07/07/2020

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60 comedy TV shows that will bring you much-needed laughter in quarantine

We could all use a laugh right about now. 

The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed daily life across the globe, and although there have been incremental victories in the fight against the virus, we’re all in this for the long haul. And several weeks into a life of social distancing, it’s time to break out the sitcoms for a dose of humor shot directly into our veins. 

There is no shortage of comedy series streaming or airing on TV for you to choose from, but we rounded up 60 shows guaranteed to make you slap your knee, even in quarantine. Whether you want a “Friends”-type group of pals hanging out, something you can watch with kids, award-winning adult humor or just some weird Canadians putting on Shakespeare plays, there is a show on this list for every comedic sensibility. 

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“The Big Bang Theory” ended on CBS in May 2019, but is a key draw for HBO Max, a new streaming service due May 27.

Hangout sitcoms

“The Big Bang Theory” (local stations and TBS, available to buy digitally; HBO Max on May 27) The hangout sitcom starring Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco was TV’s most popular show for a reason – its big, broad humor and nerdy characters are comforting and familiar.

“Broad City” (Hulu) This millennials-in-New-York comedy is both outlandish in its humor (drug-fueled trips to Whole Foods, children who shout “Yas, queen!”) and relatable (bad roommates, bad boyfriends). Stars/creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer bring their kooky world to life expertly.  

“Community” (Hulu, Netflix) This slightly zany comedy about a group of diverse friends attending a local community college has its ups and downs, but its funniest, most ambitious installments are among the best TV episodes ever made.  

“Cougar Town” (Hulu) The prime example of a great series with a bad title, “Cougar,” about a divorcee and her friends in a small Florida town, was smartly written with a stellar cast including Courtney Cox and Busy Philipps. 

“Crashing” (Netflix) Fans of “Fleabag” should try Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s earlier series, about a group of British squatters living together. It’s not as impeccable as “Fleabag” (what could be?), but it still has the writer/actress’s wit, even if seeing her with long hair takes some getting used to. 

“Don’t Trust the B**** in Apt. 23” (Hulu) This quirky series about a nightmare roommate didn’t last long on ABC but made great comedy while it was on, with Krysten Ritter and James Van Der Beek playing a fictional version of himself. 

“Friends” (local stations, TBS; available to buy digitally; HBO Max, May 27) The hugely popular sitcom isn’t streaming anywhere until HBO Max debuts in late spring, but catch it on TV to hang out with Monica, Joey, Chandler, Rachel, Phoebe and Ross.  

“Golden Girls” (Hulu) They don’t make them like they used to, right? A visit from Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia is always funny and calming, no matter if you’re just discovering the beloved sitcom or rewatching it. 

“Happy Endings (Hulu) One of the many “Friends”-like hangout sitcoms to emerge over the past two decades, “Endings” is on the quirkier, more heightened side, following five 30-somethings in Chicago. 

“Insecure” (HBO) Issa Rae crafts a distinctly millennial series in this HBO comedy about a black woman in Los Angeles who questions her life decisions, including her long-term boyfriend. 

“Seinfeld” (Hulu, TBS, local stations) If you’ve never seen Jerry Seinfeld’s landmark show about nothing, it’s a great time to start. You might want to skip the disappointing series finale, though. 

“What We Do in the Shadows” (Hulu, FX) This absurdist FX comedy, about vampires sharing a house in Staten Island, New York, just returned for a strong second season. It never fails to make us guffaw.  

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Workplace sitcoms

“30 Rock” (Amazon, Hulu) Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey and Tracey Morgan make an endlessly appealing trio in this award-winning series about a “Saturday Night Live”-style sketch comedy series. 

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (Hulu, NBC) If you’ve already seen “Parks and Recreation,” try this similar workplace comedy, set in a police precinct, from the same producer with the same upbeat tone. 

“Cheers” (Netflix, CBS All Access) You can’t visit a real bar right now, but you can still go where everybody knows your name in this classic NBC comedy starring Ted Danson.

“Designing Women” (Hulu) A hallmark of 1980s fashion and hair, “Designing” is one of the great ensemble workplace shows. The interior design firm in Atlanta will always have our hearts, if not our aesthetic. 

“GLOW” (Netflix) Big hair and even bigger smackdowns populate this comedy set in the 1980s about a women’s wrestling league. If you’ve never “got” why wrestling is a compelling sport, this series will make you understand. 

“Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet” (Apple TV Plus) The best Apple show (so far), from the creators of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” is a loving skewering of the video game industry that’s hilarious to gamers and non-gamers alike. 

“The Office” (Netflix, Comedy Central) There is just no getting sick of the ultimate workplace sitcom, no matter how many times you watch Michael Scott burn his foot on a George Foreman grill. 

“Parks and Recreation” (Netflix, Hulu and Amazon) Nothing can stop Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), not even a pandemic. NBC’s workplace sitcom is an inspiring stalwart in this genre, full of generally good people trying to do good things. Watching it will get you ready for a socially distanced special April 30. 

