East Mode With Nigel Ng joined the Comedy Central sketch show line up on YouTube this February, with a planned TV release later this year, adding to one of the channel’s biggest genres. Since its debut as The Comedy Channel in the late 1980s, the sketch comedy series has been a staple, and several shows helped to put the station on the map.
From classics like Chappelle’s Show, to modern hits like Key & Peele, it seems as if there has always been great sketch-based programming on the channel. Even though the network has produced many side-splitting sketch-shows, some earned much higher scores on IMDb.
10 Kroll Show (2013-2015) – 6.8
Comedian Nick Kroll is known for his ability to disappear into strange characters, and his turn on Kroll Show gave him a chance to show off his skills. Featuring Nick Kroll’s own strange sense of humor, the short-form sketch series was filled with a myriad of off-beat characters and had a supporting cast of sketch-comic legends.
One of the highlights of the series was Kroll’s brilliant work with fellow comedian John Mulaney. Together, the comic duo created the “Oh, Hello” characters, and have even appeared on other series as their elderly alter-egos. What made the show so funny was its brilliant mix of improvisation, and incredibly strong writing working together seamlessly.
9 The Ben Show With Ben Hoffman (2013) – 7.0
While many of Comedy Central’s best shows are slick and well-produced, The Ben Show thrived with its own DIY energy. Following comedian Ben Hoffman, the show bounded from sketch to sketch as he attempts to tackle day-to-day problems that are familiar to most viewers.
The uniqueness of the show came from its lo-fi comedy style, and the fact that many non-actors were utilized in sketches. What resulted was a strange brew of hilarious comedy mixed with a fair amount of squirm-inducing cringe. Designed to be a miniseries, the show only ran for a brief time, but left a big impression on many viewers.
8 Viva Variety (1997-1999) – 7.3
Even in the early days of the channel, Comedy Central was on the cutting edge of humor and presented some truly strange programming. Viva Variety was a mix of sketch and parody, and poked fun at European style variety shows. Played like a show made by Europeans that is targeted at an American audience, everything is slightly off about the show.
Bouncing from segment to segment with its own frenetic energy, the show starred Comedy Central standouts like Michael Ian Black and Thomas Lennon before they were famous. On top of the strange sketches, the show also featured a fair amount of musical guests and was very much like the variety shows that they were parodying.
7 The Hollow Men (2005) – 7.5
While Comedy Central has had its fair share of long-running hits, some great comedy only lasted a short time on the network. The Hollow Men was a show that brought the antics of the Australian comedy troupe of the same name to the masses.
In a similar style to Kids in the Hall and Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the series stood strong on its silliness. Each sketch usually devolved into some absurd misunderstanding and a lot of the humor was derived from just how odd the characters could be. Though it didn’t last long, the troupe has found continued success on television in their native Australia.
6 Alternatino With Arturo Castro (2019-Present) – 7.7
Comedy has always been a space for all voices to add their personal experiences to the mix, and Alternatino presents comic Arturo Castro’s own unique view on life. Through sketches, Castro gives the viewer a glimpse into his life as a Latino millennial in the 21st century.
Similar to other sketch shows like Portlandia, Alternatino shows off the flexibility of its lead performer while also poking fun at very specific segments of society. The show really shines because it presents viewers with something they have never seen before, not sketch comedy, but Arturo Castro’s own unique version of it.
5 Important Things With Demetri Martin (2009-2010) – 7.8
Demetri Martin’s trademark brand of hilarious absurdist comedy was cutting edge in the 2000s, and his stand-up career naturally lead to his own television show. Important Things featured a blend of Martin’s stand-up bits mixed with sketches that further showed off his off-beat style.
Martin never quite fits into the strange world that he inhabits, and his deadpan delivery was enough to have audiences rolling with laughter. Though the show was relatively short-lived, it featured a strong cast of television comedy icons including Sarah Silverman and H. John Benjamin.
4 Exit 57 (1995-1996) – 7.9
Before they were household names, comic legends Stephen Colbert and Amy Sedaris paid their dues in several sketch-comedy programs. Exit 57 featured sketches that were loosely based inside of a fictional version of the Quad Cities, and showed off the cast’s love of absurdity in humor.
Coming from the world of stage performing, the cast flashes their razor sharp wit and the series has a somewhat theatrical presentation. Though he would become most famous for his turn on The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert frequently showed his range from one sketch to the next. What set Exit 57 apart from other sketch-shows of its time, was that it wasn’t afraid to take its humor in dark and raunchy places to get a laugh.
3 Upright Citizens Brigade (1998-2000) – 8.0
Most sketch shows have a relatively simple premise to work with, but Upright Citizens Brigade wove a complicated narrative in their episodes. The troupe members all play special agents who are tasked with monitoring, and sometimes causing, chaos throughout the universe. The people they monitor are the sketches in the show, and eventually everything comes together in brain-melting hilarity.
The UCB troupe is now most known for producing extremely successful Saturday Night Live cast members, including Amy Poehler. However, the show itself was cutting edge, and it offered something never seen before in the format. Not only did the series feature sketches, but the cast also went out into the real world and created genuine chaos in hidden camera segments.
2 Key & Peele (2012-2015) – 8.3
Comics Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michale Key burst on the scene with their own sketch-show and presented hilarious comedy from a unique perspective. Intercutting live audience segments with side-splitting sketches, Key & Peele offered short-form comedy that tackled topics both large and small.
Many of the series’ funniest sketches pushed a simple idea to its furthest extreme, and often lampooned common occurrences in day-to-day life. The chemistry between Key and Peele is perhaps the show’s strongest aspect, and they play off of one another brilliantly. Now a film director, the show’s co-star Jordan Peele has pivoted his comedy career into the terrifying world of horror and found great success in the medium.
1 Chappelle’s Show (2003-2006) – 8.8
The word controversial doesn’t even begin to cover the smash hit Chappelle’s Show, and it is still one of the network’s most divisive series. Featuring sketches from the comic mind of Dave Chappelle, the series wasn’t afraid to tackle hot-button issues like race and class in society.
Though he has fallen out of favor as of late, Chappelle’s raunchy brand of humor was a breath of fresh air in the early 2000s. His ability to inhabit characters and give them a little touch of his own personality made him a unique figure in sketch work. While Chappelle wasn’t a chameleon onscreen, he knew exactly what buttons to push to elicit the biggest belly laugh from his audience.
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