The Best Comedy TV Series of 2021: Laugh-Out-Loud Moments and Must-Watch Shows
Looking for a good laugh? Look no further! The year 2021 has brought us a wealth of hilarity on the small screen, with some of the best comedy TV series delivering side-splitting moments that will leave you begging for more. From the satirical genius of "Veep" to the uproarious antics of "Big Mouth," this article explores the top comedy gems of the year that will have you clutching your sides with laughter. So sit back, relax, and get ready for a whirlwind tour of the best comedy TV series 2021 has to offer!
Dickinson (Apple TV)
Seasons 2 & 3. 10 & 8 episodes.
The final seasons of Apple TV's Emily Dickinson comedy have transformed into a stranger and truer version of itself, freeing itself from the usual expectations associated with an "Emily Dickinson comedy." In the second season, Emily grapples with the idea of fame as she considers publishing her poems. The third season dives into her struggle with her role in society during the Civil War. Her conflicts manifest in surreal ways, from the elusive appearance of a personified "Nobody" to amusing encounters with the drunken ghost of Edgar Allan Poe and a partying Walt Whitman, played by Nick Kroll and Billy Eichner respectively. —Esther Zuckerman
The Comeback (2005, 2014)
Lisa Kudrow stars as Valerie Cherish on 'The Comeback'.
John P. Johnson/HBO
Almost a year after the conclusion of Friends, Lisa Kudrow returned to TV with HBO's The Comeback. Created by Kudrow and Sex and the City's Michael Patrick King, the show combines sitcom and reality TV elements to tell the story of Valerie Cherish's comeback as a fictional sitcom star. Shot in a found footage style, the show was ahead of its time, gaining a cult following but getting canceled after one season. In 2014, it returned for a second season, following Cherish as she attempts to pitch a pilot to Bravo personality and producer Andy Cohen. The Comeback offers smart satire and a glimpse into the television industry, showcasing Kudrow's comedic talents beyond her Friends role.
Where to watch The Comeback: Max
Cast: Lisa Kudrow, Malin Åkerman, Robert Bagnell, Lance Barber, Robert Michael Morris, Laura Silverman, Damian Young
Related Content: Lisa Kudrow recreates The Comeback scene in a sweet reunion with co-star Dan Bucatinsky
Veep (2012 - 2019)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus won nine Emmys for her acting and producing work on the political comedy Veep. Created by Scottish writer Armando Iannucci, the show offers a satirical look at America's political system through the perspective of Vice President Selina Meyer. Surrounded by a cutthroat team of D.C. staffers, Meyer's ambitions clash with her moral capacities. The show benefits from its excellent cameo casting and good timing, airing during a time of political polarization. Veep delivers a satisfying series finale and remains a fantastic show that will only improve with age.
Where to watch Veep: Max
EW grade: B (read the review)
Cast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale, Anna Chlumsky, Matt Walsh, Reid Scott
Related content: White House Plumbers review: Veep veterans tread familiar political territory
Silicon Valley (2014 - 2019)
Ali Paige Goldstein/HBO
In the 2010s, HBO's Silicon Valley embraced the opportunity to satirize startup culture. The comedy series follows coder Richard Hendricks as he navigates the tech industry, attempting to launch his startup Pied Piper and stay ahead of competitors and chaotic investors. Written by nerds and for nerds, Silicon Valley offers sharp satire of Bay Area geek culture, exploring the cycle of success and failure in the startup community. With its quick-witted humor and insightful character studies, the show appeals to a broad audience while resonating deeply with those familiar with the tech world.
Where to watch Silicon Valley: Max
EW grade: A- (read the review)
Cast: Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Josh Brener, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, Christopher Evan Welch, Amanda Crew, Zach Woods
Related content: Silicon Valley to end after season 6
High Maintenance (2016 - 2020)
David Russell/HBO/Courtesy Everett Collection
High Maintenance stands out as one of the most unique comedies on this list. Originally a web series on Vimeo, the show follows a New York City-based weed dealer known as "The Guy" as he bikes around the city delivering weed and interacting with his eccentric clientele. With episodes ranging from five to 20 minutes, the show transitioned to HBO in 2016, maintaining its anthology format while expanding to a half-hour runtime. High Maintenance offers a fresh perspective on the 2010s through the eyes of different clients, exploring themes like loneliness, connection, and politics. The character-driven episodes are insightful and funny, with The Guy serving as the thread that ties them all together.
