We could all do with a bit of a pick-me-up these days – and Netflix is here to help with literally hundreds of laugh-out-loud comedy films, bitesize and bingeable TV sitcoms and even plenty of comedy-dramas for those who like the best of both worlds.
The only problem with Netflix is, of course, spending all your precious viewing time deciding what to watch. Well, no more endless scrolling then just deciding to rewatch The Office US yet again – the TV experts at RadioTimes.com have a round-up of the very best comedies Netflix has to offer across screens both big and small, including Netflix originals and the very best imports.
There’s classic comedy such as the iconic Monty Python and the Holy Grail, modern classics such as the hilariously witty and blackly comic Dead to Me, first-person funny business in sitcom Peep Show and recent box office hits such as Game Night.
You’ll cry with laughter and sadness at BoJack Horseman, cringe at Steve Coogan’s comedy creation in I’m Alan Partridge, and want to hang out with The Dude after viewing the offbeat masterpiece that is The Big Lebowski.
We’ll also update the list weekly to include new additions to Netflix – we know many of you are looking forward to seeing a certain police precinct as Brooklyn Nine-Nine returns one more time, while it’s also curtains for The Kominsky Method as the third and final season streams this summer.
Last updated: 14th May 2021
Dead to Me
Grief counselling doesn’t exactly sound like a barrel of laughs – but this eccentric dark comedy excels in finding humour in the strangest of places. Dead to Me follows sardonic widow Jen (Christina Applegate) as she meets the forever optimistic Judy (Linda Cardellini) at grief counselling, eventually striking up an unlikely close friendship with her despite polar opposite personalities. Queue several sarcastic quips, foul-mouthed insults and bottles of wine as the two women bond over shared loss – which could all be destroyed by a dark secret Judy is hiding…
In lesser hands this could have ended up as an abrasive misery fest, but it the assured performances and electric chemistry between leads Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini that make this a must watch, with the two switching between gallows humour and genuine heartbreak with ease. It’s no wonder both have been nominated for Emmys for their performances – here’s hoping they’ll get the win next season.
For those who enjoyed WandaVision but are after a darker and more realistic exploration of grief through a comedic lens, then Dead To Me is the show for you. Two seasons are available, with a third and final instalment on the way. – Daniel Furn
The Good Place
Much like series lead Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristin Bell), we too spent much of 2020 wondering if we’d ended up in the Bad Place – luckily, however, breezy afterlife sitcom The Good Place is the perfect remedy for tough times. The show sees saleswoman Eleanor ascend to the Good Place, a heaven-esque utopia designed to be the perfect afterlife for righteous people. There’s just one problem – morally corrupt Eleanor is far from righteous, and must hide her past and learn to become a better person if the other residents are to believe this case of mistaken identity.
While the series started as a heavenly fish-out-of-water comedy, several twists along the way have led the show to creative explorations of philosophy, ethics and what it really means to be good. It’s the perfect show for those looking for a deeper message underneath a light, carefree layer of wholesome comedy, a formula that earned the show a whopping 14 Emmy nominations.
Frozen’s Kristin Bell stars as protagonist Eleanor, with William Jackson-Harper (Midsommar) as Chidi Anagonye, the former professor who attempts to teach Eleanor ethics. Former BBC radio presenter Jameela Jamil plays wealthy philanthropist and Eleanor’s eventual friend Tahani Al-Jamil, while Ted Danson turns in a critically praised performance as afterlife “architect” Michael. – Daniel Furn
The first thing to know about BoJack Horseman is that its lead character is an alcoholic horse voiced by Will Arnett. The second thing to know about BoJack Horseman is that it is absolutely not what you might expect it to be.
BoJack is the washed-up star of ’90s sitcom Horsin’ Around. He now lives a quiet life in his lavish Hollywood Hills home but is planning a comeback with a tell-all autobiography written by ghostwriter Diane. However, he is reckless and difficult to get along with as he battles drug and alcohol addiction.
Though it arguably took a little while to find its feet (or should that be hooves?), the series grew and blossomed and from midway through season one onwards, it became of the best TV shows out there, mocking the emptiness of celebrity and fast fame delivering a truly poignant examination of issues like depression and mental health. Smart, multilayered, brutal and hilarious, if you’re missing out on BoJack Horseman, you’re just plain missing out. – Morgan Jeffery
Jumping on the mockumentary craze of the 2000s, as the name would suggest this long-running comedy shifted the format to a fresh perspective: the diverse family set-ups of 21st century America. A combination of interview segments of shows like The Office with an updated take on the classic family sitcom, Modern Family is one of the most successful shows in recent memory, running for a whopping 11 seasons and winning twenty-two Emmy awards.
Modern Family follows three different interrelated family setups: patriarch Jay Mitchell and his new children with younger second wife Gloria, his daughter Claire and her nuclear family with husband Phil, and Jay’s son Mitchell, who has adopted a child with husband Cameron. From there the show delves into the usual family sitcom scenarios, but with its own unique and very current take.
Sofia Vergara has become the breakout star of the show with her fiery portrayal of Gloria, but she’s joined by some fine company. Eric Stonestreet, Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell have each won two Emmys for their portrayal of Cameron, Claire and self-proclaimed “cool dad” Phil respectively, while Ed O’Neill, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Sarah Hyland and Ariel Winter round out the talented cast. – Daniel Furn
The Kominsky Method
Full of heart and humour, The Kominsky Method marks quite possibly a career high for its creator, sitcom veteran Chuck Lorre. The series follows Sandy Kominsky (Michael Douglas), an aging actor and acting coach who has grown old alongside his friend Norman (Alan Arkin), but has to go on without him as he deals with money, death, love, murder and dreams coming true – it premiered in November 2018 on Netflix and immediately won a following with its funny, poignant stylings and sensitive portrait of life, loss and aging.
It might not sound like a groundbreaking premise, but two top-notch lead performances from Douglas and Arkin help elevate the series into something really quite special. Douglas won the Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy for his performance, while the show itself won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy in 2019. – Owen Tonks
Netflix’s Ginny and Georgia has drawn comparisons to this classic series, but there really is nothing quite like Gilmore Girls. The go-to show when looking for single-parent families on TV, Gilmore Girls follows thirty-something Lorelai Gilmore and the close bond she has with her teenage daughter Rory. We then see the two protagonists deal with love and life in the sleepy town of Stars Hollow, with a particular focus on family – including Lorelai’s strained relationship with her own parents – using an effective mix of cross-generational humour and drama.
Known for its quippy fast-paced dialogue and pop culture references, Gilmore Girls drew modest ratings during its initial run, with its later cult classic status prompting Netflix to order a revival in 2016. The show then wrapped up with four-part special Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, which is available on Netflix along with the original seven seasons.
