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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The Disaster Artist
James Franco directs and stars in this retelling of the making of the best terrible movie ever: Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.
Franco’s performance as the vampiric Wiseau (Where is he really from? How old is he? Where does all his money come from?) is eerily accurate, while his real-life brother Dave plays Greg Sestero, the wide-eyed wannabe who gets drawn into Wiseau’s opus of wooden acting, bizarre plotlines and cringe-worthy love scenes.
While Franco has smartly made The Disaster Artist accessible for everyone, those who have seen The Room will likely get more of a kick out of it. The Room itself is a strangely enjoyable piece of work in its own right, somehow transcending its all-round dreadfulness to become something almost magical. Seek it out if you can.
To call Olivia Wilde’s teen comedy a female-centric Superbad does it a huge disservice; Booksmart stands up brilliantly on its own. At the same time, it’s hard to ignore the parallels in the two films: both centre around a pair of seemingly inseparable friends in the final days of high school who are dragged into a wild night of partying, self-discovery and hopeless attempts to lose their virginities before heading out into the “real world”.
Appropriately enough Booksmart star Beanie Feldstein is the kid sister of Superbad’s Jonah Hill; with any luck she’ll go on to enjoy the same level of success as her Oscar-nominated brother. Feldstein and co-star Kaitlyn Dever are charming, moving and hilarious as the academically obsessed BFFs who realise (possibly too late) that they may have wasted the best years of their lives in pursuit of good grades.
South Park (S1-21)
In terms of animated comedies, only The Simpsons has run for longer than South Park. Crude in every sense of the word, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s sitcom about four boys in a small Colorado town has become iconic for its topical subject matter, its savage skewering of celebrities, pop culture and trends and its unabashed love for toilet humour.
Amazon has a full 20 seasons of South Park for you to get through (and that doesn’t include the most recent few), and while the quality may vary the briskness of the episodes and the aforementioned toilet humour keeps things ticking along even when the topicality of the subject matter is years out of date.
Dan Harmon’s sitcom about an American community college (widely regarded Stateside as a sort of low-rent vocational alternative to university) is packed with exactly the sort of knowing pop culture references, clever subversion of cliché and OTT characters that film and TV geeks adore. Little wonder it quickly established itself as a cult favourite – and now you can find out what all the fuss is about by binging the entire thing: all six seasons are available for streaming on Prime Video.
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
Gus Van Sant’s well-crafted comic biopic stars a memorable Joaquin Phoenix as John Callahan, an alcoholic who embarks on one bender too many, resulting in a devastating car crash. Paralysed, plunged into a deep depression, and still boozing, Callahan eventually finds solace in friends, art and the twelve-step programme.
Phoenix is typically excellent as the often-unlikeable Callahan, and there’s also superb support from Jonah Hill and Rooney Mara. A funny, thought-provoking and inspiring tale about conquering your worst impulses and “choosing life” – with little of the sentimental cheese that often creeps into such films.
Freaks and Geeks (S1)
Before Judd Apatow and Paul Feig hit the big screen directing the likes of Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Bridesmaids, they co-created a little TV comedy-drama based on Feig’s own adolescence in early 1980s Michigan. Dubbed Freaks and Geeks (most of its main characters fall into one or both of these categories) it lasted only one 18-part season, a fact that’s still hard to fathom given how fantastic it is.
Perhaps viewers just weren’t ready for a well-written, funny and entirely honest portrayal of the highs and lows of high school. Despite its untimely demise, it kickstarted a bunch of major Hollywood careers (James Franco, Jason Segel and Seth Rogen being the obvious examples) and is regarded as a cult classic almost 20 years later. All the episodes are now streaming on Amazon Prime, so why not go back to school?
The Office (US, S1-9)
It might have started out as a pale shade of the British original, but NBC’s long-running sitcom quickly found its feet and its own comedic voice. Even if Steve Carell’s Michael Scott is a bit broader and a bit less melancholy than Ricky Gervais’ David Brent, it’s hard to deny that Carell has made the role of “awkward boss at a mid-level paper company” his own, and made himself into a massive star in the process.
You know the drill: The Office is a sort-of mockumentary set in a dreary Pennsylvania workplace populated by a few normal folks – representing us, the viewers – and a few caricatures. The comedy mostly springs from the interactions between the two, and the formula works so well that NBC managed to keep it going for an astonishing nine seasons.
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, with both Waller-Bridge and on-screen rival Olivia Colman returning, is also now available to stream on Prime Video – albeit not for free. If you have access to BBC iPlayer, however, have at it on there.
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.
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.