Sketch comedy usually consists of short funny scenes, sometimes played in front of a live studio audience. There are many successful sketch comedy shows such as Saturday Night Live, Mad TV and Key and Peele. Depending on the show, sometimes the writers of the sketch are also the actors in the sketch. A sketch is usually put together in a few days from the pitching process to writing the sketch to rehearsing and finally performing. In some cases, sketches are being put together at the last minute and things can be pretty hectic behind the scenes. Most sketch shows follow a different format then the other. For example, in Saturday Night Live, they will have a guest host, musical guest and sketches featuring the guest host. In the case of Key and Peele, most sketches feature one, or both of them, with other improvisers and sketch comedians. Some sketches are so popular that the characters become recurring and in some cases, get their own film. Here is a look at some of the funniest, underrated and unforgettable sketches.
10) Inside Amy Schumer “Urban Fitters” April 30, 2013
Inside Amy Schumer airs on Comedy Central and is quickly becoming a buzzed about sketch show. The series premiered April 30, 2013 and is currently in its second season. Before her series, Schumer made a name for herself appearing on Comedy Central Roasts and has roasted celebrities like Charlie Sheen and Roseanne Barr. She also appeared on Curb Your Enthusiasm, 30 Rock and Girls. The series has many notable sketches, including “Compliments”, which features friends putting themselves down in order to get compliments from each other.
9) Monty Python’s Flying Circus “Dead Parrot” December 7, 1969
Monty Python’s Flying Circus is widely regarded as being the most influential and critically acclaimed sketch comedy show ever. The series ran from October 5, 1969 to December 5, 1974 on the BBC and featured sketches that often lacked a punch line. The series was highly innovative, as it would sometimes feature transitions between sketches featuring an animation done by Terry Gilliam. Monty Python would go on to be a hugely successful group that included numerous classic films including Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, and Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life. The “Dead Parrot” sketch is one of their most famous sketches.
8) Saturday Night Live Kristen Wiig Impressions
Saturday Night Live is one of the most successful and longest running sketch shows that has aired on NBC since 1975. The series was created by Lorne Michaels and has featured some of the most talented comedians like John Belushi, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Kristen Wiig was also a cast member from November 12, 2005 to May 19, 2012 and has a wildly successful film career. Her biggest success came with Bridesmaids, which she starred in and co-wrote with Annie Mumolo. Prior to that, she was known on Saturday Night Live for her many great impressions.
7) The Richard Pryor Show “1st Black President” September 13, 1977
In the 1970’s, Richard Pryor was one of the most widely talked about comedians and was known for his use of profanity and racial slurs, while talking about controversial subjects. After the success of his special that aired on NBC, he was given his own sketch/variety series, The Richard Pryor Show. Interference from the network led to problems behind the scenes, before the series even took to the air. It was originally supposed to be ten episodes but ended up only being four, and did poorly in the ratings. The series is now considered to have some of the funniest and controversial sketches. Writers from the series included Robin Williams and Paul Mooney. The sketch link shows that, not only was Richard Pryor a comedic genius, but he was also ahead of his time.
6) Mad TV “EDITED SOPRANOS” May 12, 2001
Mad TV was a very popular and acclaimed sketch comedy show on the FOX network that aired from October 14, 1995 to May 16, 2009. The series was inspired by the magazine, Mad, and featured at various times cast members, Will Sasso, Nicole Sullivan, Bobby Lee and Michael Macdonald. This sketch features a parody of the tremendously successful HBO’s, The Sopranos. The Sopranos was known for its explicit nudity, graphic violence and coarse language. The sketch demonstrates what the content of The Sopranos would be like if aired on a locally broadcasted channel, as opposed to the lack of censorship on HBO.
5) Friday’s ” Couples at Dinner” February 20, 1981
Friday’s was a sketch show that aired on ABC Friday nights, and it was NBC’s answer to Saturday Night Live. Friday’s ran from April 11, 1980 to April 23, 1982 and had a similar format to SNL. Initially, the series was hated by the majority of critics and was constantly compared to SNL. Later, some critics did praise Fridays and even felt it was better than SNL’s sixth season. The series had many notable actors and writers which included Larry David and Larry Charles, who would later work on the hit series Seinfeld. In this sketch, two couples go out for dinner and every time one of them goes to the washroom they are actually smoking a joint. Kauffman breaks character mid way through calming he can’t “play stoned” which leads Michael Richards to throw the cue cards in front of Kauffman. A fight breaks out between Kauffman and the producer, but it would be revealed years later that it was a practical joke by Kauffman that only a few were in on.
4) Mr. Show with Bob and David “The Audition” November 9, 1998
Mr. Show with Bob and David aired from November 3, 1995 to December 28, 1998 on HBO. The series was greatly successful, but due to airing on HBO, the show was unable to reach a larger audience at the time because it was a paid subscription and not available in all homes, but has gained a cult following since. Both Odenkirk and Cross would go on to have lucrative careers, most notably Bob’s role as Saul Goodman on AMC’s Breaking Bad. David Cross is mostly remembered as Tobias Funke on Arrested Development. Mr. Show featured sketches that were linked together by a character or theme. “The Audition” appeared in season four in the episode “Rudy Will Await Your Foundation”. In the sketch, an actor performs a monologue known as, “The Audition”, for a role in an upcoming movie.
3) Key and Peele “Substitute Teacher” October 17 ,2012
Key and Peele is a sketch comedy series that airs on Comedy Central and stars former MAD TV members, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. The series premiered on January 31, 2012 and has received widespread critical acclaim. In this sketch, Keegan-Michael Key plays a substitute teacher that exaggerates the pronunciation of the student’s names.
2) Monty Python’s Flying Circus “The Argument Clinic” November 2, 1972
Another classic sketch from the legendary, Monty Python’s Flying Circus is a sketch that stars John Cleese and Michael Palin. It was written by regular writing partners Graham Chapman and John Cleese. The sketch features two characters engaging in an endless argument…well it ends when the time is up, you just have to pay for more.
1) Kids in the Hall “Head Crusher Rival” Season 2, Episode 17
The Canadian Sketch Troupe, Kids In The Hall, had their own show of the same name that aired in Canada on CBC from 1988 to 1994 and in the U.S on CBS, then finally on HBO from 1989 to 1995. They also wrote and starred in Kids In The Hall: Brain Candy which was released in 1996. The group formed in Toronto in 1984 and members included Scott Thompson, Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin MacDonald and Mark McKinney. All of the members wrote and played all the characters, including the female parts. One of the most popular sketches was the Head Crusher played by Mark McKinney who basically plays a guy who hates everyone and wants to crush their head, which he does from afar with his fingers. It seemed as though it was only in his head, until he met his dreaded rival…the Face Pincher played by Kevin MacDonald.
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