Under-the-Radar Comedy Reqs: Less ruminating, more laughing.
May 17, 2020 2:16 PM   Subscribe

I'd love to compile a list of shows to keep me company that are absurd and tickle that hard to reach funny spot. What are your lesser known comedy favorites? Tv or movies mostly......or really stand-out books.

I have a weekly skype call with my sister where we discuss media we've watched and what we think about it. I'd love to have more comedy I can recommend, but it can be tough to find stuff that works for me. I think cursing is a cheap laugh and I'm not into tired or obvious jokes. Definitely nothing with a whiff of racism or misogyny, so a lot of stand-up is out. Comedy that has an element of absurdity, wit, or smartness behind it really works for me. I'd love to hear your under-rated recommendations for tv or movies that really hit comedy gold. Stuff that's good enough to return to multiple times.

Some stuff I've enjoyed:

- Slings and Arrows (tv)
- Party Down (tv)
- What We do in the Shadows (tv and movie)
- Gary Gulman: Great Depresh (stand up)
- We're Not Meeting in Real Life -- Samantha Irby (book)

If you're familiar with these and really liked them, I'd love to hear more about your comedy finds.

Assume I'm familiar with well-known stuff already like: Parks and Rec, Brooklyn 99, Key and Peele, etc (which I enjoyed also).
posted by pdxhiker to Media & Arts (34 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Schitts Creek!
posted by onebyone at 2:20 PM on May 17, 2020 [5 favorites]

I've only seen Party Down, K&P, and P&R, but I did like them so maybe I'm partly qualified.

Spaced and Black Books will always hold dear places in my heart, and The IT Crowd tickles me.
Family Tree is pretty funny in the mocumentary style, not just doing down a Chris O'Dowd tunnel.
Letterkenny knocks it out of the park, endearing characters and the fastest and wittiest banter I've heard in a long time.
All of the Christopher Guest movies (See the Mefi post on Fred Willard for those).

Anything by David Sedaris for books.
posted by Snowishberlin at 2:29 PM on May 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Happy Endings, in case you missed it during its short run. It starts out seeming like it's going to be a bland riff on the Friends formula but very quickly spirals into something weird and hilarious.
posted by bcwinters at 2:31 PM on May 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

30 Rock isn’t on your list, which ought to be rectified. It’s kind of a comedy writer’s dream.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:34 PM on May 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

I hadn't thought about this in a while but it came up the other day co-incidentally, so it happens to be on my mind. Now, I haven't seen it since its original run and definitely haven't evaluated it critically, but the Chris Isaak Show might fit the bill.
posted by sardonyx at 2:35 PM on May 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Sex Education
posted by Ftsqg at 2:37 PM on May 17, 2020

I like many of the shows you like and I think Snowishberlin has some great additions. Letterkenny is funny in a way Trailer Park Boys is not. The IT Crowd is likewise great and it's an earlier role for WWDITT's Matt Berry. Other possibilities

- The Birthday Boys was a sketch comedy show (all men) that had some really amusing bits that I still refer to (kinda like The State). No idea what it's like to find now.
- on the off chance you missed Booksmart, go see it
- If you like scifi and somehow missed the Murderbot books, correct that.
- I really like the kind of gentle Canadian comedies Kim's Convenience and Little Mosque on the Prairie (the latter is almost entirely on YouTube) They're both about people who are people of color, so they have some incidental outsider people being jerks to them occasionally but the shows stay focused on the people at the center of the show
- the comedy stylings of Myq Kaplan
- A few short-run Netflix Shows: It's Bruno and Special (can be wincey occasionally as the character grows, but in good ways I think)
posted by jessamyn at 2:41 PM on May 17, 2020

I'll go older than your picks, in case they're new to you --

If you can get your hands on It's Garry Shandling's Show, there's really never been anything like it.

For sitcoms, you can sometimes find NewsRadio streaming - it's silly in all the right ways

I'm also a huge fan of Dr. Katz Professional Therapist
posted by Mchelly at 2:44 PM on May 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

Letterkenny is truly extraordinary, as is Community.
posted by Dr. Wu at 2:49 PM on May 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

I suspect you might enjoy Miracle Workers and Miracle Workers: Dark Ages.

Derry Girls, Flight of the Conchords, and Community are also all good fun.

For standup, John Mulaney!
posted by panther of the pyrenees at 2:49 PM on May 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Just a warning: there are numerous aspects of The IT Crowd that are just hateful, and that's not even taking into consideration that the creator is one of the vilest people alive. There were some moments that were sublime, but it based a whole lot of its comedy on punching down with a weird wink like "don't worry, it's okay for us to make this joke, we're being ironically awful" and you were really tempted to go "oh okay go ahead then" but no, it wasn't actually okay. It does not hold up on rewatch, and nobody who was in that show now appears to want to talk about having made it, both because of the poor aging and the vile creator.

Agreed that Schitt's Creek is very nearly a perfect show, but one of the things that makes it great is the bait and switch on the premise. I know a lot of people who watched the first couple of episodes or even the first half-season and came back going "WHY are you telling me to watch this, these people are awful, what is wrong with you??" and we'd all have to say "no seriously, just get through this, we promise you're about to see what they're doing here".

You've already watched The Good Place, right?

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend really knocked it out of the park. It's another one where the first few episodes/season you're like "I'm very concerned about the cringe level here and where it's going" and then into the second season you realize what they're doing, and then they change the game every season in meaningful ways. And then also incredible songs.

