Sketch Comedy Canon

IFC and Nerve.com just released their list of the top 50 comedy sketches of all time.  What’s great about this is that its not just a list – they link to the clips on YouTube, Hulu, and other places.  These are complete sketches, not just highlights.  The commentary for each clip is sort of stupid, I think, but that doesn’t really matter.

Its the fact that someone took the time to take the huge amounts of raw material out there and organized it.  YouTube tries to do this with calculations of most viewed, highest rated, etc.  But those types of ratings aggregate the stupid people’s opinions with the smart people’s, so you get, you know, some chuckles, but not like, whoa, MAD chuckles.

And the Amazon/Netflix model of telling me what I would like based on what I do like?  Yeah, but that doesn’t really get me out of my box, or at least I haven’t tried and liked many new things that have been “recommended” to me that way.

Real life, human editors can do some things that the best algorithms can’t yet: compile a list like this. So IFC and Nerve.com – I salute you.  We need more of this kind of content.  Not just top ten, fifty, or one hundred lists (indeed, who gives a shit about the rankings – its the material that’s cool) but people out there to guide me to the good stuff. I don’t know enough about sketch comedy to quibble with their choices, but I can tell you I enjoyed what they picked.

I’ve only watched #’s 50 though 14 or so, but so far, my fav’s have been:

49. “Ass Pennies,” Upright Citizens Brigade, 1998
48. “Gerald Ford Dead at 83,” Saturday Night Live, 1996
40. Citizen Kane – The Kids in the Hall
32. Four Yorkshiremen – At Last the 1948 Show
15. Word Association – Saturday Night Live

I also would direct you to the editors’ preface or disclaimer or caveat, or whatever.  I think that they’re pretty self aware:

So why, then, have IFC.com and Nerve.com devoted an enormous amount of time, manpower, monetary resources, server space and posh catered lunches to the pursuit of ranking the boob tube’s finest sketch comedy offerings?

In part, we’re here because magical new technology (*coughYouTubecough*) allows us to do more than just pontificate for paragraphs on end — now we can pontificate for paragraphs on end and provide audiovisual evidence to back up those pontifications. We provide the context, share our thoughts and feelings, and let you commence with the guffawing and, naturally, the disagreeing. After all, the comedy sketch — short, sweet, completely silly or shot through with social commentary — worms its way into the public mind like nothing else, and has easily made the leap to the web when other forms have faltered.

Any list is bound by the limitations set on it — consciously and unconsciously — by its creators: we kept our 50 selections to stuff that’s appeared on television by choice, and to what’s appeared in English out of necessity. One must also bear in mind the availability of material; who knows what comedic treasures are lost to us because they simply don’t exist anymore?

But of the sketch comedy that remains viewable, this is some of the best.

I also think it’s odd/cool? they way they split the traffic between the two sites.  (I think nerve’s interface is better.)

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