The List: 10 best sketch comedy shows ever

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From the March 8, 2012 edition

With the stars of the madcap “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” taking their talents to the big screen, we’re counting down 10 of the best sketch comedy shows ever to grace the small screen.

10. Human Giant

Culturally speaking, the two seasons of this MTV comedy almost make up for “Jersey Shore.” Unfortunately, cast members have moved on, making a reunion unlikely.

9. That Mitchell & Webb Look

This BBC series starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb is an underseen gem, but Netflix Instant can fix that. Enjoy four seasons of sketches such as “The Surprising Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken Caesar,” featuring a delusional pair of bums who believe they are secret agents.

8. Upright Citizens Brigade

A Chicago improv troupe (that later moved to New York) came up with a silly sci-fi premise to link together its sketches and got a three-season run on Comedy Central in the late ’90s. The excellent cast also introduced the nation to Amy Poehler.

7. The State

The early ’90s MTV cult hit finally appeared on DVD in 2009, so we could remind ourselves of its sharp, silly humor and the talented cast that would later be the backbone of shows like “Reno 911!” and “Stella.”

6. SCTV

SNL’s Canadian counterpoint introduced us to future comedy giants like John Candy, Martin Short and Eugene Levy. Take off, hoser!

5. The Kids in the Hall

Another import from the Great White North — this one actually produced by SNL’s Lorne Michaels — it developed a fiercely loyal following once it was shown in the States. “I’m crushing your head! I’m crushing your head!”

4. Chappelle’s Show

Is it better to burn out than fade away? Comedian Dave Chappelle and co-creator Neal Brennan made a massive splash in two seasons before Chappelle left abruptly as work began on a third. The only bad thing about this show’s great, short run? It led Comedy Central to try to recreate its success with the truly awful “Mind of Mencia.”

3. Saturday Night Live

It’s tough to know where to place “Saturday Night Live.” Still going after 37 seasons, it’s currently a shell of its former self since Tina Fey left the writing staff for “30 Rock.” But it boasts countless amazing sketches and cast members that have become cornerstones of American comedy.

2. Mr. Show with Bob and David

This HBO series starring Bob Odenkirk and David Cross was a masterpiece of absurdist comedy. Each sketch transitioned into the next, making every episode a hilarious symphony best enjoyed as a whole.

1. Monty Python’s Flying Circus

Chapman, Cleese, Idle, Jones and Palin are The Beatles of sketch comedy. Python’s pitch-perfect blend of the intellectual and the silly set the template for so many of the shows on this list. And the Pythons even made great movies — something a lot of these shows struggled with.