'Yearly Departed’ a reflection of what 2020 meant to people: writer Bess Kalb

·3-min read

New Delhi, Dec 25 (PTI) Writer Bess Kalb says as a comedian she always tries to make things better with a joke and her comedy special 'Yearly Departed' is an attempt at making sense of all that happened in the year, upended by the coronavirus pandemic.

The special brings together an all-female lineup of American comedians to deliver eulogies on topics ranging from casual sex to beige Band-Aids and everything in between people have “lost” this year.

Kalb, who is also one of the executive producers on the special set to premiere on Amazon Prime Video on December 30, said 2020 was a constant act of letting go of expectations for many including her.

“As a comedy writer, I am constantly trying to process tragedy and bad news through the lens of comedy. And this year it has been nothing but tragedy upon tragedy and more bad news. As a writer, I was doing what I always do, which is trying to make things better with a joke,” Kalb told PTI in a telephonic interview.

The female-led lineup of the show, hosted by Phoebe Robinson, features famous names such as Rachel Brosnahan, Ziwe, Tiffany Haddish, Sarah Silverman, Natasha Rothwell, Patti Harrison and Natasha Leggero.

Kalb said the attempt was to include a wide range of experiences by bringing in writers with different stories.

“What came together in ‘Yearly Departed’ is a representative reflection of what the year meant to many people. Hopefully, the audience will be able to see themselves in some of the eulogies that comedians deliver in the show...

'We just wrote and wrote and wrote until we figured out what made everybody laugh,” she said, adding that the important part was to make people feel included and represented.

As a comedy writer, Kalb said it was important for her to keep the experiences true to what was happening around the world, given the global protests and reckonings on race.

Asked how the team managed to bring together such an interesting ensemble for the show, the 33-year-old scribe said they had an incredible team working on the cast.

But sometimes it was a case of reaching out to people through “personal connections, begging and honestly showing people examples of the job we were going to do', she added.

The biggest learning for Kalb in the year has been about rejoicing in the “small victories” rather than making grand plans.

“I think being able to be flexible and let go of expectations is the most important thing this year... We all had plans going into this year, grand ideas of what it would look like, and it is safe to say it was nothing like how we imagined. This year for me has been a constant act of letting go of expectations, and being grateful for the small victories every day, even if it just meant putting on pants that day.” Kalb, an Emmy Award-nominated writer for the the talk show 'Jimmy Kimmel Live!', said she considers herself lucky to be working at a time when female voices are celebrated and supported in the media, but there is still a long way to go.

'One of the things that's so exciting about ‘Yearly Departed’ to me is that it's not a comedy lineup with a token woman or two. It's a comedy lineup of women. It's just there really aren't many things like that... I'm excited every time I see female comedians get their shot and get moments in the spotlight.

'I'm so happy that 'Yearly Departed' is a part of that movement of putting female comedians in the spotlight and female comedy writers behind peg. It's getting better and better. I'm optimistic,' she added.

Kalb, meanwhile, is looking forward to the coronavirus vaccine to bring life back to normal.

'But what I really hope to do as soon as possible is to watch a movie by myself in a theatre with a big tub of popcorn and Diet Coke.' PTI BK SHD SHD