The Nine Funniest Documentaries You Can Stream Right Now
Truth is not only stranger than fiction but it’s often funnier as well. If you’ve had your fill of Office reruns or need a Step Brothers breather, maybe it’s time to check out some gems that are all the more hilarious simply because they’re true. You already know about the Michael (Bowling for Columbine) Moores and Morgan (Supersize Me) Spurlocks of the world, so let’s dive deeper for some reality-based laughs.
American Movie, streaming for free on the Internet Archive
The wickedly great story of Wisconsin independent filmmaker Mark Borchardt and his epic quest to produce a short horror movie, Coven (pronounced with a long O). Borchardt and his guitar-shredding buddy, the late, great Mike Schank, demonstrate that drive is more important than training and talent for making dreams come true. The off-kilter performances were so winning that Borchardt and Schank became semi-regulars on Letterman.
Winnebago Man, streaming for free on YouTube
Meet the ex-TV news anchor whom the internet dubbed “The Angriest Man in the World.” Jack Rebney became one of the first viral superstars when profane outtakes from a Winnebago sales video made their way around the early days of the web. A movie made up of f-bomb-laden corporate video flubs would be funny enough on its own, but Winnebago Man is surprisingly touching as filmmaker Ben Steinbauer tracks down the reclusive, angrier-than-ever Rebney. Can you remake a legacy after the internet beats you down? Winnebago Man says yes.
The Aristocrats, streaming for free on Tubi and Pluto
How many variations are there on the world’s dirtiest, most disgusting joke? According to The Aristocrats, the answer is “infinite.” Johnny Carson’s favorite gag is actually a template with three parts that goes a little something like this. Part one: A man walks into a talent agency to describe his new act. Part two: The comic telling the joke improvises the most degrading, obscene and shocking scenario imaginable. Part three: The agent asks the man, “What do you call your act?” The answer (nearly always) is “The Aristocrats!” The documentary features nearly 100 comics spewing their own repugnant twists on the old joke. Great for family holiday gatherings!
Shut Up, Little Man! Streaming on Peacock (Subscription required)
Two young punks move into a San Francisco dive apartment in 1987. After the lease is signed, they receive a single warning from the landlord: The neighbors might be a little loud. The two roomies soon discover they live next to some very angry older men, whose screaming matches first intimidate, then entertain. Next thing you know, the young dudes are recording the fights, cassette tape after cassette tape, and sharing the audio with their dirtbag friends. You know how these things go — the recordings attracted a cult following, then became a phenomenon. Eavesdrop on some of the funniest squabbles you’ve ever heard. A spiritual cousin to Winnebago Man — apparently, early internet users loved them some angry rants.
Tabloid, streaming for free on Pluto and Plex
Documentary dignitary Errol Morris usually travels on more serious highways, though his work always has a sly sense of humor. Hitch a ride with him here as he turns off onto the sleazier side road, telling the story of a young beauty queen who attempts to rescue her true love from a Mormon mission by roping him to a bed and having sex with him for days. Do we need to go on? It gets complicated, of course. The young woman, Joyce McKinney, is accused of kidnapping and rape, setting off a major tabloid battle in Great Britain. Absurd, outlandish and lurid — you know, the good stuff.
Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! streaming for free on Tubi and Pluto
Are sex, horror and violence your thing? Sure they are! So you’ll delight in Not Quite Hollywood, an Aussie travelogue through the world of 1970s and 1980s exploitation cinema down under. The Australian scene seems similar to what was happening in the United States, but somehow with even more gratuitous nudity and outlandish gore. Quentin Tarantino can barely contain himself (and we’re guessing you’ll see a few scenes that he ripped off… er, to which he paid homage.) Crocodile Dundee could have done with a few more exploding faces, if you ask us. Oi!
Joy Ride, streaming on Amazon Prime (requires subscription)
Dana Gould and Bobcat Goldthwait were all set to film a documentary about their two-man comedy project when they had to go and get in a horrific car accident — on the way to their first show. Somehow, the comics recovered and the show went on. The fact that the comedians weren’t exactly pals for most of their careers adds friction and laughs. Note to Bobcat’s parole officer: No talk-show sets were engulfed in flames during the filming of Joy Ride.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil, streaming for $3.99 on Amazon
Imagine if Spinal Tap was a real band. That’s the pitch. Enjoy.
Slasher, streaming for free on the Internet Archive
John Landis directed some great fictional comedies — The Blues Brothers, Coming to America, Animal House — but did you know he also made documentaries? Slasher isn’t what you might think from its title. Instead of some knife-wielding psycho, the movie shines a spotlight on another kind of maniac: The world’s greatest used-car salesman. Michael Bennett is a hired gun, brought in by used car dealers to create SIZZLING SALES EXTRAVAGANZAS that make ordinary auto shoppers lose their minds and their wallets. Save thousands! More than 500 vehicles to choose from! Meet KITT, the talking car from Knight Rider! Landis initially set out to make a doc comparing politicians to used-car salesmen, but when he met Bennett, he knew he’d discovered a star.