Netflix released its new original series “The Characters” last Friday, a show designed to showcase talents who may be known in the comedy scene but are not yet household names. Each episode presents a new comedian and their sketches, creating a kind of anthology series that has so far featured comedians such as Lauren Lapkus (probably their most widely known pick), Tim Robinson, John Early, and Kate Berlant.
“The Characters” allows each of these comedians the freedom to create any story they want, with most choosing a format of one primary sketch with multiple recurring side stories throughout, much like long-form improv. This is no coincidence, with many supporting actors working as comedians in New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade, a comedy club which features this style of performance. Featured actors included Jo Firestone, Connor O’Malley, Sue Galloway and Aparna Nancherla. Each episode is written in a unique way, as each comedian has their own style, so there is sure to be something for everyone.
The nature of the show allows each leading artist to showcase all their talents. By playing many characters throughout, like in live sketch comedy, comedians are able to show not only their range of ideas, but their range of characters as well. For example, Lauren Lapkus portrays the subject of a fictional dating television show, “The Single Celeb,” as her main role, as well as a teen boy, an absolutely terrifying drug addicted mother, a sad stripper and the most inconsiderate bus passenger of all time. The series started on the right foot with a recognizable and likable comedian — though her bachelor parody was much less abstract and awkward than later episodes. If you like a more conventional style of comedy, this episode as well as Natasha Rothwell’s may be right for you.
“Saturday Night Live” writer Tim Robinson didn’t follow the format of the others but instead had six independent sketches, all one-of-a-kind and unusual, the strangest one being a performance in which three men in sequined vests promised the audience they would point to each and every one of them and proceeded to try to do so. It may not have been his best sketch, but it was one that proved that he could make just about anything funny. The most genius sketch of his starts with a man picking out a gun, making it clearer and clearer throughout that he’s planning on killing all of the people who have embarrassed him over the years for his apparently wild bowel movements. As he continues to refer to his incidents as “a real paint job,” it just gets unbearably funny. If you like absurd comedy, this one as well as John Early’s episode are right for you.
For anyone looking for the best laughs, some recommendations are episodes featuring John Early, Kate Berlant, and Tim Robinson.
Comedy lovers should be thrilled that Netflix is offering comedians the resources to produce sketch comedy on such a popular platform and any of NYU’s UCB fans should be happy to see some familiar faces getting their chance to shine on the small screen.
“The Characters” is currently streaming on Netflix.
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