PRI apparently authors a holiday gift guide every year, and I was asked to contribute five items. The items I chose will likely be familiar to regular TSOYA listeners and readers of this blog, but if they're not, they should be.
Until Louis CK had his first child, parenthood was the subject matter where good comics went to die. And bad comics went to die worse. Like women going to the bathroom in pairs, children being adorable and confounding was such a well-worn subject that it was tough to imagine anyone wringing any real surprises from it. Over the past five years, though, CK has made fatherhood his own, with two brilliant hour-long comedy specials that use anger and frustration to shed light on the love he has for his kids. I'd never have imagined that a man could show love by calling his toddler the c-word, but CK pulls off the trick. Along the way, CK (who wrote for Letterman, Conan and The Chris Rock Show, among others) throws in a little incisive social commentary to boot. If you ask me, Louis CK has surpassed his close friend Rock as the best standup comic in America today.
This comic book series imagines that a plague has wiped out all the men on earth but one, a dorky escape artist named Yorick. An agent from a secret government agency and a genetic scientist escort him (and his monkey) across the messy wasteland of a male-less America in an effort to find out what happened. There's plenty of comic-bookish thrills, but it's also funny and thoughtful. The series full run has been collected into ten trade paperbacks, which you should be able to find at any large bookstore or comic shop.
Years before Jon Stewart took over the Daily Show, the British comic Chris Morris and his writing partner Armando Ianucci made mincemeat of the news media with two short-run TV series, "The Day Today" and "BrassEye." While DVDs of the former are only available in UK format, DVDs of the latter will play in any DVD player. "BrassEye" is a satire of Hard Copy-style newsmagazine shows, with the incomparable Morris as anchor and in many cases, correspondent. I have never seen satire so funny or trenchant. Morris and crew tear apart the fear mongering of the media and government with both fictional characters and real interviews with real British celebrities and news makers (the inspiration for Ali G, Bruno and Borat, by the way). To say the show is scathing and hilarious is to sell it far too short. Better than the Daily Show and South Park put together. Available from amazon.co.uk (and they ship to the US) or most other British online DVD retailers, like hmv.co.uk.
Handey is the brilliant absurdist writer behind Saturday Night Live's "Deep Thoughts," as well as some of the show's most hilarious sketches, like "Happy Fun Ball," "Tales of Fraud and Malfeasance in Railway Hiring Practices," and "Toonces, the Cat Who Could Drive a Car." He's also a contributor to The New Yorker and PRI's Studio 360. The essays collected in this book are Handey at his best, spinning childhood fantasies (and childhood belligerence) to bizarre heights. If you don't find this hilarious, we can't be friends.
Daly is best known as former castmember of the mediocre FOX sketch series Mad TV, but that credit barely hints at his remarkable talent. This CD collects nine of Daly's character monologues, which blend grandpas-and-apple-pies optimism with bizarre and distressing depravities. Daly's sunny disposition and general geniality carry the listener through characters like Patty O'Herlihy, champion of the 2008 Limerick, Ireland Blarney Contest. With a wink and a charming Irish brogue, O'Herlihy tells us all about the delightful blarney he's spread this year -- to cover for increasingly sad and horrific acts of violence. Listening to this CD was the funniest 90 minutes of my year. Available from iTunes, Amazon MP3, or on CD from http://store.aspecialthing.com