The Funniest TV Comedy Series


The laughDB database is dedicated to the funniest comedy movies, stand-up comedy and TV series.

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Fred Dagg DVDFred Dagg
      1975 | New Zealand | Laughs: 6.7 (Watch Once) | imdb: 8.0
      wikipedia | who was involved?

I became a big fan of John Clarke's when I was introduced to the Australian TV series The Games upon moving to Sydney in 2002. Sadly, there is not much material by John on video. John started out in New Zealand, where I later moved, and it was there that Fred Dagg was recommended to me.

Fred is portrayed to be a typical New Zealand sheep farmer. As Australians and New Zealanders will know, Fred Dagg's homeland is often derided for its concentration of sheep. They will also know that "daggy" means something close to "uncool", in reference to "dagg", the dry matter that tends to accumulate near a sheep's bottom. This series contributes evidence to the saying that the inhabitants of both nations are the first to poke fun at themselves.

Not all parts of the Fred Dagg saga have aged well—it may have been unequal to start with—but there are flashes of brilliance that make it required viewing for John Clarke fans. (Last viewed: December 2011)

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Black Books DVDBlack Books
      2000 | U.K. | Laughs: 7.8 | imdb: 8.5
      wikipedia | dmoz | who was involved?

With Father Ted and The IT Crowd, one of three great series partly written by Graham Linehan. This one doesn't make me fall off my chair laughing, but I find it consistently good. The show focuses on a bookstore, and features a tight cast that does a great job of making me smile. (Last viewed: June 2011)

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The IT Crowd DVDThe IT Crowd
      2006 | U.K. | Laughs: 8.6 | imdb: 8.5
      wikipedia | dmoz | who was involved?

This series makes me laugh consistently, with the exceptions noted below. The relatively small cast and set keeps it simple and honest. I love Moss's character, but I guess everyone does. If you haven't seen the show, all you need to know is that it follows the adventures of the three members of an IT department.

On the first episode the thick lines of the caricature dampened my enjoyment, and it took me a few episodes to get hooked. Here are the episodes that work for me:

- All of season 1 (six episodes),
- The first half of season 2 (three episodes). The second half of the season is appalling. Not only does it feel as though they've swapped the writers for a new team that doesn't get the characters; there is a noticeable increase in budget that results in more complex plots and far fewer laughs.
- All of season 3 except the last episode (five out of six). For my taste the sixth episode lacks in compassion.
I don't recall season 4 in great detail, though I seem to remember it moved further away from the original concept.
(Last viewed: June 2011)

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Mr Bean DVDMr Bean
      1990 | U.K. | Laughs: 8.3 | imdb: 8.5
      wikipedia | dmoz | who was involved?

Here are my favorite Bean episodes:

Mr. Bean (the first one)
The Curse of Mr. Bean
Mr. Bean Goes to Town
Mr. Bean Rides Again
The Trouble with Mr. Bean
Merry Christmas Mr. Bean
Mr. Bean in Room 426
Goodnight Mr. Bean
(Last viewed: May 2011)

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An Idiot Abroad DVDAn Idiot Abroad
      2010 | U.K. | Laughs: 6.5 | imdb: 8.3
      wikipedia | who was involved?

An Englishman is sent abroad to see the ten wonders of the world.

This is not a "laugh-out-loud" show, but it packs a lot of humor, and I very much enjoyed the first season. In a way, the show could have been called Two Idiots in London, because Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant (who act in the show as the London producers) consistently act like jerks, while the supposed "idiot" shows a lot more respect and capacity to adapt than the title might let you suppose. In fact, he is a pretty bright guy abroad, one who approaches every event and landmark with a healthy dose of critical thinking, instead of buying the sales pitch.

It seems to me that the title (and the show) are an excuse, probably the brain-child of Gervais, to look at the world with candid eyes and say things about it that are often true but usually politically incorrect. After all, that is one of the devices of his stand-up comedy acts.

I am somewhat struggling with the second season, which seems to have lost direction, and have not yet finished it.
(Last viewed: May 2011)

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Blackadder DVDBlackadder
      1982 | U.K. | Laughs: 8.2 | imdb: 8.1
      wikipedia | dmoz | who was involved?