Where to watch High Maintenance: Max
EW grade: A- (read the review)
Talent: Ben Sinclair
Related reading: How High Maintenance season 2 saved its creators from themselves
Search Party (2016 - 2022)
Macall B. Polay/HBO Max
Search Party is a unique blend of dark comedy, social satire, mystery, and thriller. The TBS series became a sleeper hit in the late 2010s, exploring the search for purpose among 20-somethings and the complications that arise when they find it in unexpected places. The story revolves around Dory, a Brooklyn resident stuck in a troubled relationship, who becomes obsessed with finding her missing college acquaintance, Chantal. As Dory becomes increasingly entangled in her search, she faces dangerous situations and personal breakdowns. Over the course of five seasons, Search Party delves into the misguided journey of Millennials searching for meaning.
Where to watch Search Party: Max
EW grade: A- (read the review)
Cast: Alia Shawkat, John Reynolds, John Early, Meredith Hagner
Related content: Kathy Griffin gleefully announces she's 'cancer-free' and 'uncanceled' as she joins Search Party
Not all of the funniest shows on TV are technically comedies. Take this hour-long, two-time winner in the Emmys’ Outstanding Drama Series category, for instance. The most recent, third season featured an incredible set piece in which rogue Waystar Royco scion Kendall Roy blasts Nirvana’s “Rape Me” at an all-hands meeting where his sister Shiv is running cynical damage control on the company’s #MeToo scandal. An inept power move from the season 2 finale, in which Shiv’s venal husband Tom grabs a piece of meat off his father-in-law Logan’s plate and starts chewing, yields one of the funniest full-mouthed line readings of all time: “Thank you for the chicken.” Need I even mention that time “Ken W.A.” rapped a cringey ode to Logan at a company function?
The humor is dark, obviously. And, sure, Succession, which was inspired in part by the ruthless machinations of the Murdoch clan, revolves around the deeply depressing notion that some of the world’s richest and most powerful families are populated by some of the world’s cruelest, pettiest, stupidest, and least competent people. But it’s a pleasure to watch such characters squirm, and creator Jesse Armstrong’s witty manipulations make it impossible not to crack up.
Barry (2018 - 2023)
For those who enjoy a mix of action and comedy, the Emmy-winning series Barry is the perfect choice. Created by Bill Hader, the show follows Barry Berkman, a hitman from Cleveland who travels to Los Angeles for an assignment but discovers a new career path in acting. As Barry pursues his passion for acting in Gene Cousineau's class, he must find a way to leave his criminal past behind and take on more fulfilling roles. The fourth and final season, which concluded in May 2023, takes a darker turn while maintaining the show's brilliance. It continues to explore themes of redemption and whether people can truly change.
Where to watch Barry: Max
EW grade: B (read the review)
Cast: Bill Hader, Stephen Root, Sarah Goldberg, Glenn Fleshler, Anthony Carrigan, Henry Winkler, Sarah Burns, Robert Wisdom
Related content: Bill Hader says goodbye to Barry
Derry Girls (Netflix)
Northern Ireland in the mid-1990s may not seem like the ideal setting for a lighthearted teen comedy, but Derry Girls proves otherwise. The show captures the Irish knack for gallows humor as it follows a group of Catholic girls navigating their teenage years amid the Troubles. The hilarious banter and antics of these characters provide comedic relief in a somber time and place. While dealing with larger issues like British oppression and IRA violence, the series focuses on the teenage self-centeredness, family dynamics, and the absurdity of daily life. Derry Girls offers a funny and heartfelt portrayal of the challenges and friendships of young girls in a unique period of history.
There are moments of political turmoil, but the true highlights of Derry Girls are the title characters themselves. Four lively teenagers attending a Catholic girls school, along with their English cousin, James, provide plenty of laughs and relatable experiences. The performances by Saoirse-Monica Jackson as the controlling alpha Erin and Nicola Coughlan as the sweet and timid Clare are particularly noteworthy. The series also shines a comedic light on the clashes between the adults in their lives, resulting in hilarious confrontations.
Invincible (Amazon Prime)
Season 1. 8 episodes.
