DAR TV: The 5 Best Sketch Comedy Shows

By @TrueGodImmortal

For most, the concept of a show full of "live" or pre taped sketches presented in front of a studio audience (usually), is very tough to pull off. In theory, it should be impossible as being able to know your audience and how to tap into their humor will always be hit or miss. The truth of the matter is that sketch comedy has always been a thriving business, and in television, it has become an epidemic again in recent years. From Key and Peele to Portlandia and even down to the Funny or Die show that lasted briefly, there have been recent shows that truly tap into the nature of sketch comedy. With that in mind, I decided to take a look at the best sketch comedy shows and rank the top 5. There are some that many people love that won't be here (Key and Peele, Benny Hill Show, The Kids In The Hall, Mr. Show, Monty Python), but I'm sure the top 5 (including one of the choices) will have some people talking. Let's get into it.

5. Mad TV 
(Debuted In 1995, 15 Seasons)

-In its heyday, Mad TV was my favorite sketch comedy show, even above Saturday Night Live and In Living Color for a time. I used to find the crass and offensive jokes to be hilarious, even as a kid (I'm an asshole perhaps), and the actors who brought these sketches to life for the most part were hilarious. Aries Spears, Frank Caliendo, Alex Borstein, Phil LaMarr, Michael McDonald, Debra Wilson, and Will Sasso were the cast members that truly made me laugh the most. From the infamous Ms. Swan to Will Sasso and his Stone Cold Steve Austin impersonations to the infamous Aries Spears impersonation of R. Kelly's "The World's Greatest" track, Mad TV would go above and beyond to cross the line, which is what makes great comedy. I wasn't the biggest fan of Jordan Peele on the show (I know the Get Out frenzy is very relevant to this), but his partner Keegan Michael Key was absolutely hilarious during his time on the show, which even despite the waning ratings and content declining during the period, managed to be solid overall. Mad TV is one of the greatest sketch comedy shows and holds a special place for me. It is more entertaining and engaging than some of the others that people would list here.

4. All That 
(Debuted In 1994, 10 Seasons)

-So, I get it. Nickelodeon having a sketch comedy show shouldn't really be here right? I mean, the show is essentially what we love about sketch comedy just with more juvenile humor (if that's even possible). The show debuted in April of 1994 and would run until 2005, and make some slight stars in the process. Though 2005 signals the show ending, we all know in 2000 was where the show officially went away. They went on hiatus and brought the show with an entirely new cast, losing the essence of what we loved about the show itself. With future "stars" like Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, Amanda Bynes, Nick Cannon, and more, All That was something for the younger crowd that still can garner laughs based on nostalgia and such now. I mean, the infamous sketches on this show, from Ms. Piddlin, The Loud Librarian, all the way to my personal favorite of Good Burger (which turned into an actual film and cult classic) helped shape what made the show so intriguing. The show had a diverse cast as well, something that was rare in television at the time and allowing us to see kids of all races together in sketches or on the show let us know that comedy doesn't thrive on color. Everyone was laughing at All That and nodding our head to the classic TLC theme as well. Many would sleep on All That and probably put something like The Carol Burnett Show, Portlandia, or Benny Hill here in the sketch comedy top 5, but be clear: All That appealed to the usual Nickelodeon audience and young white audiences, but it also managed to appeal to us because of the diversity within the show.

3. Saturday Night Live 
(Debuted In 1975, 42 Seasons)

-For every cringe worthy moment that we witnessed from SNL, there's a ton of crazy and hilarious moments and characters that we will never forget. Over the course of 42 seasons, the show has manages to appeal to those of all ages and races, but the humor tends to get lost for multiple seasons in a row, minus a few moments or two. The only thing that keeps SNL from being the no. 1 sketch comedy of all time is inconsistency. Granted, with 42 seasons of the show, inconsistency is to be expected at times, but the show has some terrible levels of inconsistency where nothing is funny at all. The best days of SNL truly came early on, and though a lot of those characters weren't funny to me, a number of them are iconic to sketch comedy. The show has made a number of stars, giving us the careers of some of the most popular comedians of our time from Steve Martin to Eddie Murphy to Chris Rock to Adam Sandler to Will Ferrell to Billy Crystal to Mike Myers to Jimmy Fallon and many more, the show is responsible for breaking so many careers into the mainstream.

Lorne Michaels is seen as a genius by many, and how could you dispute that? 42 successful seasons with ratings, making a ton of stars, and giving the world something to always look forward on Saturday nights (even during the down periods).
From Night at the Roxbury to Molly Shannon and her "Superstar" ways, or Eddie Murphy and his take on Buckwheat, Gumby, Mr. Rogers,  and James Brown, SNL gave us something to remember and allowed the talents that hadn't got their break a chance to shine and they did. SNL is the most sketch comedy that has had the most impact and is forever the most important to the genre. It just isn't the best. I'll explain when I get to no. 1.

2. In Living Color 
(Debuted In 1990, 5 Seasons)

-There are shows that really tap into the element they most want to and go above and beyond. Usually anything from the mind of the Wayans has a tendency to be outrageous yet hilarious, and of course, In Living Color was no different. There had never been a truly black sketch comedy show that showcased black talent in massive amounts. Sure, there were your one or two black cast members on Saturday Night Live to promote diversity on the lowest form, but In Living Color was a mostly all black cast with the one or two white cast members to promote "diversity". It was the reverse of Saturday Night Live, but in a more abrasive and funny way. Keenan Ivory Wayans is a lowkey genius and if you need any evidence to prove this, this show was it. With black humor centered around the middle class styling that the Cosby Show was modeled after, the Wayans saw fit to bring humor from all aspects of the black experience, making this show relatable and more down to earth.