The titular mother-daughter duo is portrayed by Lauren Graham as independent single mum Lorelai, with precocious Rory played by Alexis Bledel, now better known as fierce resistance member Emily in The Handmaid’s Tale. However it was a young Melissa McCarthy who became the breakout star of the show, who would go on to star in other Netflix comedies such as Thunder Force. – Daniel Furn
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
One of the funniest films of all time (fans will debate whether it’s better than Life of Brian), 1975’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail is set in in 932AD and follows King Arthur (Graham Chapman) and his servant Patsy (Terry Gilliam) as they recruit Sir Bedevere the Wise (Terry Jones), Sir Lancelot the Brave (John Cleese), Sir Galahad the Pure (Michael Palin) and Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-as-Sir-Lancelot (Eric Idle) to join the Knights of the Round Table.
Superbly silly, Holy Grail – which was shot mainly on location in Scotland – transplants what worked so well about the Pythons’ TV work and translates it seamlessly to the big-screen. There’s not much of a narrative at work here, but that’s part of the fun – what we get instead is 92 minutes packed with iconic, surreal Monty Python humour, from coconuts shells in place of actual horses to the ballad of Camelot. – Owen Tonks
Pushing animation as far as it will go, this very adult comedy follows teenage friends Andrew and Nick as they navigate puberty in suburban New York. ‘Hormone Monsters’ – dirty-minded shoulder angels who act as a personification of puberty – act as humorous sex education teachers for most of the main characters, explaining their changing bodies and sexual issues including all the gory details.
While Big Mouth includes all the gross-out humour you might expect from a show like this, underneath the smut are some surprising life lessons. Much like Netflix’s other hit Sex Education, Big Mouth touches on issues rarely explored on TV, including body positivity, sexism in sex education and other more explicit topics.
It’s backed up by an impressive cast too – co-creator Nick Kroll voices half the characters, including insecure teen Nick and Hormone Monster Maurice. Into the Spider-Verse’s John Mulaney plays Nick’s best friend Andrew, while comedian Jessi Klein voices sarcastic schoolgirl Jessi. Jason Mantzoukas, Maya Rudolph and Jordan Peele also lend their voices.
Big Mouth has clearly been a big success for Netflix, with four seasons now available with a fifth on the way – along with a spin-off titled Human Resources focused on the world of the hormone monsters. – Daniel Furn
I’m Alan Partridge
Steve Coogan’s iconic alter ego is over thirty years old and still going strong with TV specials, but it is this BBC sitcom that put the comedy creation onto most people’s radar. Credited with influencing the rise of cringe comedy, I’m Alan Partridge sees Coogan return to the titular character following his success spoofing current affairs and chat shows on radio and TV, with Partridge now divorced and dropped from the BBC. The series sees Partridge presenting the graveyard shift on Norwich radio while desperately attempting to revive his TV career – with predictably hilarious results.
Alan Partridge is often voted one of the greatest British TV characters ever, and I’m Alan Partridge is a nostalgic chance to see the inept broadcaster in his prime. The two-season series won two BAFTAs, two British Comedy Awards and a Royal Television Society award, and is often in the conversation for best British sitcom along with the likes of Fawlty Towers and Blackadder.
The series was co-written by Partridge co-creator Armando Iannucci, who went on to create The Thick of It, Veep and Avenue 5. Veteran TV actress Felicity Montagu plays Partridge’s long-suffering assistant Lynn Benfield, comedian Simon Greenall as unlikely friend Michael and Dead Ringers’ Phil Cornwell as rival DJ Dave Clifton – with all three returning for feature film Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. – Daniel Furn
The Big Lebowski
One of the coolest films of the ’90s, the Coen brothers’ offbeat follow-up to Fargo features one of the most chilled-out detective stories put to film. When slacker Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski has his rug urinated on in a case of mistaken identity, he gathers his bowling buddies together to get compensation from the real target – who happens to be a wealthy millionaire. The Dude then finds himself entwined in a complex kidnap plot that involves missing ransom money, lots of bowling and some truly trippy dream sequences.
With eccentric characters, over-the-top dream sequences and an intentionally overcomplicated plot, The Big Lebowski initially received mixed reviews. However, it has since become the definition of a cult favourite, complete with midnight screenings, cosplayers, the annual Lebowski Fest taking place every year, and even the religion Dudeism.
The Big Lebowski had an impressive ensemble cast – but the movie belongs to Jeff Bridges as iconic lead ‘The Dude’. John Goodman stars as the Dude’s scheming friend Walter, with Julianne Moore as the Dude’s daughter Maude. Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tara Reid and Sam Elliott also star, along with John Turturro who directed spin-off The Jesus Rolls. – Daniel Furn
Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun
A recent international addition to Netflix, Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun features Australian comedy group Aunty Donna take us on absurd adventure through their day-to-day lives in this sketch show. Aunty Donna is, confusingly, a group made up of men, namely performers Mark Samual Bonanno, Broden Kelly, and Zachary Ruane, director Sam Lingham, filmmaker Max Miller; and composer Tom Armstrong. The group originally formed in 2011 intending to exclusively perform live comedy shows, before expanding into podcasts, a YouTube channel and now TV.
Receiving rave reviews from critics and even comparisons to the legendary Monty Python, Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun features the group as fictionalised versions of themselves – as well as several other characters – in a heightened version of their daily lives through satire, parody, wordplay, and breakout musical numbers. Look out for the impressive celebrity cameos – including The Office’s Ed Helms (who also produces), singer “Weird Al” Yankovic, Bob’s Burgers’ Kristen Schaal, and Homelander himself Antony Starr.
If you’re into absurdist comedy then this is for you – storylines include the group’s dishwasher becoming sentient, a search for billion year old pirate “booty” and a challenge to win the most medals at the 2000 Olympics. – Daniel Furn
Playground politics come into the comedy spotlight in this very British sitcom that will be hugely relatable to mothers, fathers and anyone who has had to regularly do the school run. Middle-class Julia Johnson is forced to take a more hands-on approach to her children’s schooling when her mother decides to stop babysitting, and is soon thrust into the mum-eat-mum world of the school’s “Alpha Mums” and the competitiveness that arises.
The unromantic side of motherhood is on full show here, with any glamorous depictions eschewed in favour of far more realistic scenarios such as the PTA’s reign of terror, being blamed for a nit pandemic and the true chaos that arises from trying to host a children’s party. A consistent critical hit – we gave season three five stars out of five in our Motherland review – it’s not surprising when you consider the talent in the writing room: Catastrophe’s Sharon Horgan and comedian Holly Walsh are among those penning the trials and traumas of middle-class motherhood.
Line of Duty‘s Anna Maxwell Martin takes on a very different role as the unorganised Julia newly introduced to the Alpha Mums, while After Life’s Diane Morgan stars as the straight-talking Diane. The Terror‘s Paul Ready is the stay-at-home dad trying – and failing – to integrate into the Alpha Mums, while Hot Fuzz’s Lucy Punch plays the group’s superficially polite leader. – Daniel Furn
Monty Python’s Life of Brian
It might’ve been controversial at the time of its initial release, with some accusing it of blasphemy and some countries, including Ireland and Norway, banning it altogether for decades, but Monty Python’s Life of Brian – which tells the story of Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman), a Jewish-Romanian man who is born on the same day and in the stable next door to Jesus – is now widely regarded as one of the best comedy films ever made.