Invincible, the animated series adapted from Robert Kirkman's comic series (creator of The Walking Dead), tackles the complex nature of being a superhero while delivering intense action and plenty of bloodshed. It manages to balance the serious tone with humor, offering laugh-out-loud moments. The show boasts a talented cast, including Steven Yeun as the main character, a teenager discovering his superpowers, and Sandra Oh as his human mother. J.K. Simmons portrays his remarkably powerful father, while Gillian Jacobs, Zazie Beets, Jason Manztoukas, and Walton Goggins round out the impressive ensemble. Together, they navigate a universe-wide conspiracy intertwined with the challenges of everyday life. Strap in for a thrilling and hilarious ride. -Leanne Butkovic
The Other Two (2019 - 2023)
Molly Shannon on 'The Other Two'.
The Other Two is a comedy series that revolves around the lives of two adult siblings who are struggling to find success while their 13-year-old brother becomes an overnight sensation. Cary, a gay actor desperate for fame, and his sister Brooke, a former dancer now working as a real estate agent, grapple with living in their brother's shadow. Meanwhile, their mother Pat discovers her own potential for stardom. With its absurd situations and hilarious antics, this show, created by former co-head writers of Saturday Night Live, strikes a perfect balance between fame and family. Prepare for a rollercoaster of laughter and heartwarming moments.
Where to watch The Other Two: Max
EW grade: A- (read the review)
Cast: Heléne Yorke, Drew Tarver, Case Walker, Ken Marino, Molly Shannon, Brandon Scott Jones, Josh Segarra
Related content: The Other Two is finally coming back — and it's got a stacked lineup of season 3 guest stars
Los Espookys (2019 - 2022)
Los Espookys is a Spanish-language comedy series created by Julio Torres, Ana Fabrega, and Fred Armisen. The show follows a group of friends, along with one of their uncles who works as a parking attendant, as they establish a business focused on creating and executing fake horror experiences. From staging mock exorcisms to designing sea monsters, Los Espookys revels in providing terrifying experiences to its customers. Balancing scares and silliness, the first season of this darkly comedic show offers six binge-worthy episodes. Although production delays prevented the release of the seventh season, Los Espookys quickly gained popularity upon its premiere in 2019. Sadly, HBO canceled the show shortly after announcing the delay of the second season in 2022. Nevertheless, this unique comedy is guaranteed to both scare and delight viewers.
Where to watch Los Espookys: Max
EW grade: A- (read the review)
Cast: Bernardo Velasco, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Ana Fabrega, Julio Torres, Fred Armisen
Related content: Los Espookys creators on Isabella Rossellini's foul-mouthed finale cameo
South Side (2019 - 2021)
'South Side' stars Nefetari Spencer, Chandra Russell, and Alisha Cowan recreate a famous frame from 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off.'.
Jean Whiteside/HBO Max
Set in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood, South Side tells the story of two furniture repossessionmen, Simon and K, who dream of making a better life for themselves outside the city. This Comedy Central series, later picked up by HBO Max, presents a diverse and vibrant community, showcasing both the challenges and the lighter moments of everyday life. During its run, South Side received acclaim from critics and viewers alike. Unfortunately, HBO Max decided not to move forward with a fourth season. However, audiences can still enjoy the first three seasons of this captivating and humorous show on Max. Don't miss out on the chance to experience the unique charm of South Side.
Where to watch South Side: Max
Cast: Sultan Salahuddin, Kareme Young, Quincy Young, Chandra Russell, Bashir Salahuddin, Diallo Riddle, Lil Rel Howery, Zuri Salahuddin
Related content: Comedy Central's South Side creators explain how their show is like a 'black Game of Thrones'
Starstruck (HBO Max)
Season 1. 6 episodes.
If you're a fan of romantic comedies, Starstruck is a must-watch. This UK import, available on HBO Max, revolves around Jessie, a young woman played by Kiwi comedian Rose Matafeo. After a chance encounter on New Year's Eve, Jessie finds herself in a love story akin to Notting Hill. However, her love interest turns out to be Tom Kapoor, a famous movie star. The show takes viewers on a whirlwind journey through their flirtatious encounters and misadventures. Matafeo's portrayal of Jessie blends confidence and vulnerability, creating a truly memorable character. Prepare for a mix of swoons and laughs as you dive into the enchanting world of Starstruck.
