Photo by David Balev-Unsplash

Everything in life is funny.

Remember that the next time you feel creeping alarm about climate change, impeachment proceedings, or Brexit. As George Carlin once said, "There's a humorous side to every situation. The challenge is to find it." But in the age of Twitter and op-eds about bad dates with comedians, it's hard to keep track of what's funny and what's cringey. In the last decade, we've been treated to all variations. From critics lamenting that Hannah Gadsby's emotional comedy isn't "real" stand-up to Dave Chappelle returning to say exactly what's on his mind regardless of the political climate, our cultural understanding of what constitutes comedy is currently in flux.

Is Mike Birbiglia's vulnerability funny? Is Bo Burnham's peppy musical satire funny? We're saying yes. Why? On the enduring power of comedy, American humorist Mark Twain once said, "Humor must not professedly teach, and it must not professedly preach, but it must do both if it would live forever"–which is lovely, but Richard Pryor frankly put it better when he said, "Two things people throughout history have had in common are hatred and humor. I am proud that I have been able to use humor to lesson people's hatred."

That is to say: Some comedic talents have shone undeniable light upon our existential dread, and for that we're thankful.

Hannah Gadsby, "Nanette"


Laugh Until You Cry: Hannah Gadsby and the Rise of Emotional Comedy

In a culture that grows increasingly irony-poisoned and irony-fatigued, we're embracing a brand of emotional comedy that values earnestness over cynicism.

Hannah Gadsby - Comedian

Photo by Marion Curtis (StarPix for WestBeth/Shutterstock)

One year ago, we met Hannah Gadsby in her deeply introspective, game-changing Netflix comedy special Nanette.

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Comedian Ted Alexandro Talks Louis C.K. and Social Responsibility in Art

"That's where comedy starts with me, just thinking about things."

Eric Korenman

While 50-year-old Ted Alexandro is fervorous about landing a good joke, he considers comedy a complex art form and tries his best to cancel out all the noise when crafting his material.

"It's about you sitting in a room, focusing in on your interests," Alexandro told Popdust. "The evolution of discourse and sensitivity is incredibly good for society and good for comedy." Alexandro's new podcast, A Little Bit Me, is less comedic and more stream of consciousness. Alexandro regularly indulges in self-reflection, pondering his own faults. "Welcome to 'A Little Bit Me,' but is it just me?" Alexandro says in one episode. "Aren't we all connected to a larger ecosystem? Undoubtedly we are in ways we can't comprehend, but do we embrace that mystery?" While the tangents sometimes border on rambling, Alexandro is quick to recognize that fact and laugh at his tendencies before they become detrimental, adding hilarious orchestral cues or other edits that show he can laugh at himself. "In stand up, there has to be an economy of words, there has to be a laugh every few sentences, but with my podcast, I can be more extemporaneous, I can explore." In an exclusive interview with Popdust, Alexandro spoke further on being a socially responsible comic, his fierce criticism of Louis C.K., and his inspiration for his podcast.

You've talked extensively about comedy being an art form, it's rare to hear a comic describe stand up as art. Could you elaborate?

I mean, it's all the arts. I have a jazz piano background as well, and, for me, comedy isn't much further a leap from that. I was one of five siblings growing up, and we were all involved extensively in the arts, too, so I was constantly surrounded by it.

Having that many siblings who are also artistic, did you ever feel any jealousy or competition with them?

We all just honestly enjoyed each other. The arts were just a fun way for us all to express ourselves, and we were all just natural performers in different ways. I also played baseball and basketball growing up with my brothers, and that definitely manifested more competition than the arts ever did.

How did you discover you were into stand up?

It was kind of a roundabout way. I always loved performing and just being around that. My church growing up had a theater group I did in the summers, and the people running it were a jazz guitarist and a director, and they were both very legitimate, and I just felt very at home there.

What's your creative process like?

It's kinda a "process." If it's autobiographical, it's more about finding a rhythm and talking through it. But if it's something like social commentary, I start with a point of view and then work backward to try and find something that's equally as funny as it is respectful. I want to add to the discourse. If I have a sense something is funny, it usually is, but I just gotta make sure to fine tune it.

