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Nick Venable

The Best Sketch Comedy TV Shows Of All Time

Key and Peele as Parnabus and Lester .

Anyone needing quick laughs or good vibes can look to the funniest movies of 2023 or to the best comedies streaming on Netflix. But those looking specifically for the unique pleasures that sketch comedy delivers, it’s not so quick or easy a search. There are a lot of lackluster efforts out there, but we’re bypassing all that noise to focus on the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the kinds of classics that don’t need “more cowbell” to remain watchable year after year, even if they weren't ever the most popular shows of any given year.

Join us in celebrating the past 50+ years of floating narratives, interrupted storylines, star monologues, and celebrity cameos with our list of the best sketch comedy TV shows of all time. Starting with one of the most hilariously cringe-worthy creative efforts of its kind.

I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson

(Image credit: Netflix)

With the Emmy winner I Think You Should Leave, SNL vet Tim Robinson spins webs of bite-sized chaos out of myriad everyday moments, often playing a high-decibel albatross glomming onto all the other characters’ necks and making their lives worse. Whether it’s defending a reality show about corpses falling out of coffins or sparking the filthiest ghost tour possible, Robinson’s ingrates — like the episodes themselves — thankfully don’t outlast their stays, with endings just as brusque as the punchlines.

I Think You Should Leave can be streamed with a Netflix subscription.

Saturday Night Live

(Image credit: NBC/Broadway Video)

The most iconic and long-lasting sketch series in U.S. TV history, Saturday Night Live long ago transcended to becoming a comedic institution marked by shifting eras and generations, with a melting pot cast that regularly produces some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. From the early Conehead days to Eddie Murphy’s Gumby to Wayne’s World to the digital magic of Lonely Island and Please Don’t Destroy, SNL truly has something for everyone, even if it takes waiting around to find it.

Saturday Night Live is available to stream with a Peacock subscription.

Inside Amy Schumer

(Image credit: Comedy Central)

From 2013-2016, and again in 2022, comedian Amy Schumer brought her signature self-deprecating feminist gaze to Comedy Central and Paramount+ audiences with Inside Amy Schumer. Like many sketch series, this Emmy- and Peabody-winning comedy boasted a bevy of A+ guest stars — Jeff Goldblum, America Ferrera, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, etc. — joining Schumer in taking on an abundance stereotypes tied to gender, sex work, relationships and more. Beware the man in the “chicken” suit.

Inside Amy Schumer isn’t currently available to stream in the U.S.

Monty Python's Flying Circus

(Image credit: Netflix)

It’s…arguably the most influential comedy troupe of any location or era. The Monty Python clan — Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin — made their small screen mark with four standout seasons of Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-1974). Even if the jokes about chartered accountancy don’t seem timely, the timeless sketches about Silly Walks, the Spanish Inquisition, fish-slapping dances, paid arguments and more will forever rank in sketch comedy’s uppermost echelon. 

Monty Python's Flying Circus can be streamed with a Netflix subscription.

Chappelle's Show

(Image credit: Comedy Central)

Years before becoming a stand-up lightning rod for backlashes, Dave Chappelle and Neal Brennan delivered two genius seasons of racially and sexually charged sketch comedy with Chappelle’s Show, with Charlie Murphy, Donnell Rawlins and Paul Mooney also achieving all-star status. Though the namesake star was famously stressed out enough to exit the series before its third season was completed, the 44 episodes that were crafted have been all over the decades of pop culture that followed, with myriad memes focusing on some of Chappelle’s most memorable performances, from Prince to Clayton Bigsby to - Shazam! - Tyron Biggums. 

Chappelle’s Show can be streamed with a Netflix or Paramount+ subscription.


(Image credit: IFC YouTube)

In the way that Chappelle’s Show and Black Lady Sketch Show dig their claws into Black culture, Portlandia’s hyper-specific magnification of Portland’s hipster scene makes it one of the whitest (and weirdest) of sketch comedy’s higher ranks. Co-creators and stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein gave fans eight seasons of quirky, grungy, flighty, snobby, stoner, loner, groaner, balogn-er characters that couldn’t come from anywhere else on the planet, and the same could be said for all the guest stars.

Portlandia is available to stream with an AMC+ subscription.

Tracey Takes On...

(Image credit: Tracey Ullman YouTube)

A few years after her multicam Fox series that gave the world The Simpsons, the ever-brilliant Tracey Ullman shifted her talents to HBO for the more polished satire of Tracey Takes On…, in which each episode featured an assortment of Ullman’s awkward and/or aggressive characters in themed situations, from Love to Royalty to Vegas and beyond. The series, which was spawned from her 1993 comedy special, lasted for four seasons, and itself led to the spinoff special Tracey Ullman in the Trailer Tales in 2003.

