new podcast, Louis C.K.’s Horace and Pete, TBS’s The Detour, and new seasons of Silicon Valley and Catastrophe as well as episodes of WTF with Marc Maron and Pistol Shrimps Radio, and we chatted with Kamau Bell, Jon Daly, Rachel Feinstein, Aasif Mandvi, David Mandel, Natalie Zea, Brooke Van Poppelen, @OpenMicComic, Andrée Vermeulen, and Party Over Here stars Nicole Byer, Jessica McKenna, and Alison Rich. Diddy appeared on The Chris Gethard Show, and impressive culinary adventures were had by two duos: Aziz Ansari & Eric Wareheim, and Stephen Colbert & Hillary Clinton. We looked back on episodes of Broad City and Parks and Rec, the crazy story behind Watching Ellie, Eric Idle’s post-Python sketch show, Martin Short’s first primetime show, Bryan Cranston’s nightmarish Vacation knock-off, the hilarious history of The Billburrderburger Group, and how Better Off Dead was way ahead of its time and rounded up the 15 best comedy clubs in North America, SNL’s best political impressions, shows that know how to make mental illness funny, and some excerpts from Conan O’Brien’s unproduced Simpsons script starring Prince. How do you know if you’re good enough to make it in comedy? Here’s your answer.
Larry Wilmore hosted the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and we took a closer look at Wilmore’s performance in the context of the insurgent host. Tig Notaro launched a standup comedy record label, Paul F. Tompkins announced that No, You Shut Up! was canceled, and a fan released a bittersweet, never-before-heard recording from the wonderful Phil Hartman. We got lost in 1-855-LADYFUN, explained why Comedy Bang! Bang! is the jam band of comedy, offered a brief taxonomy of roasts, chronicled Tim Heidecker’s post-Awesome Show years, argued why modern comedy owes a lot to those This Is SportsCenter commercials, and discovered the lost radio show of Groucho and Chico Marx and the videos of Donald Bartheleme. We chatted with Matt Walsh, Jake and Amir, Ali Wong, Dave Hill, Gary Gulman, Gilbert Gottfried, Ana Gasteyer, Baron Vaughn, and Lizz Winstead, and we reviewed Veep, Lady Dynamite, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Chelsea Handler’s Netflix talk show, and Dave Hill’s new book. Episodes of Inside No. 9 and Sealab 2021 were highlighted as well as podcasts like Sklarbro Country, The Best Show, The Flop House, and Hardcore Game of Thrones. We addressed a bunch of questions, like “Which classic TV shows would’ve benefitted from the modern era?” and “Why is Chicago the best city in the US for young standups?” and “How does one become an agent?” Scot Armstrong spoke with us about a great scene from Modern Romance, and Louis C.K. revealed that Joe Pesci told him he should quit standup because, in Pesci’s words, “It’s not for you.”
We took a closer look at Adult Swim’s slate of upcoming TV projects and noted that, out of 47 series creators, there wasn’t a single woman in the bunch. HBO confirmed that season 9 of Curb Your Enthusiasm is on the way, and we broke down how the show perfected the comedy structure that’s taken over streaming. Maya & Marty premiered, the new MADtv cast was announced, Jessica Williams left The Daily Show, Kumail Nanjiani admitted to pooping his pants, and Darrell Hammond was not happy about getting replaced in KFC’s Colonel Sanders commercials. The SoCal Comedy Fest instantly became the most inclusive comedy festival ever, and we celebrated Doughboys, the incredible chemistry of Comedy Bang! Bang!, Peter Serafinowicz’s hilarious yet terrifying Trump dub videos, and The Lonely Island’s hilariously meta movie Popstar – plus the trio’s success as cult comedy auteurs. We interviewed a ton of comedy people (including Bo Burnham, Conner O’Malley, Wyatt Cenac, Natasha Leggero, Riki Lindhome, Zhubin Parang, Big Jay Oakerson, Mike Sacks, and Dan Chamberlain), and we recommended podcast episodes of Runaway Brains, The Mental Illness Happy Hour, and Art of Wrestling. Then we dove deep into the strange phenomenon of Just For Laughs’ Canadian prank series, why Donald Trump has made political satire weaker, On the Hour and the roots of news satire, how ABC has turned inclusiveness into its greatest strength, why I Love Lucy’s chocolates scene is the best possible metaphor for the modern human condition, and why George Carlin’s political nihilism is becoming the only sensible option in 2016. Also: RIP, StarWipe.