In terms of the social commentary, do you feel that being a white male comedian in 2019 means you have to be more cautious about sharing your material?

I wouldn't say cautious, but I would say just "more aware." If your jokes depend on offending someone or come at the expense of others, then you definitely need to be more aware. Especially with social media making it so easy to broadcast someone's stand up out into the world—it heightens the stakes. But I only think this makes for better comedy if you're evolving, paying attention, and being sensitive.

Have you seen the comedy culture make that shift?

Well, for myself, I've always liked to be aware and responsible. I feel comedians should be able to say what they want but then deal with the consequences. For comedians that tend to be crass, I do see them shifting and being more aware, and they've found a way to deliver their material while kind of winking at the audience, showing them that they know what they're saying is wrong, whereas before it was more overt and done for shock value. The thing about any comedy, though, is the listener finds what they like, and if people don't like certain styles, then they shouldn't listen to that comedy.

You seem to mostly be on board with this shift though. That video of you criticizing Louis C.K. went viral.

I wasn't surprised by that. It was such a heated topic, and I knew that there was going to be some conversation based on the fact that I talked about it on stage at the Comedy Cellar. I just felt that if I could do it in a way that was funny and wasn't just shit-talking, I would be happy with it, and it wasn't even necessarily about him. The Kavanaugh hearing was that week, so it was kind of just talking about the #MeToo movement and how interrelated it all was.

Did you ever have a personal relationship with Louis?

I opened for Louis for about six months about seven years ago. It was definitely disappointing when it happened. I was bummed.

So do you feel Trump and all of these antics have been good for comedy?

No matter who's in office, there is always gonna be comedy made about them, but the absurdity and cartoon nature of this particular presidency has definitely opened up other areas to delve into.

Talk to me a bit more about your podcast. The medium itself seems very flooded. How do you think yours stands out?

I kinda felt like exploring what it would be like. It's been a fun exercise. There's a segment called The Catch Up where I just cold call a comedian friend out of the blue and have a conversation right there. It's fun to do this podcast in a way that's unfiltered and unplanned.

You seem very contemplative on it.

That's just kind of how I am. I'm less like I am on stage. But that's where comedy starts with me, just thinking about things. It's like a sculpture that you gotta chisel down.

Ted Alexandro is on tour now with Jim Gaffigan. Get your tickets here.

Film Lists

Your Friends Aren't Funny: Best and Worst Comedy Specials on Netflix

With Netflix green-lighting any project with shapes and colors, comedy specials range from amusing to mediocre to feeling as joyless as a DVD enthusiast.

Hannah Gadsby - Comedian

Photo by Marion Curtis (Shutterstock)

Netflix wants you to realize that you and your friends aren't funny.

With 47 new stand-up comedy specials released on New Year's Day alone, Netflix is banking on your life being so devoid of humor that you'll watch anything. As the company continues to outspend competitors like HBO and CBS, the streaming service is expected to spend $15 billion this year (up from $13 billion in 2018). While they at least do us the favor of keeping Richard Pryor: Live in Concert available to stream, they also green light any project that features shapes and colors.

Netflix's massive collection of comedy specials ranges from amusing to mediocre to feeling as joyless as a DVD enthusiast. Here are five recent specials worth your time–and five that can only be described as crimes against comedy.

1. John Mulaney - New in Town (2012) / Kid Gorgeous at Radio City (2018)

John Mulaney: The Comeback Kid | Trailer [HD] |

Of Mulaney's three specials, New in Town is required watching, partly due to his unassuming irreverence and partly due to the special's themes about alienation and social anxiety befitting a debut feature. But Kid Gorgeous at Radio City shows the former SNL-writer as a mature comic who's more stylized and practiced in his offbeat, "aw shucks" delivery.

