It’s time to dish out the most coveted awards in showbiz, as Paul Nolan selects the comedy highlights of the past 12 months.
Paul Nolan selects the comedic highlights of 2017.
WRITER OF THE YEAR – SHARON HORGAN
The past few years have seen the Meath writer and performer go supernova, and her career trajectory continued its inexorable rise in 2017. Hooking up with fellow Irish comedy legend Graham Linehan – as well as Helen Linehan and Holly Walsh – she created the acclaimed BBC sitcom Motherland, a sharp look at contemporary motherhood.
Elsewhere, Horgan’s status as one of the hottest talents currently working in comedy was confirmed by another superb series of the Channel 4 hit Pulling, which has its fourth series on the way in January. Also due the same month is the second series of Divorce, Horgan’s celebrated HBO series starring Sarah Jessica Parker. Long may her reign continue.
COMEDY SHOW OF THE YEAR – REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER
In an era of unprecedented chaos in US politics, Real Time remains the sharpest and most provocative take on the weekly – nay, hourly – upheavals in Washington. Maher’s acerbic commentary provides a constant stream of memorable gags, while his guests always offer a lively take on the US political landscape.
One of the most memorable lines this year came from analyst James Carville, who noted, “Republicans don’t believe in climate change – and yet we have a hurricane in Ireland in mid-October.” Possibly the best gag of the year, though, came from Maher himself, who recently quipped, “A significant percentage of voters have said they would vote for The Rock ahead of Donald Trump in the next election – political analysts have now determined they mean an actual rock.”
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR – LARRY DAVID
As the song goes, you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone. The first episode of the new series of Curb Your Enthusiasm – back on the air after several years away – was a powerful reminder of Larry David’s unique comedic genius. The show spectacularly knocked the ball out of the park with the storyline that had David write a musical about Salman Rushdie entitled Fatwa!, while it ingeniously dovetailed that narrative strand with another that had Larry trying to rid himself of an inadequate assistant, by passing her onto a showbiz colleague. For good measure, the latter storyline yielded another in David’s endless stream of neologisms: “foisting”. Welcome back, sir.
SATIRIST OF THE YEAR – STEPHEN COLBERT
It could be said that satirising contemporary US politics is like shooting fish in a barrel, but nonetheless, Colbert remains the pre-eminent practitioner in the field. The jury was out on how Colbert – hosting as himself rather than his familiar right wing pundit character – would fare as he stepped into David Letterman’s shoes on The Late Show, but it’s all gone swimmingly. Indeed, Colbert’s political background and knowledge have seen him carve out a unique niche in US late night talk shows; he is now the go-to man for insight and commentary on the political events of the day. His monologues are always good for a memorable gag or two, while the guest interviews yield more than their fair share of viral moments.
TALK SHOW OF THE YEAR – JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!
At the other end of the talk show spectrum to Colbert is Jimmy Kimmel Live!, which forgoes political content altogether. The show is none the worse for it, and has provided many a classic moment during the year. Much like that other Jimmy, Fallon, Kimmel is a man who specialises in the viral-ready setpiece.
The show made an inspired choice for guest host at Halloween, with Dave Grohl sitting in for Kimmel. There was a brilliant interview and jam session with Alice Cooper, while elsewhere, Grohl’s interview with Kristen Bell segued into an unlikely live mash-up of the Frozen soundtrack and Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’.
IMPERSONATION OF THE YEAR – MELISSA McCARTHY AS SEAN SPICER
At one stage, White House press officers were coming and going faster than we could keep up: Sean Spicer was ousted in favour of Anthony Scaramucci, only for the latter to exit as quickly as he arrived. The former’s chaotic press conferences, though, were brilliantly nailed by Melissa McCarthy, who perfectly caught Spicer’s permanently befuddled persona. Alongside Alec Baldwin’s vintage turn as Donald Trump – who could forget Steve Bannon’s entry as the grim reaper – McCarthy was one of the main reasons SNL continued its remarkable run at the centre of the cultural conversation in America.
COMEDY FILM OF THE YEAR – THE DEATH OF STALIN
Having delivered two of the best sitcoms of the 21st century to date in The Thick Of It and Veep, Armando Iannucci has also developed a parallel career as a film director of some note; following on from his Washington satire In The Loop, this year found him returning to cinema with period piece The Death Of Stalin. Based on an acclaimed graphic novel, the film boasted Iannucci’s typically adroit take on the absurdities of politics, with some top performances into the bargain.
RADIO SHOW OF THE YEAR – THE HOWARD STERN SHOW
Still crazy after all these years – Howard Stern remains one of the most provocative and bitingly funny personalities on the US airwaves.
This year was another feast for his satirical instincts, as he got stuck into American politics and social trends with the usual generous side order of general mayhem.
STAND UP SHOW OF THE YEAR – CHRIS ROCK AT 3ARENA
He came, he saw, he conquered – following on from towering 3Arena shows in recent years from the likes of Jerry Seinfeld and Peter Kay, Chris Rock came and knocked everyone out with another virtuoso salvo of barbed social observations. Simply brilliant stuff.