Warning: contains spoilers for Angel seasons one to five.
Angel wasn’t all darkness and hellfire and the inevitable march of all mankind towards the emptiness of death and/or a hell dimension of one variety or another. One of the pleasures of watching Angel for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was seeing Buffy’s dark, broody vampire boyfriend lighten up a little. Moving to his own show allowed Angel’s character to show off far more sides of himself than had been possible when his role was largely confined to mooning over Buffy, trying to kill Buffy, and mooning over her again, and we got to see far more of David Boreanaz’ comic chops in the spinoff. Not that the funny business was confined to Angel himself – while Cordelia was always a reliable source of humor, all of the Angel Investigations team got the chance to mess around and have a laugh once or twice over the course of the show, up to and including boss-man Joss Whedon himself. Here, we celebrate ten of the show’s most memorable lighter moments.
10. “You’ve been yelling at each other for 40 minutes about this.”
When? “A Hole In The World“ (season five).
Who? Angel and Spike, who have been having a screaming row all morning. About whether astronauts or cavemen would win in a fight.
Wesley: Do the astronauts have weapons?
Why? After more than a century of fighting over two women (Drusilla, then Buffy) and being forced to spend months in each other’s company without the girls around to break up the tension, Angel and Spike’s relationship reaches breaking point as they nearly come to blows over this important philosophical debate.
Is this a comedy episode I can watch to relax after a long hard day at the office? No. Absolutely not. Emphatically, categorically, definitively not. The argument takes place right at the beginning of the episode and it’s downhill from there, happiness-wise. If you have had a bad day, stay as far away from this episode as humanly possible. Unless you’re in the mood to wallow and sob into an entire box of Kleenex, in which case go right ahead.
9. “Mmmmm, Angel!”
When? “That Old Gang Of Mine“ (season three).
Who? The Transuding Furies, from whom Cordelia needs to ask a favour, and who respond to every mention of Angel’s name with “Mmmmm, Angel!”
Why? When Gunn’s old gang attack Lorne’s bar Caritas, with the demon clientele unable to defend themselves thanks to the spell that prevents demon violence in the bar, Cordelia has to go and ask the Furies to lift the spell so Angel can save the day. Their price is… it’s best not to think about the fact Angel is essentially prostituting himself to help his friends. At least these ladies are pretty, unlike the ugly and usually winged Furies with optional wings or snakes for hair of Classical mythology.
Is this a comedy episode I can watch to relax after a long hard day at the office? No, it’s pretty serious, and the scene between Angel and Gunn at the end is very downbeat. Any appearance of Caritas and demon karaoke always raises a smile, though.
8. “Thank you, I’m very comforted!”
When? “Lineage“ (season five).
Who? Wesley would really prefer it if Angel and Spike stopped trying to comfort him over killing a cyborg he thought was his father.
Why? It’s bad enough when Angel compares his first acts as an evil vampire to Wesley’s agonising decision to place Fred’s life over that of what he thought was his father. But when Spike joins in, things get really uncomfortable.
Spike: Heard what happened up top, offing your dad and all. Don’t know if you know this, but I killed my mum. Actually, I’d already killed her, and then she tried to shag me, so I had to –
Wesley: Thank you! I’m… very comforted.
Is this a comedy episode I can watch to relax after a long hard day at the office? No, it’s pretty heart-wrenching, but it is a good Fred/Wesley shipper episode, if that’s your thing.
7. Angel dancing
When? “She“ (season one).
Who? Spending much of Cordelia’s party in the darkened kitchen having a beer with an invisible ghost, Angel sombrely intones “I don’t dance.” As we get a glimpse into his imagination, we see why.
Why? One of the ways Angel expanded its title character from the bad boy older boyfriend of Buffy The Vampire Slayer was to give Angel a distinctly dorky side, one he has learned to keep well hidden over the last couple of centuries, but which we see occasional glimpses of when he lets his guard down. The imaginary dance sequence in She was one of the earliest and funniest of these glimpses into the socially awkward side that Angel normally buries under layers of taciturn brooding.
Is this a comedy episode I can watch to relax after a long hard day at the office? Not really – it’s a fairly forgettable metaphor about female circumcision, so it’s not especially funny. Angel’s attempts to deal with misogyny and women’s rights tended to be very earnest and well-intentioned, but they didn’t always work too well. The compilation of both Angel and Wesley’s hilariously awful dancing over the end credits is inspired, though.
When? “Damage” (season five).
