It’s easy to get Netflix tunnel vision when embarking on an epic telly session, but you’d be a fool of Kraken-sized proportions to discount Amazon Prime Video’s growing library of gems.
As this collection of Stuff favourites shows, Amazon’s streaming service has become particularly adept at laughter generation. And remember; all of these movies and TV shows are already included in your Prime subscription, so sit back and prepare to engage your face’s smile apparatus with these comedy masterpieces...
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This Is The End
A film where the likes of James Franco and Seth Rogen play themselves living through a biblically apocalyptic end of days might sound like a one-way ticket to Self-Indulgence City, but This Is The End works not in spite of but because of its star-studded cast.
This crew isn’t afraid to send itself up – Franco and Jonah Hill in particular are particular figures of fun here for their perceived pretentiousness and preening – and given the number of cameos from other celebs (Rihanna and Emma Watson being the most memorable), it all adds up to an enjoyable stoner movie that doesn’t change the world, but will succeed in keeping all but the most demanding comedy fan chuckling for 90 minutes.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge writes and stars in this riotous six-part sitcom about a single woman’s attempts to navigate the many pitfalls of modern London life. Even if that sounds like a hackneyed synopsis, or one that fits roughly 10,000 British sitcoms, we suggest you delve in anyway, because Waller-Bridge’s eyes-open approach – acerbic, dry, unashamed, raw – doesn’t feel unoriginal in the slightest. It’s also really, really funny, which is probably worth mentioning too.
A second series should be arriving on the BBC later in 2019, with both Waller-Bridge and on-screen rival Olivia Colman returning.
The Big Short
How the hell do you explain collateralised debt obligation to the 99% of the population that doesn’t work on Wall Street? Stick Margot Robbie in a bathtub, of course. Adam McKay’s scathing retelling of the 2007-2008 financial crisis is jam-packed with these little explainers. Just in case Ryan Gosling’s acerbic narrator hasn’t boiled it down enough for you already.
Don’t let the seemingly dry subject matter turn you off - The Big Short takes a complex money minefield and turns it into a devilishly funny and genuinely exciting tale. You’ll tune in for the incredible cast, but stay to the end for the dissection of adjustable-rate mortgages.
What We Do in the Shadows
Outstanding horror-comedies are few and far between – for every An American Werewolf in London, there are five Scary Movies – but this Kiwi mockumentary (directed by and starring Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi as well as Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement) about a group of dysfunctional vampires house-sharing hits the spot dead-on.
With plenty of laughs mined from the awkwardness of being a neurotic immortal living in the modern world, it errs on the comedy side of the line, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without the occasional genuine bit of creepiness. If you’re as much fan of This Is Spinal Tap as you are of The Lost Boys, here’s a movie that you certainly won’t think, er, sucks.
Will Ferrell’s patchy movie output doesn’t take away from the fact that when he’s good, he’s really good. Step Brothers is one of the films that – perhaps a little surprisingly, given its premise – proves this fact. Ferrell and the excellent John C. Reilly play coddled middle-aged man boys who still live with their respective mother and father – and are forced to live together as the titular step brothers when said parents get hitched.
If it sounds like the kind of script Adam Sandler would turn his nose up at, Step Brothers pivots swiftly from standard slapstick fare to, well, superior slapstick buddy comedy fare, as the enemies become allies in order to combat a greater threat. It won’t change your life, perhaps – but it will keep you laughing for 90 minutes of it.
The world doesn’t seem short on wry, quirksome comedy drama series exploring the crushing ennui of modern life, but Amazon has furnished us with another one – and it’s a delightful surprise.
Starring Maya Rudolf and Fred Armisen as a married couple struggling with an encroaching middle-aged itch, Forever starts off as one kind of show and quickly transforms into another. Funny, smart and affecting, it’s Amazon’s best new original series in a long time.
The Death of Stalin
Armando Iannucci brings his brand of political satire to one of modern history’s darkest chapters, as a gaggle of self-serving Soviet grandees – Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin, Jason Isaacs and Paul Whitehouse among them – farcically jostle for power in the wake of Joseph Stalin’s demise.
While it doesn’t quite hit the breezy highs of Iannucci’s debut movie In The Loop or his two series Veep and The Thick Of It (being set in a time and place where political rivals were regularly executed, it’s bleaker and more cynical even than them) The Death of Stalin skewers the absurdity of politics just as effectively, and raises many a laugh while doing so.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
North Norfolk’s finest broadcaster arrives on the silver screen in typical style – singing along to Roachford’s “Cuddly Toy” while driving to work – in this comic hostage drama, rich with all the awkwardness, pathos and lack of self-awareness you’d expect from Alan Partridge.
Alpha Papa might not win over non-fans, but anyone who’s adored Steve Coogan’s past work (and that’s many of you, we suspect) will get a huge kick out of seeing how Partridge works on a bigger-than-normal budget.
For those who like their comedies dark and stylish, this action-thriller-comedy mashup from Brit director Ben Wheatley features an all-star cast who spend most of its running time shooting at each other in a dilapidated factory.
It might not seem like the most fertile ground for laughs, but there’s an absurdist quality to Free Fire’s depiction of gunfights that’s really something – and it’s likely far more close to real-life than 99 percent of Hollywood shoot ‘em ups.
Amazon spent a long time trying to “do a Netflix” by creating its very own blockbusting TV shows, and Transperent was the moment it got it right. For a start, this is really bold – it tells the story of a sixtysomething divorcee announcing to his three grownup kids that he’s always felt different and is now going to live as a woman.
Sounds heavy, and it sort of is, but it’s also darkly funny, with a degree of wit and sharpness that’s still rare even in this golden age of TV. The bickering between the three kids (each of whom is riddled with their own individual problems and peccadillos) is as chucklesome as it is awkward and believable. Amazing telly.
Rejoice, for “the show about nothing” has finally come to a UK streaming service; now Prime customers have the perfect excuse to plough through all nine seasons of Jerry Seinfeld’s beloved sitcom.
An inventive, absurd and hilarious examination of the trivialities of modern life, never relying on slapstick or coddling viewers with cheap sentimentality, Seinfeld is quite simply a must-watch for all fans of comedy. With each episode clocking in at a little over 20 minutes, it’s also great fare for binge watching. Be warned: your Sundays will be eaten right up.
Parks and Recreation
The show that propelled Amy Poehler to Golden Globe-presenting notoriety and Chris Pratt to blockbuster ultra-stardom has its wit and one-liners honed to perfection. Taking Modern Family’s warmth, mixing it with Arrested Development’s absurdity and building it around The Office’s mockumentary formula, it centres on the inconsequential workdays of the least consequential department (Parks and Rec) of the council of madeup middle- American town of Pawnee, Indiana.
Like The Office, its brilliance lies in its characters and their relationships, although its comic set pieces are also ingenious. But unlike The Office, it’s not tragic – it’s bright, touching and will leave you grinning from cheek to cheek. It takes until series two to really hit its stride, but Parks and Recreation is a true must-see.