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When it comes to TV comedy, sitcoms are king. Turn on the tube any day of the week between 8 and 9pm and odds are the large networks are airing a sitcom. With their familiar sets, likeable actors, and generic plots, sitcoms (even really good ones) have an effortless charm. They’re secure. Sitcoms are the meat and potatoes of the comedy world.
Sketch comedy, however, (if it’s very good) appeals to the comedy connoisseur. They’re for audiences who like their comedy served up a small rawer and with a small much more mustard. Sitcoms are fine for a Tuesday when you feel like eating some meatloaf and going to bed early. Sketch comedy is comedy for Friday night, when you really feel like going out and attempting something different and elaborate. Some thing that someone produced with sweat and tears. Some thing fantastic. A sketch comedy show is where comedy reaches its peak. And these are the Ten Very best Sketch Comedy shows that ever appeared on TV.
10. Human Giant
The difference between good sketch comedy and excellent sketch comedy frequently lies in a troupe’s capacity to connect to whatever particular zeitgeist they find themselves in: Monty Python could only have ever happened in the late 60s in England and The Kids in The Hall were a product of Toronto in the late 80s. Of course, they have to transcend those limits to be wonderful, but they also have to be a reflection of their times. Human Giant achieved this in the 2000s. Appearing on MTV (truly the perfect place for them), Aziz Ansari, Rob Hubel, and Paul Scheer had been the kings of the burgeoning Internet comedy trend. Essentially a couple of guys get a camera and some editing software and shoot a funny video. Like other Web groups, they had been fresh, charmingly low-fi, and full of energy. Unlike most other Interent groups, they had been genuinely good. With their seemingly endless collection of self-important goofballs and witlessly confident jackasses, they gently skewered pop culture like exceptionally talented class clowns who managed to bluff their way on to a major network. They only made two seasons of Human Giant (Aziz Ansari is too busy conquering the world to make any far more), but those two seasons had been amazing. And extremely, extremely funny.
9. A Bit Of Fry And Laurie
Though it aired only briefly in the U.S. and its two stars are better known nowadays as a prolific Twitterer (Stephen Fry) and a cantankerously brilliant TV physician (Hugh Laurie), A Bit of Fry and Laurie deserves a place on any list of the greatest sketch comedy shows of all time. A brainy mix of sophisticated verbal jokes and sublime silliness, the show took a cerebral yet hilarious tour of the England of the middle 90s. With ridiculous character after ridiculous character, Fry and Laurie poked and mocked the country and its individuals with grace, élan, and the type of charm that can only come with years and years of elite education. Both graduates of Cambridge, their humor was razor sharp and full of references to every thing from classic works of literature to two-bit TV show hosts. The resulting comedy stew was a totally original blend of high and low culture, none of it safe from the piercing, but never bitter satire of the pair. The whole series was released on DVD’ also, several of the far better sketches can be discovered on YouTube and certainly deserve to be checked out.
8. The Children In The Hall
Despite initial comparisons to Monty Python (mostly because both groups spent just as significantly time in women’s clothes as they did in men’s), The Children in the Hall swiftly established themselves as one of the most original sketch comedy groups in history. While the a lot more common Saturday Night Live was leaning a lot more and more heavily on running recurring characters as far into the ground as they could, The Kids in the Hall had been creating masterful character based comedy firmly grounded in the everyday lives of regular folks. Sure, they had their share of outlandish characters and catchphrases, but they were always planted in the most mundane and prevalent situations. The Children in the Hall was usually greatest when it mined the endless struggles, inane and serious, of relationships, work, and life at the end of the 20th Century. A massive success in their native Canada, The Kids in the Hall remained a mostly cult phenomenon in the U.S. The show gave fans of smart original comedy some of the greatest and funniest characters ever developed. A couple of examples: the Chicken Lady, Francesca Fiore, Bruno Puntz-Jones, Gavin, Simon and Hecubus. If you haven’t seen it, you have to. Correct now.
7. Mr. Show with Bob And David
Started by two veteran comedians who happened to be the brightest lights of the fledging alternative comedy scene of the early 90s, Mr. Show With Bob and David started strong and got stronger. Anchored by Bob Odenkirk (a lengthy-time SNL writer who came up with Conan O’Brian and Robert Smigel) and David Cross (a hilarious funny and original stand-up from Boston), Mr. Show quickly built a cult following with its top notch material and incredible performances. Since there had been two guys running the show instead of a troupe, Mr. Show had a confident, consistent voice. From the very first episode to the final season, Bob and David knew precisely the type of show they wanted to make, and maybe a lot more importantly, precisely the type of show they didn’t want. Sickened by the calcified, institutionally lazy atmosphere they discovered at SNL, Bob and David wanted to make a comedy show that served the comedy, not the raging egos of its stars. They gave audiences original, daring material that was unlike anything else on TV. They brought the funny sure, but with their dedication to originality and staunch refusal to go for the easy joke, it was comedy you could believe in, too.
