Larry Charles’ Dangerous World of Comedy is an eye-opening look into the universality of what laughter, and what we all, as human beings, have in common.
The ability to laugh at ourselves and others has long been the sword and shield that humanity wields in the great, merciless colosseum of life. Sometimes, in the sensitive, politically-correct world of 2019, it’s easy to forget the unique ability we have as human beings to find humour in that we hold most sacred; to laugh at our flaws, to mock our scruples, and to lead people by the hand through dangerous and challenging territory. Laugher makes people better, emotionally and psychologically. It’s a global, unifying force, and like all energy, it can’t be created or destroyed – it can only change its form. Larry Charles’ Dangerous World of Comedy, new on Netflix today, seeks out that laughter in the oddest of forms, in the strangest places, from warzones to the United States and the Middle East.
Across four episodes, Larry Charles’ Dangerous World of Comedy hones in on the stigmatised and oppressed, on people trapped in war-torn regions or regressive political climates, and roots around for what’s funny. Sometimes it’s an individual or an idea; others it’s a challenge to authority, a grim irony, or a self-deprecating stand-up bit from someone who has swatted away pity to provoke a more nourishing emotion. The people, places and politics of comedy are endless, but laughter always sounds the same.
Like Comedians of the World, another of Netflix’s forays into global comedy, Larry Charles’ Dangerous World of Comedy is more concerned with what unites us than divides us. It isn’t just the ability to take a joke, but the ability to find one where you’d imagine none would exist; to make that idea palatable not just to yourself but to others, who need the salve perhaps even more than you do. The documentary series is less expansive than that anthological format, but not in its ideas or its intention. The point being made is still the same one, but Dangerous World of Comedy benefits from its documentary format, deploying archival footage and provoking insight from a range of interviewees that helps to reinforce the universality of taking the ****.
It could have perhaps stood to be a bit longer, a bit more expansive, but nonetheless Larry Charles’ Dangerous World of Comedy is an insightful and uplifting piece of work that feels more necessary now than ever. As long as it remains so crucial not to forget the power of laugher and how it can help us survive the traumas we’ll all inevitably be beset by, shows like this one are integral to understanding quite how much we all have in common.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.