I was tempted to write something about how I can only watch comedy (as opposed to tragedies or something sad) as a get older. I'll spare you that.
What I really want to do here is give you a few recommendations for series that could really add laughs to your life. Yes, you've heard of Seinfeld and other must watch series. I'm listing a few categories of all-timers; those will give you an idea of where I'm coming from.
But the entree here is a list of 12 comedies you should hunt down and watch. Maybe they've been recommended to you before, perhaps I'm the first to mention a couple to you. Hopefully, this spurs you on to press play on a couple. If you do, let us hear about it.
Seinfeld, The Simpsons, Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm
I have a lot of love for the Hall Of Fame selections below but these are all at another level.
Hall Of Fame
Larry Sanders Show, The Odd Couple, Veep, Modern Family, Cheers, The Phil Silvers Show, The Office, Everybody Loves Raymond, The Dick Van Dyke Show, All In The Family, Taxi, The Honeymooners, Mr. Show, Kids In The Hall, SCTV, Mary Tyler Moore, 30 Rock.
Not much to say about this list as well. You know about these shows. As for the older shows like The Phil Silvers Show or Taxi, they might at first appear like me trying to throw them into a list to just represent things from the 50s, 60s or 70s. On the contrary, The Phil Silvers Show is here because it still works for a modern viewer and is amazingly head and shoulders better than other shows of its time.
Runners-Up: Your Maybe Shhould Be A Yes
Catastrophe, The Sarah Silverman Program, Hacks, Broad City, Nathan For You, The Detour, Important Things With Demetri Martin, Workaholics, The George Burns And Gracie Allen Show, Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
What I mean by "Your maybe should be a yes" is that you've probably already had people tell you to watch some of these shows. If you've been considering these, or watched a trailer of these on a streaming service and are on the fence about diving in - then consider my recommendation that last nudge to get you to watch them.
You may have seen the Hank Azaria thing as an old-school sportscaster on Funny Or Die or on NFL Network. It may have seemed like a one-note joke. It's not. Yes, it coaxes laughs out of me on the sports premise but it's also so much better of a show than it needs to be or you would expect to be. The relationship stuff with Amanda Peet makes it also my favorite romantic comedy and the future stuff of the fourth season is the strongest social commentary about the Amazon era that you will see.
2. Tales From The Tour Bus
An animated Mike Judge joint from Cinemax a few years ago that I stumbled across at the time and have never seen anybody mention online. Two seasons of interviews: #1 with outlaw country legends and bystanders, #2 with funk stars and players; the audio is their interviews and then animations of shootings, drugs, gigs, and general craziness. I can't recommend this strongly enough.
3. Party Down
This show is probably overqualified to be on this under-the-radar list. It featured so many great comic actors at the right time where they could do a series like this: Adam Scott, Jane Lynch, Martin Starr, Lizzy Caplan, Ken Marino. Each episode was a party that the catering company of regulars was working that week. There's finally a third season coming after a 10-15 year layoff in a couple of months. There should be ample chance to catch up.
4. I'm Alan Partridge (plus Saxondale)
It's kind of nuts that this still needs to be recommended to Americans when this is a legendary Steve Coogan series in Britain that is revered by comedy nerds. The blowhard Partridge has been comedy gold in so many formats there, but the two seasons where Alan was doing radio in Norwich is the best. That said, my bonus recommendation here for Steve Coogan was his completely underrated show, Saxondale, about a verbose exterminator. I've never seen anything like it. If you can find it here, stream it.
5. Police Squad!
This was the post Airplane tv show that was the start of The Naked Gun film series. As funny as the movies were, the pace of jokes were even better suited to television. If you think it's funny to have the title of an overly serious cop show have a title card saying "Ring Of Fear" while the announcer says it as "A Dangerous Assignment", then this is the show for you. My dad and I popped popcorn for every episode, appointment television that got yanked from us after a month and a half - it was canceled after 6 weeks which is even more nuts in retrospect. But at 6 episodes, you can stream the whole series really quickly.
6. Getting On
The U.S. version. An extended care unit of a hospital might not seem like the best place for a comedy. But it is in this case. I've just never seen this exact tone (aka mix of humor, dark comedy and genuine emotion) before - suffice it to say that it's maybe the best uses of Laurie Metcalf and Alex Borstein's talents.
7. The Other Two
Like most of the shows on this list, the primary mission statement is to be funny, yet most of these shows have more pathos and nice moments than solely being humorous. This is a great show about the older siblings of an overnight sensation Justin Bieber type, who basically get their aspiring showbiz hopes up then ultimately dashed for two full seasons.
8. Strangers With Candy
If you think Amy Sedaris going back to high school as an ex-junkie sounds funny, then dive in. Very early Stephen Colbert. Basically an extended riff on after-school specials. Maybe this came along at the right time for me in the 90s, but some of the loudest out-loud laughs I've had watching TV.
9. The Ben Stiller Show
Another one canceled way too soon. This was an upstart SCTV style sketch show featuring Ben Stiller, Bob Odenkirk, Janeane Garofalo, etc. before they really hit. The Lassie parody "Manson" is my favorite comedy sketch of all time. But in one short canceled season they had so many winners: Pig-Latin Lover Variety-Vay Ectacular-Spay, Oliver Stone Land, Three Men And An Old Man. Pretty tv-parody focused, think of it as a proto-Mr. Show starring Ben Stiller.
Everybody seems to love The White Lotus where I just kind of like it. This was also a Mike White HBO series about 10 years earlier which never engendered much buzz. It was Laura Dern as an executive who gets woke and new age-y after rehab from a public nervous breakdown. I found it amazing; alternately showing us how the main character was sometimes completely full of shit and other times a breath of fresh air.
11. The Rehearsal
One season so far, the latest Nathan Fielder mindfuck. It's faux reality tv about Nathan going thru insanely deep rehearsals to control small situations growing into elaborate simulations where the real and fake get confused. Super meta and bananas, people liken it to Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York but also find it just plain funny and absurd like the Mr. Show sketches "Car Wash Change Thief Action Squad" and "Pre-Taped Call-In Show."
For me, this is a great bookend with Brockmire. Two funny and cynical shows that will also sucker-punch you with genuine emotion from time to time. It stars Ron Livingston so a sensibility for liking the movie Office Space is a good start. A prematurely curmudgeonly rock critic leading 12-step recovery groups is for the serious dark comedy fan. There's three seasons and looks like it might be it. Try one episode and you'll know if you're in or not.