In season one, the Black Adder is a prince in medieval times. In season two, he is Lord Blackadder, a nobleman at the court of the Queen of England. In season three, Mr Blackadder is the butler and personal secretary to the Prince of Wales. In the last season, Captain Blackadder serves in the trenches during WWI.

I loved the series. My favorite season overall is season two, as it was consistently funny. Season three could have been the best as it started great, but it lost steam in the second half. Season four takes third place. The first season comes in last, because for my taste it leans too much on the old English tradition of theatricals, with its wild voice swings (and poor sound) that are hard on my ear.

Here are my favorite episodes:

1x6 The Black Seal
2x1 Bells
2x2 Head
2x3 Potato
2x4 Money
2x6 Chains
3x1 Dish And Dishonesty
3x2 Ink and Incapability
3x5 Amy and Amiability
4x2 Corporal Punishment
4x3 Major Star
(Last viewed: March 2011)

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The Games DVDThe Games
      1998 | Australia | Laughs: 9.0 (Laugh and Smile) | imdb: 8.6
      wikipedia | who was involved?

This Australian spoof reality show may be one of the funniest TV series ever. It supposedly follows the team in charge of organizing the 2000 Sydney Olympics—through an unending series of media disasters, power plays and bungles.

The show was recommended to me for cultural acclimatization when I moved to Australia in 2001, and I have been passing on that recommendation ever since. Apparently, the story goes, the show was so close to the truth that it sometimes happened that several weeks after the airing of an episode depicting a botched job, the real committee would go public with the story of a similar misadventure.

For my taste, the following episodes all deserve medals:

Athletics Schedule
100-Metre (Gold)
Past Sport Stars and Gender
Millennium Bug
(Last viewed: Apr 2002 November 2010)

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Fawlty Towers DVDFawlty Towers
      1975 | U.K. | Laughs: 9.1 | imdb: 8.8
      wikipedia | dmoz | who was involved?

I don't know how this series escaped me until my early forties, but it did. In a way that was good luck indeed, as it left me with one of the funniest TV series ever to discover and enjoy. I don't think any series has made me laugh as much.

British humor in general, and Monty Python's humor in particular, often borders on the grotesque. Sadly, that's not my brand of humor—sadly because there is a lot of it, enough to keep fans laughing into their old age.

But I do love John Cleese, and Fawlty Towers gives us Cleese at his best. He plays Basil Fawlty, the owner of a hotel in a small resort town. The guests, his wife and Manuel the Spanish waiter give him countless reasons to be irritated—a mood that really becomes Cleese.

Two seasons of six episodes each were made, a clear case of quality over quantity. I've read that it took Cleese and his partner six weeks to write each episode. It shows.

This is laugh-out-loud comedy. If you haven't seen it, don't miss it. (Last viewed: July 2010)

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Father Ted DVDFather Ted
      1995 | U.K. | Laughs: 8.7 | imdb: 8.6
      wikipedia | dmoz | who was involved?

This show, which follows the staff of a church on a small Irish island, is the first of three comedy jewels written (at least in part) by the same man (the other two are Black Books and The IT Crowd).

The very first episode ("Good Luck, Father Ted") is a knock-out. It is rare for a show to start with a bang, with all actors fully in character. But that is how Father Ted begins.

For what it's worth, here are the other episodes that gave me the most laughs.
And Grant Unto Him Eternal Rest (Season 1, Episode 6)
Tentacles of Doom (Season 2, Episode 3)
A Song for Europe (Season 2, Episode 5)
The Plague (the rabbit episode) (Season 2, Episode 6)
New Jack City (Season 2, Episode 9)
Kicking Bishop Brennan (Season 3, Episode 6)
(Last viewed: July 2010)

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      laughDB's full page for Father Ted

How I Met Your Mother DVDHow I Met Your Mother (a.k.a HIMYM)
      2005 | USA | Laughs: 8.1 | imdb: 8.3
      wikipedia | dmoz | who was involved?

The show starts out following a group of New York professionals at the age when many channel the time left over from advancing their careers on a quest to find the life partner known as "the one".

As with most shows spanning many seasons (eight at the time of writing), it is unequal. I approach such shows by renting entire seasons from the library and using IMDB to locate episodes with a rating higher than 8.3. With this approach, I spent some very pleasant hours with HIMYM, which often made me laugh.