Agreed that the Murderbot series is incredibly good. If you like audiobooks, the narrator is just phenomenal.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:11 PM on May 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

Jane The Virgin is endlessly charming, exciting and fun.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:41 PM on May 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

Los Espookys is gently absurd. One or two characters say some mean things but they are more or less antagonists.

fwiw I've only seen early episodes of The IT Crowd and though I don't remember it well, I do remember I found it noticeably if not egregiously misogynist & the jokes predictable. 2006 doesn't seem like it should be A Different Time but TV-wise, maybe it was, I don't know.
posted by automatic cabinet at 3:51 PM on May 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's very very old and frequently corny, but Bob & Ray? A mefite recently introduced me to this, and having grown up in entirely a different country, I'd never even heard of them. It's extremely silly, and since it was broadcast on the radio from ~1950, clean.

(Also, since some of it is around 70 years old, there must be some out-of-date assumptions in the hundreds of hours they recorded. I haven't dug in very deeply, but so far it's been all clean and innocent.)
posted by scruss at 3:54 PM on May 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Mighty Boosh? Very silly/surreal, I don't recall any egregious racism or misogyny. Not to pile on, but-- I personally found the IT Crowd very funny and watched it recently, but there's a whole thing about Chris O'Dowd's character being the victim (as an adult) of "bad touching." It's going to offend (and understandably so) a lot of people in this day and age, so that's probably not a good fit for you.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 4:07 PM on May 17, 2020

Can you handle musical comedy? Flo and Joan have a special on Amazon Prime video.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:14 PM on May 17, 2020

The Mighty Boosh? … I don't recall any egregious racism

apart from the blackface?
posted by scruss at 4:28 PM on May 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

→ The Mighty Boosh? … I don't recall any egregious racism

… apart from the blackface?

Ooof, somehow that got by me, my apologies.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 4:37 PM on May 17, 2020

Detectorists! Detectorists! Detectorists!

So quietly funny and good natured. It's comedy balm for the soul.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:51 PM on May 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

The Santa Clarita Diet is an underrated gem. I've watched all 3 seasons twice and I'd happily binge it again.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:55 PM on May 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

Have you read Jenny Lawson's books? I think Let's Pretend This Never Happened is funnier and more likely to appeal to you than Furiously Happy, but they're both pretty great.
Also, Allie Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half comic book is just side-splittingly funny though sometimes about serious things.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:27 PM on May 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

I'll second The Good Place. Also for classic standup: Eddie Izzard (start at 0:40).
posted by slidell at 7:49 PM on May 17, 2020

I’m going to go out on a limb and recommend Red Dwarf, the British sci-fi comedy show. A quick reference google tells me that this shoe has been revived(!!), but I’m familiar with the original run from the 90s. It is absurdist and frequently hilarious. I don’t recall racism (especially don’t recall this) or misogyny (less sure on this), but it was the 90s so it may have slipped past me.
posted by jeoc at 8:23 PM on May 17, 2020

Short Poppies
posted by Grandysaur at 8:40 PM on May 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

You might enjoy Hunt for the Wilderpeople - you may have seen it already, pretty popular. Also Wellington Paranormal is on YouTube and is about the two cops from What we do in the shadows. Great for homesick expats

Being Erica is my go-to Canadian show in the same breath as Slings and Arrows which I loved. It’s a bit darker though - there’s the funny nostalgic time travel but there’s also some trauma. I find it a salve when I’m low but it might be too heavy for what you need.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 11:32 PM on May 17, 2020

Throwing a curveball, the 'game' show 'Taskmaster' is a UK panel show which has a lot less to do with winning and a lot more to do with amusing. 'QI', '8 out of 10 cats does countdown' and 'would I lie to you' also fit in this genre. I'm fairly sure all would appeal to non Brit audiences, and there's a bit of a rabbit hole to be found there.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 12:08 AM on May 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

BBC's Coupling, which might have dated a bit for its sex-relations, but story arcs within a 30-minute episode are writer Steven Moffat warming up for Doctor Who and Sherlock.
posted by k3ninho at 12:37 AM on May 18, 2020

Nthing Derry Girls, Flight of the Conchords, Mighty Boosh, Detectorists.

Catastrophe was good. I expect there’s a bunch of swearing but I’d guess it’s because those characters would swear, rather than being an attempt at comedic effect (I’m not sure if you’re against all swearing or only when used as a punchline in itself).

Friday Night Dinner has its moments.
posted by fabius at 6:23 AM on May 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Having just browsed https://www.channel4.com/ to remind myself, if you can see any of these where you are, and haven’t yet, then do:

* Spaced
* Stath Lets Flats
* Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace
* Toast of London
* Green Wing
* Peep Show (probably has swearing)
* Flowers
posted by fabius at 6:30 AM on May 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

(Sorry, missed edit. Honestly, any of those may contain swearing; I just don’t notice it.)
posted by fabius at 6:36 AM on May 18, 2020

Great News seems very under the radar and yet one of the shows that had me actually laughing out loud. I watched it on Netflix.

It has a 30 Rock vibe but more contemporary (the creator is a 30 Rock alum). Related, I find the jokes from 30 Rock (which I loved at the time) did not age well and will make me cringe at times upon rewatching.
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 6:50 AM on May 18, 2020

Teachers is my favorite under the radar comedy series- it went for 3 seasons on the TV Land network.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:56 AM on May 18, 2020

I'll second Taskmaster as a *free!* show on youtube that has really worked for us lately
posted by Dmenet at 9:39 AM on May 18, 2020

Ooh, try the Comedy Bang Bang TV show (the podcast is also fun, but a lot looser.) You could categorize it as "anti-comedy" so a lot of the comedy is either extremely non-cliched/tired or a clever subversion of cliched/tired tropes. I would describe it as both absurd, witty and smart. I wouldn't describe it as "edgy"--it doesn't try and push the envelope around race/gender, etc.
posted by zeusianfog at 4:43 PM on May 18, 2020

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