I Just Might Die with a Smile on My Face After All: The Best Television Comedies of the Last Thirty Years

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I Just Might Die with a Smile on My Face After All: The Best Television Comedies of the Last Thirty Years

By Cindy Davis | Seriously Random Lists | September 13, 2012 | Comments ()


Larry David and I have a little something in common: We both have sets of rules in our heads, and we think the rest of the world would be better off following those rules. You guys really do know the rules already, but you don't always want to abide by them. Now, I can be like Larry with my family and close friends, but with the rest of the world, I make an attempt to hold back. Not Larry. When he sees someone doing something wrong, Larry isn't afraid to walk right up and say what's on his mind.

He knows the rules and their time limits and he's happy to pass them on.

He's easygoing...

With that in mind, you can observe my generous nature by my actions after seeing a Facebook post by lowercase ryan. Prompted by Dustin's Warming Glow piece Is This How You'd Rank the 12 Greatest NBC Comedies Of All Time?, Ryan "corrected" the referenced list, which in turn prompted several further "corrected" best of comedy lists. Even though, like Larry, I know what is right (My own list), I do realize my comedy tastes are not necessarily Pajiba representative. So like the good natured chick I am, I rounded up my fellow writers' opinions and made what sense of them I could. By using a complicated algorithm (Excel and colored fonts), I was able to extrapolate the data to determine the shows with the most votes (based on lists by Dustin, Seth, Joanna, Courtney, Steven, Rob and myself*).

A good many shows received one vote each; basically a free for all. You can see our individual lists at the bottom of this post. So based on the votes, here are The Pajiba Best Television Comedies of the Past Thirty Years:

  • Two Votes

"Absolutely Fabulous"




"Louie" (NSFW/K)

"The Daily Show"

"The Simpsons"

  • Three Votes:


"Parks and Recreation"

"South Park"

  • Four Votes:


"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"



  • Five Votes:

"Arrested Development"


*You'll notice a certain TK did not contribute to this list, and you may be asking yourself, "Self, I wonder why TK did not contribute to this list?" And I would answer you with this most inconceivable statement: "TK does not watch television comedy!" Please don't ask me to explain. There is no sense in TK-land; it is just a dark basement wasteland.





Cindy Davis knows funny.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • William

    I've seen all of these.

    Venture Bros. is better than every one of them.

  • Bill

    Your list is void if Scrubs is on it.

  • Muscleman

    Hello??? Everybody hates Chris!!!!!

  • No love for Fawlty Towers or The Office (original)?

  • Sara S.

    Arrested. Development. Michael Cera FTW

  • PhFunk

    I'm surprised no one has mentioned Roseanne. I would also throw Titus on my list as well.

  • Rob gets my vote for being THE ONLY ONE to include King of the Hill. What the fuck, people?

    Though he likes Community. But ah, well. Can't be perfect.

  • oh, and Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. it is difficult to make one of these lists and include a bunch of recent shows--its hard to know if what seems really funny now ends up being faddish or referential and becomes very dated versus something that has a broader reach. and yes, i am thinking of ironic slacker sitcoms that so many people get wet over.

  • i watch so little comedy that my best of list would probably include all of them. it's also a fairly contemporary list. no MASH, no All In The Family, etc. EDIT: just realised this list only goes back 30 years, whoops. i'll throw down with King of the Hill and Raising Hope.

  • Donna SHerman

    1. Futurama
    2. Arrested Development
    3. Community
    4. Parks and Recreation
    5. Friends
    6. MST3K
    7. South Park
    8. The Daily Show
    9. Black Books
    10. Top Gear

    Yeah. I think I'm comfortable with that list in that order.

  • MissAmynae

    Bless you for including Top Gear!

  • zeke_the_pig

    My heart overfloweth with joy.

  • sdfhj

    Community and Arrested Development funnier than South Park and the Simpsons? Fuck you.

  • joelboy

    Oh and flight of the conchords.

  • joelboy

    I'd do worldwide comedies, which would include Peep Show, Trailer Park Boys, The Mighty Boosh. I'd think of more but I'm lazy.

  • Certainly the first three seasons of Trailer Park Boys. It really fell off the rails after Conky's first appearance.

  • Munkymack

    Um, The Thick of It? Hands down funniest show I've ever seen. Funnier even than AD or Seinfeld

  • JoannaRobinson

    That was my runner up. And if I were being dishonest but cool, it would have been on my list. BUT THE HEART WANTS WHAT THE HEART WANTS. And my heart shamefully belongs to Designing Women. I'M SORRY.