Who? It’s impossible to pick just one moment from Andrew’s appearance in season five, as almost everything he does is hilarious. He starts by hugging Spike for far too long on finding him alive (“My therapist said I was holding on to false hope, but I knew you’d come back. You’re like Gandalf the White resurrected from the pit of the Balrog. More beautiful than ever. He’s alive, Frodo, he’s alive!”) and keeps the humor coming even when laying down the law to Angel at the end (“Check the view screen, Uhura. I got twelve Vampyr Slayers behind me, and not one of them has ever dated you”). Probably the funniest moment of all, though, comes from Angel, who has been listening to Andrew talk about vampire slayers for a little too long:
Angel: In her mind, there probably aren’t any good vampyres. (beat) Vampires.
Why? Andrew, one of a long line of Buffy villains turned good, should have earned our undying hatred for killing fan favourite Jonathan – but it’s impossible to hate Andrew, he’s just too funny. A combination of always-amusing dialogue with Tom Lenk’s performance makes Andrew one of the Buffyverse’s most reliable comic-relief characters, and his appearance in season five is a joy from start to finish.
Is this a comedy episode I can watch to relax after a long hard day at the office? No, it’s very serious – but it’s also very good, and Andrew lightens it up a bit.
5. Any time anyone sings “Mandy”
When? “Mandy” gets quite a few mentions over the years, but “Judgement“ (season two), “Orpheus“ (season four) and “The Magic Bullet“ (season four) are the major references.
Who? When Angel is forced to sing karaoke so Lorne can read him, he chooses Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” (Faith seems to think this is a step below even “Copacabana”). Over the years, it’s revealed that he was a big Manilow fan and used to go to concerts in the 1970s.
Why? This is another of Angel’s hidden, less dark and sexy, more slightly goofy, characteristics, and it’s especially funny since it involves dubious singing. Angel and Connor singing a version of the song dedicated to Jasmine in the final stretch of season four is probably the best thing about that whole arc, not to mention their most heart-warming father-son moment.
Is this a comedy episode I can watch to relax after a long hard day at the office? None of these episodes are “comedy” episodes as such, but “The Magic Bullet“ does include a comic sequence of people explaining how much they love Jasmine.
4. “I love you so much I almost forgot to brood!”
When? “Fredless” (season three).
Who? Cordelia and Wesley play-act a quick summary of how they think Angel and Buffy’s reunion is going for Fred, who is completely confused.
Why? By this point, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel were on different networks, so cross-overs became increasingly difficult and Buffy and Angel’s reunion following her resurrection from death had to happen off-screen. There were some advantages to that approach, keeping Angel’s focus on its own characters and story arcs, but at the same time, not seeing such an important scene for both characters had the potential to be little awkward. Fortunately, Cordelia and Wesley, imitating Buffy and Angel, are there to fill us in, and the result is a lot more fun than the real thing would have been.
Cordelia: Oh, Angel! I know that I am a Slayer, and you’re a vampire and it would be impossible for us to be together, but…
Wesley: But, my gypsy curse sometimes prevents me from seeing the truth. Oh, Buffy…
Cordelia: Yes, Angel?
Wesley: Oh, I love you so much I almost forgot to brood!
Cordelia: And just because I sent you to Hell that one time doesn’t mean that we can’t just be friends.
Wesley: Or possibly more?
Cordelia: Gasp! No! We mustn’t!
Wesley: Kiss me!
Cordelia: Bite me!
Angel: How about you both bite me?
Is this a comedy episode I can watch to relax after a long hard day at the office? No, but it is a very good episode, and an important one for Fred.
3. “You’re a wee little puppet man!”
When? “Smile Time” (season five).
Who? Angel has been turned into a Henson-style puppet. Hilarity ensues.
Why? Everything about Puppet Angel is hilarious, from the puppet-levels of excitement, to puppet-vamp-face, to Angel being attacked and bleeding stuffing while Lorne cries out for a Gepetto. But the highlight must be Spike exposing Puppet Angel to all of Wolfram and Hart and the two of them getting into a fight (in which Puppet Angel does pretty well for someone that small and made of felt).
Is this a comedy episode I can watch to relax after a long hard day at the office? Yes. This particular run of episodes featured “Damage“(Angel and Spike confront their pasts), “You’re Welcome“ (death of Cordelia), “Why We Fight“ (not as dark as that but not a bundle of laughs either) and “Smile Time“ was immediately followed by “A Hole In The World“ (death of Fred) and the grim run-up to the really quite depressing finale. Dear goodness, but we needed “Smile Time“ in there. It does what it says on the tin. (Just don’t look at the seriously creepy affected children if you’re feeling sensitive).
