There’s no getting around it — funny things happen in the workplace. Day to day, you never know what’s going to go down. As such, the workplace comedy has long been a go-to genre for both television and film. For this edition of the Queue, we present five recommended workplace comedies you can get to instantly via Netflix. Sometimes all you can do is laugh.
9 to 5 (1980)
If you haven’t seen 9 to 5 in a decade or three, I truly recommend circling back for an encore viewing. Starring Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lily Tomlin as frustrated workingwomen at a soul-sucking company office, the movie is a very funny time capsule of caricatured corporate culture circa 1980. Dabney Coleman absolutely tears up the joint as the ladies’ sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot boss. The film was Fonda’s baby all along, and she originally conceived of it as a drama. Switching to comedy was a genius move, as the film’s humor makes a much better vehicle for the underlying feminist and pro-labor sentiments.
The Office (2001-03)
With their mockumentary workplace sendup The Office, British wise guys Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant pioneered a brand-new format for TV comedy. Gervais’s character, the clueless office boss David Brent, is a glorious comic creation, and The Office is rightfully considered one of the best British sitcoms of all time. The successful U.S. adaptation with Steve Carell — also on Netflix — established its own comic tone, but if you want to study the creative DNA of it all, dig in to these original U.K. episodes. It’s said that everyone has a David Brent at the office, and if you don’t, then heads up: It may be you.
His Girl Friday (1940)
Director Howard Hawks’s classic screwball comedy stars Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as ex-spouses and colleagues at a busy newspaper office. Awkward. The rapid-fire, overlapping dialogue is still fun to listen to, and Hollywood legend holds that Russell hired her own writer to punch up her lines. Older-era films like His Girl Friday are great for movie night at home, but they require a kind of gear-shifting. Roll with the different comic rhythms and you might find yourself hooked.
Filmmaker Kevin Smith’s acclaimed indie-comedy debut, Clerks chronicles a day in the life of two profoundly bored but remarkably funny retail-store clerks. As workplace comedies go, it’s admirably direct: Smith filmed the movie at the convenience store where he worked in real life and based much of the relentlessly profane dialogue on actual conversations among his circle of slacker friends. The comedy is crude and dumb and entirely authentic — Smith would go on to carve out an entire career around this aesthetic.
30 Rock (2006-13)
My vote for the best sitcom of all time, 30 Rock is the ultimate workplace comedy, and the fact that it’s on Netflix is a gift to the world of on-demand TV. You can revisit episodes of this show in the same way you listen to old Beatles records — just to admire the clockwork precision of it all. With 30 Rock, series creator Tina Fey took the workplace sitcom template of 1970s series like The Mary Tyler Moore show, then accelerated the writing to insane velocity. The show is so densely layered with jokes that you can’t possibly catch them all in a single viewing. I like to keep 30 Rock on tap as a kind of digital elixir — it’s good medicine after a tough day at work. Highly recommended.