With 36 seasons under its belt, Saturday Night Live is pretty much the undisputed champion when it comes to sketch comedy shows. However, there are plenty of other sketch shows that were just as funny (or funnier) that just didn’t happen to last for three-plus decades. Below are some of the very best sketch comedy TV shows of all time.
Photo credit: YouTube/Comedy Central
12 Upright Citizens Brigade
The 1990s was a boom decade for sketch comedy, and the Upright Citizens Brigade was one of the last troupes to ride the wave. Consisting of Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh, the group landed on Comedy Central for three seasons of random awesomeness. Notable sketches include Bong Boy, Ass Pennies and The Little Donny Foundation. Here’s the video that UCB is perhaps best known for, Bucket of Truth:
|Upright Citizens Brigade|
|Bucket of Truth|
11 Mad TV
Forever known as the bastard cousin of Saturday Night Live, Mad TV may have never reached legendary status. However, with a full 14 seasons on the air, it’s hard to ignore this sketch comedy juggernaut. With a major slant towards recurring characters and catchphrases, the show created a number of memorable moments. Top sketches include Ms. Swan, Little Stuart Larkin and Lowered Expectations.
10 The Carol Burnett Show
The Carol Burnett Show was family entertainment at its finest. While most sketch shows these days tend to go blue, Carol and company managed to make the world laugh without being vulgar. Running for 11 seasons, the early success of the show certainly helped lay the groundwork for more sketch shows to be picked up by television stations. Here’s the show’s parody of Gone With The Wind:
9 Human Giant
One of the first great Internet troupes to find success, Human Giant proved to be masters of goofy premises and pop culture parody. Consisting of Aziz Ansari, Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer, the group has since gone on to bigger and better things. However, for two glorious seasons the trio made a name for themselves with such sketches as Shutterbugs, Illusionators and the Ding Dong Boys. Here they are rollerblading:
8 The State
Before MTV picked up Human Giant, they forayed into sketch comedy with The State. Lasting three seasons, the series featured such heavy hitters as Thomas Lennon, Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, David Wain and Robert Ben Garant. With a unique take on sketch comedy, the crew is known for their random inanity. Classic sketches include Old Fashioned Guy, Captain Monterey Jack, $240 Worth of Pudding and I Wanna Dip My Balls In It.
7 In Living Color
In Living Color was one of the first sketch shows to focus primarily on African-American topics. Despite this fact, plenty of suburban white kids found themselves watching the show in the early 1990s. With cast members that included Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, David Alan Grier and the Wayans Brothers (not to mention a Fly Girl by the name of Jennifer Lopez), there was plenty of talent filling out this lively sketch show. Notable sketches include Fire Marshall Bill, The Aresenio Hall Show and Homey D. Clown.
Second City Television (aka SCTV) was Canada’s answer to Saturday Night Live. Operating on a shoestring budget, the players managed to find laughs for pennies on the dollar. Running from 1976 to 1984, the show manufactured some of the most well-known comedy stars of the 1980s. These include John Candy, Eugene Levy, Rick Moranis, Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short. Below is one of the show’s most successful recurring sketches, Great White North:
5 Chappelle’s Show
What do you get when you take Dave Chappelle’s stand-up act and put it into sketch comedy format? Answer: one of the funniest sketch shows in recent memory. With a heavy focus on pop culture and African-American topics, in a lot of ways the show was a mixture of Human Giant and In Living Color. Legendary sketches include A Moment in the Life of Lil’ John, Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories and, of course, Wayne Brady’s Show.
4 That Mitchell and Webb Look
If you’ve never heard of this British television show, then you’re doing yourself a disservice (you can watch it instantly on Netflix… go do it). Quite possibly the funniest sketch show of the 21st century, Robert Webb and David Mitchell blend intelligent humor with stupid premises to create something truly unique and hilarious. Notable sketches include Numberwang, Ted and Peter and The Surprising Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken Caesar.
3 Mr. Show with Bob and David
In the 1990s, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross set out to make a different kind of sketch show. This series would eschew the easy joke, knee-jerk catchphrase and recycled character sketch. The result was one of the most original sketch shows to see the light of day. Ask any current sketch performer to list off their influences, and undoubtedly Mr. Show will be on his or her list.
2 The Kids in the Hall
In the world of sketch comedy, The Kids in the Hall was the greatest thing to come out of Canada since SCTV. With a similar philosophy as Mr. Show, the Kids sought to deliver an alternative comedy experience to that of Saturday Night Live. By and large, they were successful. Troupe members included Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson. Together, they crafted such memorable sketches as 30 Helens Agree, The Chicken Lady, Gavin, Mr. Heavyfoot and Headcrusher.
1 Monty Python’s Flying Circus
Monty Python has influenced virtually every sketch comedy group since they landed on British TV in 1969. With their witty take on current affairs and ability to lampoon the tricks of the TV trade, Monty Python redefined the idea of what sketch comedy could be. Ahead of their time and still head and shoulders above the vast majority of sketch shows, Monty Python’s Flying Circus deserves a spot at the top of this list.
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