In my early years I was a huge sketch comedy fan. I even planned, at one time, to run off to Chicago and join Second City after I graduated from High School. I didn’t, obviously, and I am a lesser person because of it.
In remembrance of that lost dream and the importance that filmed sketch comedy had on me as younger person, here are Five TV Comedy Sketches That Changed My Life.
1) Monty Python’s Flying Circus – Argument Clinic
Monty Python was pretty much my first love. I didn’t understand much of it, but I loved every minute. The show was invariably silly, smart, weird and wordy. All things that I now try to be regularly. And “Argument Clinic” is the sketch that kinda made lights go off in my head about how specific comedy could be, while still being broad. The fact that they drop a dictionary definition of argument into the middle of the interplay was the moment I realized that the mysterious world of comedy had more to offer than just fart jokes.
2) Saturday Night Live – The French Chef
I am not a big fan of SNL. I feel like their writing model is akin to giving a million monkeys a million typewriters and hoping Shakespeare pops out. The main thing they have going for them over the monkeys’ scenario, though, is that they aren’t actually using monkeys. That makes it more possible that sometimes something almost Shakespearean can emerge out of the other end; something like Dan Aykroyd as Julia Child with endless amounts of spurting blood. After seeing this for the first time as a kid, all of my celebrity impersonations were basically me impersonating Aykroyd impersonating someone else.
3) – SCTV – Fantasy Island
SCTV is the great unrequited sketch comedy love of my life. It shaped my view of the world in so many ways. And it all started with this episode. Seeing Joe Flaherty and Dave Thomas pretty much becoming Bing Crosby and Bob Hope was awe inspiring, especially since I had grown up on those old Hope and Crosby Road movies. When my friend Scott and I would play D&D (or any other similar type of role playing game) we would pretty much approach it as if we were the main characters in our own Road movies: Road to Gamma World, Road to Asmodeus’ Lair, Road to Boot Hill, or Road to Second City.
4) Fridays – Battle Boy
The early 80s sketch show Fridays is way underrated. They were more than just a ripoff of SNL. They had their own unique sensibility, and even though I wasn’t always their target demographic (I am not big on drug humor), sometimes they would just nail me in the brain. And the Battle Boy sketches were always that time. The fact that it was purely conceptual and that there were no real punchlines, and you had no idea where it was going was revelatory to me. Plus, Melanie Chartoff.
5) The State – Porcupine Racetrack
“Porcupine Racetrack” by The State – watch more funny videos
(I can’t find the original skit online, but the embed is from their reunion show a couple of years ago when the whole gang got back together and did a mix of new stuff and old favorites.)
The State is another sketch show that is either completely underrated or completely forgotten. It hit MTV in the early 90s and they hit the ground fully formed and running. It is no coincidence that almost everyone in the cast has gone to contribute heavily to both filmed and televised comedy in the 21st century. And this skit is the high water mark of their high water work. I think it is the greatest comedy sketch ever made.