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Seeso: Meet The Renegade Comedians Making a Name with the Bold New Platform

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Dan Harmon, Wyatt Cenac, Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher have all made original shows for the streaming platform.

Olivia Colman and Julian Barratt star in Will Sharpe’s “Flowers” on Seeso.

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Editor’s Note: This article is presented in partnership with Seeso, an ad-free streaming service for comedy lovers. Subscriptions are $3.99 per month, with an option for a one-month free trial. 

In early August, The New Yorker Magazine’s esteemed television critic, Emily Nussbaum, sent a tiny missive into the Twitterverse: “I just watched this new sitcom & it was good & funny & romantic. Wtf is Seeso??” with a link to “Take My Wife,” a scripted half-hour series by comedy’s favorite married lesbians, Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher, and a Seeso Original Series.

So, Ms. Nussbaum, to answer your question, what indeed (expletive redacted) is Seeso? In a growing world of niche streaming platforms, Seeso stands out for its wealth of TV classics (including all 42 seasons of “Saturday Night Live”), stand-up specials from the likes of Janeane Garofalo, Brian Posehn, Joey ‘Coco’ Diaz, Doug Stanhope, and Rory Scovel, and Original Series from established and rising comedy darlings who thrive under the creative freedom afforded by Seeso. It may be owned by Comcast and NBC Universal (hence the “SNL” catalogue), but Seeso has the authenticity of a Brooklyn alternative comedy festival.

READ MORE: ‘Take My Wife’ Review: Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher Finally Put Seeso On The Map

While we are thrilled to be able to re-watch every episode of “Fawlty Towers” for the hundredth time, what’s most exciting are the Seeso Original Series, which range from traditional sitcoms to reality television parodies to improvised fantasy role-play.

Rhea Butcher and Cameron Esposito in “Take My Wife

Seeso

At the heart of every Seeso Original are comedians who fall just outside the narrow box of conventional network comedy; creators who have likely been told in pitch meetings that their idea was too dark, too niche, or too hard to market, “come back with something that’ll play in Peoria.” Seeso’s originals slate is like a who’s who of your favorite comedians you wish would just get a show already. It’s almost as if the head honchos at Seeso sought out those comics, deflated after one too many meetings, handed them a budget and said: Bring it on.

Here is a primer on those comedians embracing, and embraced by, Seeso.

Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher

Esposito and Butcher entered the hearts of many comedy fans with their podcast, “Put Your Hands Together,” a weekly live show they host at the UCB theatre in Los Angeles, taking over the slot of the original “Comedy Bang! Bang!” live show. Initially, Seeso approached them to host a live stand-up show for the platform, but when they started writing sketches as filler, they realized the scripted scenes were what excited them most. The duo went back to Seeso and asked for more time — and money — and much to their surprise, Seeso agreed.

READ MORE: Rape on Television: Showrunners Call Increase in Sexual Violence ‘A Plague on the Industry’

The result is “Take My Wife,” the six-episode modern romantic sitcom that caught Nussbaum’s attention. A fictionalized version of Esposito and Butcher’s lives as married stand-up comedians who also happen to be lesbians, “Take My Wife” is funny, charming, and intimate. (Like FX’s “Louie,” but minus the date rape.) In fact, these proud feminists even tackle the pervasive “rape joke” with a light touch that still packs a punch. It’s exactly the kind of joke one might doubt would play in Peoria, but is precisely what Peoria needs.

“Night Train With Wyatt Cenac

Seeso

Wyatt Cenac

After publicly disclosing Jon Stewart’s defensive tantrums over a segment he called “racially insensitive,” Wyatt Cenac sought refuge in his original love: Stand-up. The former “The Daily Show” writer and correspondent also starred in “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins’ first feature, “Medicine For Melancholy.” Now, Cenac runs an always sold-out weekly show in Brooklyn called “Night Train With Wyatt Cenac,” where he hosts some of the best up-and-coming stand-up comics, with nary a straight white man in sight. (Unless he’s Eugene Mirman).

READ MORE: Wyatt Cenac’s New Show on Seeso Is a Perfect Blend of Comedy and Observation — ‘Night Train’ Review

Seeso filmed six of those jam-packed shows with a live audience, each one more delightful than the next. With a few sketches and Cenac’s signature deadpan to string them together, the sets on “Night Train” come from comedians who are used to being tokenized. As Michelle Buteau says in her backstage interview: “Who would have thought you could have three girls on one show?” Put them onstage together, and their brilliance shines even more. They are able to walk a little lighter; the burden of representing an entire group of people finally lifted from their shoulders. Cenac has finally found a job where he can speak his mind.

“HarmonQuest”

Seeso

Dan Harmon

Dan Harmon’s checkered past with networks is well documented, having been fired and then re-hired from his own show, the much-beloved “Community,” which NBC cancelled after its fifth season. In his time off from the show, Harmon dedicated himself to two projects: “Rick and Morty,” a semi-improvised animated show about an alcoholic mad scientist named Rick and his grandson Morty, and “Harmontown,” a live show and podcast which featured a segment where guests played a fantasy role-play game.

READ MORE: ‘HarmonQuest’: Dan Harmon Has Managed to Turn Role Playing with Friends into a TV Show

“HarmonQuest” gives “Harmontown” the “Rick and Morty” treatment, animating the fantasy role playing  game as played by Harmon and his comedian companions. Cutting between the game table and the animated scenes, “HarmonQuest” takes breaking the fourth wall to another dimension. Presided over by a bearded “Game Master,” the magic occurs in the moments when the comedians ask clarifying questions in character as their animated alter egos. Guest stars from Season 1 include Aubrey Plaza, Chelsea Peretti, Kumail Nanjiani, Paul F. Tompkins, and Thomas Middleditch. With “HarmonQuest,” Harmon found his way back into the NBC fold, and we’re so glad he did.

Honorable Mention: “Flowers”

And now for something completely different. This dark and quirky comedy from British actor and writer Will Sharpe is unlike anything else on Seeso, or American television for that matter. Opening with a botched suicide, “Flowers” makes a story about a father paralyzed by pain and his inability to open up about it quite delightful, to put it Britishly. Like the UK version of “The Office,” (also available on Seeso), Sharpe proves that Brits take the cake when it comes to black comedy.

READ MORE: ‘The Night Manager’s’ Olivia Colman Can Do Anything A Man Can Do (Except Love Scenes)

Thanks to art director Rosie Clarke and production designer Luana Hanson, the kitschy clutter and angular ceilings of the “Flowers” household emphasizes its characters’ feelings of confinement with a subtlety normally reserved for film, not TV comedies. Flowers stars Olivia Colman (2017 Golden Globe nominee for “The Night Manager”) and Julian Barratt (“The Mighty Boosh”). With an appearance by legendary British actress Anna Chancellor (perhaps best known to American audiences as “Duck Face” from “Four Weddings And A Funeral”), “Flowers” is in a league of its own.

Editor’s Note: This article is presented in partnership with Seeso, an ad-free streaming service for comedy lovers. Subscriptions are $3.99 per month, with an option for a one-month free trial. 

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