Macall B. Polay/HBO
The Flight Attendant (2020 - 2022)
Kaley Cuoco on 'The Flight Attendant'.
Lara Solanki/ HBOMax
Following her departure from The Big Bang Theory, Kaley Cuoco soared to new heights in The Flight Attendant, a Max Original comedy drama thriller. Cuoco portrays Cassie Bowden, a flight attendant with a troubled past and a penchant for alcohol. When one of her previous passengers and secret lover is murdered in Bangkok, Cassie becomes a person of interest in the FBI investigation. Plagued by memory loss and haunted by hallucinations, she embarks on a mission to clear her name and solve the crime. However, her self-destructive tendencies and alcohol dependency pose constant obstacles. The Flight Attendant has been highly praised by both critics and viewers, with Cuoco delivering a standout performance as a character who is both flawed and compelling.
Where to watch The Flight Attendant: Max
Cast: Kaley Cuoco, Michiel Huisman, Zosia Mamet, T. R. Knight, Michelle Gomez, Colin Woodell, Merle Dandridge, Griffin Matthews, Nolan Gerard Funk, Rosie Perez, Deniz Akdeniz, Mo McRae, Callie Hernandez, J.J. Soria, Cheryl Hines
Related content: Flight Attendant EP Kaley Cuoco says one costar's audition made her 'just start bawling'
Made for Love (HBO Max)
Season 1. 8 episodes.
In Made for Love, Hazel embarks on a daring escape from her controlling tech mogul husband, Byron Gogol. After spending ten years trapped within his company's simulated-nature campus, Hazel discovers that Byron has implanted a chip in her brain. This chip allows him to read her thoughts and see through her eyes, which adds an element of terror to her attempts at freedom. Adapted from Alissa Nutting's novel, the darkly comedic show explores themes of love, human relationships, and the concept of personhood for sex dolls. Cristin Milioti leads the cast as Hazel, showcasing her incredible talent. Brace yourself for a thought-provoking and hilarious journey through the complexities of love and technology.
What We Do in the Shadows (FX)
What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary-style comedy series that takes a hilarious and fresh approach to the vampire genre. Set in Staten Island, the show follows four vampires living together and navigating the challenges of modern life. Creator Jemaine Clement, along with executive producer Taika Waititi, infuses the series with witty humor and clever storytelling. In addition to the traditional vampire characters, the show introduces an "energy vampire" named Colin Robinson, who feeds off the frustration of others. The series continually reinvents itself, keeping the audience engaged and entertained. From its brilliant cast to its unique and unpredictable plotlines, What We Do in the Shadows is undeniably one of the funniest shows on TV.
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I Think You Should Leave (Netflix)
Season 2. 6 episodes.
Prepare to laugh uncontrollably with I Think You Should Leave. This absurdist sketch show, created by Tim Robinson, delivers non-stop hilarity. With its unconventional sketches and a talented ensemble cast, including Patti Harrison, Conner O'Malley, and Sam Richardson, the show constantly surprises and delights viewers. The sketches are fast-paced, diving into outrageous premises and delivering unexpected punchlines. Robinson's knack for portraying boorish yet oddly relatable characters shines through in this second season. Even when the characters are at their most repulsive, there's a humanity to their actions that keeps the show engaging and fresh. If you're in the mood for offbeat comedy that pushes boundaries, I Think You Should Leave is a must-watch.
Merie W. Wallace/HBO
Reservation Dogs (FX on Hulu)
Season 1. 8 episodes.
Reservation Dogs is a comedy series set on an Oklahoma Native American reservation. The show revolves around four friends who are determined to earn enough money to leave their hometown. It kicks off with a daring heist as the group steals a truck full of chips and navigates through both mundane and absurd situations. This FX on Hulu series combines wild action with magical realism and touches of melancholy, providing a unique and captivating viewing experience. The outstanding performances of Devery Jacobs, D'Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Lane Factor, and Paulina Alexis anchor the show, bringing depth and authenticity to their characters. Prepare to be entertained and moved by the heartfelt and offbeat world of Reservation Dogs.
