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.