A few weeks ago, my friend Kim and I went to see a live performance of Tituss Burgess (“Titus” from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”). While waiting in line, Kim mentioned that one of her friends had asked why she and I would go to something like that, considering that “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” isn’t one of the 20 funniest shows ever. I don’t disagree with the unnamed critic, at least as far as rankings go (though, as long as it’s a show that I enjoy, why wouldn’t I pay to see Tituss (and Jane Krakowski) live?). But of course, it got me thinking about what shows actually are the 20 funniest ever.
A few caveats: 1) I purposefully did not count talk shows, so you won’t see shows like Late Night with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, or the Daily Show with Jon Stewart on here. 2) Shows get dinged for going on past their natural expiration date. For instance, I have “How I Met Your Mother” off of the top 20 – had it ended after, say, season 4, it easily would have sailed into my top 20. 3) This is a list about funny shows. I know there are good shows, especially on cable, that are categorized as comedies (“Transparent,” “Shameless,” etc.). These are not funny shows. They are purposefully not included. No show has ever been more liberally described as a comedy than “Girls.” Yet there’s not one laugh in any of the episodes I watched. 4) My (long) list of Honorable Mentions is beneath the Top 20, presented in alphabetical order. 5) This endeavor is wholly personal. Please feel free to disagree with me in the comments below. Without further ado, my top 20:
1. I love Lucy
Simply put, the greatest sitcom of all time, and the template for all other shows that came after it.
2. All in the Family
Archie Bunker may be the greatest sitcom character ever created.
3. The Simpsons
Longest-running sitcom in history has provided more total laughs than any show in history has or will.
4. Saturday Night Live
The sheer volume of memorable sketches, impressions, and characters is unparalleled.
A long-running show that went out with one of the greatest sitcom finales in history.
The show about nothing that still is hilarious today in reruns. Bonus points for the many, many funny side characters.
7. The Larry Sanders Show
A brilliant behind-the-scenes look at a fake talk show. Shandling, Tambor, et. al were never better.
8. and 9. The Office (UK and US)
Both versions are amazing. The US one rightly loses points for its muddled sixth, seventh, and eighth seasons, but it redeemed itself well at the end.
10. Parks and Recreation
One of the funniest ensemble casts in history, and a launching pad for Aziz Ansari, Chris Pratt, and Aubrey Plaza.
Ten mostly-quality seasons. Still holds up well on rewatch.
The most successful spin-off in television history. Bonus points for the celebrity callers.
The most hilarious ensemble. While Selina herself is amazing, the show gets incredible performances out of its Gary/Dan/Amy/Jonah/Ben/Kent/Richard/Catherine/Marjorie/Mike group.
If Archie Bunker is the funniest character of all-time, Louie DePalma is a close second. Also (to my knowledge) the first show on which Tony Danza appeared as a character named “Tony.”
15. South Park
Like “The Simpsons,” a long-running show that has provided laughs for years. Recent forays into serialization have made the show’s humor even sharper.
Oh, if only the atrocious fourth season didn’t exist, “Community” would rate much higher. As meta as meta gets, this show had more laughs per minute than nearly any other.
17. Happy Endings
I think “Happy Endings,” though, takes the cake for that particular stat. The characters spoke so fast, with jokes flying so fast, the episodes were better on second and third viewings. Still horrible that ABC didn’t give this fantastic show a fourth season.
18. Arrested Development
There’s always money in the banana stand.
19. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Also gets bonus points as the show from which “Rhoda,” “Phyllis,” and “Lou Grant” spun off.
20. Curb Your Enthusiasm
Just making the cut of an arbitrary blog’s list? That’s still pretty, pretty good.
Honorable Mentions (presented alphabetically):
30 Rock; The Big Bang Theory; The Bob Newhart Show; Brooklyn 99; Casual; Cougar Town; The Critic; Daria; The Dick van Dyke Show; Eastbound and Down; Entourage; Everybody Hates Chris; Family Guy; Family Ties; Flight of the Concords; Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; Get a Life; The Golden Girls; The Good Place; Growing Pains; Happy Days; The Hogan Family; The Honeymooners; How I Met Your Mother; It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia; The Jeffersons; The Last Man on Earth; Louie; Love; M*A*S*H; ….Married with Children; Master of None; Monty Python’s Flying Circus; Murphy Brown; New Girl; Newsradio; Party Down; Perfect Strangers; Scrubs; Sex and the City; Silicon Valley; Sports Night; That 70s Show; Trophy Wife; Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; Undeclared; Welcome Back, Kotter; Who’s the Boss; Will and Grace