The man who goes by the handle “BillBrasky2620” on aspecialthing.com is a librarian by trade, and he’s nothing if not thorough. Below, this comedy expert among comedy experts offers his top ten comedy sketches of all time. With our apologies to Abbot & Costello and Your Show of Shows.
#10 Dave Chappelle – Clayton Bigsby
I feel a little less strongly about this one than some of the others on this list, but I felt that Chappelle should be included, and this was one of the best sketches he ever did (impressive that it was in the first episode ever aired too). The last line of the sketch still packs a considerable punch, and it makes me wish that he was still doing stuff like this.
#9 The Day Today – Rok TV
I’m not really sure if this counts as a sketch, it’s really a series of sketches in the context of a parody of MTV, but it’s one of the best parodies of MTV ever, and amazing when you consider one person (Chris Morris) is essentially playing every single character in this sketch. There’s a willingness to go into dark areas here too, which Morris would eventually do even more in Jam and the Brass Eye pedophilia special. Not just the Fur-Q stuff, but little things like the Ian Curtis joke, show that Morris was willing to push the barriers of what might have previously been considered acceptable in comedy.
#8 At Last the 1948 Show- Four Yorkshiremen
Not a Monty Python sketch, but the version I linked to here is the one from Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl. Basically, any sketch which is based on progressive exaggeration to an absurd end owes a debt to this sketch. Could Kristen Wiig’s “one-upper” character have been inspired by this?
#7 Upright Citizens Brigade- Ass Pennies
This is probably the best example of the UCB’s style of humor, their particular brand of odd agressiveness- I guess you could call it a “punk” approach to comedy. I don’t think the concept for this sketch could have ever come from anywhere but Ian Roberts’ head, and his commitment to pursuing an idea that would not even occur to most people (to an almost scary level) is what made their TV show so unique.
#6 SNL- 60 Minutes
The 1984-85 season of SNL is a really underrated season in the show’s history, and maybe one of its best ever in my opinion. Most of that was due to what Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer brought to the show- an emphasis on filmed sketches that told a story and tried to make the characters as realistic as possible, while still being funny (basically what Guest continues to do today in his movies). The Synchronized Swimmers sketch is another good example, but this one is such a bizarre premise, with such well-defined characters (including Martin Short’s Nathan Thurm) that I think it wins out.
#5 SCTV – Half-Wits
One of my favorite types of humor is the humor of people who have difficulty understanding things or grasping simple concepts- the Mr. Show “Flat Top Tony and the Purple Canoes” conversation and the guard scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail are other good examples. These sketches from SCTV were pioneers of the form, and really laid the groundwork for endless game show sketches on SNL since then (the Celebrity Jeopardy sketches are pretty much direct descendants).
#4 Mr. Show- The Pre-Taped Call-in Show
There are many Mr. Show sketches which could be included on this list, like Shampoo or The Audition, but this is in my opinion the show’s greatest achievement in terms of producing a timeless piece of sketch comedy. Congratulations, Dino and Brett Forrester, for having the patience to think this through and making it airtight, completely grounded in logic while still being insane at the same time.
#3 Kids in the Hall- Citizen Kane
There doesn’t seem to be a video of this online, which is a shame, because a lot of the humor derives from the performances of Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald, and this sketch is maybe not as funny reading it on the page as some of the others on this list. Nevertheless, this has possibly one of the best endings to a sketch of all time (and a good example of how violence can be funny in comedy).
#2 Peter Cook and Dudley Moore- One Leg Too Few
This probably isn’t the best version of this available (it’s from a 1987 edition of Comic Relief), but this is a really funny and well-constructed sketch. As the Wikipedia entry on it says, it is “a classic example of comedy arising from an absurd situation which the participants take entirely seriously, and a demonstration of the construction of a sketch in order to draw a laugh from the audience with almost every line.”
#1) Monty Python- Dead Parrot sketch
I don’t think I really need to say too much about this. Sure, you could make the case that the Cheese Shop sketch or the Argument Clinic are equally deserving of placement on this list, but I don’t think anyone could argue the fact that the parrot sketch is an all-time classic of sketch comedy.
And here’s a special bonus, in honor of our author’s nom-de-internet… Bill Brasky at the Airport