Photo: Comedy Central
Comedy Central is my favorite channel. I am a bonafide comedy lover but on a more personal note, it helped me survive college. Freshman year was hard for me. Sure, I was away from my family and friends who have been by my side from elementary school for the first time and I was living on my own but, more importantly, I did not have a TV with cable access at my fingertips. I grew up in a household with three TVs where I could watch in the room of my choosing and suddenly I was without any TVs! Not a single TV! I was at a loss until I discovered I could download the Comedy Central app on my phone and it felt like home again, minus the friends and family of course but who needs them when you have Drunk History.
If you want to watch 8-year-olds spouting curses at each other and drunken robots who act like the cool kid in an 80s movie, Comedy Central is the channel for you. Comedy Central began in the early 90s as a revolutionary network devoted solely to comedy-based programming. It started its run like a little engine that could. In the late 80s, it was a channel without its own channel as episodes of its programming were broadcast from HBO owned studios. It took a couple of years to break off and form its own channel and a long time after that to become the Mega-Network we know today. Comedy Central, like all networks, has had every possible success level for its various shows from giant successes like South Park to show’s which like a drunken night, to which many a Comedy Central character can relate, we’d prefer to forget.
Comedy Central Shows
#10- Crank Yankers (2002-2020)
Remember those days of childhood when you dreamed of making the perfect prank call which not only would make some poor underpaid receptionist hate her job just a bit more but would be a story you would pass on to your grandkids and they to their grandkids. Well, there’s an elite group of grown and well known to mega-star comedians/comedy actors who get to live out your childhood fantasy once a week while Crank Yankers is in season. I’ll go ahead and apologize on behalf of the show to any secretaries/ front desk workers who make minimum wage and have had to be subject to calls from the show but… it’s funny. What’re you going to do? The premise of the show is simple enough, comedy actors/comedians make prank calls to random businesses. and we as the audience sit back and watch the hilarity ensue.
The show’s visual style is incredibly interesting. Crank Yankers is unique because it uses puppetry which is somewhere in the realm between animation and live-action, two visual styles Comedy Central is very familiar with. But for this show, the network went out on a limb and chose to animate the prank calls with puppets which is weird but it works. The show has a dedicated cult following of hopefully more than just kids who like to bully local businesses.
#9- The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore (2015-2016)
The Nightly Show was a tragically short-lived late-night show. It had all the right pieces, a hilarious team of writers, all the juiciest news stories, and Larry Wilmore. Larry Wilmore is a comedy legend. He wrote for The Bernie Mac Show and The Office AKA two of the funniest shows ever on TV. In theory, this show should’ve been a slam dunk and it’s on my personal list of the funniest late-night shows on TV. But for some reason, there was a strong divide between audience opinion and that of critics as can be seen by its 100% score among critics and its 30% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. That must’ve been what killed the show. But, nevertheless, Wilmore was a hilarious and charming host who had a brilliant perspective on politics.
#8- @midnight (2013-2017)
Chris Hardwick is a comedy god and I will personally fight anyone who disagrees. He hosted the one and only original Comedy Central game show thus far. This game show was a nightly test of the comedic chops of three comedians who were given trending memes, headlines, photos, and videos from social media to make fun of. This was a modern gameshow for modern times. It’s essentially a contest between three comedians over who could make the best Twitter comments. It’s not at all a high stakes competition like most game shows are. Hardwick yells out “points!” to reward funny responses but their mostly arbitrary although a winner is declared at the end. It’s just four comedians goofing off in front of a camera and we all get to watch.
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#7- Futurama (1999-2013)
Futurama is a Comedy Central classic. It was created by the same people who created The Simpsons so you know it’s good. A man is accidentally frozen and thawed in the year 3000 where he joins an interstellar delivery crew. This show adopted the same clever sense of humor we know from The Simpsons and most of the hilarity is due to thanks to the show’s unique set of characters. The characters are somehow simultaneously detestable and lovable. If there was an Emmy for “Laziest Character on TV”, Fry would’ve beat out all the competition but he’s so adorably naïve and gullible that we’ll forgive him. And Bender the robot is a combination of every ‘80s high school movie slacker so we all hate him and yet we secretly want to be him. The show reminds us of the simultaneous awe and mundanity that any high tech future would bring as people adjust to a futuristic life.
#6- Key and Peele (2012-2015)
Did you know that before Jordan Peele became the visionary director he is today, he played a version of President Obama who needed an anger translator while he stayed cool for the public and several football players with ridiculously outlandish names? No? Well then, you’ve clearly never seen Key and Peele. This show was one of the funniest sketch comedy shows on-air for the three years it premiered new episodes. It was so good that President Obama invited Keegan Michael-Key to perform at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Some of the skits from the show have gone down in internet history because people love them so much. Who could forget classics like “Substitute Teacher” and their Les Mis parody? If Key and Peele isn’t a bona fide comedy classic then what is?