Tons of people covered the Republican and Democratic conventions including Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, Conner O’Malley, Colin Jost, Michael Che, Jon Stewart, John Oliver, Eric Andre, and Jordan Klepper. Just For Laughs announced its 2016 New Faces, and Stephen Colbert shared the heartwarming story of how he knew his wife was “the one.” We reviewed Dan Harmon’s Great Minds, the Del Close documentary, and Late Night’s “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” segment – the best new segment in late night – and chatted with Mike Birbiglia, Brett Gelman, Jen Kirkman, Ben Falcone, Kate Micucci, Rhys Darby, Jim Jefferies, Jessi Klein, and Lee Ellenberg. We took a look at episodes of With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus, the Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project, and the show that preceded Hollywood Handbook: The Reality Show Show, and we went inside the first comedy school for teenage girls, Graham Chapman and Douglas Adams’s lost sketch show, Danny DeVito’s long-lost directorial debut, and why time slots still matter in late night. We explored how today’s sitcoms are bringing back the ‘70s TV ethos, a case of alleged sketch comedy plagiarism and parallel thinking, why so many comedians love pro wrestling, whether or not a $160,000 degree in comedic arts is worth it, and what happens when a once-beloved comedy fails the test of time. Film and sitcom legend Garry Marshall passed away at 81, and SNL lost one of its finest talents when Matt Villines passed away at 39. And Violet Ramis Stiel – daughter of the late Harold Ramis – wrote a wonderful piece about what her dad would think of the new Ghostbusters and passing the torch to a new generation of fans. And always remember: Being a well-rounded person is more important to working in comedy than any internship.
Andy Kindler opened the month with his annual State of the Industry address, and Billy Domineau’s 9/11 Seinfeld spec script took the internet by storm. Fox canceled Party Over Here, Comedy Central canceled The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, SNL promoted Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, and they let go of Taran Killam, Jay Pharoah, and Jon Rudnitsky (the first two bounced back with Showtime pilots), and both Jim Gaffigan and Scott Aukerman announced their shows were coming to an end. Tim Heidecker teamed up with Vic Berger for a two-part convention special, Ann Coulter got hit the hardest at Comedy Central’s Rob Lowe roast, and rape allegations against a UCB performer sparked an ugly but important debate in the comedy community. We chatted with Billy Domineau about his 9/11 Seinfeld script as well as Adam Conover, Abbi Crutchfield, Vanessa Bayer, Chris Geere, Nicole Byer, Joe List, and Pat Brown, and we walked through the Forbes list of highest paid comedians, the soul-destroying world of writing branded content, what makes historical comedy tick, and the comedy film school of Gilbert Gottfried. The Nanny? We appreciated it. Mad About You? We appreciated that, too. The thing about Sausage Party? We wrote about it. Keeping Up with the Kardashians? Bill Burr narrated it. We showed you how to stay sober in a booze-fueled comedy world, why John Cena is a great comedy role model, and why Robert Smigel and Jordan Klepper delivered the best election coverage this year. We highlighted BoJack Horseman’s bender episode, Neil Hamburger’s New Year’s Eve podcast, Bruce McCulloch’s Carpoolers, the underappreciated genius of Stewart Lee, and Bob Odenkirk, Zach Galifianakis, and Fred Armisen’s 2002 sketch show of your dreams. Late in the month, comedy lost yet another beloved legend when Gene Wilder passed away at the age of 83, and on The Tonight Show his longtime friend and collaborator friend Mel Brooks looked back on the time they first met.
Saturday Night Live hired three new cast members, seven new sketch writers, and one new Weekend Update writer. The Meltdown team announced that their show would end on Comedy Central, and Adam Reed revealed that his plan is to end Archer after season 10. MacGruber 2 was confirmed, and Portland’s real feminist bookstore had a not-so-friendly message for Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein: “Fuck Portlandia.” T.J. Miller hosted his own morning talk show, Hillary Clinton appeared on Between Two Ferns, Conan O’Brien starred in a ClickHole video (and it was absolutely beautiful), George Carlin’s 2001 album was finally released, and Samantha Bee called out SNL and Tonight Show for nurturing Donald Trump’s race-baiting campaign. Woody Allen’s Amazon show? Not good! Comedy’s Trump problem? Only partially Jimmy Fallon’s fault! Gene Wilder’s ill-fated ‘90s sitcom? Barely remembered! Over in podcast land we outlined Comedy Bang! Bang! and the rise of comedy geek culture, explained Chapo Trap House for the uninitiated and took a look at standout episodes of Hollywood Handbook, You Made It Weird, and The Dana Gould Hour. We chatted with Derek Waters, Aparna Nancherla, Michael Ian Black, Chris Kelly, Rory Scovel, Aya Cash, Stephen Falk, Lady Bunny, and Brian Posehn and reviewed shows like One Mississippi, Documentary Now, High Maintenance, and Mel Brooks’s fantastic Radio City Hall performance, and we traced the history of how improv is depicted onscreen, from Michael Scott all the way to Mike Birbiglia. Plus: a comprehensive guide to the albums of The National Lampoon.