“Party Down” (Starz, Hulu) Fans of “Veronica Mars” and “iZombie” will love this cynical comedy about cater-waiters that stars Jane Lynch and Adam Scott.

“Scrubs” (Hulu) If a series set in a hospital doesn’t turn you off right now, the sweet, silly comedy of NBC’s long-running “Scrubs” is likely preferable to the tragedy of “Grey’s Anatomy” or “ER.” 

“Slings & Arrows” (YouTube, Acorn TV, Amazon) If you enjoy theater, this Canadian comedy, set at a Shakespearean company, is a must-watch. Full of in-jokes for thespians, ruminations on the meaning of life, and a young Rachel McAdams, the series is a sweet classic. 

“Superstore” (Hulu, NBC) This series, about employees at a big-box retail store, is something of a modern-day “Cheers,” a workplace comedy set outside a traditional white-collar office in a place we all have wandered into at some point. (The blue vests of the fictional Cloud 9 store might remind you of a certain chain). 

“Veep” (Amazon, HBO Go/HBO Now) Some of the political satire’s bite has faded as our world has become more absurd and shocking, but that doesn’t dull the sharpness of star Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s performance.

The original "Saturday Night Live" Not Ready For Prime Time players are Laraine Newman, left, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, Garrett Morris, Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase.
The original “Saturday Night Live” Not Ready For Prime Time players are Laraine Newman, left, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, Garrett Morris, Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase.

Sketch comedy

 “The Carol Burnett Show” (Amazon) There is a multitude of series from the mid-20th century available to stream, when TV was a positive affair across the board. We’re partial to the timeless sketch comedy of Burnett, an American treasure. 

“Key & Peele” (Hulu) If you’re more interested in morsels of comedy rather than long narratives, Comedy Central’s sketch show, which jumpstarted the careers of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, is perfect and requires very little commitment to get a laugh. 

“Saturday Night Live” (Hulu, NBC) The recent socially-distanced version of “SNL” was fine, but if you’re missing watching humor live from New York, revisiting classic episodes (Cheeseburger Cheeseburger!) could add to your comedy education. 

Family sitcoms

“Fresh Off the Boat (Hulu) From the same creator as “Don’t Trust the B***,” this is another hall of fame entry in the ABC family sitcom genre. Especially in the first four seasons, this story of a Tawainese American family in 1990s Orlando, Florida, was full of great, specific humor and a talented cast, including Constance Wu and Randall Park. 

“The Middle” (IMDb TV, Freeform) Never as flashy as its ABC family-sitcom cousins, “Middle” is a stalwart, sweet comedy with great performances and nine long seasons to binge-watch. 

“Modern Family” (Hulu, local stations and USA Network) The multiple-Emmy-winning ABC series has an incredible cast and relatable laughs for families and married couples, and just aired its series finale to tears and praise. 

“One Day at a Time” (Netflix, Pop TV, Tuesdays, 9:30 EDT/PDT) Like the Norman Lear original, this family sitcom, about a Cuban American family in Los Angeles, is an expert at combining a frank discussion of social issues with hilarity.

“Speechless” (Hulu) Gone too soon after just three seasons, ABC’s comedy about a family in which one son has cerebral palsy is a representation of disability like you’ve never seen before, with searing satire and riotous laughs. 

For teens and parents alike

“American Vandal” (Netflix) The rare series in which teen problems are taken seriously, “Vandal” is also a hilarious mockumentary that pokes at overly serious true-crime documentaries like “Making a Murderer.”

“Derry Girls” (Netflix) This Irish series, best watched with subtitles, follows a group of Catholic teens in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, a period of religious violence in the region. The series is a great comedy about trying to live a daily life amid social unrest and upheaval. 

“High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” (Disney Plus) A farcical mockumentary about a high school putting on a production of “High School Musical,” the stakes are low in this Disney Plus series, though they seem very high (teenagers and their hormones, of course). 

“PEN15” (Hulu) Not for the faint of heart, this comedy, set in a middle school in 2000 with adult actresses playing preteens, is the cringiest of cringe-humor series. But along with embarrassment there is hilarity and heart (mostly embarrassment, though). 

'Grace and Frankie': Our protagonists (Lily Tomlin, left, and Jane Fonda) are still coping with the fallout of their husbands having married each other.
‘Grace and Frankie’: Our protagonists (Lily Tomlin, left, and Jane Fonda) are still coping with the fallout of their husbands having married each other.

Mature laughs

“Fleabag” (Amazon) Hilarious, emotional and utterly surprising, the British comedy from Waller-Bridge, in which she stars as a struggling young woman, deserves the hype (and all those Emmys). 

“The Good Place” (Netflix, Hulu) NBC’s recently ended afterlife sitcom feels like a dose of palliative care with its bright colors, puns and visual gags. Underneath its appealing aesthetics, “Place” has great performances, great writing and some sincere thoughts about ethics and philosophy.

“Grace and Frankie” (Netflix) Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are a magnetic duo in this sitcom from “Friends” creators. Two retirees who learn their husbands are leaving them (for each other), the series proves it’s never too late to start over. 

