We’re living in a new world when it comes to comedy. With new technologies, people can discover up-and-coming comedians through their videos on YouTube and now many comedians have their own podcasts. However, when it comes to mainstream success we still have to settle for what the TV networks are giving us. With so few great and innovative programs out there, a strong following is really important. So here is the list of the ten most underrated and under-appreciated people, TV shows and podcasts that every comedy fan should watch.
10. “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist” (1995-1999)
Many would give “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist” the credit for starting the, what some would call, “Adult Swim” style of comedy. A heavily-improvised show created by comedian Jonathan Katz gave us something different than what we had seen from an animated show at that point. Dr. Katz also introduced many to the great voice work of H. Jon Benjamin, who co-stared as Dr. Katz’s son Ben. Benjamin’s now considered one of the funniest and most talented voice actors today, also working on “Home Movies,” “Archer” and “Bob’s Burgers.”
9. “Lookwell” (1991)
“Lookwell” was a genius unsold pilot on NBC written by Conan O’Brian and Robert Smigel, who at the time were both writers on “Saturday Night Live.” It stars Adam West (“Batman,” “Family Guy”) as Ty Lookwell, a washed-up actor still trying to make it in the business. After his somewhat successful cop show is canceled, Lookwell decides to put his TV police skills into action and help solve crimes, much to the police’s chagrin. “Lookwell” had a brilliant premise, and if it had gone past one episode, it could’ve been one of the greatest shows of the 90s.
8. “Bob’s Burgers” (Sun. 8:30 p.m. on Fox)
“Bob’s Burgers” is an animated show staring the aforementioned H. Jon Benjamin along with a great supporting cast including stand-up comedians Eugene Mirman and Kristen Schaal. Creator Loren Bouchard, producer of “The Ricky Gervais Show” and “Home Movies,” brings that “Adult Swim” feel to network television and gives people a little bit of a break from the Seth MacFarlane driven Fox Sunday line-up.
7. “Sleepwalk With Me” (2012)
“Sleepwalk With Me” is an absolute necessity for any fan of comedy and for people who see a career in stand-up in their future. The film stars comedian Mike Birbiglia who also wrote and directed the film. “Sleepwalk With Me” is based on Birbiglia’s book of the same title and follows his rise as a stand-up comedian and his horribly amusing sleepwalking disorder. This slightly fictionalized film about Birbiglia’s life is incredibly influential for people who love stand-up and does a great job at showing what a person has to go through to master their art.
6.”The Life and Times of Tim” (2008-2011)
“The Life and Times of Tim” was an animated series that ran on HBO for three seasons. The show centered on a man in his mid-20s named Tim. Tim is a guy who just can’t seem to catch a break. Whether it’s his rough work life or accidently ordering a prostitute the night he’s first meeting his girlfriend’s parents, this is a program that shows us how horribly funny somebody else’s pain can be.
5. Paul F. Tompkins
Paul F. Tompkins is a very popular stand-up comedian when it comes to hard core comedy fans and he has some of the best character work in comedy today. Tompkins has mastered the non-impersonation impersonation. Whether it’s Cake Boss, Andrew Lloyd Webber or Garry Marshall, Tompkins has taken these impersonations and turned them into absurd characters that make you care less about the person he’s imitating and only want to listen to him. Anytime somebody can make you laugh uncontrollably just at the sight of a Cake Boss brand cake at a grocery store, you know they’re doing a good job.
4. John Mulaney
John Mulaney is one of the top up and coming stars in the world of stand-up comedy. A writer for “SNL” and, alongside Bill Hader, responsible for the extremely popular Stefon character, Mulaney has been tearing up the comedy scene over the last couple of years. His two albums The Top Part and New In Town were extremely well received and now Mulaney is working on a pilot for NBC, which he will produce, write and star in.
3. “Portlandia” (Fri. 10:00 p.m. on IFC)
OK guys, we’re now at number three, which means we’re in the thick of things. So, if something goes down we need a safety word. It’s going to be “A-O River.” Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about “Portlandia.”
“Portlandia” was created by its stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein and is produced by “SNL” creator Lorne Michaels. “Portlandia” has become Armisen’s outlet to write his sometimes outlandish skits that he can’t do on “SNL” and this has become the feel of the show. “Portlandia” obviously isn’t meant for the mainstream as it’s a show that embraces an almost “hipster” attitude while at the same time lambasting Portland’s strong hipster culture. A-O River!
2. Nick Kroll (Wednesday at 10:30 on FX)
Most people know Nick Kroll from the popular FX show “The League,” however he is so much more. John Mulaney has been quoted as saying that Nick Kroll is the funniest person he knows, which is impressive since Mulaney works for “SNL.”
Not only is he very talented at stand-up, but many argue that he has the best character work in the game today. Whether it’s El Chupacabra, Bobby Bottleservice or Fabrice Fabrice, Kroll has now created a character powerhouse that has helped him land his own show on Comedy Central, which airs on Wednesday’s at 10:30.
1. “Comedy Bang! Bang!”
Alright, by now you’ve heard me ramble on about stand-up this and character that, but what if I told you that everything on this list can be encapsulated into one program. A program that has character work from Paul F. Tompkins and Nick Kroll. A program that has had John Mulaney as a guest and has that awesomely weird “Adult Swim” feel to it like “Dr. Katz,” “Bob’s Burgers” and “The Life and Times of Tim” all have.
Well, stop being so shocked and let me finish.
The name of the show is “Comedy Bang! Bang!” Created by host Scott Ackerman, “Comedy Bang! Bang!” is a weekly podcast and now a TV series on IFC that on its surface is a talk show, but it slowly breaks down into an improve fan’s wet dream. Anybody that loves weirdly great indie comedy will instantly fall in love. The best way to put it is that “Comedy Bang! Bang!” is the opposite of “Two and a Half Men.”