This close to Halloween, I figure the only way to get your attention with a headline is to make it spooky. This is really a blog post about comedy panel shows and how much I want to have their babies.
I am obsessed with them, but not darkly, and I have been ever since we visited London and, battling jetlag, discovered a QI marathon on the “telly.” QI is a British panel show in which comedians (mostly) attempt to answer quiz questions posed by British treasure Stephen Fry. Mostly, people make jokes and try to avoid the obvious wrong answers which result in negative points. Fry is joined in every episode by his sidekick, Alan Davies. Two episodes into this show, we were hooked. I remember discovering QI as warmly as I do visiting the Tower of London. So I’ve been hooked on comedy panel shows since that first taste.
I’ve always adored stand-up comedy, and I love trivia and games. My dad loved Carlin (and, oddly, Gallagher), so we watched a lot of stand-up specials as a kid. And I’m a nerd, so of COURSE I love trivia. Comedy panel shows like QI, Nevermind the Buzzcocks, or 8 out of 10 Cats are tailor-made to be my version of television crack. Only they’re much harder to get than crack.
These shows are not popular in the United States and as far as I know almost never air here as imports and rarely as locally made variants. The closest thing we’ve ever had was Whose Line Is It Anyway? which was a British import I believe, and really not a panel show–improv is its own beast. Because of this, to get my fix, I’ve been forced to illicitly download the UK shows. I mean, allegedly download them.
Now, I can get some of my fixes without violating byzantine international copyright laws. Thanks to Comedy Central, I’ve been able to witness an American take on the comedy panel show that actually works quite well–it’s called @Midnight, and it’s hosted by Chris Hardwick. I’ve never been a Hardwick/Nerdist fan, but he’s rapidly growing on me, six episodes in.
The show has had some great comedians on already, such as Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, Nikki Glaser, to name a few. It’s your standard “the points really don’t matter, this format is entirely an excuse to get comedians to make up jokes on the spot” type of show. As you might expect, due perhaps in part to its time slot of midnight, the jokes are raunchier than any British comedy panel show, or perhaps the language is just coarser. There are plenty of innuendo sexual humor jokes on a show like QI. But American comedians don’t really do innuendo as far as I can tell. They’re more straightforward with their raunch. Luckily, I can appreciate both sides of the sexual humor divide.
If you’re not watching @Midnight and you like stand-up comics, I recommend you give it a try. It helps if you’re a Twitter/internet meme addict, because the entire format of the show is pretty Internet-centric, with a lot of rounds based on hashtag humor and the like. I think it’s funnier than the Daily Show, and the Kumail episode (the first one) was the hardest I have laughed at American comics since Kumail’s special, Beta Male.