The film follows the ill-fated Brian as he becomes infatuated with a woman called Judith (Sue Jones-Davies), with his desire for her, as well as his dislike of the Romans, inspiring him to join independence movement People’s Front of Judea (PFJ) who spend more time fighting each other than the Romans.
More than 40 years on it’s a classic that absolutely lives up to the hype. Rude, crude and brilliant, this is the Pythons at their most unrestrained and firing on all cylinders. The jokes, many of them wonderfully tasteless, come thick and fast, and the one-liners (“He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!” “I’m Brian and so’s my wife.”) have gone down in cinematic history. – Morgan Jeffery
Rick and Morty
Loosely inspired by Doc Brown and Marty McFly from Back to the Future, wacky animated sitcom Rick & Morty delves headfirst into concepts such as alternate realities, microverses and simulations to mine fresh comedy material. The show follows grumpy genius Rick Sanchez as he goes on all sorts of intergalactic adventures with his timid grandson Morty, much to the chagrin of his devoted daughter Beth, her insecure husband Jerry and their teenage daughter Summer. Though the series is mostly episodic in nature, there are some ongoing storylines – with a fan favourite following the Council of Ricks, a group of Ricks from several different dimensions.
This wonderfully inventive series is known for dabbling with scientific theories rarely seen in a comedy, some somewhat realistic (parallel dimensions play a big part) and some completely out there (we’re sure you’ve all heard of Pickle Rick). However, just as clever are some of the narrative twists and character beats – amidst all the cosmic chaos, the series can knock an emotional blow out of nowhere.
Co-creator Justin Roiland does the heavy lifting voicing both Rick and Morty, though he is joined by Sarah Chalke (Scrubs) as Beth, Chris Parnell (30 Rock) as Jerry and Spencer Grammer (Greek) as Summer. – Daniel Furn
Living With Yourself
What’s better than having ageless, amiable star Paul Rudd as the lead of a comedy series? Having two Paul Rudds of course! Rudd pulls double duties in this charming Netflix original, which sees run-down copywriter Miles Elliot undergo a mysterious treatment to become his best self – only to end up cloning himself. With his clone his superior in every way, Miles must learn to, well, live with himself, specifically a more optimistic and driven version of himself.
With a star as likeable as Paul Rudd, it’s a no-brainer to have him in his own sitcom playing dual roles, and the show succeeds largely to the charisma radiating off the two Rudds. While the series is largely light and played for laughs, it raises some ethical dilemmas also – with Miles’s supportive wife Kate understandably feeling a bit conflicted.
UK viewers will be pleasantly surprised to see comedian Aisling Bea in a big role as Kate, Miles’s architect wife who gets the shock of a lifetime. She’s joined in Living With Yourself by Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) as Miles’s sister Maia, Desmin Borges (Utopia) as co-worker Dan, and Karen Pittman (Luke Cage) as Miles’s boss. – Daniel Furn
Loosely based on creator Dan Harmon’s own university experiences, Community follows former lawyer Jeff Winger’s attempt to coast through community college, only to inadvertently form a study group with six other mismatched students. And what students they were – not only did the show bring Donald Glover and Alison Brie to the world’s attention, but Joel McHale (Ted), Gillian Jacobs (Love), Danny Pudi (Mythic Quest), Yvette Nicole Brown (Big Shot) and Ken Jeong (The Hangover).
What started out as the usual run-of-the-mill university comedy, Community soon found its unique identity with its meta plotlines and parodies of other TV shows, films and entire genres – all while remaining faithful to its characters/university setting. The show is famous for its paintball episodes in particular – just see how many action film references you can spot in the 20 minute runtime.
Infamously plagued by behind-the-scenes issues and low ratings while it was on the air, Community has since become a cult hit that received a popularity boost in 2020 when it was added to Netflix worldwide, the cast reunited for a table read and McHale and Jeong started a Community-themed podcast. The show gave us six sterling seasons – we’re more hopeful than ever for the movie. – Daniel Furn
Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s hugely influential sitcom, The Office is still thought of as one of the peaks of British comedy all these years later and spawned a whole wave of mockumentary comedies. The premise is fairly simple – a documentary film crew follow the monotonous lives of employees at a paper company in Slough, and the tedium, ego clashes and antics that ensue. What really elevates the show, however, is Ricky Gervais’s comic creation David Brent, whose inappropriate behaviour, cringe worthy jokes and self-delusions provide much of the comedy for the series.
However, the show features plenty of other memorable characters, from the oft-pranked Gareth to temp Ricky and, of, course the will-they-won’t they relationship between Tim and Dawn. Despite keeping to British sitcom tradition of a short run with only two series and Christmas specials, The Office made stars out of Ricky Gervais, Martin Freeman and Mackenzie Crook, and still holds up after 20 years.
Also on Netflix is the The Office US, a rare beast in that it is an American adaptation that is arguably just as good as the original. The show eventually found its own identity by making the David Brent counterpart, Michael Scott, into a more sympathetic and well-meaning character, finding a winning formula that lasted for a whopping nine seasons and 201 episodes. Nielsen named The Office as the most streamed show in Netflix in the US – no mean feat indeed. – Daniel Furn
Comedy darling Tina Fey nailed the rather difficult task of writing relatable material for teenagers in this 2004 hit that far transcends most high school dramas. The film follows Cady Heron who befriends the A-List girl clique ‘The Plastics’ after being convinced to sabotage them, only to fall in love with the leader’s ex-boyfriend.
The endlessly quotable film has remained essential viewing for teenage girls the world over, but Tina Fey’s whip-smart dialogue and deconstruction of high school cliques remains an amusing watch at any age. The film’s cult following led to a made-for-television sequel in 2011 and even a Broadway musical in 2018, a good fourteen years after the movie’s debut. The film has since become a pop culture phenomenon – GIFs and memes of the film are ever-present on social media, with October 3rd unofficially dubbed ‘Mean Girls Day’ after the date was featured in the film.
The film featured Lindsay Lohan at the peak of her teen comedy stardom, as well as Rachel McAdams in a breakout role as ‘plastic’ Regina George. Amanda Seyfried also makes her film debut as airhead Karen Smith, while Tina Fey also has a small role along with long-time collaborator Amy Poehler. – Daniel Furn
Never Have I Ever
Hailing from The Office US writer and star Mindy Kaling, Never Have I Ever explores the day-to-day life of a modern first-generation Indian-American teenager. LA fifteen year old Devi Vishwakuma is hoping to improve her social status at her second year of high school – but a tragic loss sees her instead struggling with grief, school problems, her Indian identity and an increasingly fraught relationship with her mother.
Based upon Kaling’s own childhood, this Indian-American focused high school drama has been praised for its representation of South Asians in Hollywood and breaking stereotypes of Asian characters in teen television. The show is also happy to lean on emotional themes as Devi processes grief and learns to balance her two cultures, while also providing the mandatory laughs that come with a teen comedy.
