The Best Jokes of 2022 (So Far) Prove It’s Okay to Laugh Even When You’re Sad

It takes a set of brass you-know-whats to make comedy in the year 2022. Why would anyone voluntarily subject themselves to the cancel culture minefield that is living in public? How does someone find levity in (*gestures wildly*) all of this? Well, somebody has to—after all, comedy has well-documented healing powers.

The planet might have a fever but never forget the old adage: laughter is the best medicine for global warming. Democracy on life support? Quick, somebody call an amateur improviser! Sometimes, the only thing you can do in the face of mounting insanity is cock your head back and let out a good scream-laugh.

So, in that spirit, here are the best jokes of 2022 (so far).

Jerrod Carmichael, Rothaniel

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The best stand-up comedians aren’t always funny. In fact, the great ones do more than just sling jokes; they use stand-up as an opportunity to clarify something—either for themselves or the audience. In his latest HBO special, Rothaniel, Jerrod Carmichael does both. Stylishly directed by Bo Burnham, Rothaniel is a poignant exploration of Carmichael’s identity and his and his family’s propensity for keeping secrets. This is heavy stuff, but Carmichael navigates it with enviable grace and uncensored emotion. I won’t ruin it by saying more, but just know: Jerrod Carmichael is the G.O.A.T.

    Stream on HBO Max

    Tariq’s Anti-Drug Rap: Abbott Elementary

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    Alternative comedian Zack Fox is the sleeper hit within the hit show Abbott Elementary. His performance as Jeanine’s long-term partner, Tariq, goes way beyond what is demanded of the buffoon boyfriend trope. Tariq’1s fuck-ups are reliably funny, but the moments when Tariq is sincerely trying to be a better guy are even funnier. Take, for instance, the anti-drug rap he performs for the Abbott students. Fancying himself a sophisticated MC, Tariq cuts the music mid-performance, grabs a small student, and asks in a serious and sincere tone “What if this lil’ shawty stage manager died right now?” He was aiming for an “artistic interlude.” Instead, he made everyone feel uncomfortable, and it was hilarious.

    Taylor Tomlinson, Look at You

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    If we ever successfully de-stigmatize mental illness, it’ll be in no small part because of stand-up comedians. Depression, anxiety, addiction—these things can be hard to talk about, but in the hands of an ace like Nate Brennan or Maria Bamford, they can make for great sets that are as compassionate as they are comedic. In her new Netflix special, Look at You, stand-up comedian Taylor Tomlinson mines her recent bi-polar diagnosis for a show’s worth of perfectly crafted punchlines. The best moment comes when she compares having bi-polar to not being able to swim—“It might be embarrassing and it might be hard to take you places.”—and extends the metaphor into an elegant, 10-minute bit that includes likening her medicine to arm floaties and suggesting that adults who can float on their own must’ve had parents who supported them in the pool as children. It’s fucking hilarious and will probably make you want to hug the next child you see in arm floaties—a true win-win.

    Watch on Netflix

    Ms. Pat: Y’all Wanna Hear Something Crazy?

    As the title of her new Netflix special suggests, Ms. Pat is equal parts stand-up and storyteller. Like her hero, Richard Pryor, she fearlessly tells stories mined from her personal life that require audiences to “open their minds” (a phrase she repeats frequently throughout her latest special) and leave their judgments at the door. She makes this request because she knows many of the stories she recounts in Y’all Wanna Hear Something Crazy? are so outrageous and mired in tragedy that laughing at them might feel wrong to some.

    Case and point: the three minutes she does on her Uncle Cecil towards the middle of the special. Uncle Cecil, she explains, suffered from seizures, was crippled, and developmentally disabled (Ms. Pat doesn’t name a specific condition.) The story gets worse: Ms. Pat’s grandfather was convinced that weekly sex with a prostitute would help solve Cecil’s seizures. And worse: He asked Ms. Pat and her cousin to “warm Cecil up” for the prostitute.

    This is obviously a problematic story on multiple levels. Sex work, disabilities, and sexual abuse are the holy grail of off-limits topics for comedians. But it’s Ms. Pat’s story to tell and she does so in hilarious, scene-setting detail, plus compassion for every character involved—most importantly herself. It takes some courage to laugh with Ms. Pat about the past, but the reward is well worth the effort because in laughing alongside her, it’s clear the audience helps Ms. Pat heal too.

