We've run through our favorite albums and TV shows of 2016, as well as our favorite Gothamist features and subway moments. But there were plenty more things that we read, watched, visited, and listened to this year that moved and inspired us. Check out some of our favorite things from 2016 below.
Oh, Hello: I didn't quite know what to expect when I walked into Oh, Hello, John Mulaney and Nick Kroll's two-man Broadway show. What I got, though, were 90 of the funniest minutes of my life; when I finally walked out, my entire face ached from laughing. Mulaney and Kroll play George St. Geegland and Gil Faizon, two middle-aged men from the Upper West Side who I swear once made me deeply uncomfortable while waiting for the M104 when I was twelve. Based on a popular Kroll Show sketch, Oh, Hello is a show-within-a-show, of sorts—Geegland, a failed screenwriter, and Faizon, a failed actor, put on an autobiographical play about getting kicked out of their rent-controlled apartment, complete with one-sided phone calls, SECRETS, raccoon heartbreakers, and their famed talk/prank show, "Too Much Tuna."
It's hard to give this a full rundown without ruining some of the magic, and a chunk of the show is improvised, so each performance will be a little different—plus there's a special guest! But by the time Geegland and Faizon collapse after a frantically-choreographed ballet number, you too will want to fall down on the floor, heaving with laughter & craving a tuna fish sandwich. (Rebecca Fishbein)
A Tribe Called Quest-We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service: Late on a Saturday night in November, Q-Tip and Jarobi White stopped mid-strut. The two surviving A Tribe Called Quest MCs had been performing the group's new single, "We The People," when they froze and pointed to the rafters of SNL's Studio 8H. On cue, a spray-painted banner of their fallen comrade, Malik "Phife Dawg" Taylor, unfurled as his voice poured out through speakers across the world: "The fog and the smog of news media that logs / False narratives of Gods that came up against the odds / We're not just nigga rappers with the bars / It's kismet that we're cosmic with the stars." Phife may be gone, but Tribe, after 18 long years, was back.
2016 has been the most bittersweet era of Tribe's career, bar none. Taylor's death in March from diabetes was a body blow to the entire hip-hop genre, and dashed any lingering hopes of a reunited Tribe putting the past behind them. But thankfully, Taylor, Q-Tip, and White had been quietly logging hundreds of hours together in the studio, readying their brilliant sixth LP, We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service, which dropped three days after Trump's shocking presidential win. Layered and funky, exuberant and informed, the record is a politically-tinged rap battle royale amongst contenders who refuse to coast despite having nothing to lose. On songs like "The Space Program," "We The People," and "The Killing Season," Q-Tip and and company air out American corruption over beats more free-flowing than any Tribe release to date. In a year that saw hip-hop's contemporary stars stumble backwards, the old guard returned to lead the way once more. (Scott Heins)
Private Citizens: I can safely say I would not have cracked Private Citizens if my boyfriend hadn't bought it and left it on a book shelf at eye level. The jacket copy has that "___ for Millennials" enticement that makes my eyes glaze over. Same goes for the dropped tech startup and self-help seminar references.
But this book attacked my eyeballs, in the best way. It's about being addicted to things: porn, alcohol, drugs, masturbating, screens, lying, self-promotion. And author Tony Tulathimutte manages to write characters, all addicted to one thing or another, without being sentimental or preachy. He does this by focusing on their sensations: what it fells like to wake up with a double booze/porn hangover; to ride a bike home after the seat's been stolen off of it; to wake up in the hospital; to be incredibly jealous; to get really, really high. Characters who fuck up, hazily realize they are in trouble, then fuck up again, are comforting companions. (Emma Whitford)
The X-Files Season 10: Back in January, I started off the year full of optimism and hope...about the X-Files "reboot," which brought with it six brand new episodes of one of the best TV shows of all time. In anticipation, I re-watched most of the series, especially the first four seasons, arguably the strongest before they hired a Terminator to stand in for David Duchovny.
What came out of that mini-season wasn't quite what I'd hoped. With all due respect to the show's creator, Chris Carter was never the show's strongest writer. And though he brought back the dream team of James Wong and Glen and Darin Morgan to do a lot of the scripts/direction, the season still struggled to catch us up on the lives of the FBI's Most Unwanted, while also trying to re-up the messy conspiracy plot lines and weave them together with themes like globalization, Muslim panic (oof) and...whatever the hell this was.
But leave it to Darin Morgan—who wrote some of the series' most beloved and critically-acclaimed episodes—to distract from the disparate storylines with a mid-season episode that exemplified what elevated The X-Files from a law enforcement procedural investigating alien conspiracies and fluke monsters into one that probed the meanings of otherness and the human (and alien) condition.
