40 Greatest Sketch-Comedy TV Shows of All Time

From Caesar to Schumer, 65 years of the Land Shark, the Chicken Lady and a bunch of Muppets

19. 'The Ben Stiller Show' (1992-1993)

There were only 13 episodes of the Ben Stiller Show (12 if you count what Fox actually aired), but they pretty much set a stage for the next 15 years of American comedy. Co-created by Ben Stiller, then an SNL expat who did an embryonic version of the show for MTV, and Judd Apatow in his first executive producer credit, it was a training ground for future comedy luminaries. The cast, led the future movie titan Stiller, included Janeane Garofalo, Andy Dick and Bob Odenkirk, who was also a writer with future collaborator David Cross. But more than its right-place-right-time situation at the center of the early-Nineties comedy universe, what makes Stiller's show stand out in retrospect is the depth of its aesthetics. With no laugh track or studio audience, the show's Die Hard parody doesn't just hinge on Stiller's Bruce Willis impression, but on a (low-budget) emulation of the action landmark's look: the sketch-show equivalent of the leap from multi-cam to single-camera sitcoms. Fox didn't get it but slowly, its influence spread. "Honestly, going to the set and laughing backstage when we're off camera, goofing around with that group of people was so much fun," Odenkirk told Scott Aukerman. "And my dream was to just, one day, get to do that again. So in that way, The Ben Stiller Show was an inspiration for Mr. Show."

Back to Top