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My Favorite Top 10 Comedy TV Shows
Well, being a child of the 50s and 60s, I can definitely say that I’ve been watching, absorbing, and enjoying comedy TV shows pretty much since their inception. I can also say that without a doubt I have been heavily influenced by them and they are probably partly responsible for me becoming the entertainer that I have been throughout my life. As such, narrowing down my list is next to impossible, so I’m just going to go through a lot of the shows I love, starting with the 50’s, working my way up to the present, and then somehow try to compile my Top 10 list.
Let’s have fun There was a great Sunday morning show for the kids with Chuck McCann and Chuck was a talented all-rounder. The show was always entertaining and very funny.
The Ernie Kovacs Show was a very funny and groundbreaking show. The things they did in editing were beyond the technology of the 50s, and Ernie was a comedic genius. He was taken from us too soon in a car accident. Who knows what he would have achieved if he had lived longer in a medium that was still in its infancy.
Sid Cesar’s, Your Show was a classic show whose format has been imitated ever since. The writers are a literal Who’s Who in The Comedy World: Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Woody Allen, Larry Gelbart and Neil Simon to name a few. How could a show like this not be awesome, not to mention Sid Cesar himself. He was a brilliant performer who was a dialect genius.
The Jack Benny Show was a great show with great characters. Benny was the master of the “face” and no one could milk a laugh longer with just a look at the camera than he. The unique thing about the show was that the laughs mostly depended on the “Second Bananas” that fueled the show’s comedy.
Amos ‘N’ Andy was a great show with such an array of characterization. Kingfish was always outsmarting Andy in some way, which was great to watch. Amos was the cab driver who narrated the show and there was Sapphire, Lightning and of course Algonquin J. Calhoun. Unfortunately, the show was eventually canceled because the NAACP wanted to show black Americans in a better light. It was a shame because the chemistry between Kingfish and Andy was priceless to watch.
The Red Skelton Show was a hilarious sketch and character show that Red performed with an infectious laugh and was one of the first shows to feature a weekly guest who appeared in a sketch. Watching the show, you could tell that Mr. Skelton was a sweet soul and will be greatly missed. He always ended the shows with “Good night and God bless”. Back, Red.
The Original Tonight Show with Steve Allen was one of my favorite shows of all time. Steve created the Talk Show format as we know it today and had unforgettable characters that were used in many ways. Steve was a man of so many talents with a great laugh. I got a chance to meet him in Las Vegas once during a comedy convention and he was just as funny and gracious as I thought he would be.
The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was a unique show that carried so much weight. If you appeared on that show, your career was tact and doors would open and your phone would ring off the hook. You could tell that Johnny was heavily influenced by his idol, Jack Benny, as he could just make a face at the camera and the audience would burst into laughter. I had the honor of appearing on the show, and I can only say that no talk show has ever matched its popularity since. I think it was the chemistry between Johnny and Ed MacMahon and I also think interviewing guests on the show is an art form in itself and Johnny was definitely a master of it. He knew how to make moments!
Honeymooners was and still is one of the most watched syndicated shows of all time. I don’t think there’s anyone who knows anything about comedy that hasn’t been influenced by this show. Lots of people can quote many of the show’s most popular scenes word for word. In addition to the awesomeness of Ralph and Ed, Audrey Meadows played Alice in the play. He was simply the best and I don’t think the show would have worked as well without him. In fact, in later years when they did the show with some other people, it wasn’t so much fun. He had the best dead face and, to quote Ralph, “Alice, you’re the greatest!”
The Dick Van Dyke Show was another great ensemble show, as well The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Both had great Casts and strong storylines that increased their popularity for many years. Neither show had a weak character in their cast. Everyone was equally funny and brilliant.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus was a fantastic show for anyone going through their teenage years in the 60s. It was so unlike anything else on American TV at the time, and they were kind of like the Comedy Beatles. It was a comedy for the Boomer generation. It also became responsible for opening the door to English comedy on American television. Of course, it was on PBS at the time, which made it even more underground in the psychedelic era.
MASH was a groundbreaking show because it was set in the Korean War and during this country’s Vietnam War. In addition, it had to overcome the popularity of the film itself, which was no easy task, and to be funny It also had to deal with cast changes throughout the series. It did all that and more.
Saturday Night Live is amazing in its survival. It’s had so many great and bad seasons, but one thing has always remained constant: the influx of many, many talented performers who have become very prominent in the comedy mainstream. You have to give Lorne Michaels credit for having such a keen comedic eye for talent. What a record!
Whose line is it anyway? is one of my absolute favorites lately. I love improv comedy and these people are great at it. The chemistry between Ryan Stiles and Colin Mocharie is explosive and Wayne Brady is phenomenal with the musical comedy. Add guests Brad Sherwood, Chip & Greg Proops and the show is an unstoppable extravaganza.
The Cosby Show was a great family show when families were out of fashion on television. All the other shows were about dysfunctional families and situations, but Cosby’s show was about the love for each other and the warmth you could see while you were busy laughing.
The Carol Burnett Show was one of my favorites. Watching Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Carol, Lyle Wagoner and Vicki Lawrence break up during the skits was worth it. I loved watching Tim do his best to make Harvey laugh and lose what was almost inevitable.
Seinfeld was another character-driven show that was so well crafted and constructed, and I contribute to the genius of Larry David. Larry is one of the most prolific writers I’ve ever come across, and his ability to bring in different storylines and weave them together in the end is amazing. He does the same thing “curb your enthusiasm” today. I worked with Larry at the Improv in NYC in the 80’s and he was the only one who had a completely new 20 minute set every week…and a great 20 minute set. It’s almost impossible to do unless you write consistently all the time like he does. The only person I saw like that was Steve Allen.
The Abbott & Costello Show was a great show for all ages. The chemistry between the two of them and the surrounding cast was hilarious to watch. Abbott was a great man and controlled the entire tempo of the comedy, and don’t forget Sidney Fields, Boccagalupe, Mike the Cop, Hillary Brooks and Stinky.
Frasier is one of the best written comedy series of our time. Even though it was a spin off of Cheers, I think Frasier was much better, and I think Niles, David Hyde Pierce, was a coup on the show. It was so funny to see the two of them trying to “snob” each other.
My honorable mentions are Fawlty Towers, The Simpsons, The Tracy Ullman Show, The Dean Martin Show & The Dean Martin Roasts, Everybody Loves Raymond, Friends, Sanford and Son, The Burns and Allen Show, The Danny Kaye Show, Make Room For Daddy , Andy The Griffth Show, Boston Legal, Married with Children, Andy’s Gang, The Soupy Sales Show, Laugh-In, The Addams Family, The Munsters, The Colgate Comedy Hour, I Love Lucy, The Phil Silvers Show, In Living Color, Friday, Will & Grace, All In The Family, Mork and Mindy, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Two and a Half Men, The Bob Newhart Show and Taxi.
So, after some serious consideration, he is:
My 10 Favorite Comedy TV Shows
1. The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
2. The Dick Van Dyke Show
3. Monty Python’s Flying Circus
4. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
6. The Abbott & Costello Show
7. The Original Tonight Show with Steve Allen
8. Whose line is it anyway?
10. The Carol Burnett Show, MASH, The Jack Benny Show & SNL (Tied For 10th)
I’ve played this list so many times already and no matter how much I change it, I’m not happy with it because I always seem to leave something off the list that definitely belongs there. I really should have made it a Top 20 list or even better, a Top 50 list. But that’s my problem, not yours. As always, thanks for reading, from COMEDY TORNADO!!
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