Key & Peele

(Image credit: Comedy Central YouTube)

Jordan Peele’s haunting directorial efforts belie his silly-ass sense of humor, which was on full display during the five pause-from-laughing-too-hard seasons of Comedy Central’s Key & Peele, co-created by and co-starring Keegan-Michael Key. The winner of two Emmys and a Peabody, the sketch series spawned such memorable characters as The Valets, Meegan, Mr. Garvey and many more. One oof the all-time best sketches, which happens to be my personal favorite, is the gloriously absurd East/West Bowl team lineups. 

Key & Peele can be streamed with a Paramount+ subscription.

The Muppet Show

(Image credit: Disney+)

Muppet mastermind Jim Henson’s emotional and comedic intuition can never be overestimated, and it was perhaps at its most unfettered with The Muppet Show’s five seasons, which ran from 1976-1981. Though many of the musical segments were straightforwardly sincere, and Muppet humor doesn’t cut like modern satire, nothing quite compares to the enduring joy of Kermit the Frog reach his boiling point, Fozzie failing to realize how bad his jokes are, Bunson and Beaker’s foibles and all the rest. Guest stars are a bonus here, including Mark Hamill, don Knotts, Alice Cooper and Vincent Price.

The Muppet Show is available to stream with a Disney+ subscription.

In Living Color

(Image credit: YouTube)

It’s hard to believe that one TV show was the fame catalyst for Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, most of the Wayans family, and Jennifer Lopez, but such was the fateful timing of In Living Color (1990-1993), Fox’s raucous and riotous sketch series created by Keenan Ivory Wayans. Some of the most notorious (and possibly offensive) creations across the Emmy-winning show’s five seasons were Fire Marshall Bill, the snap-tastic Men on… segments, homeless cretin Anton Jackson, Head Detective, and a good number of its wild impersonations, such as “Three Champs and a Baby.”  

In Living Color currently isn’t available to stream in the U.S.

The State

(Image credit: The State YouTube)

The 11-member creative team behind The State (1994-95) has been involved in roughly 40% of all things comedy since the show’s four-season run on MTV, and it’s because they’re all genuinely hilarious writers and gifted performers. No one in Hollywood is quite like Ken “Dips His Balls In It” Marino or Michael “I’m Outta Hee-ee-eere” Showalter, and there similarly aren’t any sketch shows that match the same levels of purposeful ludicrousness as The State. (Truth be told, it would make this list simply for being the bridge to Wet Hot American Summer.)

The State is available to stream with a Paramount+ subscription.


(Image credit: SCTV YouTube)

Many would likely agree Second City Television would deserve a spot within sketch TV’s Mount Rushmore, even despite its Canadian origins, for the charm, skill, and hilarity of its all-star cast, including Rick Moranis, John Candy, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy and more. Lasting for six seasons from 1976-84, SCTV gave viewers a smorgasbord of faux daytime and primetime offerings, from the soapy “The Days of the Week” to Martin Short’s Ed Grimley to Joe Flaherty’s cable horror host Count Floyd, with Moranis and Dave Thomas’ beer-swilling Bob and Doug still as popular today. 

SCTV isn’t currently available to stream in the U.S.

That Mitchell And Webb Look

(Image credit: BBC YouTube)

Quite possibly the only piece of art that will ever feature anything dubbed “The Surprising Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken Caesar,” the UK winner That Mitchell and Webb Look (2006-2010) stands out for 2, 5, or 37 more reasons. (And that’s Numberwang!) From the brains of Peep Show’s David Mitchell and Robert Webb, as well as Succession creator Jesse Armstrong, TMAWL brought the delightful absurdity of the duo’s radio show to the visual medium, with a cast boasting Oscar winners Olivia Colman and Daniel Kaluuya, among others. This BAFTA-winning series definitely isn’t one of the baddies, Hans.

That Mitchell and Webb Look isn’t currently available to stream in the U.S.

Upright Citizens Brigade

(Image credit: UCB YouTube)

Upright Citizens Brigade is now one of the most prominent comedy organizations in the U.S., but at one time it served as one of TV’s most unpredictable sketch shows. Airing for three seasons from 1998-2000, the series is best known for preposterous sketch concepts like Poo Stick, Bucket of Truth, and Little Donny (and his massive pixelated dong), but works as well as it does because of the conviction of stars Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, Matt Walsh and Amy Poehler, all of whom have gone on to star in a zillion comedy projects. 

Upright Citizens Brigade can be streamed on Comedy Central with a pay-TV log-in.

