It must’ve been difficult for you. You tried to function, to be productive, for a full seven days. All the while, in the back of your mind, you were relentlessly tortured by a single burning question: Which television sketch shows did Automatic Improv rank in their top 5? Last week, we gave you a taste with our 6 through 10. Now, the moment has arrived. Once you finish this sentence, your ravenous curiosity will be sated.
5. Mr. Show with Bob and David (1995-1998)
Created by David Cross (Arrested Development, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret) and Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, The Larry Sanders Show), this show was never a huge success during its original run on HBO. It has since gained a following not only for its absurdist and sardonic tone, but for its rich cast of current comedy stars (like Jack Black and Sarah Silverman) back when their careers were just getting warmed up.
4. Second City Television (SCTV) (1976-1984)
I remember watching SCTV reruns when I was a kid. But, to be honest, I remember very few specific sketches (aside from the likes of “Ed Grimley” and “The Great White North”). As an adult, I’ve read enough scholarly articles (?)…and seen enough documentaries to understand just how important, groundbreaking, influential, etc., SCTV is. I know SCTV deserves to be high on this list; I just had a really tough time finding YouTube clips that made me laugh. Real talk, y’all.
3. Upright Citizens Brigade (1998-2000)
As improvisers, how could we not love this sketch show created by one of the most famous improv troupes of all-time? Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh drew on their live performances to create content for this show. In fact, each episode follows the progression of the improv format, The Harold.
2. Chappelle’s Show (2003-2006)
I’ve heard stories from a lot of older folks over the years about how the early seasons of SNL were consumed. On Saturday night, bars would switch every TV in the house to NBC at 11:30, and turn the volume all the way up. If you happened to be at a party on a Saturday night that didn’t have SNL on, you would either leave or find the remote and make sure everyone quieted down to watch Belushi and company hold court. It was a shared experience. It was exciting.
I think of Chappelle’s Show as my generation’s “early SNL.” When it was a Wednesday night, everybody knew what they were doing. They were getting together for some drinks. And they were watching every second of Chappelle’s Show on Comedy Central, so that they knew the catch phrase everybody would be reciting the next day.
“I’m Rick James, Bitch.” ‘Nuff said.
1. Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-1974)
No-brainer. These geniuses combined the absurd and the surreal expertly with unbelievable writing, and first class acting.
(Editor’s Note: SNL is not on this list. Not because we dislike SNL, just because it’s like, ya know, duh. Amiright?)
– John Mangan
(Click here to see 5 through 10 of this list.)
(Click here to check out Automatic Improv’s sketches on YouTube!)