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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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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.