While much of the world was eager to bid farewell to the year that brought the world to a standstill, a team of female comics decided to the best way to kick 2020 to the curb was to give the year its own funeral. Yearly Departed, a one-off Amazon comedy special sees a line-up of top comedians including Rachel Brosnahan, Tiffany Haddish, Natasha Rothwell, Patti Harrison, Natasha Leggero, Ziwe and Sarah Silverman put to bed an abysmal year with a series of eulogies that say goodbye to things such as casual sex, TV cops, Making America Great Again and pants.
Speaking at the Amazon panel at Deadline’s Contenders TV Documentary + Unscripted virtual event, head writer and executive producer Bess Kalb said the special was a great way for them to use comedy as catharsis to deal with an awful year.
Contenders TV: Full Panel Coverage
“What you see on screen was us processing our darkest, darkest feelings of this year and what we were moving on from but doing it in the only way we know how as comedy writers and performers, which is to joke about it,” said Kalb.
Writer Franchesca Ramsey said that while the writers rooms over Zoom were “very surreal,” the process between writers and comics was very collaborative. “We had a lot of fun on set, making sure it was in people’s own words, making sure they felt comfortable with the material,” she said. “We made sure we picked eulogies that really spoke to our eulogists and their backgrounds.”
For Brosnahan, who is also an exec producer on the show, this was the “perfect way to go back” on a set after a hiatus due to the global pandemic. Being banded with this group of women in front of and behind the camera felt like a very safe space to be, she said. “As women we all know what it’s like to feel like we’re not cared for on set,” said Brosnahan. “I don’t think there’s a woman out there who hasn’t had that experience in the workplace to some degree, so it was really important to all of us that we were creating something that had purpose and was greater than ourselves.”
It isn’t until the end credits of Yearly Departed that viewers realize that the comedians were not actually filming in the same room together due to Covid and that green-screen pods were used for the shoot. Director Linda Mendoza, who leads the charge in navigating the performances, said that while it was filmed under challenging conditions, the show was “really cool and different.”
She said: “It had a real narrative and part of that narrative was the sisterhood, a comradery between women…in the toughest of times. It was one of the best experiences of my career.”
Check out the panel video above.
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