Live entertainment is completely shut down for the foreseeable future. Everyone is sheltering-in-place (and you damn well better be) as the CDC has advised groups of more than 10 are unsafe and everyone must remain six feet from each other, effectively rendering live stand-up comedy impossible. With the exception of a few comedians pivoting to digitally broadcasting new jokes via Instagram, Zoom, or other apps, comedy fans are unlikely to get to see their favorites perform new material for weeks.
While the big outlets like HBO, Comedy Central, and more highlight just a few comics a year, there’s never a shortage of quality content from a slew of underrated and up-and-coming comedians from around the country. There are plenty of hilarious albums, podcasts, books and more to keep you occupied and entertained now that we’ve all finished Tiger King.
Here are just a few things we’re getting into from the past year.
Maria Bamford: Weakness is the Brand
Willingness to be vulnerable in front of a crowd is a crucial factor in becoming a successful comedian. Bamford has long made vulnerability, or “weakness” rather, her personal brand. One of the strongest and most distinct voices in comedy, Bamford delivers again with her latest album full of offbeat, fanciful jokes.
Leonard Ouzts: Ya Hear Me?
Ouzts can do a lot with a little. The comedian has a way with words; he can take a simple premise like Starbucks orders and Lunchables, and produce laugh-out-loud moments that stick with you long after you’ve finished the album.
Emmy Blotnick: Party Nights
Her voice is soft and sweet but her jokes pack a huge punch. One of the most original albums in recent memory, Blotnick’s punchlines are endlessly quotable and impossible to predict. She has the astute observational skills and strength of material reminiscent of a John Mulaney special.
Samantha Ruddy: Logging Out
A joke machine, Ruddy has one of the most reliable Twitter accounts, with a consistent stream of meticulous jokes that range from relatable, everyday observations to delightful absurdity. Her album is more of the same well-crafted punchlines that are not restricted by a 240 character limit.
Cherith Fuller: Cool, Chill Girl
While comedy is always better live, Fuller’s stage presence, energy, and charm still shines through the audio-only tracks of her debut album. Fuller has a knack for taking very relatable material, especially for women, and filtering it through her personal POV to put a unique spin on it.
Zach Reinert: A Boatload of Jokes
It’s jokes galore in the Denver comedian’s debut EP. As a one-liner comic, Reinert packs a loaded bag of tight, dark, and imaginative jokes. Fans of Dan Mintz and Anthony Jeselnik need to put Reinert on their must-watch list.
Matt Braunger” Please Hold Me
Big dumb jokes about big dumb subjects. From Rob Gronkowski to dealing with your drunk friends, Braunger hilariously rips through the ridiculousness of general society in highly creative and spirited ways.
Shalewa Sharpe: So You Just Out Here?
Sharpe’s debut album, Stay Eating Cookies, is one that warrants multiple plays. Last year, Sharpe released her second album, So You Just Out Here?, full of the same kind of honest and tactful observations and stories that makes her the kind of performer you could listen to talk about whatever, forever.
Best friends and co-hosts Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang have the most palpable chemistry. They have a way of making each guest feel like a lifelong friend for a podcast you wish you could be at the recording table for. Listen for culture, nostalgia, jokes, friendship, and much-needed venting.
While we all consume more TV and movies than usual, it’s incredibly fun to listen to podcast co-hosts Nicole Byer and Lauren Lapkus run through the Star Wars trilogy for the first time. Whether you’ve seen the films or not, are a super fan or “meh” on the Skywalker family, it’s highly entertaining to listen to two casual watchers analyze each film alongside their admitted superfan guests.
The Unofficial Expert
Quarantine is boring and lonely as hell. Regardless of the times, I always gravitate towards podcasts that feature multiple hosts as they tend to be the most rousing. Close friends and comedians Sydnee Washington and Marie Faustin provide lively laughs for a podcast that feels more like a party vs a classic interview.
Nice Try: Stories of the Best Intensions & Mixed Results
by Josh Gondelman
He’s the most positive man in comedy, so obviously his new book is a must-read. It’s not the blind kind of positivity that people with multiple “LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE” signs in their kitchens embody, it’s the positivity that comes out of being self-aware about your anxieties and learning from your mistakes. Like his stand-up, Gondelman’s book is thoughtful and hilarious.
Fleabag: The Scriptures
by Phoebe Waller-Bridge
A must-have for fans of the Emmy-winning British sitcom. Writers and admirers of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s now iconic show will love to see just how the Brit constructs her scripts with this deep-dive into her mind.
Shea Serrano’s TV Essays
While many prefer the feel of a physical book in their hands, now might be the time to go digital with your books. Author, journalist, and Twitter master Shea Serrano’s latest endeavor, Where Do You Think We Are?, is a 10-part series of illustrated essays about TV sitcom Scrubs. Available as a downloadable PDF, it’s perfect for reading between your series binge-watch marathon. Serrano also brought back his first PDF book about The Office for a limited time.
Olivia Cathcart is a comedian and writer.