  • googergieger

    MST3K? Whose Line Is It Anyway?

    This list is bad and you should feel bad.

  • $27019454

    The ODD COUPLE!!!!!! It never jumped the shark and it had this:


    And GREEN ACRES?? How Eva Gabor did not win every award ever is beyond me.

    And I have never understood the whole Friends thing.

  • googergieger
  • $27019454

    Fuck me. Sorry. Just saw the "last 30 years" thing. Time flies when you are old, man.

  • i did the same thing

  • SNLSuperFan#1

    How is SNL not on list? If the Daily Show counts then it should as well.

  • Quatermain

    SNL has been neither funny nor relevant for years. The Daily Show...you can tell that Jon Stewart has so much fun doing it that even when he misses the mark(and he does so more often than fans would care to admit)it's still pretty entertaining.

  • Phil

    no love for Coupling?

  • Mrs. KPilks

    The lack of Extras makes me very sad

  • Amazing that only one person mentioned Mystery Science Theater 3000. When it was on it was the best thing on TV, any genre.

  • Where is Better Off Ted? I loved that show so much... I still watch it streaming on Netflix when I need a laugh. The Racial Sensitivity episode may be the funniest 22 minutes I've ever seen.

  • Three_nineteen

    I'm just gonna go on ahead and throw Murphy Brown out there. Hey, it was good enough for Seinfeld to actually do a mini-cross-over with.
    Also, too, The Colbert Report has been better than The Daily Show every year it's been on. As proof, I offer the fact that The Daily Show has nine "Best Variety Series" Emmys while The Colbert Report has none.

  • Koala is not a bear

    This. I love me some "Daily Show", but between the somewhat inconsistent reporting efforts and the occasionally obsequious celebrity interviews, it can be a bit hit-and-miss. Colbert, on the other hand, channelling O'Reilly, while delegating to no-one and hitting it out of the park every night (akin to Ginger Rogers doing everything Astaire does, but backwards and in high heels) is the superior programme. Man's a legend.

  • AudioSuede

    Dustin is missing Chapelle's Show, but I'd say his list is the closest to the one I would make of those listed.

  • AudioSuede

    In fact, it would look as follows:

    Arrested Development
    Chapelle's Show
    The Simpsons
    Parks and Recreation
    It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
    The Kids in the Hall
    30 Rock
    South Park

    I wouldn't count talk shows, otherwise The Daily Show and Colbert Report would be on the list as well.

    In closing, Seinfeld gets a shrug.

  • Danielle

    No Father Ted? Sheesh.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Isn't that older than 30 years?

  • sistercoyote

    Hey, TK --

    Come on down to my dark basement and we can not-comedy TV watch together. I have cookies. Pay no attention to the ax and rope in the corner, that's just leftover from some house repairs.

  • Stacey

    Not a single vote for Larry Sanders, which was groundbreaking to the point that it paved the way for some of those shows listed above. SMH, Pajiba staff.

  • SabrinaHatesDisqus

    SMH... Suck my hole?

  • Ted Zancha

    Stab my hooker?

  • no one

    Great shows and good lists.But you guys really need to watch some Archer.

  • Brown

    Not including Archer puts Pajiba in the Danger Zone!

  • MissAmynae


  • MissAmynae


  • zeke_the_pig

    Lana! Lana! ... LANAAAAAAAAA!

  • MissAmynae


  • zeke_the_pig

    You might wanna call Kenny Loggins

  • MissAmynae

    'cause you're in the DANGER ZONE!!

    I'm kinda lovin ya right now, Zeke! cheers :-)

  • zeke_the_pig

    noooooooooPE. cheers for the archer-love

  • Guest


  • The "in no order" thing is bullshit, sack up and order accordingly. Also great piece Cindy, I just told my mom I'm famous...Ace16.com

  • knifeyspoony

    I wish I lived in this bizarre alternate universe where Community and Scrubs were better than The Simpsons.

  • EB III

    How is Cheers, The Cosby Show, and The Simpsons not on more lists? This list looks more like last 20 years than 30.

  • Carlito

    Exactly right.

    As well as Newhart and The Larry Sanders Show (mentioned by someone else already).

    3rd Rock? King of the Hill? Wings?

  • Brown

    I need to watch more Spaced because the early episodes have been a slow go, but they are getting better. To not include Cheers or The Cosby Show is just...criminal.

    I would put Archer on the level of Arrested Development. Both offer such quick witted dialogue at a brisk pace that simply never lets up.

