As the dumpster fire that was 2016 settles down, it’s time to reflect on all the fun we did have throughout the year. The year made us haggard with worry, so much that this way-too-real meme arose.
me at the beginning of 2016 vs me at the end of 2016 pic.twitter.com/VxT4WdrfWZ— Lane Moore (@hellolanemoore) December 9, 2016
Me at the beginning of 2016 vs. me at the end of 2016 pic.twitter.com/nRQ5FOQ1O3— Ryan McPhee (@rdmcphee) December 9, 2016
Thankfully, there were some bright spots. And, I’m not just talking about Harambe love. There were plenty of wonderful artists, writers, thinkers, and athletes whom we definitely should have had our dicks out for. Now is as good of a time as ever. Here are the best people of 2016.
David S. Pumpkins
Captain Sully may have successfully rescued 155 passengers on his plane, but Tom Hanks promoting Sully saved all of us and Halloween with this perfect SNL sketch. Every single beat of David S. Pumpkins’ glorious character is on point, including his breakdancing skeletons. Pumpkins’ catchphrase—“Any questions?”—was a perfect metaphor for the WTFuckery of 2016. Yes, lots of questions.
There’s a reason Samantha Bee’s new TBS show, Full Frontal, took home Outstanding Writing in a Variety Series at its first Emmys ever this year, and it’s Samantha Bee. 2016 saw a presidential candidate so ridiculous and terrifying that he was almost unable to be satirized. But her fearless performances, cutthroat segments, and her ability to say what we were all thinking helped us get through that crazy election cycle. No shade to John Oliver, Bee was just there for us more often.
Michelle Obama’s final year in the White House was arguably her best and most impactful. The FLOTUS stunned crowds with her speech at the DNC, effectively gave Hillary Clinton and all of us the slogan of the year (“They go low, we go high”), and was so admired that Melania Trump gave a rousing “tribute” to her at the RNC. When the election cycle got brutal, she was right there for us with Carpool Karaoke and outfits that slayed all day. It’s no wonder that #Michelle2020 began trending on Nov. 8.
Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold set out to do the impossible: prove that the Donald J. Trump Foundation truly donated the “millions” to charity that Donald Trump claimed it did. Through his riveting Twitter feed, we watched Fahrenthold’s yearlong investigation unfold with old-school pen-and-paper reporting and by his persistence to get answers. And, of course, he exposed a giant phony. The election results are most certainly not on him.
Um I'm gonna need him to take our flag off his buttocks!! I thought I was crazy!! pic.twitter.com/BF0JOhH2RF— Leslie Jones (@Lesdoggg) August 13, 2016
Though the Olympics had their fair share of embarrassments—cough, Ryan Lochte—SNL and Ghostbusters’ comedian Jones reinvigorated the competition with her all-out fandom for the games. It started when Jones’ stateside appreciation caught Twitter by storm. Soon, NBC flew LesDoggg to Rio to be an official commentator of the games. Jones’ hilarious Tweets and videos had us dying all summer long. Plus, she became a hero to many when she stood up to racist, misogynist Twitter trolls.
James returned to Cleveland from Miami to win a championship for his title-starved state, and in 2016 he did just that. He delivered Cleveland’s first championship since 1964 in one of the most exciting NBA Finals comebacks ever, and he did it by shouldering the immense burden of expectation and pressure and impacting games tremendously. For proof, just look to the decisive Game 7, at what will forever be known as “The Block.”
James produced professionally, but he also made bold personal stands that many athletes are afraid to because it might cost them fans and endorsement deals. By speaking out against police violence and in favor of athlete activism, endorsing Hillary Clinton, and slamming legendary coach Phil Jackson for his loaded assertion that the star baller’s friends, who became successful businessmen after he provided them with opportunities to build careers for themselves, are a “posse,” James proved that he is a great not only on the court, but off it, too.
Sarah Paulson wowed audiences with her in-depth portrayal of Marcia Clark on The People v. O.J. Simpson this year. But her performance wasn’t simple Emmy-bait, it was a feminist benchmark, too, and revived the image of one of the most important attorneys in America. The FX show’s episode “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” calls into play gender politics, sexism, and perseverance all in one defining ’90s moment.
If there’s one person who actually had a good 2016, it’s Lin-Manuel Miranda. The Hamilton creator renewed our faith in Broadway and musical theater, which is frequently called a “dead” medium, and brought American history and issues of race to the forefront of our minds. While it may be several years until any of us get to experience his hot-ticket show and Miranda’s greatness in person, it’s important to recognize that 2016 was the year he took home three Tonys, a Grammy, and a Pulitzer Prize.
RuPaul entered TV herstory in 2016 with his win for Best Reality Show Host at the Emmys. After years of snubs, RuPaul’s Drag Race and Ru’s other shows (which total decades of TV programming) finally got the recognition they deserve. This win reflected an increasing mainstream acceptance of drag and gender-bending concepts once deemed too risque to even interview Ru on late-night TV.
Van Jones’ words on election night were the strongest and most resonate of any political pundit in recent memory. With his effortless class, poise, and eloquence, Jones got to the heart of the heartbreak. On top of that, Jones had the balls to tell Corey Lewandowski he was being a “horrible person” on air, which was the “fuck you” everyone opposed to Trump and his brand of bigotry needed to hear.