This show also broke many careers in its short time on television, most notable Jamie Foxx and Jim Carrey, one of the few white cast members. The utilization of the Fly Girls which included another future star in Jennifer Lopez, along with sketches that pushed Damon Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans, David Alan Grier, and Tommy Davidson to higher heights in the mid 90s. The first two seasons are iconic and some of the best in sketch comedy history, but Fox and the Wayans eventually came to a stalemate over creative control and the show saw a small bump in the third and fourth seasons before having their worst season in the fifth (seems like a regular occurrence with Fox and their black shows). Still, the show is extremely memorable for their hilariously infamous sketches from The Homeboy Shopping Network to Homey D. Clown tk the ridiculous Calhoun Tubbs, not to mention Fire Marshall Bill and the overly exaggerated Men On Film, which in many ways seemed like a tongue in cheek shot at Hollywood execs and critics (you do the math). In Living Color is one of the funniest shows in history, and it is certainly a top sketch comedy show of all time.

1. Chappelle's Show 
(Debuted In 2003, 3 Seasons)

-In reality, I'd only want to categorize Chappelle's Show as a two season show, but the numbers show that the final few episodes count as a third season, albeit a small one. Regardless, what makes this show the overall greatest is simple: this is a show that simply comes from the mind of Dave Chappelle and is executed by Dave Chappelle. Sure, Neal Brennan was also a producer and helped to bring these ideas to life, but the title says it all. It was Chappelle's Show through and through and because of that, this is what earns the show the top ranking of them all. Let's examine the quality: even the skits that could be seen as misses, still had gems in them. Every single episode had a classic sketch in them, even if we didn't realize it at the time. From the Clayton Bigsby story to the Tyrone Biggums narrative, or the Roots outtakes sketch (which is underrated) or the Reparations sketch, the first four episodes of the show keep you engaged and make you laugh and the best part was that he was only getting started. To go four episodes with a classic sketch in them on the first go round is something I can say that none of these other shows did. Even the slept on gems like Great Moments In Hip Hop History, The Dave Chappelle Story sketch (the Antwone Fisher parody), the Tyrone Biggums intervention, or even the Mos Def led History's Greatest Wars, the first season of Chappelle's Show was one of the greatest seasons in sketch comedy history. That's not even including the notable sketches like The Mad Real World, the Playa Hater's Ball, R. Kelly and his Piss On You gem, Fisticuffs and the hilarious Turn My Headphones Up (I'll stab a nigga with a butter knife for Fisticuffs... JUST CAUSE), and of course, the all time classic Trading Spouses sketch (Leonard Washington), which all make up the iconic first season. I mean, there's no way Chappelle could outdo one of the greatest sketch comedy seasons ever right?

Wrong. That's what makes the show the absolute greatest. Chappelle saw perfection in the first season and sought to go even higher. Starting with the ridiculous yet hilarious Samuel Jackson beer sketch, Dave set the bar so high for sketch comedy, that it is unlikely we will ever see anything top it or get close to it. The second season of Chappelle's Show is the greatest season of sketch comedy TV ever and I don't even think a debate is necessary. How often is it that a sketch from a TV show truly becomes synonymous with someone's career? When I think of Eddie Murphy as James Brown, it doesn't resonate over James Brown and his career and it isn't the first thing that comes to mind when I think about James Brown. However, when you think of Lil Jon, Rick James, and even to an extent, Prince, the sketches centered around them are one of the first things that come to mind when we think of these people. That's powerful in its own right. Not to mention, the second season features WacArnold's, Niggar Family, The Racial Draft, White People Dancing, the Tron Law and Order episode, When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong, I Know Black People, the whole "Oprah pregnancy" thing, Chappelle on Jury Duty, Black Bush, Tyrone Biggums on Fear Factor, and of course the Making The Band sketch, along with the Wayne Brady iconic sketch. That's another thing about the season that makes it even greater: Wayne Brady will never ever escape the episode of Chappelle's Show devoted to him, which was genius in its own right. In retrospect, the second season of Chappelle's Show is as close to flawless sketch comedy as you can get. Even the Greatest Misses episode was hilarious. But the other aspect that makes the show so great is what else it represents.

No one attacked the racial landscape and political landscape quite like Chappelle in sketch comedy. There were always impersonations and a mockery of the politician themselves, but Chappelle was sly in the regard he poked fun at not only the politician, but the process and the system also. He took a moment to look at the sensitivity of things that affect the oppressed and stepped back for just a moment to look at it from a comedic view. He would touch on anything and joke on anyone. In an increasingly sensitive time, Chappelle's Show would have still worked today. Because he's Chappelle. He may offend you, he may piss you off, but he's forever funny and his delivery is so conversational that even in a sketch, you have to respect the topic. Chappelle walked away from the show after the 2nd season, but it's that reason which makes the show so great. In two seasons, Chappelle's Show created two of the greatest seasons ever in sketch comedy. Greater than most of the Saturday Night Live seasons (there's 42 of them), greater than all of the 15 Mad TV seasons, and greater than any other sketch comedy show season. When we look back on Chappelle's Show almost 15 years later now, it's still as funny as it was then, if not more so now. Chappelle and his comedy are timeless by themselves, and Chappelle's Show is also in that timeless category. The GOAT.



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