What Makes Us Laugh
It’s an act of hubris to attempt to create comedy - what makes one person laugh can leave the next person cold, and there’s no feeling like writing or performing a line that just fails to connect. So with that in mind, we thought we’d let you know what’s tickles our funny bones! 

Television

Chris: The Good Place

Clever writing, sharp dialogue, great acting and some amazing twists. A show that just gets better the more you watch. Kristen Bell is fantastic as always, but I’d really forgotten how great Ted Danson was at situation comedy. It made me want to re-watch Cheers (which I suspect won’t have aged well in terms of sexual politics, but was pretty much the funniest US show on British TV when I was a kid.) 

Jude: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Ok, so maybe Buffy isn’t primarily a comedy, but the humour is an integral part of the show. It’s brilliantly witty, the comic timing is superb, and there’s so much charisma radiating from the core cast that caring about their characters is effortless - and that’s when the writers pull the rug out from under you with episodes like The Body, and The Gift, and Forever… 

Stoo: Brooklyn 99

For what should be a straightforward New York cop sitcom Brooklyn 99 is amazingly diverse and funny. The cast are brilliant, the timing, recurring characters, recurring jokes are all perfectly executed. What I love most about it is the strong male role-model in the form of Sergeant Terry Jeffords. He’s big and strong (the actor, Terry Crews, can bench in excess of 200kg (yeah, I googled it), which is you and the person next to you), suffers from anxiety and PTSD which he battles with throughout the show and is a devoted husband and father, while still being a comedic character who supports, and is supported by, those around him. You don’t see enough of that in any TV, let alone a sitcom cop show. Also, about half the cast are left-handed, which pleases me immensely.

Film

Stoo: Big Trouble in Little China

I loved Big Trouble in Little China as a kid and I still do. It’s a cheesy action drama with Chinese myth and magic set against a San Francisco backdrop. The lead character, Jack Burton, is an over-confident buffoon, way out of his depth throughout the movie. Then at some point you realise it’s not a comedy, it’s a completely straight action movie and Wang Chi is the lead character and Jack Burton is the sidekick… Meta-comedy! Two movies in one!

Jude: 9 to 5

I’m going to pick another 80s movie. This one stars Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton as three women who end up kidnapping their abusive boss with hilarious consequences. The scriptwriting and performances are really sharp, and there are some lovely surreal sequences - an all round brilliant comedy.

Chris: Ghostbusters

While I enjoyed the remake, the original is pretty much unbeatable for me. It was the first film I ever remember being desperate to see as a kid, and it’s aged remarkably well. The jokes are still funny, most of the special effects still look good. Pretty much a perfect trifecta of funny, scary and science fiction.

Books

Jude: Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre

For proper pee-your-pants, laugh out loud comedy, I’ve got to say the works of Christopher Brookmyre (particularly, though not limited to the Jack Parlabane series) have got to top my list. They’re dark, slightly gruesome and extremely Scottish in their humour - I’ve picked Quite Ugly as my favourite, but to be honest they’re all good. He also writes very good (although more serious) crime novels.

Stoo: The Works of Terry Pratchett

I don’t read much comedy so this one was a bit of a struggle. I loved Terry Pratchett as a kid, especially the City Watch related books, but I haven’t read anything of his in… more than ten years. I think Jingo was the last book I read and Wikipedia thinks that was published in 97, so it might be twenty years. I should probably rectify that.

Chris: Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story by Christopher Moore

I think the last book I read that made me really laugh. Deceptively simple beats, but it somehow makes for wickedly hilarious comedy. I also enjoy the sly addition of the historical stuff (the character that is clearly “Emperor Norton”, for instance). The sequels, and indeed most of Moore’s stuff, are well worth checking out!

Comics

Chris: The Establishment (by Edginton & Adlard, Wildstorm)

Despite a criminally short run, this British answer to the Authority was both hilarious and genuinely different to most of the Wildstorm fare. As well as a great central plot, it’s a treasure-trove of hidden references to old television shows like The Avengers and Danger Man.

To be honest, I could have done a dozen entries for this section. I strongly considered Ace Trucking Co and Dr & Quinch from 2000AD, which remain some of of my all time favourite comedy series.

Jude: The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore

I don’t read a lot of comics for the humour, but The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is certainly worth a mention for the way it takes fictional characters and weaves them into Victorian Britain, subverting and mocking the tropes as it goes. It’s also a masterclass in the way it makes the transition from witty banter to appalling horror in the space of a few illustrations.

Stoo: Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Waterson

Calvin and Hobbes is the amazingly charming, insightful and funny adventures of a boy and his stuffed tiger. The entire run of comics is driven by Calvin’s imagination, his loathing of school but love of learning but occasionally hits on some poignant moments between Calvin and his parents.

Other

Stoo: The Doug Anthony Allstars

I’m not sure how this will have aged but DAAS were an Australian musical comedy trio in the 90’s. I never got to see them live but a mate had a video tape (yes, VHS!) of one of their shows which we watched repeatedly. They told jokes, sang songs and had a very rough and tumble physical humour to go with it. Their material was hilarious then they’d side-line you with something poignant and moving. Aso, listen to the comedy-goth-musical stylings of Voltaire.

Chris: Ask Lovecraft (youtube channel)

Should it be funny? A guy answering questions and holding forth while pretending to be the reanimated Howard Phillips Lovecraft? Somehow it is, though - very funny. Leeman Kessler has an amazing line in deadpan delivery (and out-of-character comes across as a really nice guy.) Thankfully it’s entirely shorn of any of the real HPL’s odious beliefs.

Jude: Old Harry’s Game (BBC radio comedy)

I was a big fan of audio drama and comedy long before I came across the AD podcasting scene, and my all time favourite has got to be Andy Hamilton’s Old Harry’s Game, a sitcom set in Hell about the devil, his assistants and an assortment of damned souls. The writing moves seamlessly from beautifully observed parody, to slapstick, to outright horror, and the biting satire is as relevant today as when it was written.

Audio Drama Podcasts

Chris: Attention Hellmart Shoppers

While I think We Fix Space Junk is probably my favourite podcast overall, in terms of sheer humour Attention Hellmart Shoppers is hard to beat. I particularly love Daniel’s speech from the first episode, explaining why he went to prison, where he just keeps adding more and more layers of financial shenanigans to his resume.

Jude: The Dark Ages

There are so many great comedies at the moment! Top of my list at present are The Dark Ages, which is a brilliantly subversive take on the fantasy genre with very Pratchett-esque humour, A Scottish Podcast, which has had me laughing out loud at its sweary rants and deadpan social commentary, and Attention Hellmart Shoppers, which took a little while to grow on me but very soon became a firm favourite.

Stoo: Wooden Overcoats

With a brilliant cast, fantastic production and hilarious writing this is the high bar for audio drama and something like what I’d hope to achieve with the Aletheian Society. The ever-changing interactions between the main characters is what drives the humour behind this and the twisting, turning ending to season one was amazing.