“High Maintenance” (HBO) Because there’s only one recurring character – a New York weed dealer – in every episode, you can start anywhere in this HBO anthology series and always know you’re going to get a tight episode that shows a slice of life with authentic dialogue and gorgeous cinematography.

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (Hulu, FXX) If you like crass, cringe comedy, there are over 150 episodes that lovingly poke at Philly, with a lot of mishaps along the way. 

“Mom” (CBS All Access, Hulu) Anna Faris and Allison Janney deliver smart comedy about family and addiction in producer Chuck Lorre’s (“The Big Bang Theory”) best (but most underrated) CBS sitcom.

“Schitt’s Creek” (Netflix) Full of beautiful romance, sunny settings and plenty of humor, Pop TV’s sitcom about a rich family that loses it all but gains a little perspective is always a mood booster.

“Shrill” (Hulu) “SNL” star Aidy Bryant proves she has leading-woman chops in this Portland, Oregon-set Hulu comedy, based on the memoir of fat acceptance activist Lindy West. 

Alexis Bledel and Lauren Graham in "Gilmore Girls."
Alexis Bledel and Lauren Graham in “Gilmore Girls.”

Dramadies

“Atlanta” (Hulu, FX) Donald Glover’s audacious series about a college-dropout father trying to climb the economic ladder as a manager for his rapper cousin (Brian Tyree Henry) is proof of the multitalented artist’s creative prowess. 

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (Netflix) CW’s poignant musical comedy about one woman’s (Rachel Bloom) mental health struggles has a tune for every emotion, and you’ll be happy to hum them for weeks after finishing all four seasons. 

“Gilmore Girls” (Netflix) Although the Gilmore family has plenty of trials and tribulations, the world of quaint small-town Stars Hollow is usually upbeat in this beloved series.

“Jane the Virgin” (Netflix) The telenovela-style story of a virgin who’s artificially inseminated by accident started strong and rode high for five excellent seasons. Although the moving series isn’t a laugh-out-loud sitcom, its moments of joy and levity are plentiful.

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon) With mile-a-minute dialogue, impeccable costumes and an incredible cast, this dramedy about a 1950s housewife (Rachel Brosnahan) turned stand-up comic is a pastel pink-covered treat. 

“Monk” (Amazon) For those who like to mix their comedy with murder-of-the-week cop dramas, Tony Shalhoub’s performance as a detective with obsessive-compulsive disorder is a true classic. 

“Psych” (Amazon) All detective stories in which an outside detective helps police with a sidekick are riffs on Sherlock Holmes, and “Psych” is the best and the most hilarious. A faux-psychic is just a hyper observational investigator, but he prefers to make jokes and have fake visions. 

Adult Animation

“Archer” (Hulu) Spy games are never funnier (or sillier) than in this FXX series, which features the voices of Judy Greer, H. Jon Benjamin and Chris Parnell. 

“Big Mouth” (Netflix) Nick Kroll and John Mulaney created a series about kids going through puberty that takes adolescent concerns seriously, and also gives animated life to the horrors of human bodies (including a Hormone Monster). You’ll be glad that you’re done with this terrifying part of life and are now safe to laugh at it at a distance. 

“Bob’s Burgers” (Hulu, Fox) Heartfelt, offbeat and full of visual humor, the series about a family and its burger joint is the model of modern adult animation. 

“BoJack Horseman” (Netflix) Not the cheeriest comedy, but one of the most affecting, Netflix’s showbiz satire found unexpected depths by juxtaposing animated, bipedal animals dealing with serious contemporary issues.

“The Simpsons” (Disney Plus; Fox, Sundays, 8 EDT/PDT) Disney Plus isn’t all princesses and Pixar – the entire library of this seminal comedy is ready for you to stream at a time in which the quirks of Springfield feel less odd than real life. 

"The Mindy Project" (Fox to Hulu): Mindy Kaling ("The Office") created this comedy about a single doctor trying to balance her work with her personal life. Fox canceled the show after three seasons before it was quickly picked up by Hulu, where it streamed for another three seasons until finally ending in 2017.
“The Mindy Project” (Fox to Hulu): Mindy Kaling (“The Office”) created this comedy about a single doctor trying to balance her work with her personal life. Fox canceled the show after three seasons before it was quickly picked up by Hulu, where it streamed for another three seasons until finally ending in 2017.

Romantic comedies

“Catastrophe” (Amazon) For fans of dry British humor who feel stable in their marriages, this sitcom from Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan is a beautiful portrait of a relationship that begins with an unplanned pregnancy but becomes so much more.

“Lovesick” (Netflix) If you like your comedy wrapped in sweet romance, this short British series is a good choice. The story starts with a man diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease reaching out to his former flames, and morphs into an incredibly will they/won’t they love story. 

“The Mindy Project” (Hulu) An uneven but often poignant comedy from Mindy Kaling, “Mindy Project” is a great example of romance made real (but still funny) in a sitcom. 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19: 60 comedy TV shows that will bring you much-needed laughter

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