Strangers with Candy (The Complete Series) (1999-00)

I hate to sound like ‘that’ guy, but while I was watching Comedy Central’s cult classic series, I kept giggling to myself thinking about how the ‘woke’ police would likely have conniption fits every few minutes of any given episode. I say that as a bit of an honorary member of the ‘woke’ police myself, but I appreciate a deliberately, severely offensive joke, and boy oh boy “Strangers with Candy” delivers in spades. It’s basically a black-hearted, mean-spirited parody of afterschool specials of the late ’70s and early ’80s (like the anorexia teleplay “The Best Little Girl in the World,” which gets lovingly skewered in the “Feather in the Storm” episode, right down to a parody of its Joni Mitchell theme song, “Songs to Aging Children Come”), with Amy Sedaris as Jerri Blank, a middle-aged runaway-turned-junkie-turned-high-school-student fumbling her way through a second adolescence. On top of being hysterically, screamingly funny every single episode, it’s also blessed with some extraordinary comedic talent: Sedaris is priceless, throwing herself into the pathologically unflattering role with an abandon that’s as remarkable as it is thorough, while Stephen Colbert steals scenes left and right with his inestimable deadpan delivery as her closeted teacher, and Deborah Rush manages to deliver every one of her lines with trenchant apathy that practically demands a laugh as her hateful stepmother. It’s 30 episodes of laugh-out-loud funny black comedy that delights in offending as many people as possible and using language that’s unspeakably trashy to get a nervous gasp from the audience, and it works every single time.

Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)

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