I haven't watched recent episodes, as the show lost me in later seasons, when characters (by the nature of things) were forced to evolve into roles they were not meant for when the first scripts were written. Some people become funnier as they age, but most don't, and in that respect the show's characters follow the norm.

At some stage I jotted down a list of episodes that I thought had merit of some sort, but I can't quite recall what—hopefully comic merit, my obsession. For what it's worth, here is that list: perhaps a place to start and see if the show appeals to you.

(Last viewed: April 2010)

More About How I Met Your Mother:
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Friends DVDFriends
      1994 | USA | Laughs: 7.6 | imdb: 8.9
      wikipedia | who was involved?

This show does not feature the kind of smart comedy that makes you think; rather, it features situational comedy that makes you laugh—when it works. The show went on for so long (ten seasons!) that if you want to dive into it and have a chance to laugh, you'll have to pick your episodes.
In such cases, my strategy is to get a box set from the library, then to head over to IMDB to select episodes with a rating higher than 8.3. This considerably narrows the range of episodes I need to watch, and I find that with the exception of a few duds, most of these episodes are able to deliver smiles, and hopefully a laugh or two.

Here are some episodes I would watch again:
01x07 The One With The Blackout
01x13 The One With The Boobies
01x24 The One Where Rachel Finds Out
02x07 The one where Ross finds out
02x12 The One With The Superbowl, Part 1
02x13 The one after The Superbowl, Part 2
03x02 The One Where No One's Ready
03x21 The One With A Chick And A Duck
05x01 The One After Ross Says Rachel
05x02 The One With All The Kissing
05x05 The One With The Kips
05x08 The One With All The Thanksgivings
05x09 The One With Ross' Sandwich
05x14 The One Where Everybody Finds Out
06x17 The One With Unagi
07x11 The One With All The Cheesecakes
07x19 The One With Ross and Monica's Cousin
08x08 The One With The Stripper
08x13 The One With Chandler Takes A Bath
10x03 The One With Ross's Tan
10x07 The One With the Home Study
(Last viewed: March 2010)

More About Friends:
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Flight of the Conchords DVDFlight of the Conchords
      2007 | New Zealand | Laughs: 6.2 (Watch Once) | imdb: 8.6
      wikipedia | who was involved?

I was spending six months in New Zealand when a video store clerk recommended this delightfully offbeat series, which takes place in New York but whose cast hails from the land of the long white cloud. Jemaine and Bret (their real names) are two musicians trying to make it on the wrong coast in the land of plenty, and whose entire fan base consists of a lone female stalker. Not least charming is how the duo gently pokes fun at their own country, whose consulate is shown to occupy a small area of a dodgy building. I don't recall if the show ever made me laugh out loud, but it made me smile throughout.

Here are the episodes that worked best for me:
(Last viewed: March 2010)

More About Flight of the Conchords:
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The Office DVDThe Office
      2005 | USA | Laughs: 7.0 | imdb: 8.8
      wikipedia | dmoz | who was involved?

Of the US series, I only watched Season 2, said to be the funniest. These episodes most made me laugh:
The Fight
Performance Review
Drug Testing
Conflict Resolution
(Last viewed: February 2010)

More About The Office:
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      laughDB's full page for The Office

The Office UK DVDThe Office UK
      2001 | U.K. | Laughs: 4.0 | imdb: 8.5
      wikipedia | who was involved?

The UK version of The Office has too much cringe and other tension built into it to qualify as "comedy" for me, with the exception of episode 5 from season 2 ("Charity"). (Last viewed: August 2009)

More About The Office UK:
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      laughDB's full page for The Office UK

Monty Python's Flying Circus DVDMonty Python's Flying Circus
      1969 | U.K. | Laughs: 5.5 | imdb: 8.8
      wikipedia | dmoz | who was involved?

I love John Cleese on his own, but the Pythons rarely work for me. For me there's too much noise, too many shrill voices, too much cross-dressing. The skits where the noise level is under control work better for me.

I don't think I've seen all the skits—some day I might sit down and watch it all in hope of catching a few gems.

Here are a few that work for me:
The Cheese Shop
The Dead Parrot
The Ministry of Funny walks
(Last viewed: August 2009)

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