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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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.
Shaun of the Dead
The first and finest of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s “Cornetto trilogy”, this rom-zom-com leans more towards guffaws than gore – although it’s not without its moments of guts-out violence or affecting drama.
Pegg plays the titular Shaun, a London shop worker who’d rather be gaming, boozing or listening to electro with his feckless best mate Ed than moving up the professional ladder or proving himself serious marriage material to his girlfriend. When a bust-up prompts him to change his ways, it just happens to coincide with an outbreak of the undead. Now Shaun must traverse ghoul-infested suburbia to rescue his loved ones and survive the night.
Packed with clever references, sight gags (Wright’s signature quick-fire editing is on-point) and scorching one-liners, Shaun of the Dead adds up to far more than your average horror comedy. There’s a real heart and soul to it too, and it’s easy to see why Pegg and Wright have become hot Hollywood properties since its release.
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.
Inside No. 9
Having made their name with The League Of Gentlemen and Psychoville, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith set about creating Inside No. 9 – three series (although only the first two are available on Amazon) of self-contained stories that have one thing in common: they’ll keep you guessing right til the end.
Whether it’s a death on a sleeper train, a game of hide ‘n’ seek with extreme consequences, or the silent episode about a pair of hapless burglars, the writing here blows most of its contemporaries out of the water, with a macabre twist in the tail. While it won’t always have you rolling off the sofa with laughter, there’s normally at least one absolute gem of a gag in each episode.
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.