Everybody loves a good laugh every now and then – and during difficult times, sometimes laughter really is the best medicine.
Joking around with a friend, watching a stand-up special from your favourite comedian, or watching a comedy film are all great ways to brighten your day with some humorous fun, but there’s also a huge variety of comedy TV series to dig into.
Unlike watching a movie, starting a series can give you something to keep up with – and that’s especially handy when you feel like you need to build more joy into your life, or if you just fancy finding something new to keep you entertained in your spare time.
So, we’ve put together a list of 20 classic comedy shows that we think are worth a watch.
Named after its protagonist, Seinfeld is often called “the show about nothing”, which doesn’t sound like a glowing review – but some have also hailed it as the best sitcom of all time.
As the show focuses on the mundanities and absurdities of everyday life in New York City for comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his three friends George Costanza (Jason Alexander), Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards), you’ll start to understand just how entertaining and downright hilarious “nothing” can be.
2. Parks and Recreation
A classic of 2000s American comedy, Parks and Recreation follows the life of high-strung, overachieving government worker Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) as she attempts to enrich and heal her beloved fictional hometown of Pawnee, Indiana.
Though Leslie is met with constant red tape and under-enthusiasm from her colleagues, she remains optimistic, and always manages to put a positive spin on her failures.
Leslie is joined by a stellar supporting cast of eccentric misfits, including her best friend Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones), unrelenting innovator Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), the delightfully morose intern April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza), and her eventual co-star Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott).
Parks and Recreation got off to a bit of a slow start before some changes were made to the formula. So we recommend skipping straight to season two, as that’s where the show’s brilliance really starts to shine through.
Witty, fast-paced, and frequently strange, Community is an influential modern classic.
The series follows egotistical charlatan lawyer Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) as he attempts to fast-talk his way through Greendale Community College, after it’s revealed that his law degree is fake.
Throughout, viewers will meet a cast of delightful, quirky, and often deeply broken characters. Winger quickly gets wrapped up in the antics of his Spanish study group, and it’s both heartwarming and hilarious to watch as they soften his heart over the show’s six seasons.
Oblivious nerd Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi), juvenile highschool football star Troy Barnes (Donald Glover), sensitive try-hard Annie Edison (Alison Brie), petty Christian mother Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown), behind-the-times corporate heir Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase), and chronic do-gooder Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) fill out the loveable main cast.
4. Fresh Off the Boat
Loosely based on the memoirs of celebrity chef Eddie Huang, Fresh Off the Boat follows the life of a Taiwanese-American family navigating US life in the 90s. They move from Washington, DC, to Orlando, so that the dad of the family can pursue his dream of opening a cowboy themed steakhouse.
Fresh Off the Boat follows the lives of husband and wife Louis (Randall Park) and Jessica Huang (Constance Wu), and their children Eddie (Hudson Yang), Emery (Forrest Wheeler), and Evan (Ian Chen) – as well as their neighbours Honey (Chelsey Crisp) and Marvin Ellis (Ray Wise).
This lively series has garnered critical acclaim for its blend of charming family comedy and refreshing subversion of Asian-American stereotypes.
5. The IT Crowd
A classic of British comedy, The IT Crowd follows colleagues and friends Maurice Moss (Richard Ayoade), Roy (Chris O’Dowd), and Jen Barber (Katherine Parkinson) as they contend with (and often create) increasingly absurd high jinks in their dingy basement office and beyond.
What often makes The IT Crowd so enjoyable is the show’s great cast of bumbling and self-centred characters. This includes the incompetent newly-appointed boss Douglas Renham (played to perfection by Matt Berry) and the unsettling but sweetly gothic Richmond Avenal (Noel Fielding).
6. What We Do in the Shadows
Inspired by the movie of the same name from the brilliant minds of Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi, What We Do in the Shadows provides an entirely unique blend of comedy and gothic horror. Viewers will be in for a unique experience as they follow the daily lives of a group of flat-sharing New York vampires.
The show revolves around self-proclaimed leader of the group Nandor the Relentless (Kayvan Novak) and the witty, musical duo that is Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) and Laszlo Cravensworth (Matt Berry). They’re also joined by timid housemate Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) and Nandor’s hapless but devoted human familiar Guillermo (Harvey Guillen).