Rowan And Martin's Laugh-In

(Image credit: Laugh-In YouTube)

Like no sketch comedy series before or since, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin’s Laugh-In had the advantage (or disadvantage) of airing during the hippie-dippy era surrounding the Vietnam war, from 1968-1973. As such, a lot of the comedy presented more “high” brow than highbrow, with all manner of one-liners and puns that would be at home in a tome of Dad jokes, both innocent and bawdy. It was where quite a few TV and film icons honed their skills, including Richard Dawson, Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin and Flip Wilson. 

Laugh-In is available to stream via Tubi and Pluto TV.

Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!

(Image credit: Max)

Nobody excels with cringe sketch comedy quite like Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, the duo who have deadpanned their way through myriad weird encounters during the five seasons and add-on specials comprising the 2007-2010 run of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, to the point where “Tim and Eric” has become shorthand for describing any kind of weird, shortform humor with an amateur aesthetic that would feel at home on Adult Swim, and its success can be exemplified in part by the pair’s follow-up projects at the network.

Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! can be streamed with a Max subscription.

A Black Lady Sketch Show

(Image credit: HBO)

Created by the wildly talented Robin Thede, who also dishes up some of the series’ most ridiculous personalities, A Black Lady Sketch Show views life through the titular feminine lens, and is all the more unique for it. It’s a testament to the writers and talented cast (which included Quinta Brunson and Gabrielle Dennis) that the majority of sketches are universally hilarious, no matter how nuanced or subversive, with no genre being spared from the coochie-bouncing genius. 

A Black Lady Sketch Show is available to stream with a Max subscription.

Kids In The Hall

(Image credit: Kids in the Hall YouTube)

One of Canada’s most beloved comedic imports, the prolifici Kids in the Hall quintet — Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch, and Scott Thompson — made their cabbage-headed mark with the eponymous TV show, which lasted for five seasons between 1988-1995, with a streaming revivial season debuting in 2022. (Not to mention the 1996 film Brain Candy and the 2010 miniseries Death Comes to Town.) The group’s quirky sensibilities and all-in performances have kept them as not popular as the Sizzler Sisters are not insane.

Kids in the Hall is available to stream with an Amazon Prime subscription.

Human Giant

(Image credit: YouTube)

TV regulars Paul Scheer, Rob Huebel and Aziz Ansari combined their comedic powers early in their careers for the endlessly silly and quotable MTV sketch show Human Giant, which lasted for two seasons from 2007-08. (The third was planned, but never happened due to Ansari’s Parks and Recreation schedule.) From the frequently recurring discomfort of “Shutterbugs” to the somewhat equal discomfort of the performative magicians Illusionators — as well as fun with time machines, Doritos commercials and commercials jings — Human Giant is a rapid-paced delight.

Human Giant currently isn’t available to stream in the U.S.

Mr. Show

(Image credit: HBO)

For four seasons, David Cross and Bob Odenkirk were seemingly allowed to put any idea they wanted (and could frugally budget) into HBO’s Mr. Show (1995-1998), from drugged-up Krofft-esque puppets to a faux biopic about this one guy’s taint to the death of art in “Coupon: The Movie.” The R-rated sketches and songs were as smart as they were silly and anarchic, with an A+ cast including superstars like Jack Black, Sarah Silverman and SpongeBob himself, Tom Kinney. 

Mr. Show is currently available to stream with a Max subscription.

The Birthday Boys

(Image credit: The Birthday Boys YouTube)

Sketch comedy king Bob Odenkirk helped bring the comedy troupe The Birthday Boys to the masses via the IFC series of the same name, which ran for 2 seasons from 2013-14. With cast members who went on to co-host the similarly monikered podcasts Doughboys and The Sloppy Boys, TBB is delightfully goofy, over-the-top and unapologetically immature, with no subject matter too ridiculous. (The episode “All Your Favorites Are Back” rivals Key & Peele’s “East/West Bowl” by way of an endless line of hilarious fake names.)

The Birthday Boys is available to stream with an AMC+ subscription.


(Image credit: YouTube)

Sharing little in common with its satirical magazine namesake, at least outside of “Spy vs. Spy” toons, MADtv remains one of the longest-running sketch shows of all time, lasting for 14 seasons on Fox (1995-2009), and then a single revival year on The CW in 2016. From movie and TV parodies — “Gump Fiction” remains an all-time great — to recurring characters like Michael McDonald’s Stuart or Nicole Sullivan’s Vancome Lady, MADtv is akin to SNL for often having as many misses as hits for certain viewers, but anybody who loves celebrity impressions will gets years’ worth of enjoyment out of Will Sasso, Aries Spears and Frank Caliendo alone.

MADtv currently isn’t available to stream in the U.S.

