Yearly Departed Review: Hilarious, Relatable AF And Cathartic, This Roast Of 2020 Has Healing Powers!
Instagram’s usually so full of toxic positivity. But it was only this year that actually got me to call that shit out. That’s the degree of ‘effed up’ 2020 has been for all of us. Even a simple ‘Gud Mrng dear’ message on your WhatsApp family group or a rich-girl influencer posting a picture on the beach has the power to destroy your mood. Gee, thanks, 2020. Fortunately, we’re done with this year. But if you want true catharsis, might I recommend watching Yearly Departed on Amazon Prime Video? The hour-long comedy special, directed by Linda Mendoza, is hosted by Phoebe Robinson, and has some of the funniest women in America, Rachel Brosnahan, Tiffany Haddish, Patti Harrison, Natasha Legerro, Sarah Silverman, Natasha Rothwell, and Ziwe, roast the fuck out of this crazy-ass year. I mean, it gave us wildfires, a pandemic, murder hornets, a possible confirmation on aliens!
Watchu doin’, 2020, you tryna kill us? Well, the jokes on you, because this is your funeral and we’re here to tell you, roast in peace.
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The comedy special begins with a funeral home being prepared for the event, and a bunch of women, all dressed in black, taking up their seats in the audience. Phoebe Robinson, who is hosting this special, takes the podium with an urn labelled ‘2020’. Because let’s face it, this year deserves to be burned to the ground! We’ve got a pianist giving the perfect musical accompaniment, and an audience full of women who are the best cheerleaders a fellow comedian sis can ask for her! Let the eulogies begin!
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Yearly Departed is so brilliantly written and performed!
The Yearly Departed trailer was downright hilarious, and you know what that means? EXPECTATIONS, the size of the ones we have from 2021. But before I watched this comedy special, I checked out Death To 2020 on Netflix, which started out really hilarious and promising but ended up being entirely about the US Elections and POTUS Donald Trump. A tad boring, since we’ve been seeing enough of that already on late night talk shows and op-eds. And hello? Indian interest in US Elections is only up till the part where Kamala Harris talks about loving idli and dosa, okay?
I was ardently hoping that Yearly Departed wouldn’t make that mistake, and keep the topics a bit more varied so that the gags would be relatable for everyone and not just Americans.
Well, ladies came through, y’all! Writers Bess Kalb, Akilah Green, Karen Chee, Franchesca Ramsey and Jocelyn Richard wrote this roast of 2020 about the things that we lost this year. Of course, there were good things in that list, like casual sex, warm hugs, sharing food, travel, and so on. But there were also some things that we were high-key glad to see go, like grand weddings with hundreds of guests, and that sweaty, tiring work commute. 2020 may have given us the ‘every call is a video call now’ phenomenon, but the social distancing norm has successfully kept creeps away from ‘accidentally’ rubbing up against our bodies, with everyone maintaining, as Phoebe Robinson so kindly pointed out, one Sterling K.Brown worth of distance (six feet) from each other!
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What I loved the most about Yearly Departed, other than the concept and that excellent lineup, was the writing, of course. It was crisp, tight and most importantly inclusive, giving most of us the catharsis we deserve after a tumultuous year. I can’t imagine the difficult task before the writers, to pick things we’re happy/sad to say goodbye to in a year that has been super heavy on emotions. But when you see the sheer range on display here, you’re going to be impressed. My own reaction ranged from “What? How did they even think of this?” To “OMG, Yaaaas gurrrrl, I FEEL ya!” I won’t spoil some of the more crazy things that the ladies said RIP to, but the sesh begins with Tiffany Haddish bringing the house down (I know, already!) by bidding a fearsome farewell to ‘Casual Sex’, which clearly will cease now that we’re all very careful about who we share bodily fluids with. And as Haddish remarked, is all the efforts of quarantining and nasal swabbing so you can switch your ‘fuck pods’ even worth a casual fuck?
And then on and on it goes, from a tearful “Bye Felicia” to rich-girl Instagrammers to hoping against hope that people ditch the idea of bringing more children into this world because really, was this year-long nightmare full of screaming kids, zoom school classes and juggling WFH with raising kids not enough for ya?
The best part about a lot of these sets was how it married some cold hard facts and political statements with humour, without losing its fluffiness even one bit. When Rachel Brosnahan walked up to eulogise the need to wear pants in 2020, she cruised from talking about women’s right to wear pants as a symbol of rebellion against gender norms to the funniest punchline to close her set that you have to see to believe! What’s more, her joke continued, even when she walked off the stage, and played out for the rest of the special!
Similarly, both Natasha Rothwell and Ziwe made a strong case for humour as a strategy for non-violent protest against oppression, with their sets making loud and clear statements about the Black Lives Matter movement and racial bias in America. And when Sarah Silverman finally came up to talk about American politics, it didn’t feel overwhelming or excluding either, because the rest of the special had steered clear of it and focused on more relatable things.
So, umm, whoever said women aren’t funny? This is your funeral too!
A huge kudos to these ladies for delivering these well-written sets (with a straight face) with such conviction! I can imagine how hard it must’ve been to keep a straight face or not burst out laughing (not you, Tiffany, we saw that!) at the jokes and the energy that each of them brought to their act. I’m pretty sure they improvised on the already kickass material, and the collaboration really clicked. So whoever said women aren’t funny and female comedians suck, you suck on that!
I love, love, LOVE that this is an all-women’s team bringing us this comedy special. Particularly, because while this year has been a hellish ordeal for everyone on the planet, I’m going to go ahead and say me and my kind have suffered a shade more. From the double burden syndrome of juggling both home and work-from-home responsibilities, or getting laid off, to managing frustrated kids, dealing with the pressures that come from leading an increasingly digital life, and not getting any physical support (no hugs, no casual sex, no bras), women saw a year that oppressed them more than usual.
Not to mention, the rise in crimes against women, lack of reproductive health, regressive policies like aborting abortion laws that set progress in women empowerment back several years…. It felt like 2020 was conspiring to just put women down.
And so we totally deserved to blow off some steam by ranting about it. And Yearly Departed just gave us that. But because we women are all about inclusivity, we made sure our rants were cathartic not just for our fellow womxn but for every one, irrespective of age, gender, or geographical origin. The end credits will treat you to a hilarious behind-the-scenes of shooting the special, and it is worth watching!
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Verdict: Yearly Departed is the ‘2020 Is Over’ party you do not want to miss! It gives you catharsis that just might have healing powers!
You wanna know how I watched Yearly Departed? I was in my bedroom, dressed in my holey PJs (what else?) painting my nails and channelling Tiffany Haddish’s energy to scream “Yaaas girl amen!” every time one of this ladies spoke something relatable. Which was every other sentence! TBH, Yearly Departed has the same energy as a girls’ night in, where you grab a hairbrush, turn it into a microphone, and give your comeback speech that you never got to give to that SOB ex-boyfriend or the biaatch who judged you in the Starbucks line. While your girlfriends cheer you on.
At the end of it, I felt the catharsis wash over me and it got me super gung-ho about 2021! And not to spoil it for ya, but that closing act by a surprise guest just made me laugh out loud and cry at the same time. I mean, I never thought it was possible until I met 2020, which gave us both work-from-home in PJs but also extra long work shifts. You get me?
So please, if there’s one last thing you do before we close, nay, slam the door on 2020, let it be watching Yearly Departed. It’s better than any 2020 is cancelled party you’re going to attend. And it has healing powers.
Thank you, ladies, for the best roast of 2020. I AM DECEASED!
PS: Can we do this every year now?
Yearly Departed is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.