The 50 Greatest Comedy Sketches of All Time list, compiled by editors at Nerve.com and IFC, has spread like crazy over the past few days. But seriously, 50 sketches? At once? That’s quite the commitment for readers — especially for those whose desk jobs are more demanding than others.
However, the editors of this list have done great work in dragging out some obscure classics of the sketch comedy universe. So just in case you missed them in the chaos of your working day, here are the hidden gems of the Nerve/IFC list:
Coming in at a perfectly paced 3 minutes, The State’s “Porcupine Racetrack,” as described by R. Emmet Sweeney, is “a parody of Broadway musicals played so straight it’s almost an homage.” It’s really more of an audio/visual treat than a proper comedy sketch, with great costumes and music that make you really appreciate The State’s craft — and rue the lack of a proper DVD release for the series.
Even after proving to the world that Daniel Craig can be hilarious, I still have to explain who Catherine Tate is to people. However, she’s not only a brilliant comedian, but a talented actress — two skills which she uses to full advantage here in The Ginger Refuge, a ruthless portrayal of the prejudice facing one of Britain’s most oppressed minorities.
Admit it — even if you did have the time to watch every sketch, you might have felt compelled to skip over the black-and-white stuff. But skipping over Argument to Beethoven’s Fifth, starring THE Sid Caesar and Nanette Fabray, is a mistake, because it means missing out on some fine comedic acting. Especially when you bear in mind that the sketch was performed live in 1954 — no retakes allowed.
Even as a huge fan of Andy Kaufman’s work, I’d somehow managed to miss seeing “Marijuana,” from the failed sketch series Fridays, in full until now. A one-joke concept (two married couples at dinner keep sneaking off to get high) falls apart completely when Kaufman breaks character and admits “I can’t play stoned.” This probably would have ended there, except that then-Fridays cast member Michael Richards apparently has a long history of being unable to handle any interruptions to his comedy flow. Hilarious.
Another black-and-white one you might have missed, “Four Yorkshiremen” from At Last the 1948 Show is working with a well-known premise — four men attempting to one-up each other with the awful nature of their upbringing — but it’s got flawless timing, fantastic build, and of course the presence of pre-Monty Python John Cleese and Graham Chapman. A triumph.
Highlighting the lesser-known and classic stuff on a Best-Of list feels a bit like telling kids to eat their vegetables. But in the world of sketch comedy, even the vegetables are delicious.