I am an avid fan of all things sketch. I love to laugh and I really love subversive jokes and scathing satires. My love of sketch comedy goes back as far as I can remember. Funny thing, I love sketch shows but I hate improv. Something about it just doesn’t sit right with me. Maybe its the fact that the performers seem like they are trying to hard. I dunno, in any case it makes me uncomfortable. I was lying in bed last week and in those last brief moments of lucidity before I drifted off to sleep I began to think of my favorite sketch shows of all time. I thought it would make a great list. Then I fell asleep and forgot about them. So I spent the last two days racking my brain, trying to remember what I was thinking of. And I did. So here is my list of the top 5 sketch comedy shows of all time.
editors note: I did not include Monty Python on this list for the simple fact that they are the pioneers of the form and all these shows owe a huge debt to their creative genius. Plus, Python doesn’t deserve to be amongst the rank of these shows.They are above it all and true masters of the art form.
5. Saturday Night Live (NBC – 1975 to present)
What was once a groundbreaking show has been reduced to a couple of great sketches a year. The fact that they still insist on doing the show live is a sign that they think they are greater then they actually are. For me, the only times in the recent years that they have really pushed the boundaries and gave us something new is when they do taped pieces. The consistent awesomeness of the digital shorts is a testament to that. I watch it every week because it does still do great things. Only now those great things are bookended by boring bits that go on for 4 minutes too long. Hopefully they will start to rethink things soon and refocus all the talent that they do have.
4. Upright Citizens Brigade (Comedy Central – 1998 to 2000)
This show only made 30 episodes and they are all great. Look what you can do when you don’t have to fill an hour and half every week. Starring Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh they took the concept of the sketch show and turned it into an anti media, pro anarchy 30 minutes of hilarity. The sketches were new and funny and pushed the boundaries of what 4 people could do to make us laugh. They are not as well known as the rest of the shows on this list but definitely worth checking out.
3. Human Giant (MTV – 2007 to 2008)
Now having to only do 14 episodes of a show and you still get to make it onto this list? Then you must be fucking funny. Human Giant is a three piece comedy team starring Aziz Ansari, Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer and they really got the funny right. Yes it was short lived but the amount of jokes packed into each episode is HUGE and they directions in which they took the humour is fantastic. So many great bits, but my personal favorite stars Wil Arnett and it will make you cry.
2. Mr. Show with Bob and David (HBO – 1995 to 1998)
I cannot explain how excited I was to stumble upon this genius. Not getting HBO in Canada at the time, I am still not sure how my brother and I found out about this. Needless to say it became our comedy anchor for may years, even going as far as naming one of our bands TAINT after a bit in one of the episodes. The show was the most fluid sketch comedy show to ever be on TV. Every bit segued into the next and every joke felt like it mattered. David Cross and Bob Odenkirk were doing comedy at a level that hadn’t been seen since my number one. But they also had the luxury of being on HBO so they could say pretty much anything they wanted. It is still funny to this day and I am so glad I own all the DVDs.
1. The Kids in the Hall (CBC – 1988 to 1994)
From the opening notes of the song “Having an average weekend” by Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, this sketch show set the bar for what you comedy can be. All 5 cast members played so many different roles that they stopped being actors and completely let the character take over. I cannot list my favorite because every time I go “head crusher” then its no wait, “Cabbage Head” no, “He’s Hip He’s cool, He’s 45″ no its “Simon and Hecubus” You can see how this can go on forever. I have been lucky enough to see them live twice and even quite liked their most recent show “Death comes to Town”. I am so glad that they are Canadian and so am I. We are fucking comedy geniuses.