2. Ali Wong - Baby Cobra (2016) / Hard Knock Wife (2018)

Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife | Official Trailer [HD] |

Performing while seven months pregnant might be Wong's lucky charm. The Fresh Off the Boat-writer followed up her 2016 special, which inspired Halloween costumes riffing on her large glasses and short dress with a heavily pregnant belly, with a second feature and a second pregnancy. Hard Knock Wife delivers more of Wong's unapologetic humor, from mocking racial and gender stereotypes to comparing a new mother's v*gina to "two hanging dicks."

3. Hannah Gadsby - Nanette (2018)

Hannah Gadsby: Nanette | Official Trailer [HD] |

Gadsby's much-lauded comedy special taps into our recent interest in more empathetic stand-up. The Australian comedian unpacks queerness and gender biases by exploring her own trauma and identity conflicts–mixed with bawdy and incisive observational humor.

4. Iliza Schlesinger - Confirmed Kills (2016) / Elder Millennial (2018)

Iliza: Elder Millennial | Official Trailer [HD] |

Schlesinger's style is so consistent and performative that you forget she got her start winning the lackluster stand-up competition Last Comic Standing in 2008. She's passionate about political issues, but she's also a millennial; her social commentary combines the two in manic bits promoting feminist messages while mocking "girl culture." As a result, some of her stream-of-conscious rants are brilliant, while others make you wonder, "Is that what 'problematic' means?" Both are worth it.

5. Hari Kondabolu - Warn Your Relatives (2018)

Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives | Official Trailer [HD] |

Kondabolu is a nerd's comic. With a Masters in Human Rights from the London School of Economics, he is strikingly political, deadpan, and acerbic. If that's not to your taste, that's fine. As he self-deprecates in his set, his Indian mother doesn't get him either.

Crimes against comedy include:

1. Ken Jeong - You Complete Me, Ho (2019)

Ken Jeong: You Complete Me, Ho | Official Trailer [HD] |

He's the brilliant comedic mind that earned riotous acclaim in The Hangover in 2009 – as in, his unevolved humor is the exact same. From Asian stereotypes to dad-puns, Jeong switches from dirty jokes to praising his wife's survival of breast cancer with little to no segues.

2. Kevin James - Don't Never Give Up (2018)

Kevin James: Never Don’t Give Up | Official Trailer [HD] |

From 1998-2007, Kevin James was a popular choice for a generic sitcom oaf. Sadly, we've grown up since then. As shown by CBS's shortlived show Kevin Can Wait, which Vulture described as "exactly as awful as you imagined," James hasn't. Plus, he apparently really hates people with peanut allergies.

3. Nick Kroll and John Mulaney - Oh, Hello on Broadway (2017)

Oh, Hello Broadway | Official Trailer [HD] |

To be clear, we wanted to like this so badly. Between John Mulaney's awkward observational humor and Nick Kroll's sharp self-deprecation creating Big Mouth, there was promise in the two joining forces. If you were won over by the Kroll Show's popular Internet fodder, "Too Much Tuna," you'll probably think this special is fine.

4. Adam Sandler - 100% Fresh (2018)

ADAM SANDLER: 100% FRESH | Official Trailer [HD] |

Between 1995 and 2007, many of us grew up under the auspices of Adam Sandler's fart jokes and falsetto nonsense. It's like he's who Kevin James wanted to be. But as we came of age, we had to confront difficult realities: the Tooth Fairy isn't real, WWE wrestling is staged, and Adam Sandler isn't funny.

5. Gabriel Iglesias - One Show Fits All (2019)

Gabriel "Fluffy" Iglesias: One Show Fits All | Official Trailer [HD] |

Streaming anything by "Fluffy" is a waste of your bandwidth. But we have to admire him for being one of the richest yet universally unfunny comedians of our time.

POP⚡DUST |

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Pete Davidson

All you need to know.

Full Name: Peter Michael Davidson

Date of Birth: November 16, 1993

Born: Staten Island, NY

Occupation: Comedian, actor

Status: Single

Children: 0

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TV Reviews

REVIEW | Chris Rock's "Bring The Pain"

The comedy icon reflects on his breakout performance and evolution of his comedy in new docuseries.

In 1996, a skinny, gap-toothed comedian with a high-pitched voice articulated to audiences everywhere the distinct difference between Black people and N****s.

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