As we put a bow on 2019, it’s time once again for me to sit down with New York Times comedy critic Jason Zinoman to look back on the year’s best and brightest moments in comedy, and which comedians brought out the best. We couldn’t help but discuss cancel culture, and whom that actually applied to this year. We also talked up the big years for Sebastian Maniscalco and Tiffany Haddish, the greatness of Gary Gulman and Anthony Jeselnik, and breakthroughs for Jacqueline Novak, Ronny Chieng and Ramy Youssef. We noted big years for Amy Schumer, Nikki Glaser and Julio Torres. We debated the relative greatness of Bill Burr and Dave Chappelle. We noted the other ways comedians made themselves noticed, whether they were clowns in real life, or amusing us via Instagram and Twitter. And we paused to reflect on how Joe Rogan became the biggest talk show host around. All that and more marked the year in comedy of 2019. So let’s get to it!
Becky Robinson grew up in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, and studied business at San Diego State University before she threw her everything into show business. A video she made of a McDonald’s wedding proposal gone awry went viral in the summer of 2015, leading her to multiple gigs, first going undercover as an on-the-street correspondent for Funny or Die, then as herself showing off her freestyle rapping chops on MTV’s Wild N’ Out with Nick Cannon. In 2018, Robinson went to Montreal to showcase with other New Faces in the Characters category, while also developing her own potential sketch comedy series with E! Comedy Central sent her to Comic-Con 2019 in character as techie Alan Gingrich. Now she’s shopping her potential TV series to other networks, while also showing off her range in her first headlining tour, called Snow Circus. She sat down with me as herself in New York City just before her tour launched at Gotham Comedy Club, so let’s get to it!
Abby McEnany stars as a fictionalized version of herself in the new Showtime series Work In Progress. On Showtime, Abby is a 45-year-old overweight queer dyke from Chicago who plans to commit suicide in 180 days if her live doesn’t get any better. Can she become a work in progress before it’s too late? In real life, McEnany is still queer and based in the Windy City, but a little bit older and happier, thanks in part to her longtime involvement in Chicago’s improv comedy community — she’s been a mainstay of improv Olympic’s weekly improv group Virgin Daiquiri for the past decade. That group’s alums include SNL stars Aidy Bryant and Cecily Strong. McEnany created Work In Progress with another Chicago improviser, Tim Mason, and they independently filmed the pilot, premiering it in January 2019 at Sundance. Showtime picked it up to series, and Lilly Wachowski came on board as a co-writer and showrunner. Abby walks me through all of those progressions, both personal and professional, so let’s get to it!