While consistently laugh-out-loud funny, What We Do in the Shadows also provides viewers with frequent heartwarming moments, tense conflicts, and an overall story arc that’ll have you wondering why you’re so invested in the plot development of a farce.
7. Desperate Housewives
If you enjoy comedy with a mysterious twist, then look no further than Desperate Housewives.
Over eight series, we follow the lives and domestic struggles of a group of women living in Wisteria Lane, in the small fictional town of Fairview.
Throughout the show – which is told from the perspective of their friend and neighbour who took her life in the first episode – buried crimes, secrets, and mysteries are uncovered. And it’s not long before the cracks start to show in their seemingly perfect suburban neighbourhood.
Starring Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, and Eva Longoria, Desperate Housewives is both funny and gripping.
8. Peep Show
A unique modern British classic, Peep Show provides a strange blend of the hilarious and the mundanely depressing.
The show follows down-on-their-luck friends and roommates Mark Corrigan (David Mitchell) and Jeremy Usborne (Robert Webb) as they (unsuccessfully) attempt to stay afloat in adult society.
Peep Show is full of cringe-inducing social faux pas, and often holds the viewer hostage as the misfit cast agonisingly follow through on their terrible decisions.
Mitchell and Webb are joined again here by Olivia Colman as Mark’s love interest Sophie Chapman, along with other brilliant support from Matt King as “Super Hans”.
9. Arrested Development
Arrested Development became well known for its uncomfortable and unique comedy throughout its long 2003-2019 run.
The show follows the surprisingly normal and down-to-earth straight man of Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman). Over five series he attempts to negotiate the daily misdemeanours of the juvenile, petty, and sometimes cruel members of the disgraced Bluth family dynasty, while trying to raise his son George-Michael Bluth (Michael Cera).
Filled to the brim with witty quips and absurd gags, Arrested Development’s dry joke-a-minute comedy will keep you entertained for hours on end.
In this American sitcom, father and family man Andre “Dre” Johnson (Anthony Johnson) contends with the daily struggles of trying to maintain and pass on his cultural identity to his children in a mostly-white upper-middle class neighbourhood.
Inspired by creator Kenya Barris’ own life experiences, the show sees Dre attempt to find a delicate balance between helping his kids stay in touch with their cultural roots, and providing them with a more comfortable life than his own impoverished childhood.
Filled with laughs, meaningful social commentary, and emotional family drama, Black-ish is entertaining and thought-provoking throughout its eight seasons, and even spawned its own spinoff, titled Grown-ish.
Created by and starring British favourite Miranda Hart, Miranda is a sitcom that constantly delivers unbearably cringey moments that you just can’t help but laugh along with.
Following its hilariously awkward titular protagonist, the show drags viewers along as Miranda attempts to navigate the various social situations in her life, not least in the world of dating.
Co-starring Tom Ellis and Sarah Hadland, Miranda is a great watch for some light-hearted and relieving fun.
12. Brass Eye
Parodying the sometimes stuffy absurdity of TV news, Brass Eye is a witty satire spawned from the equally great The Day Today (1994).
Chris Morris delivers a brilliant and cutting performance in his role as presenter, and the many skits throughout the show touch on topics both abstract and bitingly relevant.
Starring British comedy heavyweight Rowan Atkinson as the titular hero Edmund Blackadder (along with a star-studded supporting cast of Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry, and Hugh Laurie), this show derives its laughs from the bumbling antics of its incompetent yet self-assured hero.
Blackadder cleverly changes its setting across its four seasons, from the end of the middle ages, to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, to the Regency, and eventually to World War I. Each of Blackadder’s incarnations all have a unique flavour that keeps things fresh and fun.
14. The Golden Girls
This American 80s classic follows the raucous escapades of four previously married older friends living together in Miami.
The Golden Girls stars Bea Arthur as Dorothy Zbornak, Betty White as Rose Nylund, Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux, and Estelle Getty as Sophia Petrillo.
With a whopping 11 Emmy awards and 68 nominations, among others, The Golden Girls was a smash-hit throughout its seven-season, 180 episode run. If you’re a fan of both raunchy humour and genuinely heartfelt depictions of friendship, then you’re bound to love The Golden Girls.