Aided by delightful guest performances from Rhys Darby and X-Files superfan Kumail Nanjiani, "Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster" was a reflective tale of pathos and faith in one's convictions, and one of the most satisfying episodes of television I watched this year. Using humor and Morgan's characteristic themes of longing and loneliness, the episode gave stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson some much needed room for playfulness and connection that was lacking in most of the season.
We also got Mulder in a red Speedo, among many other moments for the fans, which certainly didn't hurt. So yes, my favorite thing that happened this year in pop culture was packed inside something kinda bad. A fitting metaphor for 2016. (Nell Casey)
The Bodega Boys Podcast/Desus & Mero: Desus Nice and the Kid Mero are a classic comedy buddy duo, looking past the fact that the pre-internet broadcasting industry wouldn’t have given them a show in the first place. Friends who used to spend their days clowning rappers, NBA stars, and Dallas BBQ servers on the internet in the late 2000s, the proud Bronx natives are still in the Bronx, and still joking on the internet, only now their addictive mile-a-minute humor is on a weekly podcast sponsored by Red Bull, and for the last two months, a talk show on the new cable network Viceland.
Desus is the bachelor who, among a litany of other nicknames, goes by “Young Day Party” and is wont to fantasize about building a house for his sneaker collection. He’s foil to Mero’s Dominican Kevin James—okay, that’s not fair, because Mero is actually funny, but he has three kids and counting, and loves them with an earnest glee that’s infectious. The format of the show is spontaneous bullshitting, loosely structured around weird news of the day. Dedicated listeners who make up the Bodega Hive are flies on the wall of a blunt-smoke-filled living room where the Knicks game is always on, Jadakiss just won the Nobel Prize for literature, and inside jokes—like impressions of Ben Carson as a Blood and an obscure clip of dancehall artist Popcaan yelling, "Fuck Wiz Khalifa!"—accrete from episode to episode to form a hilarious subcultural currency. Staring down the barrel of a humorless, racist paranoiac's first term as president, now feels like a good time to stock up. (Nathan Tempey)
Homegoing: I was lucky enough to read Yaa Gyasi's debut novel, Homegoing, before I was aware of any of the hype surrounding it. Not that Gyasi, who turned 26 this year, doesn't deserve the hype—there's just something to be said for falling into a great story without knowing exactly what it's about beforehand. On its surface, Homegoing is about a family split in half—it starts in 18th century Ghana and follows the descendants of two sisters who were forced apart by slavery for two generations.
But according to Gyasi, it's really about time. "They're connected to every single moment in time that came before," Gyasi said of the characters.
Each chapter is a 10-page-ish-long vignette that introduces you to a different character, hopping across Africa's Gold Coast to plantations in the antebellum American south to Harlem in the '60s and the Ghanaian independence movement in the 20th century. Ten pages, it turns out, is just enough time for you to get attached to a character before they're gone. (I read half the book while waiting for a flight and had some pretty visceral reactions the whole time).
Homegoing isn't a history book, but it is historical. It excoriates past and present injustices without being preachy; humanizes events and people whose humanity was eroded away by the distance provided by the idea of "history" (and the reality of enslavement); and, if nothing else, it'll teach you a thing or two about how the world we live in was built. (Gaby del Valle)
American Impressionism at NYBG: The New York Botanical Garden always has breathtaking shows, from last year's show-stopping Frida Kahlo to the annual wonders of the Holiday Train Show. Even so, I was surprised at how moved I was by the big exhibit this year, Impressionism: American Gardens on Canvas, which looked at the real-life gardens and plantings that inspired painters like John Singer Sargent and Childe Hassam.
Designed by Francisca Coelho and her team, the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory was filled with thoughtful yet exuberant displays of cornflowers, poppies, foxglove, larkspur, hollyhocks, peonies, columbines, and much more. There was even a New England-style porch, for visitors to take a moment to soak in the landscape of flora. It's no wonder that so many NYC artists would escape to country homes, like Florence Griswold's Old Lyme, Connecticut home which became known as "America's Giverney." (Jen Chung)
The Return Of Japandroids: Japandoirds played the Knitting Factory two nights in a row this year—maybe in other years, that wouldn't have been such a big deal, but in 2016 it was a huge deal for me. It was such a huge deal that I went both nights, despite figuring we would likely get the same set.