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#5- Inside Amy Schumer (2013-)
Inside Amy Schumer has been on hiatus for four years and we are all anxiously awaiting its arrival. How else are we supposed to learn about body positivity from random strangers on the street? The show is sketch comedy for a modern age and Schumer gets real about subjects like the stigma surrounding aging, sex, and female empowerment. Schumer is known for very honest and forthcoming stand-up and she brings that into every moment of her show. The sketches and stand-up in the show are equal parts hilarious and analytical of our society and the interviews are natural and real.
#4- Tosh.0 (2009-)
Tosh.0 is one of the stupidest shows in the history of TV. You can feel your IQ going down as you watch it and yet it’s so friggin funny you can’t look away. Daniel Tosh is an incredibly cynical comedian who mostly does immature raunchy humor and in this show, he shares internet videos with the audience and makes fun of the videos and the people in them. On Tosh.0, everyone’s an idiot until proven to have a brain cell and there are very few people with functioning brain cells on the internet. The format of every episode is the same but Tosh has managed to keep the show fresh and entertaining for the whole decade it’s been on the air. When you feel dumb, Tosh.0 is a great show to put on to help you realize there are bigger idiots than you out there.
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#3- Drunk History (2013-)
Imagine if history teachers told the stories they left out because they were too interesting and they’ll be damned if any high school class was even remotely fun. Just get the history teacher drunk and replace them with a comedy all-star and there you have one of Comedy Central’s funniest shows. The drunk celebrities recount fascinating tales such as that of Claudette Colvin refusing to give up her bus seat long before Rosa Parks even thought of it and Dolly Madison saving everything precious in the White House before a red coat attack. These are stories that deserve to be told but are hidden behind stories of Britain throwing temper tantrums (I suppose the more historically accepted word would be “wars”) because they don’t have enough land and Henry VIII sleeping around. Wouldn’t you rather hear about a major US city getting flooded with molasses and how Rasputin just refused to die despite being poisoned and shot three times?
#2- The Daily Show (1996-)
The Daily Show is an American TV landmark. It started in ’96 but never really took off until the Bush/Gore election in 2000. The election was so confusing and dramatic Americans needed a brilliant mind to make sense of it. Enter Jon Stewart. Jon Stewart cut through all the craziness that was going on in the world and helped Americans laugh through it all and he continued to do this for 15 years. Jon Stewart is up there in the ranks with Jay Leno and Ed Sullivan as one of the greatest talk show hosts in history. He was hilarious and relatable and just jaded enough to match the tired minds of every American watching the show. Everyone who worked on The Daily Show eventually became a comedy legend. Steve Carell and Ed Helms both eventually went on to star in the American classic The Office, Stephen Colbert and John Oliver went on to host their own political talk shows, and Hasan Minhaj and Roy Wood Jr. are both now stand-up icons. Basically, everyone this show touches turns to comedy gold. The Daily Show is as American as mom’s apple pie, driving a pick-up truck as a display of manliness, and tweeting pictures of yourself no one wants to see with quotes you barely understand.
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#1- South Park (1997-)
South Park is the show that put Comedy Central on the map. Imagine if you gave a bunch of comedy writers a handful of ecstasy pills and told them to write about a group of fourth-graders. South Park is the result. The show has proudly claimed the title of the raunchiest show on TV. We all know it’s ta favorite dudes in mancaves with chips sticking out of their beards and high school students disobeying their parents’ orders not to watch anything “too naughty.” But I watch South Park on a daily basis. I’m a college-educated PC SJW and South Park’s one of my favorite shows. So clearly there’s a secret audience from polite society that watches South Park behind closed doors. The show is so brilliant because it manages to be mind-numbingly dumb and genius-level insightful at the same time. The show comments on everything from frivolous lawsuits to head injuries in football and shows both sides to every headline it covers, making it more fair and balanced than Fox News. South Park episodes are written within a week of airing so they’re all super current and up-to-date. The show is so over the top and crazy that no other show on TV comes close to it. There is only one South Park and that’s the way it will stay.
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Carrie Fishbane is obsessed with all things comedy and loves to reflect on the impact of comedy on the world. Having spent thousands of hours studying literature, she also writes about the political impact of entertainment and the power movies and TV have to create social change. Hollywood Insider promotes ethics and substance in entertainment, which is exactly in line with Carrie’s perspective. Carrie’s favorite movies include Jojo Rabbit, Deadpool, and Inception and her favorite shows are Rick and Morty, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and The Office.