As I've mentioned before, I'm a huge fan of sketch comedy shows. It's a great way to “mix it up” and keep the attention-span-impaired of us interested long enough to follow what's going on. I've sung the praises of Saturday Night Live on this website, but what about the other sketch comedy shows? Aren't there others that deserve attention too? I could sit here all day and go through all of the great sketch comedy shows I've seen, but these are my top 7 favorites. Some are still on broadcast or cable, but most are off the air and found on Netflix or YouTube. I've included links to a sample of each show's material, as well.
Honestly, this is one of my favorite sketch comedy shows. It comes from a Canadian comedy troupe that features a very young Dave Foley (“NewsRadio,” “A Bug's Life”), Bruce McCullough, Scott Thompson, Mark McKinney (mentioned in an SNL article) and Kevin MacDonald. Their brand of comedy was of the “silly non-sequitur” kind, like this hilarious song by Bruce about “the Daves he knows.” Trust me, you're going to be singing this song all day. Give my apologies to everyone around you.
As the name implies, this British show was hosted by men named Fry and Laurie-Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, to be exact. The show was well known for its irreverent satire and comical musical numbers, the funniest of which I've linked here. Word of advice: swallow before you watch. Otherwise your screen could get an unwelcome shower.
This was one of the first sketch comedy shows to feature a mostly-black cast, which by itself warrants inclusion on this list. It was started by brothers Damon and Keenan Ivory Wayans and got a lot of attention-both positive and negative-for “racy” humor and portrayals of racial stereotypes. Fun fact-Jennifer Lopez was one of their “Fly Girl” dancers.
I'll admit I didn't fully appreciate them until I saw “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” but I've taken a strong liking to this classic British comedy troupe. The show and the movies really speak for themselves, so there's not much I have to say that you won't see on your own if you watch them. This is one of my favorite sketches, “The Lumberjack Song.” Look at the facial expressions on the others as he describes his, um, proclivities.
This is another sketch show out of Canada. The title stands for, “Second City Television,” an offshoot from a Toronto-based comedy troupe of the same name. The show was set up like a local cable access network with bizarre and cheaply-made “programming.” It was known for being similar to SNL in that it was a “variety” show, but it had a relatively low budget and was a huge hit for making such a funny show out of limited resources.
This is where Amy Poehler got her start on TV. It started out as a traveling sketch and improv group from Chicago but moved to New York and, between doing shows and giving improv lessons, they eventually opened their own theater. Their TV show lasted for two years on Comedy Central, but you can still find their work online and on DVD. I can't possibly do this hilarious group justice, so watch the clip for a sampling.
This is another show I gained appreciation for “later on.” For a lot of us, this is the first we saw of comic actors like Tim Conway and Vicki Lawrence (in addition to Carol, of course). What I find particularly interesting is that they managed to be hilarious without having to go beyond a TV-G rating. I know shows back then usually didn't have the kind of “offensive material” we have now, but some shows still haven't managed to strike the balance between clean and funny.
I don't really know what else to say about sketch comedy shows except that the short, “bite-sized” format never gets old. As much as I love “regular” TV, it's good to see something different every now and then. How about you? Are there any sketch comedy shows you particularly like (or dislike)? Are there any I haven't mentioned here that you would recommend? Let's talk!
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