A Bit Of Fry And Laurie

(Image credit: BBC One)

A Bit of Fry and Laurie, created by and starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, is an unmistakably British sketch comedy, such is its adherence to language, wordplay, and man-on-the-street moments. (As well as UK government, natch.) With four seasons produced between 1987 and 1995, the series remains beloved thanks to the enduring careers of its hilarious stars, and to the light metal grooves of The Bishop and the Warlord. 

A Bit of Fry and Laurie is available to stream with a BritBox subscription.

Whitest Kids U'Know

(Image credit: IFC YouTube)

With their troupe roots going back to 1999, the Whitest Kids U’ Know members — Sam Brown, Zach Cregger, Trevor Moore, Darren Trumeter and Timmy Williams — gained a far wider fandom when their batshit-zany and often offensive sketch show of the same name debuted on Fuse, later moving to IFC for Seasons 2-5. Spinning things like “I’m gonna grape you in the mouth” into pop culture quotables, TWKUW crafted a sketch comedy rarity in Season 5’s ten “Civil War on Drugs” segments, which were later edited into a single doozy of a feature.

The Whitest Kids U' Know is currently unavailable to stream in the U.S.

Big Train

(Image credit: YouTube)

Ahead of the utter brilliance of Spaced and Shaun of the Dead, Simon Pegg made his mark on sketch comedy in Graham Linehan and Arthur Miller’s two-season cult fave Big Train (1998-2002). Co-starring Mark Heap, Catherine Tate and more, the show’s sketches are largely based on the simple premise of “ordinary moments spiraling into wackiness.” With a penchant for pitting pop musicians from the ‘70s and ‘80s in bonkers situations, the most predictable thing about Big Train is how unpredictable it is from one moment to the next.

Big Train is not currently available for streaming in the U.S. 


(Image credit: YouTube)

Canadian comedian John Byner and the Bizarre team broke a lot of weird ground with the 1980-1986 series, which aired in the U.S. in uncensored form via Showtime. For all the naughty fun had by the talented cast — including Mike Myers and Don Lake — arguably the show’s legacy rests in the accident-prone hands of Bob Einstein’s Super Dave Osbourne, as the faux stuntman’s popularity exploded thanks to frequent hazard-filled appearances throughout Bizarre’s run. 

Bizarre is currently unavailable to stream in the U.S.

Astronomy Club

(Image credit: Netflix)

With its titular troupe serving as the Upright Citizens Brigade’s first all-Black squad, Astronomy Club landed on Netflix in 2019 for its lone season thanks to executive producer Kenya Barris. With the overarching narrative that its cast is in a Big Brother-esque reality show beyond the sketches, the series honed in on the Black experience, tackling race and other issues with sharpness, with guest stars like Ice Cube and Busy Phillips. One can only imagine how much better it could have become had it lasted more than the one season.

Astronomy Club can be streamed with a Netflix subscription.


(Image credit: Stella YouTube)

From the ensemble of MTV’s The State came the stage show-turned-sketch series Stella, co-created by stars Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter and David Wain. Though it only lasted for a single season of ten episodes, Stella is expertly honed absurdity in bite-sized form, with the series pitting the abnormal trio against normal life, though without some of the black humor that fueled the original video shorts. Bringing guest stars in like Paul Rudd, Rashida Jones and Sam Rockwell is anything but absurd, though.

Stella can be streamed on Vimeo.

Hey Vern, It's Ernest

(Image credit: YouTube )

While Nickelodeon is usually the spot where kid-friendly sketch comedy is found, CBS Saturday mornings is where viewers could find Jim Varney in full denim mode for Hey Vern, It’s Ernest, the one-season effort centering on the actor’s signature Ernest P. Worrell character. The show is a revolving door of weird shit, with rapid-fire sketches and segments featuring Varney in a plethora of costumes and prosthetics, and a ton of charm-laden practical effects on display throughout. It doesn’t seem like a recurring sketch about a barber misunderstanding the words “wall street tycoon” would work every time, but Varney sells it all. Even the nightmarish Baby Ernest...

Hey Vern, It’s Ernest isn’t currently available to stream in the U.S.

The Ben Stiller Show

(Image credit: YouTube)

A microcosm of early ‘90s pop culture, The Ben Stiller Show is possibly the only series to air one 13-episode season across three different channels, face cancellation, and then win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing. Such was the offbeat and high-energy power of this MTV-adjacent sketch series, which featured a host of talent from stars Janeane Garofalo and Bob Odenkirk to writer David Cross and co-creator Judd Apatow (whose Jay Leno impression is on full display). And it also boasts the badge of honor that comes with remaining more relevant and enjoyable than a lot of the movie, TV and music projects it parodied.

The Ben Stiller Show currently isn't available to stream in the U.S.

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