There were good things that happened in 2019. Really.
I mean, a lot of horrible, disturbing, apocalyptic, humanity-in-crisis, extremely bad things happened, too. But there was a lot to celebrate, laugh at, laugh with, escape to, delight over, indulge in, cry (happy tears) about, and dance to. Things that made us feel something. Something good.
At the end of the year for the last two years, we’ve called out on social media to Daily Beast readers and staffers. There’s so much focus on superlatives—The Best This, The Worst That—that we wondered what things just made us happy, forget about where they might rank on any list. Like last year, we were heartened by the response.
The picks below are by no means an exhaustive list. In an uplifting twist, it would take more time than we have to include all of the year’s joyous, emotional moments you all singled out. Some are my personal choices. Some are suggestions from The Daily Beast newsroom. Some are from readers responding on social media, and many were recommended by all four. So here you are. Smile, friends.
Kelly Clarkson’s “Kellyoke”
There are few pop-culture pleasures greater than Kelly Clarkson singing, well, anything. But it’s especially gratifying when she’s singing one of your favorite songs from your favorite artists better than they did in the first place. Her “Kellyoke” segments that kicked off each episode of The Kelly Clarkson Show were the daily hit of dopamine we needed this year.
Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers
The Nice Guy Summit we needed and deserved.
J. Lo stripping to “Criminal” in Hustlers
Jennifer Lopez, at age 50, stripping to Fiona’s Apple “Criminal.” Bless everyone involved with this movie.
The Other Two on Comedy Central
An absolutely hilarious series about aging millennial ennui, gay male insecurity, and the oppressive nature of the modern entertainment industry? That’s this well-written and acted? That also features Molly Shannon? In this climate?
Lizzo’s Tiny Desk concert
Choosing a favorite moment of the last year from 2019’s reigning ray of musical sunshine and my pop-culture therapist is nearly impossible. But Lizzo’s “Tiny Desk Concert” appearance encapsulates everything that’s so great about her. The songs and the talent, stripped down to basics. The stage presence. And a canny ability to poke fun with reverence, in this case by welcoming us all to the “Tiny-ass Desk Concert.”
The Hot Priest from Fleabag
Anything from Fleabag, really. The entirety of that dinner party premiere. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s jumpsuit. The therapy session with Fiona Shaw. Sian Clifford’s “I look like a pencil” haircut. But, really, it’s the Hot Priest that got us through the toughest parts of this year.
Wendy Williams not knowing what Fleabag is
The year’s best comedic timing is in this video.
“Sorry to This Man”
The circumstances behind the year’s greatest meme are as mundane as they are outrageous. Hustlers star Keke Palmer is shown a picture of Dick Cheney, doesn’t recognize him, and begins an unintentionally hilarious monologue about how she has no idea who he is.
Daniel Craig’s accent in Knives Out
Turns out James Bond speaking like Foghorn Leghorn is an absolute delight.
Billy Porter’s red carpet looks
10, 10, 10: 10s across the board. Every. Single. Time.
Olivia Colman’s Oscar speech
All Oscar speeches from now on should include a floopy, spitty raspberry sound made with one’s tongue.
The brilliant performances in Booksmart
The first time I saw Booksmart, I thought the roof was going to explode off the theater, everyone was laughing so hard.
Adrienne Warren’s finale concert in Tina
What Adrienne Warren manages in the final moments of the Broadway musical is a full-on summoning of Tina Turner, a feat of vocal and physical athleticism that is other-worldly.
MEL magazine’s coverage of gay and Gen Z culture
No outlet is doing a better job surfacing and then explaining the curious phenomena of gay and Gen Z culture. Case in point: “The Problematic Legacy of Mr. Peanut, Gay Capitalist.” A blend of real, dogged reporting and irreverent humor? We stan. (Are kids these days still stanning?)
“June June Hannah”
I don’t know why spacey steward June Foster never, not once, answered her name when she was radioed on Bravo’s Below Deck: Mediterranean. But the exasperation of her boss Hannah Ferrier every time she called “June June Hannah” was never not hilarious.
The kombucha meme
A woman tried kombucha for the first time, couldn’t decide if she liked it, and birthed the most versatile meme of the year.
Megan Rapinoe was alternately a walking (or kicking) protest, a lightning rod, a LGBTQ+ icon, and, above all, a badass athlete during the U.S. soccer team’s run to World Cup victory.
Moira Rose as a half-human, half-crow mutant on Schitt’s Creek
Catherine O’Hara is a national treasure.
Every minute of Ma
“Ma, you fucking got me.” There has never been a truer line of dialogue.
