2017: The Year in Comedy and Humour

A round-up of the best comedy of 2017 from across the arts

Feature by Ben Venables | 06 Dec 2017
My Life as a Courgette

The Best Comedy in Books: Adam Kay – This is Going to Hurt

Comedian Adam Kay's memoir of his time as a junior doctor sometimes reads more like a world record attempt at sleep deprivation, such are the working conditions endured by young medics. Still, with a cast of zombified doctors and symptomatic patients there's no shortage of humour. The book gives Kay room to expand on his celebrated 2016 Edinburgh Fringe show Fingering A Minor on the Piano. And his scalpel has lost none of its sharp edge in prose with his searing open letter to weasel faced dope (and health secretary) Jeremy Hunt.

Adam Kay: This is Going to Hurt, Picador, out now

On Film: My Life as a Courgette

Swiss director Claude Barras' debut feature was unlucky to miss out at the Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature, the prize going instead to Disney's Zootopia. The film is a stop motion about an orphan, Courgette, as he gets used to life in a foster home. The story then follows the boy as he makes new friends with the other kids and builds a rapport with Raymond, a kindly police officer. The film's scenes unfold at a gentle pace, and this is partly how it maintains a tone of bittersweetness throughout, often seeming simultaneously comedic and dramatic. 

My Life as a Courgette, DVD, Blu-ray and download, Thunderbird Releasing, out now

In Music: Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

It is sometimes difficult to know how seriously to take John Tillman's onstage persona as Father John Misty. The title of his 2017 album – Pure Comedy – suggests he's gone full blown character comedian. Yet, he's perhaps never been more serious. Pure Comedy is a 70-plus minute diatribe against the ills of contemporary culture and politics where, ultimately, the joke is on the human race. Misty even seems to look forward to our extinction. In July, our music editor Tallah Brash experienced a similar feeling when hearing about Ed Sheeran's nomination for a Mercury Music Award. "Is Ed Sheeran really all that remarkable? The answer is a resounding no. No, he isn't."

Father John Misty: Pure Comedy, Bella Union / Sub Pop, out now

In Stand-up Comedy: Hannah Gadsby – Nanette

In November, Hannah Gadsby tweeted that what she performs is not really stand-up. Winning accolades throughout 2017 in Adelaide, Melbourne and Edinburgh respectively, Nanette does seem less like a stand-up hour and more like a day of reckoning addressing comedy's limitations. It's about prejudice and violence, the art and the artist, and even an explainer on how a joke works. Like all of Gadsby's work, Nanette lingers and changes the way you see the world afterwards. It's disquieting, but changes to our perspective often are.

On TV: Inside No. 9

Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith presented the 2017 Edinburgh Comedy Award to Hannah Gadsby and John Robins, twenty years since they won it themselves as part of The League of Gentlemen. Their peculiar comedy-horror, Inside No. 9, which returned with a confident third series, might be their best work. An episode can take you to unexpected places, such as to a karaoke booth and then the stories are just as unpredictable: plots might revolve around a crossword puzzle or a lost shoe. Every week is compelling and no scene is ever wasted.

Inside No. 9: Series 3, BBC, DVD and download, out now