Big Mouth (Netflix)
Puberty is an inherently funny and awkward stage of life, and Big Mouth captures its essence perfectly. This animated series stands out among coming-of-age comedies due to its raunchy humor and clever storytelling. It explores the rollercoaster of emotions and experiences that come with adolescence, using cartoon characters to personify the intensity of puberty. With a dream cast that includes Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, Jessi Klein, Jason Mantzoukas, Jordan Peele, and Maya Rudolph, the show fearlessly tackles topics such as anxiety, bisexuality, and self-discovery. It doesn't shy away from the awkward and embarrassing moments that shape our teenage years. Big Mouth is a hilarious and relatable journey through the ups and downs of growing up.
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (2014 - 2023)
The Daily Show took a hit when Senior British Correspondent John Oliver departed after a seven-year run to host his own late-night series on HBO. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver is a weekly, half-hour talk show that delves into topical events through monologues, short satirical segments, and one targeted deep dive per episode. The series has garnered praise from viewers and critics alike, but it has also faced criticism and backlash from politicians and big businesses who have been scrutinized on the show.
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver is one of the few TV series that has had a real impact on legislation and culture. The show fearlessly takes on powerful entities, even biting the hand that feeds it. As a result, it has gained enemies and even faced a defamation lawsuit, which it ultimately won. The show is educational, subversive, and consistently funny, and it has won seven consecutive Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series.
Where to watch Last Week Tonight With John Oliver: Max
EW grade: A-
Cast: John Oliver
Related content: Why the Last Week Tonight With John Oliver writing team dedicated their Emmy win to Adam Driver
WandaVision is a Marvel miniseries that marks the beginning of Phase 4. The show follows Wanda Maximoff and the resurrected Vision as they find themselves trapped in a small-town sitcom universe, paying homage to classic family comedies like Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, and Malcolm in the Middle. As Wanda tries to create her ideal family life, things escalate in unexpected ways, revealing new aspects of her superpowers. WandaVision is both fun and emotionally impactful, drawing inspiration from decades of comedy television to create a nostalgic and self-referential world of small-town family dynamics.
This Fool (Hulu)
This Fool, created by Chris Estrada, centers around an odd-couple dynamic that has been a staple of comedy for years. The show follows Julio, a 30-year-old man who works at a nonprofit for former gang members and still lives with his mom and grandma in their South Central L.A. home. When Julio's cousin Luis, who has just been released from prison, moves in and joins the program, it shakes up Julio's life and pushes him out of his comfort zone.
But This Fool is more than just a conventional comedy. It thrives on the relationships within Julio's family and the community they live in. The humor is grounded and tailored to the unique quirks of each character. For example, Julio's mom's frugality drives a plotline involving premium toilet paper, while his guilt-ridden decision to help a homeless man leads to tension with his mom. This Fool also benefits from the inclusion of Michael Imperioli as Julio's boss, adding an extra layer of depth to the show.
Abbott Elementary (2021 - 2023)
If you're a fan of feel-good comedies like Ted Lasso, Abbott Elementary should be on your radar. Created by Quinta Brunson, the sitcom follows the mockumentary style made popular by The Office and Parks and Recreation. Set in an underfunded Philadelphia elementary school, Abbott Elementary explores the lives of its young, idealistic teachers, the burnt-out educators, and the self-absorbed, TikTok-loving principal. The show's exceptional writing, performances, and talented child actors set it apart from the rest. The first season garnered critical acclaim and Emmy wins for Brunson and Sheryl Lee Ralph.
Where to watch Abbott Elementary: Max
EW grade: A-
Cast: Quinta Brunson, Tyler James Williams, Chris Perfetti, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Lisa Ann Walter, Janelle James
Related content: Quinta Brunson just won an Emmy over Jimmy Kimmel's dead body
With an abundance of comedic talent and diverse storytelling, the best comedy TV series of 2021 are sure to leave audiences laughing and coming back for more. From the hilarious and irreverent Veep to the offbeat and quirky Los Espookys, these shows have proven that they have what it takes to entertain and inspire. Whether you're looking for a laugh-out-loud comedy or a clever satire, this year's lineup has something for everyone. Get ready to binge-watch and discover your new favorite comedy series that will have you laughing until your stomach hurts. Trust us, you won't want to miss out on the comedic brilliance of these outstanding shows.
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