Newcomer Maitreyi Ramakrishnan was picked to play Devi by Mindy Kaling after an open casting call that received 15,000 responses, despite only being 17 and having no professional acting experience. Poorna Jagannathan (The Night Of) plays Devi’s dermatologist mother, while Darren Barnet (Agents of SHIELD) plays love interest Paxton Hall-Yoshida. Tennis player John McEnroe is a left-field choice as the show’s narrator, with a guest narration from Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Andy Samberg. – Daniel Furn
Breakout Irish hit Derry Girls has taken the world by storm since it premiered on Channel 4 in 2018, and is going from strength to strength. This unique sitcom follows a gaggle of sixteen-year-old girls at a Derry secondary school during The Troubles, as they deal with growing pains and teenage angst in the world of armed police and British Army checkpoints.
Channel 4’s biggest comedy launch since 2004, Derry Girls has been swamped with critical praise with season one earning an impressive 100 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes. The show is based on events in writer Lisa McGee’s own childhood, including writing a letter to Bill Clinton’s daughter, and has been praised for juxtaposing normal teenage life with the violence of the Troubles. It’s been a big hit in Northern Ireland in particular – it has become the most watched show since modern records began in the region, and a large mural of the cast has been painted in the titular city.
The cast are all rising stars now – theatre actress Saoirse-Monica Jackson plays the lead role of Erin Quinn, but is joined by an ensemble including Louisa Harland (The Deceived) as her meddling cousin Louisa McCool and Nicola Coughlan (Bridgerton) as the sensible Claire Devlin. Look out for the cameo from Father Ted’s Ardal O’Hanlon. – Daniel Furn
Will Ferrell is at his immature best in this goofball comedy, which sees one of his many team ups with the equally hilarious John C. Reilly. The plot is perfect comedy fodder: two middle-aged man-children are forced to live with each other as step brothers when their respective single parents marry, prompting tantrums, over-the-top sibling spats and some surprisingly catchy songs.
Step Brothers came during the peak of Ferrell’s film career, and is one of the many hits he made with director long-term writing partner Adam McKay following Anchorman and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Ferrell is no stranger to playing a man-child and this film gives him the perfect partner in Reilly, with the two engaging bouncing increasingly ridiculous ideas and insults off each other before ultimately forming a brotherly friendship. The film also has several unlikely music segments – with Will Ferrell using his own singing voice and John C. Reilly really doing his own drumming.
After adopting him in Elf, Mary Steenburgen plays Will Ferrell’s mother yet again in Step Brothers, with The Shape of Water’s Richard Jenkins as the single father she marries. Parks and Recreation’s Adam Scott portrays Ferrell’s successful biological brother, with WandaVision’s Kathryn Hahn as his wife Alice. – Daniel Furn
Who ya gonna call? While WhatsAapp message or Zoom call may be a more common way to contact the spirit swatters these days, the film itself holds up perfectly well these days. We’re sure Ray Parker Jr.’s catchy song has taught you the premise by now – but for the uninitiated, the original Ghostbusters follows a group of former scientists who form a new business catching ghosts in New York City. However when a shape shifting demigod possesses one of their clients, they’ll have a lot more than just ghosts to deal with if they open a dimensional gate…
One of the most iconic films of all time and one of the biggest comedies of the 1980s, Ghostbusters has gone on to become a cultural phenomenon with two follow-up films, several animated series and multiple videogames – with sequel Ghostbusters: Afterlife due out in 2021. It’s not hard to see why – Bill Murray’s deadpan performance has been routinely praised, while the film’s unique mix of comedy, science fiction and action laid the groundwork for the blockbusters we have today.
Comedy legend Bill Murray stars as Peter Venkman, alongside an impressive ‘80s ensemble cast including Dan Aykroyd (Blues Brothers), Sigourney Weaver (Alien), Harold Ramis (Stripes), Rick Moranis (Spaceballs) and Ernie Hudson (The Crow). – Daniel Furn
Struggling to get your teenage child to read Emma? Well here’s quite the fun solution: much like 10 Things I Hate About You’s take on The Taming of the Shrew, Clueless is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s famous novel – just set in a Beverly Hills high school. Much like the book, Clueless sees the heroine – reworked as Alicia Silverstone’s iconic Cher – attempt to play matchmaker with new student Tai, only to fall for someone herself.
Director Amy Heckerling sat in some real Beverly Hills high school classes to see how 1990s students talked and inserted them into the film, with Cher’s catchphrase “As If!” and other quotes from the movie soon becoming synonymous with 1990s teenagers. This mix of current slang and literary references helped make the film an enduring hit – it has since spawned a spin-off sitcom, books, an upcoming remake and was the inspiration for Iggy Azeala’s music video for breakout hit Fancy.
Alicia Silverstone has been synonymous with the role of spoiled Cher Horowitz ever since the movie released, with much of her character’s wardrobe – especially that yellow plaid skirt and blazer – having a strong influence on fashion and still worn today. She is joined by Stacey Dash as best friend Dionne, the late Brittany Murphy as new girl Tai and a young Paul Rudd as Cher’s former stepbrother and love interest Josh. – Daniel Furn
After 11 seasons and 12 years on air, Archer is approaching Simpsons-esque levels of episode numbers and outrageous scenarios – and shows no signs of stopping. The self-referential adult animation follows narcissistic spy Sterling Archer and his colleagues at a dysfunctional intelligence agency, including his snarky mother and boss Malory and professional field agent and love interest Lana Kane.
However, the show has proved itself a master of reinvention, with the later seasons moving away from a spy parody to self-contained anthologies, seeing different versions of the characters in new locations and time periods including a noir-esque 1940s LA, a 1938 tropical island and even space. However, the show’s winning formula has remained the same – heavy amounts of pop culture references, whip-smart dialogue and meta jokes. For those who like zany comedy interspersed with bouts of action, then Archer is for you.
Adult animation veteran H Jon Benjamin (Bob’s Burgers) voices the titular Archer, with the late Jessica Walter as the overbearing Malory and Criminal Minds’ Aisha Tyler as voice of reason Lana. Ant-Man’s Judy Greer features as Malory’s delusional assistant Cheryl Tunt, with Rick and Morty’s Chris Parnell also lending his voice to mild-mannered accountant Cyril Figgis. – Daniel Furn
With one of the most fitting movie titles of all time, this eccentric meta comedy from writer Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze lives up to the promise of exploring the concept of Adaptation. Nicolas Cage stars as a fictional version of Kaufman as he struggles to adapt non-fiction book The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, with the two writers’ lives eventually becoming unpredictably intertwined.