  • Blake

    Yes, how can seven people who claim to know anything about television not include Archer? The Heart of Archness miniseries is probably the best thing I've ever seen on Television. PERIOD.

    If only one thing could be left to represent humanity I would want it to be those three episodes...

  • Seriously, only one mention for Coupling and zero for Blackadder??? Are you guys insane?

  • The guys at UnderScoopFire did the Top 50 comedies of all time just a few weeks ago, check it out.

  • Nimue

    Wait wait wait.....Cindy this is you trying?!?! ;)

  • Really hard!

  • Mrs. Julien

    I had given up on Seinfeld. My BFF was watching it in th next room as I prepared to bake cookies. I have a clear memory of hearing "I was buying a doll for my son" and just about sinking to the floor with hysterical laughter. Really, with the airing of the grievances, Festivus does seem a particularly Pajiban holiday.
    Did anyone else catch F. Murray Abraham's guest spot on Louie? Genius. Pure genius. Rolling an imaginary condom down his erect middle finger so he doesn't catch the whore's wretchedness and bring it home to his family. And then "removing the condom", keeping the finger up, and "holding" the removed condom between his fingers as he berates Louie about filial devotion. GENIUS! We'll have two cornish game hens and some water.

  • TK



  • lowercase_ryan

    the FUCK is the John Laroquette Show and what is it doing in your list?!?!?

    also <3

  • Dude, you haven't even lived yet.

  • That's how I feel about Andy Richter Controls the Universe.

  • Blake

    That show is awesome! Victor Fresco created it and Better off Ted. Plus Paget Brewster, who I've always thought was a terrible actress (not that C.M. is a great indicator) was so hot on A.R.C.T.U.

  • lowercase_ryan

    if he's too scared to rank comedies do you really think he's going to take you on?

  • No biggie. I can always lob in a grenade.

  • TheOtherOne

    Where's M.A.S.H? Or SCTV? Great to see that Kids in the Hall is mentioned.
    But Fraiser, Seinfeld and Friends... No Way!

  • AudioSuede

    MASH and SCTV are older than 30 years. Otherwise yeah, there's no way they should be left off.

  • oops, i didn't realise. for some reason, i thought this was a best of all time.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    MASH was a great, great movie.

    I refuse to believe there was a TV series.

  • TheOtherOne

    MASH actually ended in1983 so it just squeaks in. SCTV ended in 1981 so yes it just missed.

  • $27019454

    MASH got so touchy feely and sweet I nearly got a cavity watching it. But that first season with Trapper John was solid. When BJ came along the whole thing went flaccid. (see what I did there?)

  • Carlito

    SCTV ran until 1984, if Wikipedia is to be believed:

  • WTF? Blackadder, people.

  • Fabius_Maximus


    Action! and Coupling are also missing.

  • BT

    I agree with Ab Fab, NewsRadio, Party Down, Futurama & It's Always Sunny...

  • lowercase_ryan

    Oh and Seth is the only one of you who has a clue what he/she is talking about. You cannot have this list without Arrested Development and the Chappelle Show.

  • zeke_the_pig

    Ding! Correct answer.

  • AudioSuede

    Chapelle's Show is the benchmark against which all racial comedies since are judged, and nothing else ever comes close to being as smart, as cutting-edge, and as purely funny.

    You're right on the money.

  • lowercase_ryan

    The "in no order" thing is bullshit, sack up and order accordingly. Also great piece Cindy, I just told my mom I'm famous.

  • Well, actually, I did tell Cindy that if I did have to order them, then this was the order I would've used. I just think ranking is arbitrary in a Seriously RANDOM List.


    Though, I'd probably actually put The Simpsons at the top, move MST3K over King of the Hill, and put Seinfeld at the bottom. So. Nyah.

  • It's true--in response to my query: "No particular order!!?" Rob asked if they had to be in order--if they did to go as it was. In the end I just went with his original intent: willy nilly...

  • $27019454

    I misread this at first and I thought it said, "I just told my mom I'm fabulous."

    I like my way better.

  • lowercase_ryan

    B&%$^ please. She's aware.

  • $27019454

    Do you say it this: "Mom, did you know I'm fhaaaaabulous?" Because that's how the little voice in my head said it.

  • lowercase_ryan

    no, but I absolutely was saying the "Bitch please, she's aware" in the voice of Lafayette in my head.

  • $27019454

    Ah. Your "bedroom" voice then. Well done.

  • Blake

    Better off Dead? Don't you mean Better off Ted? No Drew Carey? Oh and instant fail for the inclusion of Friends...

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