    Watch Here

    River Butcher: A Different Kind of Dude

    River Butcher’s 30-minute Comedy Central special is a master-class in culture war commentary. Watch as they bob and weave their way through a set that touches on topics as varied as white women’s performative allyship to their Dad’s Google search history; turns out both Butcher and their Dad are b00bs guys. The best joke of the set comes when Butcher mentions they got divorced during the pandemic. “Yes, queer people are getting divorced,” says Butcher, before pivoting to an impression of an outraged right-winger: “What’s next, divorcing your dog?” A moment later Butcher lets go of the bit and laughs. “I love that joke,” they say. We do too.

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      Weekend Update: Three Guys Who Just Bought a Boat

      SNL cast members use the “Weekend Update” desk to try out new characters and impressions. Sometimes the characters become one-off viral sensations like Dr. Weknowdis or the Titanic Iceberg. More often, they show up, develop a temporary fanbase, then go the way of the dodo bird when the cast member who performs them retires. These are your Garth and Kats, Drunk Uncles, and Bjorks. A select few characters become legends—Roseanne Roseannadanna, Opera Man, Stefon—and rise from the dead whenever the cast member who performed them returns to host.

      It’s too soon to tell which category “Guy Who Just Bought a Boat” will land in, but the character, portrayed by Alex Moffatt in perfect douchebag mode, was firing on all cylinders (sails?) during a recent, mid-January appearance. Moffat used the news of Colin Jost and Pete Davidson buying a Staten Island ferry to buddy up to the SNL co-stars and hilariously implicate them in his deviant and desperate hijinks. Best line? It’s a toss-up between, “You’re pulling a double-teamer on this steamer?” and “My boy CoyJoy and SNL boy-toy are saying Ahoy-hoy to an aquatic toy-toy.”

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      It’s Becoming Pretty Clear that the Crossword Constructor Is Going Through SomethingThe New Yorker

      Crosswords are a reflection of their maker and clearly, the maker of this crossword has seen better days. The puzzle begins innocently enough, but by 3 Across, it’s clear something is up. Why else include “dueling tool,” of all things, as a clue? The crossword actually works, so fill it in, or just skip to the answers, to figure out what’s going on with this poor bastard.

      Stephen Colbert on Russia and Ukraine

      Stephen Colbert knows how to use silliness in even the gravest of situations. Take for example the simple, economical, joke stuffed inside a transitional moment in the monologue below: “I’m talking of course about the situation in Ukraine,” Colbert says, “or as Vladimir Putin calls it: Mykaine.” Is it stupid? Sure it is, but so is the idea of a third world war. Colbert is simply meeting the news where it’s at. Stick around to see Colbert’s ace impression of a suspiciously calm Volodymyr Zelensky.

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      Janelle James, The Stand-Ups

      In her recent appearance on Netflix’s The Stand-Ups, Janelle James delivered one hell of a line. Discussing how bewildering it is to witness her young son (James is the mother of two teenagers) transition into a grown man, James says she’s proud of him, then jokes: “He’s got a big dick just like his Mom.” The joke elicits a full minute of howls and laughter from the audience as James carries on, confident and relaxed, with her set. Between the Netflix performance and her starring role on the ABC comedy Abbott Elementary, Janelle James seems destined for a well-deserved, breakout year.

      Watch Here

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      This Onion Article

      The joke is in the headline: “​​Teacher Fired For Breaking State’s Critical Race Theory Laws After Telling Students She’s Black.” It’s funny—and terrifying—because it’s believable.

      President Biden’s Hot Mic Moment

      President Biden got off to an early start with the gaffes this year. At the tail-end of a marathon press conference, the Commander-in-Chief was caught calling a Fox News White House Correspondent Peter Doocy a “stupid son of a bitch” on a hot microphone. It was a hilarious, mostly harmless moment, and an understandable reaction to an obnoxious question. Obviously, inflation is a mid-term liability. Nevertheless, President Biden apologized to Doocy.

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      John Early and Aidy Bryant Go Public with Their Relationship

      John Early and Aidy Bryant took to Late Night with Seth Meyers to do an impression of 2022’s most insufferable couple: Machine Gun Kelly and Meghan Fox. Let’s hope we get a follow-up performance, when the infamous “I am weed” pair inevitably breaks up.

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