NBC confirmed the full SNL writing staff with us, and we ranked every (pre-election) SNL presidential impression as well as the novels that came out from the show’s writers. We reviewed South Park, Atlanta, The Good Place, Insecure, and Trevor Noah’s first year behind the Daily Show desk – a desk that was taken over for an episode by correspondent Jordan Klepper. In addition to The Daily Show’s Klepper and Roy Wood Jr., we chatted with Martin Lawrence, Jonathan Ames, Naomi Ekperigin, Jody Hill, Wanda Sykes, Iliza Shlesinger, Jon Glaser, and Kyle Kinane. The Adult Swim saga continued when exec Mike Lazzo took to Reddit and said that “women don’t tend to like conflict,” and then a former employee claimed that her boss said said he’d “never let a woman be on staff.” Owen Ellickson and Rob Delaney found creative ways to support great causes to stick it to Trump, and our October Surprise finally arrived thanks to Mastergate. Netflix ordered two standup specials from Chris Rock, Comedy Central renewed @midnight through 2017, and we took a closer look at the show’s surprising longevity – a quality that Vine wasn’t lucky enough to have too (RIP, Vine). By the way: Isn’t Sesame Street the greatest? Isn’t Office Hours wonderful? Space Ghost: Coast to Coast – also wonderful. We wondered about a few things, like: Where have all the fun sitcoms gone? Why are podcasters so sensitive to both criticism and praise? How do you stay motivated when your friends are finding success and you aren’t? And why doesn’t Will Ferrell’s Harry Caray drop by late night shows more often?
Well, there was some bad news and some good news. Donald Trump won the election, and everybody – Bee, Meyers, Colbert, Gethard, Burr, O’Brien, and Oliver, to name a few – shared their reactions. We revisited President Obama’s WTF chat with Marc Maron in the wake of the news, and we went inside the glorious rise of Reductress as well as the quiet death of The Daily Currant. Some good news, though: Samantha Bee interviewed President Obama, Conan O’Brien traveled to NYC, Dave Chappelle hosted SNL and landed three Netflix specials, season 9 of Curb Your Enthusiasm started filming, Larry Wilmore signed an ABC development deal, The Simpsons scored a record-breaking renewal, and TBS renewed Full Frontal through 2017. Dan Harmon doled out some excellent advice for overcoming writer’s block, and Brett Gelman made waves when he severed ties with Adult Swim due to their treatment of women and their “alt-right” show – a decision he spoke to us about at length. We also spoke with Paul Reiser, Michael Che, Vic Berger, Dana Carvey, Kathleen Madigan, Dan Levy, Bobby Moynihan, and Chris D’Elia, then Trey Parker made us smile when his daughter Betty made her South Park debut as Ike. We confirmed that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and People of Earth are both worth the watch, and we recommended nine comedians definitely worth following on Snapchat. Some reminders: It’s never a bad time to revisit Clone High, a Will & Grace reboot is a bad idea, Hard Nation is the best political comedy podcast of the election season, Anthony Atamanuik is the king of Donald Trump impersonators, and comedy podcasts are a great way to get through these nightmarish times. And when it comes to these joke clichés, well…can you not?
Congrats to Zach Broussard’s annual “Top 1000 Comedians” list for making this year’s top news list! Also on this list: the four new writers hired at The Tonight Show, Taran Killam for his new job at Hamilton, and Joe Pera’s wonderfully relaxing Christmas tree expertise on both late night and early morning talk shows. Elsewhere in the late night world, Trevor Noah interviewed President Obama on The Daily Show, Samantha Bee formed an unlikely alliance with Glenn Beck, and Jimmy Kimmel was named host of the 2017 Academy Awards. We interviewed T.J. Miller, Colt Cabana, Cedric Yarbrough, Tom Papa, Lahna Turner, Janet Varney, Damien Lemon, Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, and the creators of the “What a Joke” fest, and we gave a big thumbs-up to episodes of 2 Dope Queens, Womp It Up, and With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus as well as the way Tim Heidecker handled the guy from Million Dollar Extreme who lashed out at him not long after Adult Swim canceled the show. We appreciated a rare 1971 Monty Python film all about peas, a wonderful essay by Patton Oswalt about learning how to be a single dad, the lengthy chat between David Letterman and Tina Fey, and the “rough around the edges” comic, and we explained why Larry Wilmore should return to the talk show circuit, how Colin Quinn became comedy’s coolest history teacher, and why it’s a good thing that being funnier is harder now than ever.
For more on what happened in 2016, check out our roundups of the year’s best books, comedy podcasts, interview quotes, late night standup sets, the comedy luminaries we lost, and how comedy dealt with this very shit sandwich year.