Kaufman based the film on his own real-life experiences of trying to adapt The Orchid Thief, with Adaptation ultimately the end product. The movie is a pastiche on the process of adaptation, mixing Kaufman’s experiences, elements from the book and fictitious elements for a truly original film that won’t have you view writer’s block the same way again. If that wasn’t enough, Cage is on double duties playing both Charlie Kaufman and his fictional twin brother Donald, with Donald also strangely receiving billing as a writer on the film – meaning Charlie shared his Best Adapted Screenplay BAFTA win with the imaginary Donald.
Nicolas Cage, Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze are no strangers to out-there concepts having previously worked on Being John Malkovich together. They’re joined this time by Meryl Streep as a fictionalised version of Susan Orlean, with American Beauty’s Chris Cooper on Oscar-winning form as orchid thief John Laroche. – Daniel Furn
Beloved British sitcom Peep Show may have ended in 2015, but has only gotten more popular as more time passes from the finale. The title, despite what it may suggest, refers to the show’s style of being filmed entirely in first-person, which means we get to hear every regrettable thought of main characters slacker Jeremy and socially awkward Mark. The show follows the day-to-day lives of the two dysfunctional flatmates as they struggle to transition from university to working life, trying and usually failing to advance at work and dating.
While the show could easily have fallen into mismatched flatmate tropes, the show’s central gimmick is actually its greatest strength by bringing the viewer into collaboration with the protagonists. We understand exactly how they are feeling and thinking and can relate and empathise with them through every embarrassing situation, poor decision and terrible behaviour as we know their motivations.
This is, of course, helped by a sterling cast, specifically leads David Mitchell and Robert Webb who have genuinely known each other and collaborated since university. The supporting cast, too, are exceptional: most notably national treasure Olivia Colman in her breakthrough role of Sophie, but also Matt King deserves credit for nearly stealing the show with his fan-favourite character Super Hans. – Daniel Furn
Fans across the pond may be disappointed that the popular sitcom is no longer on US Netflix – but here in the UK Friends is not going anywhere just yet. We’re sure you know the premise by now – after spoiled Rachel flees her wedding day and moves in with old friend Monica, she soon bonds with eccentric masseuse Phoebe, dim-witted actor Joey, sarcastic IT manager Chandler and insecure paleontologist Ross. We then follow the highs and lows of their Manhattan lives through the group’s twenties and thirties, through comedic career changes and chaotic romantic adventures – but most importantly, we see their friendship throughout.
One of the most popular shows of all time, the show’s many catchphrases (“We were on a break!”) and characters have become staples of pop culture, and the cast – particularly Jennifer Aniston – have all become household names. It’s a testament to the quality of the show that over 15 years on from the record-breaking finale, the series continues to do well on streaming and fans are still hungry for more – so much so that a Friends reunion show was filmed for HBO Max in 2021, and despite being unscripted, drew hype and headlines around the world. – Daniel Furn
A show that surprisingly lives up to its name, Sex Education has become something of a phenomenon for Netflix. The show follows insecure student Otis who inadvertently starts underground sex therapy at his school in order to impress sarcastic social outcast Maeve. However as he begins to solve his classmate’s problems, he starts to realise he should face his own issues with his frank sex therapist mother and his exploration of first love.
What sounds like an easy premise for a cheap sex comedy actually turns out to be so much more, with Otis and his mother’s therapy sessions used to openly discuss a number of sexual issues rarely even referred to on television, with a surprising amount of tenderness and care. Along with a healthy and progressive attitude to sex, the show also explores issues relating to sexuality, sexual assault, contraception and pornography. Being a teen comedy, there is of course the big will they/won’t they romance, as well as a few gross out gags – but it never feels gratuitous or unnecessary.
Young rising star Asa Butterfield plays unwitting teenage sex therapist Otis Milburn, with X-Files legend Gillian Anderson as his over sharing mother. Emma Mackey plays the rebellious Maeve ahead of her appearance in Death on the Nile, while Ncuti Gawa plays Otis’s openly gay best friend Eric. – Daniel Furn
Dolemite is My Name
Eddie Murphy’s award-winning return to the silver screen, Dolemite Is My Name is a stylish throwback to the 1970s in this biopic of blaxploitation icon Rudy Ray Moore. Comedian and rap pioneer Rudy Ray Moore goes against all the odds to make a success out of his alter ego Dolemite – a hilarious and often obscene kung-fu fighter who becomes an underground sensation. The film chronicles the build-up to iconic 1975 film Dolemite, a watershed moment for Moore and the blaxploitation genre as a whole.
After several years away from major movie roles – and twenty years on from the last R-rated comedy role he’s known best for – Murphy is back at his foul-mouthed and bawdy best. However it’s not just a comedic return to form, as the film is as much a homage to Rudy Ray Moore as it is a comedy, and Murphy has received unanimous critical praise his performance as the larger-than-life filmmaker.
Murphy is joined by a stellar African-American cast, including Keegan Michael-Key (Key & Peele), Mike Epps (The Hangover), Craig Robinson (The Office), Tituss Burgess (The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and Da’Vine Joy Randolph (High Fidelity). The film also features Wesley Snipes in a prominent comeback role, and also sees appearances from Chris Rock and rappers T.I. and Snoop Dogg. – Daniel Furn
Much like Clueless, Easy A is yet another high school comedy inspired by a classic historical novel – this time the scandalous The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Much like the novel, Easy A’s protagonist Olive also uses her lies and rumours to advance her social standing, initially fibbing about losing her virginity to cover up her boring weekend. This being high school however, it’s not long before the rumour mill spins these stories out of control, and while Olive initially profits from her tall tales it’s not long before the truth catches up from her.
The first leading role of future Oscar winner Emma Stone, Easy A was the actress’s breakthrough role and earned her nominations for Best Actress at the Golden Globes as well as the BAFTA Rising Star award. Easy A is one of the better high school films of the last decade or so, lightly exploring themes of hypocrisy, conformity, deception and cyber-bullying all within a breezy teen comedy. It’s Clueless for the 21st Century – a smart and funny adaptation of classic literature, modernised so that it’s fully relevant to the target audiences, complete with webcam vlogs, Tom Cruise jokes and still-pertinent digs at social media also.
Penn Badgley plays a far more charming love interest than his character in You, with Nickelodeon star Amanda Bynes as devout Christian classmate Rhiannon. Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow, Stanley Tucci and Malcolm McDowell are the adults overseeing proceedings. – Daniel Furn
The US Office’s successor as the feel-good comedy of the 2010s, Brooklyn Nine-Nine takes the popular police procedural format and adds a workplace comedy spin to it. The show follows the diverse and dysfunctional employees at the fictional precinct as they wrestle with their personal lives and get up to workplace shenanigans, and even occasionally solve a few crimes.
Despite the show’s focus on crime, the series is infectiously cheery, largely thanks to the quippy comedic stylings of The Lonely Island’s Andy Samberg, who plays the wisecracking but immature lead character Jake Peralta. However, the show has since found its voice through a smart ensemble cast, featuring the deadpan Captain Holt (Andre Braugher), avid organiser Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero), goofy Boyle (Jo Lo Truglio), hardnut Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz), doting father Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews) and the sardonic Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti).
