‘Yearly Departed’ creator Bess Kalb talks Jane Fonda and all-female cast for Amazon Prime special – Daily News

Bess Kalb is ready to kiss 2021 goodbye.

To officially send it off, Kalb, an author and TV writer, and her team are back with a second installment of the comedy special, “Yearly Departed,” which arrives on Amazon on Dec. 23.

For this year’s comedic airing of the grievances, Kalb enlisted the talents of comedians and actresses Jane Fonda, Chelsea Peretti, Meg Stalter, Dulce Sloan, Aparna Nancherla, X Mayo and Yvonne Orji, who also serves as the show host, to eulogize 2021 and bid farewell to things like sweatpants, never-ending Zoom calls and the hermit life brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The cast also digs into more serious topics like the anti-vaccine movement, women’s reproductive rights and climate change.

“When we first pitched the idea [for a second special], we were like, ‘Oh yeah, by the time this airs the vaccine will be out and everyone will go get vaccinated and this will be a much more manageable pandemic,’” Kalb said during a recent phone interview from home in Los Angeles.

“We pitched it more like a celebration and a big reunion, but as we were writing the Delta variant crept into the news, vaccination rates just sort of plateaued, then declined and so that idea began to disappear,” she continued. “We were seeing something that was much more similar to what we saw in 2020, which was more of an, ‘Oh God, not this again.’

“We thought it would be more uplifting, but instead, I think it’s more cathartic. We need comedy that much more now and need to sort of laugh at our misery.”

“Yearly Departed” first aired at the end of 2020 and featured comedians Sarah Silverman, Tiffany Haddish, Natasha Leggero, Rachel Brosnahan and others. The special earned a WGA Award nomination and won a Gracie Award. It also stood out because of its all-female cast.

“The intention of this project was to have a line-up where female and non-binary comedians would be not the exception to the rule, but they would be the rule,” she said, noting that she grew up a fan of stand-up comedy and would often see a woman or two added to a celebrity roast or see them “tokenistically included into the boys club.”

“The vision of ‘Yearly Departed’ has always been to change that,” she continued. “So now the vision is for it to be a renewable thing that could happen year after year. We want to make sure this type of thing isn’t just a fluke and an all-female line-up could be an institution and not just a one-time spectacle.”

Kalb said she and the other writers came up with a list of about 150 different female stand-ups and comedic performers that they’d like to see included in future “Yearly Departed” specials.

“It’s an embarrassment of riches,” she said. “I mean this year we have Jane Fonda, who is not a stand-up, but one of the funniest people to ever arch an eyebrow and make an entire room fall down laughing. Then there’s those on the list that can hold their own in any room, like Chelsea Peretti.”

“She’s a dream to work with because she’s somebody that takes our material and then is like, “What do you think about if I add this?’ and we’re like, ‘Yes, that!’,” she said, and talks about a bit Peretti did with Megan Stalter. “We were laughing so hard editing that we could barely do our jobs.”

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