6. The Carol Burnett Show
Many of the troupes on their list gained their notoriety by being expert satirists as well as amazing comedians. But wonderful sketch comedy doesn’t have to come from a group of talented kids looking to change the world and reinvent the comedy wheel. Sometimes all it takes is a group of very funny experts to put together a funny show. Take for example The Carol Burnett Show. Running for 11 seasons (288 episodes!) on CBS, it had no other agenda than to make individuals laugh. Anchored by incredibly charming and down-to-earth Carol Burnett, and featuring 1 of the greatest (if not the basically the greatest ever) comedy duos in history in Tim Conway and Harvey Korman, it produced year after year of funny material. But what really drew audiences back week after week was how much fun the cast seemed to be having. Ask anyone who has watched the show what their favourite sketch was, and they’d possibly say any 1 where Conway and Korman cracked each other up. Sure, it could be corny and sentimental at times, but The Carol Burnett Show proved that “family entertainment” doesn’t have to be dumb entertainment. And for that it a lot more than deserves its place on this list as 1 of the very best loved TV shows of all time.
5. Chappelle’s Show
It isn’t by accident that most of the fantastic sketch comedy shows are the products of a comedy troupe. Writing and performing even a bad show takes hours and hours of work. Trying to put together a excellent show takes that much much more. Even if it were an average show, you’d still have to admire the work Dave Chappelle put into his brief but memorable Chappelle’s Show– but it was anything but average. Built upon the well-honed stand up of Dave Chappelle’s earlier career, Chappelle’s Show was a controversial mix of race, drugs, sex, and everything else on the star’s mind. A singular vision, it presented Chappelle’s special take on the powder kegs of modern life. Watching Chappelle’s Show is like taking a tour of modern America by means of the eyes of 1 guy. A ridiculously talented, balls-out hilarious guy. That persistent voice and sense of humor makes it special on this list and in the sketch comedy world. Here was one guy pouring out his mind and thoughts in the funniest way he could. Is it any wonder he burned out after two seasons? He worked way too difficult to give us one of the very best sketch shows there ever was.
4. Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Wonderful Job!
Undoubtedly the strangest show on this list and possibly the strangest show to ever air on television, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Excellent Job! is supremely weird. The sketches are surreal and at times disturbing, the supporting cast is a mix of well-known comedians and bizarrely untalented non-actors, and the whole thing is presented with production values that would embarrass the cheapest public access show. This deliberate strangeness could make for a uniquely terrible viewing experience except for 1 thing. It’s completely original and absolutely hilarious. With Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Wonderful Job!, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim have managed the rare feat of creating something simultaneously odd, unsettling, and incredibly funny. Anybody can do weird for weird’s sake, but Tim and Eric do it in such a special, funny way that you can’t help but watch. Sitting down to the average episode is like watching a traffic accident. Except there are clowns there. And John C. Reilly in a wig. You can’t look away and you can’t stop laughing.
3. Saturday Night Live
It may possibly be everyone’s favourite thing to hate these days, but no matter how a lot of much more substandard seasons they let it run, nothing can diminish the electricity and pure comedic energy of the very first couple of seasons of Saturday Night Live. Coming out of the improvisation tradition created by The Second City (a movement that continues to be a major source of American comedy talent), SNL combined a murderer’s row of talent and a youthful fearlessness that pushed at the confines and strictures of what TV comedy could be. The Not Ready For Primetime Players (the nickname John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtain, Garret Morris, and Lorraine Newman gave themselves) may well have started as a bit of self-deprecation, but it became just the opposite. They had been too excellent for primetime. Too smart, too hip, and way too cool for TV. They made staying property on Saturday night what the cool folks did- to not watch SNL was to be out of touch and left out of the cultural discussion. Like Monty Python, they were comedy rock stars who instantly became household names. At least for anybody in the home under 25. Even after 35 years and via the light of the some great and a lot of terrible seasons since, those first four years stand as one of the finest moments in American comedy history.
The second of the two excellent sketch comedy shows to come out of the Second City improv tradition, SCTV was Saturday Night Live’s quieter, slightly much more clever brother. Filmed in the relative obscurity of Toronto (compared to SNL’s New York City property, the media capital of the world) SCTV never became a cultural institution like its much more famous cousin, it just became an incredible groundbreaking show. Founded on the genius premise that every sketch and parody was actually airing on a terrible local TV station, SCTV skewered every trend, genre, and celebrity that called TV residence in the 70s and 80s. Even better, the conceit that they had been a TV station allowed them to go behind the scenes and create a cast of rich, completely distinctive characters. From sleazy station owner Guy Caballero, hacky comedian Bobby Bittman, kiddie horror host Count Floyd, scuzzball host Johnny Larue to dozens of others, SCTV created an entirely realized world around the usual fare of parodies and impressions. This devotion to building characters, along with a cast that included comedy giants like John Candy, Martin Short, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Catherine O’Hara, Dave Thomas, and Joe Flaherty among others made SCTV a show that rewarded loyal viewers. Their recurring characters were actual characters, not just catchphrases or silly costumes.
1. Monty Python’s Flying Circus
Sketch comedy existed just before Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, and Terry Gilliam started Monty Python’s Flying Circus, but they made it an art form. With their brilliant satire, absurd yet instantly recognizable characters, and practically preternatural understanding of the tropes and tricks of television they created an entirely new form of comedy. Drawing on the social and cultural change around them yet maintaining enough distance to properly mock it, they made conventional comedy that was thoroughly modern. They were Oxford and Cambridge educated men who could riff on classical philosophy and Spam in the exact same episode. They were smart, stupid, clever and ridiculous all at the exact same time. It’s not without accident that they became comedy megastars and the acknowledged masters of the genre. Other groups have come and gone, some of them incredibly funny. But there will usually only ever be 1 Monty Python. And they will always be the finest sketch comedy group of all time.