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A comedy show which is predominantly short sketches, often related. Also known as a Sketch Show, it's a descendant of the Variety Show.
They usually have a stable of comic stereotypes, used in a series of sketches, with no continuity. Each show will include a few sketches about each of the iconic characters interspersed with one-off sketches.
Particularly successful sketches may be spun-off into a Sitcom or a movie (such is the case of Saturday Night Live, Kids in the Hall, and SCTV).
The show may include musical numbers or a stand-up act, but only as a minor element. Sometimes, when the various iconic characters are shown interacting, the show may border on being a plotless Sitcom. Conversely, a Negative ContinuitySitcom may be accused of being a Sketch Show.
Compare with Variety Show. See also Anthology Film, which might be this applied to the big screen.
All That! was a teenage sketch comedy show on Nickelodeon, and had a movie based on the "Good Burger" sketch (featuring Kel Mitchell and Kenan Thompson). One of the cast members (Kenan Thompson) would later be a cast member for Saturday Night Live (becoming the first Nickelodeon veteran to be an SNL cast member, and the first one to be born after SNL's premiere year, 1975).
The Amanda Show, All That!'s Spinoff. Featured Taran Killam, who, like Kenan Thompson, was a Nickelodeon child star who is now a cast member on Saturday Night Live and was born after SNL premiered in 1975. Unlike Thompson, however, Killam was born in 1982 and appeared on SNL's rival sketch show, MA Dtvnote becoming the youngest cast member on that show at only 19 years old before moving on to SNL.
The Big Gay Sketch Show: A sketch show on Logo that can best be described as Saturday Night Live + MA Dtv + a lot of jokes about the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning sexuality lifestyle (some of which are, according to critics, a little more well-written and not as reliant on stereotypes than what other sketch shows have done). Erica Ash and Kate McKinnon stand out as the only two cast members from this show who have moved on to others; Erica Ash was on the final season note before being remade and channel-hopping to Cartoon Network of "MA Dtv" while Kate McKinnon is now a cast member on SNL.
Fridays, an early 1980s sketch show that aired on ABC on Friday nights at 11:30pm (later moved to midnight thanks to ABC giving "Nightline" an extra day). Played out like Saturday Night Live with stronger writing, more pointed sociopolitical satire, a louder studio audience, and longer sketchesnote their magnum opus, The Ronnie Horror Picture Show, clocks in at 17 minutes. The show had Michael Richards note (yes, the same Michael Richards who played Kramer onSeinfeld...and later got in trouble for using the n-word during his stand-up act at the Laugh Factory), Larry David note (the creator of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm), Rich Hall note (an SNL cast member who was on the show during the tenth season and was the inspiration behind Simpsons character Moe Szyslak), and Melanie Chartoff note (the voice of Didi Pickles and her mom, Minka, on Rugrats and its SpinoffAll Grown Up; on Fridays, she was the hot chick of the cast and the anchor for Friday Night News) as cast members. Despite being considered the Cracked to Saturday Night Live's MAD magazine, at one point, Fridays was considered better than Saturday Night Live (which, in the early 1980s, was floundering thanks to Jean Doumanian's ineptitude as show runner). Fridays lasted until 1982 after ABC failed at making Fridays a primetime sketch show instead of a late-night one, as it suffered a time change in 1981 when ABC wanted Nightline to air five days a week instead of four, due to the popularity of primetime soap opera Dallas. The sequence in the movie, Man on the Moon where Andy Kaufman (Jim Carrey) fights with Michael Richards (Norm MacDonald) over a sketch about covert marijuana smokers dining out at a restaurant (which turns out to be a trick cooked up by executives as a prank and to test the limits of live TV, as Fridays always did) was based on an actual moment from that show.
Hee Haw: A long-running sketch show filled with American Southern/country humor. On the Simpsons episode where Homer becomes the manager to a struggling country singer who tries to seduce him, there was a parody of this show called Yahoo!
Hype, a WB sketch comedy show featuring sketches that made fun of celebrities and pop culture. Lasted one season. Included then-futureMA Dtvcast members Frank Caliendo and Daniele Gaither — and featured writing by former SNL writer and cast member Terry Sweeney note no relation to Julia Sweeney; Terry was a writer for Jean Doumanian's abysmal 1980-1981 season, was cast member during SNL's 11th season in 1985 [which almost got the show canceled due to falling ratings and audiences getting sick of the show], and is the first — and, so far, only — male SNL cast member who was openly gay (and had a gay lover who also worked with him as his comedy writing partner, Lanier Laney)
Incredible Crew: Cartoon Network's first and only attempt at a live-action sketch show (also the last live-action original show they aired, before deciding to make more original animated shows). Features Jeremy Shada (the voice of Finn the Human on Adventure Time as a cast member.
In Living Color! — FOX's urban (read: black) answer to Saturday Night Live. Featured Jim Carrey (who originally was supposed to be a Saturday Night Live cast member), Jamie Foxx note before he became famous for more dramatic roles, Jennifer Lopeznote as a member of the dance troupe, The Fly Girls, and Damon Wayans note who was on SNL for a season in 1985, but got fired after playing a heterosexual character as a Camp Gay character, of which Lorne Michaels didn't approve..
Loriot had a hugely successful sketch show in Germany during the late 70s, and is now widely considered one of the giants of German comedy. The humor revolves mostly around people getting in slightly embarassing situations, which quickly become worse as they attempt to maintain appearances in the hope that nobody will notice, mirroring and satirizing the Zeitgeist of the decade.
MA Dtv — Saturday Night Live's rival sketch show from 1995-2009. Is considered the longest-running sketch show on FOX and the longest-running dueling show to SNL. Has a Spiritual Successor in the form of the Cartoon Network sketch show MAD and Comedy Central's Key & Peele and two cast members who have jumped ship from MA Dtv to be on SNL (Jeff Richards — who lasted on SNL from 2001 to mid-2004 — and Taran Killam — who joined the SNL cast in 2010 and is still on the show). It should be noted that the premise of a sketch comedy show based on MAD Magazine (be it animated like the Cartoon Network version or live-action like the FOX version) is not exactly a new idea: in the early 1970s, a pilot was made for an animated sketch show based on MAD Magazine, using all the artwork for their movie and TV show parodies (the pilot had parodies of The Godfather and Columbo), along with their satirical pieces, like "The Parent Awards." The pilot has never aired on TV (as executives thought it wouldn't appeal to anyone) and now exists as a rare treasure that's somewhere out on the Internet.
Mind of Mencia: The successor to Chappelle's Show. Achieved some controversy after Mencia was accused by several comics of stealing jokes in his stand-up act.
Monty Python's Flying Circus - spawned two sketch movies: And Now For Something Completely Different (a collection of favorite sketches from the series) and Monty Python's Meaning Of Life. Is considered one of the most popular sketch shows listed here.
Live at the Hollywood Bowl is a cross between a sketch movie and a concert film.
Saturday Night Live — longest-running sketch show on NBC and American television in general (is now in its 40th season); has survived everything from national crises to fluctuating pop culture trends to rival sketch shows seeking to take its place (with varying levels of success) to Seasonal Rot in the form of cast and crew turnover, threats of cancellation, criticism over not hiring more minority cast members and treating their minority cast members unfairly, and fickle audiences who embrace the show one minute, then trash it the next. Is considered the place for young sketch and improv comedians and comedy writers to gain fame.
Short Ribbs, a 1989 sketch show broadcast only in Los Angeles, featured Billy Barty, Patty Maloney and three other male dwarfs. Notable also because two of the show's writers filed separate lawsuits against Barty in small claims court for unpaid wages. Barty lost both lawsuits.