Saturday Night Live is the show everyone thinks of when they think about sketch comedy. Though not the first and certainly not the last, SNL has been on NBC live since 1975. So it has dominated a lot of pop culture real estate. If you are looking for more sketch comedy with a different point of view, or just a different cast, here are 12 other options.
‘SCTV’ was the Canadian sketch comedy competition to ‘Saturday Night Live’
The Second City comedy troupe got into the sketch comedy TV business one year after SNL. Their premise was that the Second City Television network would air different sketches. Comedy legends John Candy, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Andrea Martin, Martin Short and more starred in the show’s five seasons.
Moranis and Thomas’s Strange Brew McKenzie brothers began here. Short’s Ed Grimley made his on screen debut before also appearing on Saturday Night Live and his own animated series. SCTV has a YouTube channel that posts classic sketches from the 1976 – 1981 run.
‘Chappelle’s Show’ sketch comedy went where ‘Saturday Night Live’ was afraid to go.
Dave Chappelle himself has asked fans not to watch Chappelle’s Show on streaming services anymore because of the way Comedy Central and its parent company ViacomCBS managed to cut him out of the streaming rights. It was already controversial when Chappelle left the show midway through filming season 3, leaving a lucrative deal on the table.
It is a shame that Chappelle’s Show became such a sore spot, and that Chappelle has since used his platform to promote anti trans rhetoric. He was really doing something profound on Comedy Central. Through sketches about a blind Black KKK leader, what if George W. Bush was Black, and Black people drafting their favorite Black celebrities, Chappelle used humor to show society’s blind spots. And celebrity impressions of Rick James and Prince were hilarious.
‘The State’ sketch comedy troupe became comedy legends
On MTV in the ‘90s, The State came on after episodes of Beavis and Butt-Head. The troupe included Tom Lennon, Robert Ben Garant, Kerri Kenney, Michael Ian Black, Ken Marino, Jo Lo Truglio, Michale Showalter, and David Wain who all still work in comedy. Their absurdist concepts opened doors to other nontraditional forms of comedy.
Gen-Xer Doug ached to be a misunderstood rebel but had unflinchingly supportive parents. Louie became a self-fulfilling prophecy mocking sketch catch phrases with the still quotable “I want to dip my balls in it.” Catch those sketches and more on Paramount+.
‘In Living Color’ was Fox’s first answer to ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch comedy
Premiering in 1990 on Fox, the Wayans Brothers’ sketch comedy show In Living Color was considered edgy for prime time television. Sketches like Homey D. Clown, The Homeboy Shopping Network, and The Brothers Brothers brought a Black perspective to traditionally white formats.
The stereotypically gay Men on Film and disabled superhero Handiman might not be so funny today. Still, there were some boundary breaking sketches on In Living Color. Though it is ironic that out of the entire cast, Jim Carrey became the biggest movie star out of the ensemble. Unless you count Jennifer Lopez who was a Fly Girl dancer.
Sketch comedy maestro Lorne Michaels brought ‘The Kids in the Hall’ to TV too
Those looking for another Saturday Night Live weren’t quite sure what to make of The Kids in the Hall in the beginning. Lorne Michaels produced the Canadian sketch troupe’s show too, which ran on HBO from 1988 – 1993. Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulluch, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson are still doing it, with a Prime Video revival last year.
Sketches like “Crushing Your Head” and the Chicken Lady only get funnier the more often you see them. So syndication on Comedy Central certainly helped. You can find the original five seasons on Prime, Peacock, Crackle, Tubi, AMC+, Freevee, Roku Channel, and more streaming services.
‘MadTV’ was Fox’s second sketch comedy answer to ‘Saturday Night Live’
Fox had an even longer success with MadTV. Premiering in 1995 and beating SNL to air by a half hour at 11 p.m., the sketch comedy show was inspired by the satire magazine. It ran for 14 seasons with a rotating cast. Those casts included Alex Borstein, Ike Barinholtz, Simon Helberg, David Herman, Phil LaMarr, Orlando Jones, Bobby Lee, Artie Lange, Nicole Sullivan, and Taran Killam, who went on to SNL himself. Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele would also credit MadTV with uniting them in comedy.
MadTV would produce more film parodies as those were a staple of the magazine, but they had their own original recurring characters too. Some seasons of MadTV are available for streaming purchase and on DVD.
Ben Stiller did sketch comedy before becoming a movie star
Before he discovered something about Mary, before he met the parents, and even before reality bit, Ben Stiller created The Ben Stiller Show for MTV. After 13 episodes, Fox broadcast new episodes. It only lasted one season on Fox, but in that season it won the Emmy for writing in a Variety or Music Program.
Writers included Stiller, Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, and Judd Apatow. The cast included Janeane Garofolo, Andy Dick, Odenkirk and Apatow. They mocked Fox’s crop of teen dramas, combining Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Place, and The Heights into one show. Stiller did celebrity impressions in spoofs like a Die Hard sequel in a supermarket. Stiller would later apply this sensibility to movies he wrote and directed, too. The season is available for streaming purchase.
Nickelodeon got into sketch comedy with ‘All That’
Who said you have to stay up past your bedtime for good sketch comedy? Nickelodeon’s All That showcased then teen stars Amanda Bynes, Nick Cannon, Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, and more in kid friendly sketches. You can find assortments of seasons on Netflix, Paramount+ and BET+.
‘Upright Citizens Brigade’ took stage sketches to screen
UCB remains a famous live sketch troupe. In the late ‘90s they got their own series on Comedy Central too, featuring legendary UCB performers Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh, Ian Roberts and Matt Besser. H. Jon Benjamin, Rob Riggle, Rob Corddry, Paul Scheer, Rob Huebel and more also appeared. Memorable sketches include Little Donny, a little boy who just doesn’t know how enormous his penis is. The Comedy Central app has all three seasons available.
‘You Can’t Do That on Television’ was a Nickelodeon mainstay
In the ‘80s, Nickelodeon viewers couldn’t get enough of You Can’t Do That on Television. American kids probably never knew that the show began in Canada in 1979. Nickelodeon brought it to mass audiences and inspired the network’s whole schtick of sliming people. On You Can’t Do That on Television, anyone who said “I don’t know” would get slimed. Or, they’d get doused with water if they said the word “water.”
Les Lye and Abby Hagyard played the adults for a rotating cast of young actors, one of whom was Alanis Morissette. Recurring sketches included Barth’s diner, Blip’s arcade and locker room jokes where cast members would emerge from painted lockers to speak. Paramount+ only has one season of this show streaming
‘Laugh-In’ is streaming for free
From 1967 – 1972, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin hosted this sketch comedy show that featured the likes of Lily Tomlin, Goldie Hawn, Eileen Brennan, Henry Gibson, Flip Wilson, and Tiny Tim. Like Saturday Night Live hosts, celebrity guests would join the regulars for comedy and musical sketches. The classic series is streaming for free on Tubi, Freevee, Pluto TV, Shout TV, Plex and Roku Channel.
‘The Benny Hill Show’ did naughty sketch comedy
For the sake of completism, we must also include The Benny Hill Show in this list. The British sketch comedy show could be a little more suggestive in the U.K., and it popularized the use of “Yakety Sax” as slapstick music. Though not streaming, seasons of The Benny Hill Show are available on DVD.