Japandroids had been gone for a long time. During those long three years, we didn't hear a single note, power chord, solo or driving drum pounding from the nice boys from Vancouver. At first no one really noticed, but eventually it got so concerning that those of us who loved them were all asking, "Yo, Japandroids, where you at dawgs?" and blasting Celebration Rock more mournfully than anyone should.
And then, out of the blue, the announcement came: Japandoids back baby, hell yeah. Two men with just a guitar and a drum set between them, who'd toured the world and played on huge stages at big festivals were right there, right in front of us doing all the hits in the relative intimacy of the Knitting Factory. While I don't mean to exaggerate, watching Japandroids get right back into ripping it up on stage after three years of hiding in a cave or whatever they were doing is maybe the greatest thing to have ever happened in the history of humanity. No matter how shitty a year is, nothing gets serotonin flowing like screaming every lyric to "The House That Heaven Built" in a mosh pit. (Dave Colon)
Kerry James Marshall at Met Breuer: The best show I visited this year, and one of the most powerful I've seen in a number of years, is the Kerry James Marshall retrospective at the Met Breuer. The show, which is the largest retrospective of the artist's work ever put on display, explores the beauty, energy, pain, and mundane, simple pleasures of black life in the United States.
Marshall renders in brilliant colors and often heroic scale scenes that I've rarely seen on the walls of a major museum—a black couple watching a sunset on the beach, a barbershop and salon as a majestic social space, a public housing complex depicted as a green idyll. Each work is so chock full of references to American history and art history that you could spend three hours looking at one canvas and still not fully process everything it has to say. (Raphael Pope-Sussman)
Untitled (Painter) (Met Breuer)
Leonard Cohen: Leonard Cohen's death was announced on November 10th, which was a couple of days after the most depressing national event in quite some time. Naturally, it made sense to interpret the former as a reaction to the latter: I could picture him watching the election results, flipping off the TV, and then saying, "Alright, I'm done with this," and then fasting for two days until he died. Interestingly, he actually died on the night of the 7th—a day before the election—but for whatever reason, the news didn't get out until after.
I actually find this order more appropriate. In Judaism we have the idea of the Tzadikim Nistarim- the 36 righteous people whose role is to justify the existence of mankind in the eyes of God. I'm guessing Leonard was the last of these guys still kicking (the rest probably died from disgust watching 18 months of election coverage), and with him gone, the world was finally free to go completely to shit, and promptly did. Yes, you could say that I'm taking his death, and the election results, badly—maybe even histrionically. But I think my fellow Leonard Cohen fans would understand, though, and feel the same way. (Jake Dobkin)
Bob's Burgers: This was a year in which the election and ever-worsening political landscape threatened to overwhelm every frivolous pursuit. There was plenty of music, TV, books and movies I loved that seemed to wrestle with or seriously reflect the political and emotional landmines of 2016, but there comes a point where we all need something—anything!—to provide some levity.
At multiple times this year, and with increasingly frequency as the year wound down, I felt like Woody Allen in Hannah And Her Sisters, desperate to find my Duck Soup—a piece of art that could lift my spirits, even if just in spurts and moments. It wasn't about escape so much as it was about finding some joy wherever it could be dug up.
I looked for it in the early work of the Bee Gees (for the first 30+ years of my life, I pretended they didn't exist, and now their first four albums are indispensable to me); in even the most lukewarm comic book movies (but hey, Captain America: Civil War was really good); music biographies (especially Bruce Springsteen and The Replacements); Gallagher brother quotes; pictures of Paul Schaffer without his glasses on (TWIST: there is no such thing); and photos of dogs just before they caught treats.
But as enjoyable and distracting as all those things were, nothing quite left me as satisfied as Bob's Burgers, the long-running Fox animated series, still going strong seven seasons in. As someone who has around 200 episodes of The Simpsons saved on his DVR on any given day, it's pretty absurd that it took me until 2016 to give in to the charms of the show. But it couldn't have come at a better time.
Essentially, Bob's picks up on all the sweetness and absurdity (and musicality!) of the first seasons of The Simpsons, but grounds those stories with a family unit who actually really like spending time with each other and accept each other's foibles (instead of, say, choking each other out for a laugh). In any given episode, tons of silly stuff happens: Bob talks to himself in weird voices, Linda might attend dinner theater, Gene might go on an adventure with a talking toilet, Louise might try to rig a school election, and Tina might write some adult friend fiction. But the core of the show lies in the bonds and excitement the family gets from being together—they may be imperfect weirdos, but they are genuinely happy. It's the best kind of comfort food: I actually feel a little bit better after watching an episode. (Ben Yakas)