Last-Laugh Tracks: The 40 Best Cult TV Comedies Ever - Rolling Stone
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Last-Laugh Tracks: The 40 Best Cult TV Comedies Ever

From British-slacker sitcoms to brilliant sketch shows , we rank the best of TV’s fan-beloved comedies


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It’s not hard to put together a canon of great TV comedies: Everybody would agree that popular phenomenons like I Love Lucy, Cheers, and Seinfeld would make the cut. But what about the obscurities, the oddities and the out-there experiments that pushed the boundaries of TV comedy and broke their own molds in the process? You know, the ones that were both gut-bustingly hilarious and so weird or wild that they only lasted a few seasons, or in some cases, a handful of episodes? Or the shows that are still flying their freak flags high, but aren’t exactly going to be showing up in the Nielsen Top 10 rankings?

There are plenty of forgotten gems and current niche fan-favorite comedies that deserve some love as well, so we’ve decided to give them their own pantheon. We’ve gathered the 40 best cult TV comedies — the goofy, the grotesque, and the great big middle fingers to propriety, decorum and good taste — and ranked them in terms of their influence, their staying power and their out-and-out ability to crack us up. You may not have heard of some of these, but trust their fans (and us): They’re all worth a look and a laugh.

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1. ‘Mr. Show.’

Years before millennials met Saul Goodman and Tobias Fünke, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross were Generation X's most visionary snarkmasters, and the 30 episodes of their gleefully foul-mouthed HBO show remain, hands down, the greatest artifact of the so-called "alternative comedy" boom of the Nineties. Wielding cynicism in a way that makes The Daily Show look even-handed, they were to comedy what Frank Zappa was to rock — not a punk-rocker's spit in the face, but a middle finger ornately and patiently constructed. Sketches bent in on one another other, and everything lived on the edge of the fourth wall. (As early as the first episode, Cross broke character to whinge "I mean, fuck, HBO spent more money on Fraggle Rock. Look at this place.") Their targets were impossible to track — Megan's Law, instructional billiards videos, peanut butter and jelly in the same jar — revealing the entertainment complex as absurd, navigating the information age with fatigue, exposing Boomer dreams as hypocritical. The fact that the show, which ran from 1995 to 1998, still holds up is no accident. "One rule Bob and I had," Cross once said, "was to never mention real people in pop culture or politics. Don't make it an impression of a specific person, but create a character that represents them so it's never dated."—CHRISTOPHER R. WEINGARTEN

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