2. “I’m just a big fluffy puppy with bad teeth.”
When? “In The Dark” (season one).
Who? Evil Spike, in his very last fully evil, non-chipped appearance in the Buffyverse, vocalizes some of the things we’ve all been thinking in a glorious monologue, as he fills in what he imagines Angel and his latest rescuee are saying to each other.
Spike: (as Rachel) How can I thank you, you mysterious black-clad hunk of a night thing? (as Angel) No need, little lady, your tears of gratitude are enough for me. You see, I was once a badass vampire, but love and a pesky curse defanged me. And now, I’m just a big, fluffy puppy with bad teeth. (Rachel reaches up towards Angel’s face) No! not the hair! Never the hair. (as Rachel) But there must be some way I can show my appreciation? (as Angel) No, helpin’ those in need’s my job, and workin’ up a load of sexual tension and then prancing away like a magnificent poof is truly thanks enough. (as Rachel) I understand. I have a nephew who’s gay, so… (as Angel) Say no more. Evil’s still afoot. And I’m almost out of that nancy-boy hair-gel I like so much. Quickly, to the Angel-mobile! Away!
Why? Spike is hilarious in any of his evil, evil-but-neutered or good incarnations, but Evil Spike is probably the funniest of all, not least for his ability to see right through our heroes. He already pointed out the central tension in Buffy and Angel’s relationship to their faces in Buffy season three; here, Angel is spared his musings, but thankfully we are not.
Is this a comedy episode I can watch to relax after a long hard day at the office? No – Angel spends much of it being tortured and the climax involves a threat to a large number of children. But in addition to Spike, this episode does also feature Oz, so there are more than a few laughs along the way (following an almost monosyllabic conversation between Angel and Oz, Doyle asks Cordelia if they’re always like this and Oz says, “No, we’re usually laconic”).
1. “Numfar! Do the Dance of Joy!”
When? “Through The Looking-Glass“ (season two).
Who? Lorne’s brother Numfar (seen only in the background and played by Joss Whedon) seems to have one job in their home – performing ridiculous-looking ceremonial dances.
Why? Apparently, when they realised family black sheep Lorne was missing, Numfar did the Dance of Joy for three moons. “Numfar!” orders Lorne’s mother, wanting to demonstrate. “Do the Dance of Joy!” And he does. And it is glorious.
Is this a comedy episode I can watch to relax after a long hard day at the office? Yes. Much of Angel season two followed an increasingly dark story arc in which Angel fired all his friends, ran off with Darla and Drusilla, allowed the afore-mentioned pair to kill half the lawyers at Wolfram and Hart and finally had sex with Darla before realising what a total idiot he was being and coming crawling back. Meanwhile, on parent show Buffy, season five had started out, if not light, then no darker than usual, but got progressively more depressing as Buffy’s mother was treated for and then died of cancer and the show worked its way up to Buffy’s own death in the finale. The turning-point in Buffy when the show turned towards the tragic (Joyce’s death in “The Body“) was designed to match up with the opposite turning-point in Angel, as Angel realized his mistake and reunited with his friends (“Epiphany“) and Angel season two finished with an overtly comic and slightly bonkers arc set in Lorne’s home dimension of Pylea, involving Cordelia becoming a Princess, Lorne’s decapitated head talking and Angel, suddenly able to see himself in mirrors, obsessing over his hair. It was a much-needed counterpart to its parent show’s solemnity, and Whedon’s own cameo was the highlight, whether you know it’s him under there or not.
Honorable mention: Outside of the Pylea arc, although Angel did comedy episodes from time to time (“Sense And Sensitivity,” “Harm’s Way“), the show’s humor was more often incorporated into every episode as part of its make-up, rather than celebrated overtly. One important exception that so far hasn’t appeared in our list, though, is season four’s “Spin The Bottle.” This is a brilliantly well-made comedy episode that, as well as making us laugh, provides a wonderful opportunity to see Cordelia, Wesley, and Gunn as they were when we first met them, before Wesley went dark, Gunn became conflicted and… everything that was going on with Cordelia in season four happened. Even better, we also get to see Angel and Fred as teenagers, which is completely new, while Lorne narrates the whole thing to a bar crowd with plenty of wry humour. Everyone gets some funny lines, but since Liam (Angel) has essentially been ripped out of the eighteenth century, his are some of the funniest, with gems like, “You stopped the tiny men from singing!” when a radio is turned off. One of season four’s highlights.
This article first appeared in April 2014.