The show’s quick-fire dialogue and deadpan putdowns soon launched a torrent of catchphrases and internet memes, with a particularly iconic Backstreet Boys gag reaching 22 million views on YouTube. However, the show hasn’t been afraid to tackle serious issues either while still retaining a sense of humour – an episode in which Terry Crews’ character is racially profiled has received particular praise, and the series has won a GLAAD award for its portrayal of LGBTQ+ people. – Daniel Furn
Shaun of the Dead
The film that made Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright Hollywood stars, this relatively low budget British hit has inspired a whole wave of horror comedies. A parody of George A. Romero’s iconic ‘Dead’ films, this self-proclaimed zom-rom-com follows the titular slacker Shaun as his uneventful life gets annoyingly interrupted by the zombie apocalypse, and must deal with his quarter-life crisis while saving his loved ones.
Shaun of the Dead helped breathed new life into the then-flagging zombie genre, paving the way for renewed interest in the undead and later hits such as The Walking Dead and Zombieland. It was a big win for British cinema also, with stars Pegg, Frost and Wright going on to make two further entries in the ‘Cornetto Trilogy’, namely Hot Fuzz and The World’s End. An announcement in the film for people to stay home has been eerily relevant recently – with Pegg and Frost reprising their roles for a COVID-19 public service announcement in 2020.
Kate Ashfield (Life), Lucy Davis (The Office), Dylan Moran (Black Books) and a particularly memorable Bill Nighy join Pegg and Frost in their quest to wait for things to blow over in The Winchester. Even the supporting cast is a who’s who of British talent – Peter Serafinowicz, Rafe Spall, Martin Freeman and Tamsin Greig also pop up. – Daniel Furn
The idea for Shaun of the Dead actually came from the third episode of Spaced, Pegg’s seminal sitcom co-created with Jessica Hynes. The series follows broken-hearted comic book artist Tim (Pegg) and directionless writer Daisy (Hynes) as they pretend to be a couple to secure an affordable London flat.
While the premise sounds like prime rom-com material, Spaced does not actually lean in too heavily in that direction, instead aiming for a heightened representation of twenty-something life in the capital through farce and even a bit of action. Spaced was ahead of its time in many ways with its meta humour and pop culture references – much like Community it would pay homage to film-tropes, from slow-mo telepathic gun fights to a Matrix parody and even Tim hallucinating a zombie apocalypse while playing Resident Evil.
Joining Hynes, Pegg and long-time collaborator Nick Frost was Mark Heap (Friday Night Dinner) as eccentric downstairs neighbour Brian, Katy Carmichael (Christopher Robin) as his girlfriend Twist and Julia Deakin (High-Rise) as unsuspecting landlady Marsha. Even the guest stars have since become comedy legends – including Ricky Gervais, David Walliams, Mark Gatiss, Kevin Eldon, Peter Serafinowicz and Reece Shearsmith. – Daniel Furn
A prime premise to mine for a comedic gold, this surprisingly good action-comedy is one of the funniest original films of the last few years. The 2018 hit follows a group of friends who meet regularly for game nights, whose murder mystery evening predictably but hilariously gets a tad too realistic when one of them is seemingly kidnapped by gangsters. Unfortunately all the guests think this is just part of the game – queue a classic mix-up of real and fake clues, oblivious party guests and some very brave squaring up to actual gangsters.
The film comes from acclaimed comedy pedigree – directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley previously wrote the two Horrible Bosses films as well as Spider-Man: Homecoming, with Daley also known for acting in Bones and Freaks and Geeks. The Horrible Bosses similarities are clear in this film, with Game Night also offering a fresh premise, sharply written dark comedy and more twists than your conventional comedy.
The film has quite the starry cast, led by Jason Bateman in a return to his comedy roots along with fellow comedy veteran Rachel McAdams as the husband and wife duo experiencing the game night from hell. They’ve brought some friends too, including Godzilla vs Kong’s Kyle Chandler, No Time To Die’s Billy Magnussen, and Catastrophe’s Sharon Horgan as guests in the role-playing mystery that gets a bit too interactive. – Daniel Furn
Ever wondered what Michael Jordan was doing during his initial retirement in 1994? Why, he was playing basketball with Bugs Bunny of course – and there’s an entire film detailing what happened. Adored by 90s kids the world over, this unlikely crossover between two American icons was inspired by two Nike Super Bowl adverts of all things. Building on the adverts’ premise of Michael Jordan playing basketball with Bug Bunny, Warner Bros. decided to make a whole movie based on the minute-long ads – and one that surprisingly paid off.
A mix of live-action and classic animation, the plot sees the Looney Tunes enslaved by a group of criminal aliens called the Nerdlucks. The only way to earn their freedom is, of course, through a basketball game – so Bugs wisely enlists the help of iconic athlete Michael Jordan for a rather outlandish and unlikely game of basketball.
Space Jam went on to become the highest-grossing basketball film of all time, with critics praising the then impressive blend of live-action and comedy as well as the classic Looney Tunes comedy. A long-running cult appreciation of the film led to a belated sequel, with Space Jam: A New Legacy starring LeBron James due out in 2021. – Daniel Furn
Time-loop movies are all the rage these days with the likes of Russian Doll and Palm Springs, but they were first perfected in this iconic 90s comedy. Bill Murray stars as self-centred weatherman Phil who reluctantly travels to a Pennsylvania town to cover their annual Groundhog Day event. However, Phil wakes up the next day realising it is still Groundhog Day – forcing him to relive 2nd February again, and again, and again…
Groundhog Day has had a significant impact upon pop culture, seen as the bar for all other time-loop films to reach and the movie’s title now a phrase used to describe repetitive situations. The film’s enduring popularity has led to a musical adaptation by Tim Minchin as well as a video game sequel, and is also credited with popularising fantasy elements in comedies as well as launching Murray into more serious films. It was also notably the last partnership between Murray and director Ivan Reitman following hits such as Ghostbusters and Caddyshack, with the two disagreeing on the script while filming.
Murray may be the only one in a time loop, but he’s not alone – joining him for a very long day are Andie McDowell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) as producer Rita Hanson, Chris Elliott (The Abyss) as cameraman Larry and Stephen Tobolowsky (Memento) as former high school classmate Ned Ryerson. – Daniel Furn
Based on a script Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg started writing when they were only 13(!), it’s perhaps not surprising that Superbad is a rather authentic take on young friendships and school awkwardness. Teenagers and best friends Seth and Evan are hoping to go out with a big party before they head to different universities, but their friendship is tested when their plan to get booze goes seriously awry.
The film that introduced McLovin to the world, Superbad has made it to the pantheon of modern high school comedy classics. The film has all the bawdy jokes you’d expect from a Seth Rogen high school comedy, but underneath all the smut is a genuinely touching story of male friendship. It was based on a real one after all, with Rogen and Evans basing the film on their experiences at secondary school in Vancouver in the 1990s. Rogen was originally meant to play Seth, but due to his age ended up playing Officer Michaels.