Megan Mullally singing “The Man That Got Away”
Will & Grace has always been effective at halting the zany and bringing in the gravitas, but never more so than when Karen sang the Judy Garland torch song.
This inexplicable blonde haircut
Why do I find it so attractive? Help.
Emma Thompson’s Late Night performance
Emma Thompson gets her own Devil Wears Prada showcase, and watching her deliver those tongue lashings is as gratifying as you could have dreamed.
Forky introducing himself as “I’m Trash” in Toy Story 4
The epilogue of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Did I cry? One of my favorite animated film franchises went full-on Born Free with its surprise final scene. Of course I did.
The PEN15 girls
It was the most welcome surprise of the year to see Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle’s Hulu series, in which the 32-year-old creators, writers, and stars portray middle schoolers alongside actual prepubescent tweens, elevate itself from cute gimmick to one of the most profound, humorous, and empathetically human TV shows of the year.
Billy Eichner’s voice work in The Lion King
Eichner’s take on the animated meerkat as a neurotic existentialist turned out to be the highlight of The Lion King remake, and perhaps even one of the greatest voice performances of all time.
Tom and Greg on Succession
“You can’t make a Tomlette without breaking a few Greggs.”
The Bon Appétit test kitchen videos
I can’t cook. I won’t cook. But I will watch 14 consecutive hours of TV shows and videos of professionals teaching me how to cook and not contemplate the absurdity of those three facts. The series of videos featuring staffers from Bon Appétit teaching everything from how to make a gourmet version of a Snickers to how to cook the perfect Thanksgiving dinner are my new obsessions.
Merritt Wever in Marriage Story
The Marriage Story cast is stacked with award-worthy performances. But the stealth MVP is Meritt Wever playing her specialty: comedic relief that is so rooted in recognizable pathos and humanity, her character becomes the most relatable in the project she’s in.
Jennifer Garner’s delightful Instagram account
Truly the only celebrity worth following on Instagram.
Jennifer Hudson singing The Jeffersons theme
Try watching this once and then not immediately watching it 75 more times after.
Ali Stroker winning a Tony Award
In 2015, Ali Stroker became the first actress who uses a wheelchair to appear on the Broadway stage. This year, she won a Tony Award for playing Ado Annie in the horny revival of Oklahoma! If you did not immediately burst into tears when her name was called, seek therapy immediately.
Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler in good movies
Dolemite Is My Name? So good. Uncut Gems? Excellent. Who’d have guessed?
Laura Dern’s Big Little Lies monologues
Rage-filled catharsis snacks.
Keanu Reeves in Always Be My Maybe
An extremely charming cameo in an extremely charming romantic comedy.
The woman yelling at a cat meme
It’s always funny!
The rise of Lil Nas X
An openly gay rapper went to No. 1 with a country song featuring Billy Ray Cyrus. The story is so pure and good I don’t even care that the song is garbage.
Jean Smart in Watchmen
My beloved Charlene Frazier-Stillfield gets some of the best reviews of her iconic career thanks to her turn as Laurie Blake in HBO’s Watchmen.
“You were at my wedding, Denise...”
With this glorious clapback, Meghan McCain finally contributes something positive to the culture.
The “Focus Group” sketch from I Think You Should Leave
“A good steering wheel that doesn’t fly off when you’re driving.”
AOC’s rooftop dance video
A video of congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing on a rooftop during her college days was pushed out by critics in an attempt to discredit her. It backfired, obviously, in its lunacy and pettiness. A woman once danced?! The horror!!! Besides, she’s got moves.
Natasha Lyonne’s cockroach song on Russian Doll
An homage to the legendary way Lyonne pronounces the word “cockroach.”
Bowen Yang’s Saturday Night Live breakout
The discourse surrounding Saturday Night Live is routinely exhausting. Invigorating, however? Bowen Yang’s breakout first year on the show, particularly the sketch he wrote and starred in with Harry Styles. “Must get rid of toxic in the community.”
Little Nai Nai in The Farewell
I’ve watched The Farewell more times than any other movie this year. Each time, I laugh, I cry, and I grin from ear to ear every time Little Nai Nai is on screen.
Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
A romance novel about the First Son of the United States and the Prince of Wales falling in love on the best-seller list? Swoon.
The Prom on Broadway
A joy from beginning to end. It closed far too soon, but a movie with Meryl Streep, James Corden, and Nicole Kidman is coming to Netflix.
The @ridingincabswithboys Instagram
Former Daily Beast staffer Quinn Ryan’s hand-drawn illustrations depicting millennial life and modern relationships are reliably funny, sweet, observant, and fun.
Winston Duke’s thighs
The breakout stars of Us.
The Little Women cast eating Wendy’s
The vibe I want to take with me into 2020.