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Top 10 Sketch Comedy Shows

Top 10 Sketch Comedy Shows

They created our favourite short and silly skits. Whether highbrow or lowbrow, bizarre or surreal, TV’s sketch comedy shows are funny in their own ways.

For this list, we will be focusing only on shows made of standalone or loosely connected sketches. We’re excluding improv shows, sitcoms, or standup specials that may contain sketch elements.

They’re created our favourite short and silly skits.

For this list, we will be focusing only on shows made of standalone or loosely connected sketches. We’re excluding improv shows, sitcoms, or standup specials that may contain sketch elements.

#10: “Little Britain” (2003-06)

Kicking off our list is this UK export. Despite being ridiculously English, this sketch-com became ridiculously popular in America, which resulted in a U.S. market second series titled Little Britain USA. Beginning as a radio program before moving to TV, the two-man troupe of David Walliams and Matt Lucas banked on recurring characters, catchphrases, and – of course – British stereotypes.

#9: “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” (2007-10)

Described by the series creators as “a nightmare version of television,” this show pushed the envelope in terms of black comedy, anti-humour, farce and satire. Broadcast of the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block, the show’s use of commercial parody and campy graphics made it an excellent fit, despite the fact it was a live-action show. The series also gained bonus points for its nonstop use of celebrity cameos.

#8: “Mr. Show with Bob and David” (1995-98)

Starring Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, this HBO comedy may not have hit the masses; but its cult status is undeniable. “Mr Show” regularly mined TV itself for comedy fodder, frequently mocking commercials, infomercials, and local news. Cited as a chief influence on many shows that followed, it also helped advance the careers of comedy fixtures such as Sarah Silverman, Paul F. Tompkins, Jack Black, and Brian Posehn.

#7: “The Kids in the Hall” (1988-95)

Picking up spiritually where “SCTV” left off, this Lorne Michaels-produced comedy was a hit not only in its native Canada but south of the border as well. Taking their name from a Sid Caesar joke, the troupe regularly blended songs, surrealism, recurring characters, and monologues into a Python-like comedy stew for the ‘90s. Having the openly gay Scott Thompson on board also allowed KiTH to do sketches from an informed LGBT point of view.

#6: “MADtv” (1995-2009)

A sketch show based on a magazine; yeah, that’ll work. Oh but it did. Bearing virtually no resemblance to its magazine source, “MADtv” banked heavily on TV parodies as well as topical and pop culture items of the day. Airing on FOX on Saturday night, it was one of the few shows ever to give “SNL” a solid run for its money, and at one point the two shows even featured rival Meyers brothers in Josh and Seth.

#5: “In Living Color” (1990-94)

Unlike most of the shows on our list, this sketch-com featured an almost exclusively African-American cast, which included the Wayans brothers, future Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, David Alan Grier, and some Canadian guy nobody named James Carrey. Always willing to push things too far, the show often battled the FOX network censors, causing Keenen Ivory Wayans to leave the show in protest.

#4: “The Carol Burnett Show” (1967-78)

A strong contender on its own, this classic show was part of a CBS lineup that included “All in the Family,” “M*A*S*H,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and “The Bob Newhart Show.” Talk about good billing. Known for its “Gone with the Wind parody, ad-libbed Q&A segments, and semi-improvised Tim Conway sketches, the series also had a spinoff in the form of “Mama’s Family” based on the popular family sketches.

#3: “Chappelle’s Show” (2003-06)

Although the show was cut short when the star Dave Chappelle abruptly quit and left for South Africa during the third season, it left a legacy of pure comedic gold. Rife with depictions of thug life and drug references – from Mary Jane to the biggies – the series may be best known for the Charlie Murphy sketches that gave Chappelle his unwanted catchphrase. All in all, it’s a helluva show.

#2: “Saturday Night Live” (1975-)

First hitting airwaves in 1975, “SNL” is unique to our list both for being alive program and for gradually recasting every few years. Helmed by Lorne Michaels for all but a few years in the ‘80s, this weekly show is known for high-profile guest hosts and musical acts, recurring sketches and catchphrases, for sharp political parodies and for launching countless film careers – for better or for worse.

Before we unveil our top pick here are a few honourable mentions:
– “All That (1994-2005)
– “Human Giant” (2007-08)
– “The State” (1993-95)
– “A Bit of Fry & Laurie” (1989-95)
– “Portlandia” (2011-)
– “SCTV” (1976-84)

#1: “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” (1969-74)

Taking our top spot is the ultimate comedy game-changer: Python. Going where nothing had ever gone before, this iconic series broke every rule it could, avoiding punchlines and even endings. Instead, the program offered us dead parrots, cross-dressing lumberjacks, and crimesolving bishops. Although many sketches were based on British life and social classes, the rampant silliness and surreal nature of the program meant it translated surprisingly well for global audiences.



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