However, in Rogen’s place a young Jonah Hill was cast. His chemistry with Michael Cera’s Evan was particularly praised, and Hill, Cera, Rogen, Goldberg and producer Judd Apatow would go on to collaborate on a string of comedy hits in the late 2000s and 2010s. They weren’t the only breakthrough stars however – Christopher Mintz-Plasse would go on to more teen comedy roles in Kick-Ass and Neighbours, while Emma Stone would go on to become lead in Easy A and eventually Oscar stardom. – Daniel Furn
The directorial debut from actress Olivia Wilde, Booksmart proves to be a fresh and modern take on the high school comedy. When two bookworm best friends realise they missed out on a lot of fun while studying, they try to cram four years of missed opportunities into one night – which just so happens to be the eve of their graduation.
A celebration of female friendship, growing up and the special coming-of-age moments that take place during our school years, Booksmart is in many ways a gender swapped version of Superbad in it focus on youthful camaraderie during one frenetic night at the end of high school – with authenticity too given that the actors themselves were given free rein to change the dialogue. However, Booksmart is also a good deal more progressive than Superbad particularly in its representation of the LGBTQ+ community – lead character Amy is out as a lesbian but her sexuality does not dominate her character, and does not impact her platonic friendship with Molly.
Rising star Kaitlyn Dever, best known for her critically acclaimed turn in Unbelievable, plays bookish Amy Antsler, while LadyBird star Beanie Feldstein – who also happens to be Jonah Hill’s sister – plays equally studious best friend Molly Davidson. Fantastic Beasts actress Jessica Williams plays their favourite teacher Miss Fine, with Friends star Lisa Kudrow as Amy’s mum and Ted Lasso’s Jason Sudeikis as Principal Brown. – Daniel Furn
Burn after Reading
From the minds behind The Big Lebowski, it’s no surprise that Burn After Reading is a wild ride of misunderstandings, misadventures and distinct characters who are truly terrible people. Burn After Reading sees two absurd and amoral gym employees who find what they believe to be classified government documents, who attempt to sell it back to the CIA agent owner, the Russian embassy and anyone else who will pay for it. Things, of course do not go to plan, and the two get caught up amid George Clooney’s U.S. Marshal, John Malkovich’s unemployed CIA agent, his cheating ex-wife portrayed by Tilda Swinton and Richard Jenkins’ kind-hearted gym manager Ted.
No one does farce quite like the Coen brothers, and Burn After Reading is possibly their darkest and most outrageous comedy yet. The bodies quickly pile up in this subversive spy thriller, in which Brad Pitt and George Clooney play against their usually suave type as cartoon-esque characters poorly attempting espionage with some rather flimsy intelligence. It soon becomes clear that this is an overcomplicated conspiracy over some ultimately worthless data – and that’s exactly the point.
The Coen brothers always bring together a great cast, and Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand are great unexpected choices for the unscrupulous gym employees along with the likes of Clooney, Malkovich, Swinton and Jenkins. J.K. Simmons is also on hand as one of the few actual intelligence officers. – Daniel Furn
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
A comedy film unlike any other, the Coen brothers went down the rare route of making an anthology film in their first movie made for streamer Netflix. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is split into six separate vignettes, and while each is distinct and separate, all share the same Western setting and the underlying theme of death. It certainly doesn’t sound cheery – but the Coen brothers of all people know how to mine comedy from the darkest of storylines.
Presented as a dime western novel, the six tall tales follow the rather violent escapades of a crooning cowboy, an unlucky bank robber, a travelling impresario, a grizzled prospector, a weary wagon train and a possibly supernatural stagecoach journey. Ranging from absurd to profound to ironic in the blink of an eye, it must be noted that not every short film is a straightforward comedy with some dark drama mixed in there too – it’s a real rollercoaster ride. Imagine if Pulp Fiction was a Western made up of separate stories, and you’re close to the unique tone this film has achieved.
Simultaneously both fresh and old-fashioned, every story feels like an authentic Western with sweeping vistas and real grit, even if the stories themselves are anything but conventional. It’s helped by an incredible cast across the six segments – Coen brothers regular Tim Blake Nelson memorably plays the iconic Buster Scruggs, but is joined by the likes of James Franco, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, Harry Melling and Zoe Kazan. – Daniel Furn
Always Be My Maybe
Netflix has had overwhelming success in making their own rom-coms recently – and Always Be My Maybe is one of their best. Co-written by stars Ali Wong and Randall Park, this rom-com follows two childhood friends Sasha and Marcus whose teenage fling ends badly prompting the two to stop speaking for the next 15 years. When they reconnect as adults the sparks are still there, so despite Sasha’s demanding career and Marcus’s fears, could this maybe just work?
Ali Wong will be well known to Netflix viewers for her stand up specials Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife and really has known WandaVision’s Randall Park for over 20 years, with the two planning to make their own version of When Harry Met Sally for some time. However, the film is mostly known for its unexpected celebrity cameo, with Keanu Reeves not just appearing as Sasha’s date, but playing an obnoxious hipster version of himself. Arriving in the peak of the Keanussance following the release of John Wick Chapter 3, Reeves very nearly steals the film in his brief scenes, and not only is he in on the joke, but suggested many of them himself – now that’s how you play against type. – Daniel Furn
The Other Guys
The buddy cop action comedy has had a bit of a decline since its ‘80s and ‘90s heyday, but this 2010 effort from funnyman Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay is a starry 21st century update. Ferrell teams up with Mark Wahlberg as this movie’s mismatched police duo, who seize the opportunity to take down a shady capitalist and become just like the city’s idolised top cops. First, of course, they have to put aside their differences – with hilarious results.
Featuring some surprisingly impressive action set pieces for a comedy, The Other Guys perfectly balances Ferrell’s silliness with some clever parodies of cop movie tropes for an underrated movie that is far funnier than you might expect. It’s no surprise that this is one of Will Ferrell’s biggest box office hits – his collaborations with McKay have previously yielded comedy gold such as Anchorman and Step Brothers.
Stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg proved to have surprisingly great chemistry, and the two would later collaborate again on Daddy’s Home and its sequel several years later. Samuel L Jackson and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson are perfect choices as the city’s cocky top detectives, with Eva Mendes as Ferrell’s doctor wife and Michael Keaton as the no-nonsense police captain. Look out for Steve Coogan in a particularly memorable interrogation scene, and cameos from the likes of Tracy Morgan, Brooke Shields and wrestlers Billy Gunn and Brian James. – Daniel Furn
Olivia Colman is Hollywood royalty these days, but before her Oscar-winning turn the national treasure was the darling of British comedy. Colman started out in eccentric dark comedy Peep Show and in 2016 fittingly followed up with dark eccentric comedy Flowers, following the titular Flowers family made up of author Maurice (Julian Barratt) and teacher Deborah (Colman) who are barely staving off divorce. Dysfunctional is the word for this family – Maurice struggles with dark secrets while Deborah wrestles with the suspicion that Maurice is having an affair, while their twenty-five-year-old maladjusted twins compete for the affection of a neighbour.
