Everyone knows the summer months are thin soup for entertainment: most networks (besides premium ones) have nothing new to watch and even streaming services kind of just go on cruise control during the summer since they don’t expect a large viewing audience. But there are still some hidden gems out there that are just waiting for fans to discover. Here is a small article for what’s the best comedy offerings streaming in July 2017. This time, there are no recommendations for Amazon Prime because they seem to be following the same avoidance programming issues during the summer the major networks do. So here’s the best comedy picks for Netflix and Hulu. And for shame, Amazon Prime: for shame.
Moonrise Kingdom: If you’ve never seen a Wes Anderson movie before, Moonrise Kingdom is a great entry point. It features his trademark flat-focus symmetry and his heavy penchant for whimsy, only this time in maybe employed in the most correct context possible: a burgeoning romance between two outsider and barely pubescent children who fall in love and run away from their parents and their scout troop, respectively, to spend just a little time with each other free of their lives’ constraints and being who they are. Even the location is isolated enough–a small Northeastern island–to make this idiosyncratic closed-system world make sense. Besides that, it’s a wonderfully fresh, quirky, heartwarming, and funny movie about the innocence of childhood and the confusion of adulthood as they collide in this mini-masterpiece.
World’s Greatest Dad: Not every parent gets the kid they want or even could have expected. This is the plight of single father and high school English teacher Lance Clayton (Robin Williams), an idealistic writer and sensitive teacher who nonetheless is stuck with a rude and rather idiotic son Kyle. That is, until Kyle accidentally kills himself while practicing auto-erotic asphyxiation one day. Instead of making his crude slob of a son’s death a humiliating joke, Lance writes a moving, sensitive masterpiece of a suicide note and claims it as his son’s, which garners great acclaim and a new understanding of who his son is–even though it isn’t. It’s a pitch-black dark comedy directed by Bobcat Goldthwait that features one of Williams’ best late-career final performances. If you like your comedy extra black with a dollop of satire, World’s Greatest Dad is for you.
The Trip: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are two British comedians who are a prickly pair when put together, each trying to one-up each other and in general getting on one another’s nerves. And The Trip–originally released as a BBC series but later edited into a feature film–follows these two frenemies on a restaurant tour of northern England as they spend maybe more time together than they’d prefer and soon begin to savagely taunt each other throughout the journey. This somewhat faux-documentary features one of Great Britain’s finest comedy exports: the improvised two-hander character work that soon begin to one-up and out-do each other to wild proportions. A must-see for Anglophiles and comedy fans alike.
Bedazzled: Speaking of British comedy duos whose act centered around improvisation to gain the upper hand, Bedazzled is the only Dudley Moore and Peter Cook film–best known from their transgressive 70’s comedy routines as the incredibly foul-mouthed Derek and Clive–that the two ever starred in together.
Starring Dudley Moore as an everyday schmuck that can’t catch a break and Peter Cook deliciously cast as the Devil who offers Moore’s character 7 wishes to improve his life, only for Moore to find that each wish comes with a Faustian twist, it’s an increasingly tense and frustrating premise that is actually made fun here. Seeing the two working together on-screen is wonderful, and the film itself is stuck firmly in counterculture 1967 swingin’ London.
If anything, it will encourage viewers to seek out their incredibly hilarious and wildly vulgar Derek and Clive albums (which they both recorded sometimes incredibly drunk and with particularly profane but inspired improvisations). Hell, just skip the movie and check out the Derek and Clive material.
Blackadder: This classic British comedy series follows generations of the Blackadders as they start as aristocracy and with each succeeding generation fall further and further down the ladder in society. Starring Rowan Atkinson as a pre-Mr. Bean and with Tony Robinson as his constant, scheming, and weirdly parallel dogsbody servant Baldrick, Blackadder is a show of scope and great imagination as Blackadder starts off as an idiot and becomes smarter with every generation while Baldrick starts off smart and gets progressively stupider. Spanning from 1485 to 1917, Blackadder is an example of British humor and intelligence at its best. It’s a great, funny series that’s available complete on Hulu for Anglophile and comedy fans that like their comedy a little smarter than the average bear.
China, Il: Internet genius Brad Neely (who created the characters Babycakes and The Professor Brothers for SuperDeluxe.com and did the early viral masterpiece Wizard People, Dear Reader) finally got his own show, and it’s China, Il. Taking place in the worst college possible in history–or at least Illinois–it follows the surreal misadventures of Babycakes–an overgrown man-child that attends the university–but mostly the two (terrible) professor brothers, Steve and Frank Smith. Steve’s much more confident than his loser brother Frank, who both work in the History department as associate professors and share an office.
But the show spins off into complete madness on a very regular basis, with giant babies, feral humans, a time-traveling Ronald Reagan, and many more insane things that happen in every episode. It’s incredibly wacky, and fans of the incredibly wacky in their animated shows will love this one.
A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman: Considering the insane actual life of Graham Chapman, an influential comedian and one of the more visible stars of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, this completely daft biography of his life is weirdly appropriate for such a figure. Incredibly clever and funny, the Graham Chapman experience is accurately represented in this mixed media-heavy biography of the subversive, brilliant, and troubled comedian’s life. It’s incredibly fun to watch but also fascinating in its candor and pomo awareness of what it is. Fans of Monty Python and comedy fans in general will immensely enjoy this documentary.
Super: An incredibly average, if not below-average, man (Rainn Wilson) snaps when his wife is once again sucked into her drug addiction and ex-boyfriend/dealer’s life and decides that he’s going to become a superhero. While he fights crime sans actual equipment or superpowers, mostly beating up criminals (if not being beat up by them in return) with a wrench and not realizing the violent ramifications of his actions, he also gains an admirer and unwanted sidekick in Bolty (Ellen Page), a seemingly psychotic young woman who relishes the idea of beating the shit out of whoever they deem as “bad guys.”
This deconstruction of the superhero myth is very funny and shockingly violent at times, but it’s a realistic portrayal of what vigilante justice would actually look like in real life and is a sideways comedy complete. Oh, and it was directed by James “Guardian of the Galaxy franchise” Gunn, so if you want to see where he found his irreverence towards superheroes, this is the movie for you.