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The Year in Sketch

The 10 Best Comedy Sketches of 2015

Comedy Bang! Bang! and Portlandia offered up some of the year's best sketch comedy.

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In many ways, this was the year of the sketch. Granted, that could be said for 2014, or 2013, or probably most years since SNL and the Internet were invented. Still, with world-class series like Kroll Show and Key & Peele bowing out, and all-timers like David Cross and Bob Odenkirk returning to the form, it was truly a special year in sketch comedy. Here are some of the very best to grace our television and computer screens over the last year.

10. “Rocky Horror Halloween Show,” Comedy Bang! Bang!

The Comedy Bang! Bang! gang pulled out all the stops for their Halloween episode, perfectly spoofing “Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show right down to Brad’s stiff delivery and Kid Cudi‘s spot-on Riff Raff impression. Once you’ve seen Scott in a dress and wig, there’s no going back.

9. “Father Daughter Ad,” Saturday Night Live

There was some controversy surrounding this sketch when SNL aired it earlier this year, but in an era where the show far too often plays it safe, it was nice to see them take a big swing. Taking on the commercialization of war, and the radicalization of recruits by ISIS, this ad parody has something to say, outside of the usual “aren’t commercials weird???” For that alone, it’s worth a look.

8. “Reality House,” Comedy Bang! Bang!

The brilliance of Comedy Bang! Bang! lies in taking the conventions of television, and turning them against themselves. Whether upending what a talk show is supposed to be, or highlighting the absurdity of reality television, CBB knows the best way to destroy TV is from within. Here Scott Aukerman hosts a reality show with no apparent purpose or rules. We watch as the contestants slowly lose their minds trying to understand what the hell is happening. “I’m not here to make friends…am I?”

7. “Know Your Rights,” W/ Bob and David

It’s been 17 years since Mr. Show went off the air, but the influence of David Cross and Bob Odenkirk’s sketch series is still felt today. Combining an indie comedy sensibility with a classic sketch format, the show wove together different bits to tell a larger story. Then, as now, this style keeps any one sketch from going on too long, or making the show feel like a bunch of disjointed jokes without purpose. The duo’s recent Netflix series, W/ Bob and David, fits in perfectly to the Mr. Show legend. It’s edgy, smart and absurd in equal measure, just like its predecessor. Reuniting with fellow Mr. Show alums like Scott Aukerman and Paul F. Tompkins, Cross and Odenkirk show they still know how to wring laughs out of some surprising premises, like in this sketch, where an insufferable troll will do anything to prove that cops can’t be trusted.

6. “Angela Mackenzie-Ng Performs…,” Kroll Show

Kroll Show is another sketch comedy series that ended its run this year, and though it went off the air to less fanfare than Key & Peele, it was no less brilliant. A truly monumental takedown of the media landscape we’re all subjected to, comedian Nick Kroll brilliantly decided to use the various characters he’d invented over the years to tell larger stories that lasted the length of the show’s three season run. No one sketch can completely stand alone without losing a little context, but if one bit has to represent the incredible final season, this spoof of singing competition shows and Canadian customs is as good as any. With Oh Hello now enjoying a sold out, Off-Broadway run, here’s to lots more “Bleep Bloop” in our future.

5. “Football Town Nights,” Inside Amy Schumer

Amy Schumer went from a funny comedian to an icon this year, largely thanks to her sketch show, which reached extraordinary new heights. While the episode “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” was one of the most brilliant things to air on all of television this year, it’s hard to consider the episode-length 12 Angry Men spoof a sketch. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of brilliant sketches that combine Schumer’s unique point of view and brash style. Afraid of nothing, Schumer took on any number of taboo subjects throughout the season, but perhaps none seems as inherently unfunny as rape. And yet, the show found a take that made it both challenging to the audience and drop dead hilarious.

4. “Weirdos Courtroom,” Portlandia

Portlandia is about to enter its sixth season, and shows no signs of slowing down. The Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein series beefed up plot in season five, telling comprehensive stories made up of various sketches. “Weirdos Courtroom,” starring Pee-wee himself Paul Reubens, isn’t just hilarious — it feels like a summation of the show’s offbeat point of view.

3. “Neurotology Music Video,” Saturday Night Live

Hot on the heels of Going Clear, Alex Gibney’s searing portrait of Scientology, SNL took the religion head on, taking aim at both its absurdity and the organization’s more nefarious secrets. A pitch perfect take on the church’s recruitment efforts, the one knock on this sketch may be that its hard to out do the ridiculousness of the church’s own music video.

2. “Negrotown,” Key & Peele

A true tour-de-force for Key & Peele‘s final season, this is by far the most ambitious sketch the show ever attempted. A cutting look at race relations in America, played out against the vibrant backdrop of movie musicals, this sketch lists just about every grievance one could have against the systemic racism in our county. Oh, and it’s funny to boot. No sketch better exemplifies that Key & Peele ended their five-year run as strong as ever.

1. “Last F*ckable day,” Inside Amy Schumer

If any sketch broke the Internet this year, this has to be the one. The combination of identifying a crystal clear comedic concept that we’d never seen before, catching a wave of feminism in comedy and upping the ante, and then employing a truly all-star cast made this, by far, the sketch of the year. In a year when Amy Schumer could do no wrong, this one took the cake.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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