With offbeat humour not dissimilar to Colman’s The Favourite, Flowers does however find a surprising emotional core amongst the pitch-black humour and eccentric jokes. In particular, the show has been praised for its handling of mental illness – dad Maurice is clearly depressed and unable to talk to his family about it in the first series, while daughter Amy is diagnosed with bipolar disorder in series two. The show worked with charity Mind in order for an accurate representation of mental illness, while still a retaining a sense of humour – you’ll be crying with tears and laughter as the show remains deadly serious about its subject matter throughout slapstick jokes, crazy costumes and silly situations. – Daniel Furn
The crazy ex-girlfriend has been a popular trope not just in television but in general pop culture for some time – but now the character finally gets some depth in her very own show. As you might expect, the plot follows a young lawyer who gives up her job in New York and moves to California in an attempt to win back her old high school boyfriend.
However the show becomes much more than the standard rom-com you would expect from the premise – the show has been praised for its sensitive exploration of mental illness when the lead character is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, as well as for normalising topics such as female sexuality and the reproductive system.
Much like Community, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend received rave reviews from critics and award shows but failed to attract a large audience, and was one of the lowest-rated shows to ever get renewed to four seasons. It was a move that clearly paid off however – the show has since gained a substantial cult following, with a live tour featuring the cast selling out following the show’s conclusion.
Co-creator Rachel Bloom also stars as the titular character Rebecca, with Vincent Rodriguez II (Insatiable) as the ex-boyfriend she tries to win back. Santino Fontana (Frozen) plays friend Greg who struggles with alcoholism and complicated feelings for Rebecca, while Donna Lyne Champlin (Birdman) as Rebecca’s co-worker and best friend. – Daniel Furn
Seth Rogen’s breakout role, Knocked Up was one of the most successful and iconic comedies of the 2000s. A classic mismatched couple comedy, Knocked Up is what you’d expect from the title – when media personality Alison finds herself pregnant after a one night stand with jobless party animal Ben, the two have some big decisions to make.
Much like The 40-Year Old Virgin – also starring Rogen and directed by Judd Apatow – Knocked Up manages to find sweetness among the inevitable raunchy jokes, with Ben learning to take some responsibility and Alison helping her sister fix her unhappy marriage. Katherine Heigl makes for a great choice as Rogen’s opposite, with the two pushing the film beyond an odd couple cliché to a genuine depiction of two different people coming together and growing up for their baby.
Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow are well known for frequently casting their Hollywood pals, and Knocked Up is no different – Jason Segel, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel and Martin Starr all appear, with cameos from Steve Carrell and James Franco. Leslie Mann also stars as Alison’s sister Debbie with Paul Rudd as her distant husband, with the two reprising their roles for spin-off This Is 40. – Daniel Furn
Ricky Gervais is known for pushing boundaries with his shock humour, and this role as a grieving widow gives him ample opportunity to do so again – though with a surprisingly effective emotional twist. After Life is the smash-hit sitcom created, written and directed by Ricky Gervais, following nice guy Tony who changes after his wife unexpectedly passes away. Determined to punish the world, Tony starts doing and saying whatever he likes despite the consequences, thinking of this as his superpower – but this is undermined when his friends and family continue to try and make him a better person.
Ricky Gervais is well known for making successful sitcoms and After Life is no exception, with Netflix making a multi-project deal with him in 2020 which included a third series of the black comedy-drama. After Life is in many ways similar to Gervais’s previous projects, with the lead character used to deliver withering put-downs and occasionally create cringe-inducing scenarios, but this series hangs upon some genuinely moving videos left for him by his dead wife, leading to a subtle exploration of grief and depression – seen best in quieter scenes where Tony cares for his dementia afflicted father (David Bradley) and regular talks to a fellow widow (Penelope Wilton) at the graveyard. – Daniel Furn
The long-underrated Schitt’s Creek spent several years under the radar as a cult favourite, with the series only receiving mainstream interest after being added to Netflix and sweeping all seven major comedy awards at the 2020 Emmys. The Canadian series follows the Rose family, who move to the titular town they once bought as a joke after their business manager embezzles the family funds. There they must learn to live without their pampered privileges, as well as with each other – including former CEO Johnny Rose, wife Moira, and adult children David and Alexis.
The series was conceived by David actor Dan Levy, who developed the series with his father and American Pie star Eugene Levy who was also cast as his on-screen dad Johnny. The show really is a family affair then – which might help explain the critical acclaim the show received over all six seasons. The show is one of the most successful Canadian sitcoms of all time, winning 18 Canadian Screen Awards in its home country but also earning praise worldwide, winning nine Emmys also – with a record-breaking seven of them at the 2020 awards ceremony alone.
Joining the two Levys is Home Alone actress Catherine O’Hara, playing the less forgetful but eccentric mother of the Rose clan, with Annie Murphy (soon to be seen in Russian Doll Season 2) as socialite daughter Moira. – Daniel Furn
The second Gilmore-titled comedy in this list, Happy Gilmore is easily one of the funniest – if not the funniest – movie in Adam Sandler’s divisive filmography. When title character Happy learns his grandmother is going to lose her house, the rejected hockey player adapts his skills for a golf tournament with enough prize money to save the family home.
Adam Sandler’s comedies don’t have the greatest reputation when it comes to critical praise, but Happy Gilmore in particular has fared much better with audiences and is considered a comedy classic these days. The ability hit a golf ball 400 yards makes for some great slapstick comedy and – along with a few mandatory ball jokes – does the impossible by making the rather static game of golf funny. The “Happy Gilmore swing” has been imitated by golf professionals the world over, but the film impacted pop culture in a stranger way by getting more young people to watch The Price Is Right – after the film sees Sandler get into a fistfight with host Bob Barker.
Adam Sandler of course stars as the titular Happy Gilmore, with future Modern Family star Julie Bowen as his love interest Virginia Venit. Christopher McDonald plays yet another 90s family film villain as the arrogant Shooter McGavin, while Blue Velvet’s Frances Bay as the beloved Grandma Gilmore. – Daniel Furn
This 2018 American comedy-drama might not be to everyone’s tastes, but if you like your comedy edgy, then this showcase / passion project from star, writer and director Jim Cummings might be just the ticket. Adapted from his 2016 short film of the same name, this emotional tour-de-force sees Cummings play police officer Jim Arnaud. Already a broken man from the death of his mother, Arnaud is going through a divorce from his wife Rosalind (Jocelyn DeBoer) as they fight over custody of their daughter Crystal (Kendal Farr) and struggles to deal with life’s cruelties.
Thunder Road documents his meltdown over the course of 90 minutes and while it might not sound like a laugh riot, the film superbly balances drama with black comedy and the end result is an enriching and rewarding experience that’ll probably have you laughing and crying, with Cummings on fine form both behind the camera and in front of it. – Owen Tonks