15. Red Dwarf
Poking fun at fellow sci-fi greats like Star Trek, Red Dwarf follows Dave Lister (Craig Charles) – a soup machine technician aboard mining spaceship the Red Dwarf.
Returning 3,000,000 years later from suspended animation, Dave is the last human left alive.
Laughs abound as we follow his isolation alongside a hologram of his dead shipmate Arnold Jules Rimmer (Chris Barrie), the deteriorating ship computer Holly (Hattie Hayridge), and the mutated descendant of his pet cat, Cat (Danny John-Jules).
16. Dad’s Army
Set in the small seaside town of Walmington-On-Sea, Dad’s Army follows the often incompetent yet well-meaning volunteers of the Home Guard as they prepare for a German invasion that never quite arrives during World War II.
Led by the pompous and high-strung patriot Captain George Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe), the everyday antics of this rag-tag group of dedicated but ill-suited soldiers makes for hours of laughs.
John Le Mesurier (Sergeant Arthur Wilson), Clive Dunn (Lance Corporal Jack Jones), John Laurie (Private James Frazer), James Beck (Private Joe Walker), Arnold Ridley (Private Charles Godfrey), and Ian Lavendar (Private Frank Pike) join Lowe in portraying the hapless members of their town’s unit of “Dad’s army”.
17. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
A 90s classic that launched the illustrious career of its star Will Smith, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a fun family sitcom about the struggles of uprooting your life and learning to live with new surroundings and new people.
Born and raised in West Philadelphia (as the catchy and iconic theme song tells), street-smart teenager Will is sent to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle at their mansion in Bel-Air, Los Angeles after a confrontation with a gang scares his mother.
The show draws the majority of its laughs from the friction between Will’s working class upbringing and his often spoiled family. But it’s also known for its more heart-felt moments of family conflict and togetherness, along with the occasional fourth wall break.
Perhaps one of the most unique TV series ever filmed, Outnumbered is a sitcom with a bit of a twist.
Following the Brockman family through the struggles of their daily lives, parents Pete (Hugh Dennis) and Sue (Claire Skinner) contend with the often frustrating, usually baffling, but always sweet behaviour and misbehaviour of their three children Jake (Tyger Drew-Honey), Ben (Daniel Roche), and Karen (Ramona Marquez).
Outnumbered stands out from any other family sitcom because of the Brockman children’s uncannily realistic performances. During production, the kids were encouraged to improvise, rather than fed exact lines for every scene – which led to endless scenes of confusingly deep questions, adorable displays of creativity and empathy, and unpredictable outbursts.
Outnumbered is constantly funny, but it’s also very thoughtful and heartwarming. The Brockman family’s developing dynamic as the kids get older over the show’s five seasons is a very rewarding watch, too.
Adapted from her critically acclaimed one-woman play of the same name, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag is the kind of show that’ll make you feel bad for laughing at times – but you won’t be able to stop yourself.
Eerily melancholic in tone, Fleabag follows its young hero as she tries to cope with her life in London after a recent personal tragedy. Waller-Bridge’s wit is razor sharp, and the show’s repeated ability to make light of some of life’s most dour and uncomfortable issues is inspiring.
Although not appropriate for family viewing, Fleabag is well worth a watch. While the show does touch on some of the darker parts of living, a full watch of the show’s two seasons brings catharsis along with the laughs.
20. Police Squad!
Police Squad! is an American police procedural parody series starring the brilliantly deadpan Leslie Nielsen as incompetent and deadly serious detective Frank Drebin.
With zero acknowledgement from any character of the show’s constantly baffling events and silent visual gags, Police Squad! has a unique tone that eventually led to the The Naked Gun series of films – which have become cult favourites.
Having been cancelled after only six episodes, Police Squad! is tragically short-lived – but that makes it a great option if you don’t have lots of time, and want to sink your teeth into a full series.
We hope that you enjoy one or many of our comedy TV recommendations. Though comedy is subjective, we do hope that there’s something for everyone in this list.
For more recommendations, why not check out the film, TV, and theatre section of our website? Here you can find articles like 18 movies everyone should see and 14 of the best romantic comedies for a feel-good film night.