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The Quiet Humor of “The Comedians”

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What is quiet humor? I don’t know, exactly. It’s not the easiest concept to explain. It’s not easy to explain why I really really like “The Comedians” though I mostly don’t find it laugh-out-loud funny. I find it compelling. I find it poignant. At times I find it extraordinarily clever. But its humor is quiet. Don’t get me wrong. It’s funny; it’s really funny. It’s just not loud funny.

“The Comedians” is a show within a show–a mockumentary about Billy Chrystal and Josh Gad (former “Daily Show” correspondent and OLAF) trying to get their new FX sketch show off the ground. They’re not quite gelling as comedy partners and they’re unsure about the fate of this rather risky endeavor.

I love watching Billy Crystal do subtle. Please forget everything you know his about imitations of Sammy Davis Jr. and the catchphrase “You look mahvelous.” This is not the Crystal you were looking for. The Crystal you’ll find in “The Comedians” is a low-key guy who’s in the twilight of his career sharing the stage with a guy who’s at dawn of his. There’s a little bit of bittersweet flavoring just about everything he does and every line he utters, and it’s lovely.

Josh Gad, meanwhile, is  perfection as an up-and-coming actor who’s caught between wanting to compete with or openly worship the comedy icon he’s been paired with. Watching that tension at work in Gad is gobs of fun.

I feel like “The Comedians” cribs a lot from its sister show, “Louie,” but, geez, if you’re gonna crib…why not crib from the show that’s mastered the art of wringing humor from the deeply uncomfortable situations? Let’s put it this way, if you like “Louie,” you probably won’t hate “The Comedians.” And if you like the idea of two comedians getting baked, hanging out in a grocery store and fighting with blow-up sea mammals, you’ll probably like “The Comedians.” And if you like the idea of grainy security camera footage capturing Billy Chrystal trying to steal a blow-up sea mammal by simply running out of the store with it, you may, like me,  love “The Comedians.” I didn’t know what to make of the show the first couple of times I saw it, but I’ve decided it’s a surreal and hilarious. Quietly hilarious.

Are there any shows/movies  you think are “quietly” funny?

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