It’s that time of year, folks. Yes, the time of year where we put our heads together and try to pick the best of the very best, from comics to movies to everything in between. Today we are faced with the herculean task of choosing the best comedies, and though many of this year’s comedy pilots didn’t make it a whole season, there were some true stand-outs that kept us laughing all year long. From the slapstick antics of Broad City‘s two saucy broads to Silicon Valley‘s awkward charm to tried-and-true favorites like Key & Peele, Bob’s Burgers, and Veep, there’s (hopefully) something for every comedy fan in this year’s list.
Note: These are in no particular order because choosing a favorite was too dang difficult.
Last Week Tonight, HBO
John Oliver’s brainy talent and swoon-inducing dimples are nothing new, and we were thrilled to learn he’d be getting his own HBO news show, but honestly, he had no right to make it this good. Last Week Tonight could have very easily been a Daily Show clone, but instead crafted a smart, heartfelt style all its own. John Oliver took the political satire a step further and did his own investigative journalism on topics that don’t always make the mainstream stories. From the truth about the Miss America Scholarships to the crisis in Ferguson to student debt to drones, each story not only delved deeper into what was going on, but provided real, tangible ways for viewers to take action. Not only did we genuinely learn something new each episode, we made new friends like the sexy space geckos, a pole dancing rotisserie chicken, breakdancing Lincoln, the Supreme Court dogs, and many, many more. How dare you be so good, John Oliver. How dare you.
Broad City, Comedy Central
It’s safe to say that at this point, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, the creators, stars, and general comedic geniuses behind Comedy Central’s freshman series Broad City, hold the keys to our heart (don’t lose them!). We’ve longed for a show like this as long as we can remember: a silly, sloppy, honest, unabashedly honest/gross/sexual comedy from two very real, very talented ladies. Ilana and Abbi’s two twenty-something miscreants grapple with everything from weird crushes to terrible temp jobs to incurable laziness to just being a person–warts and all. The UCB alumni’s web series was picked up by fellow funny person and Smart Girl Amy Poehler, who signed on to executive produce the show and ended up bringing us one of the best new shows of the year. With guest stars like Hannibal Buress, Seth Morris, Amy Sedaris, Fred Armisen, and Janeane Garofalo, Broad City is already a cut above the rest.
It takes some serious writing chops to consistently write your show’s premise into a corner and yet find incredibly funny, clever ways to pull them back out. Veep is a show about the how woefully inconsequential, embarrassing, and frustrating the job of Vice President can be. Over its three seasons, the award-winning HBO show has dangled the carrot of Presidency in front of Veep‘s Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) again and again, but by the end of season three, that dream somehow becomes a reality. With any other show, we might be worried about , but considering the caliber of cast (Dreyfus, Tony Hale, Anna Chlumsky, Matt Walsh, Timothy Simmons, Reid Scott, Sufe Bradshaw, Gary Cole) and stellar writing, Veep has our full confidence. We cannot WAIT to see Meyer & co. bungle the Oval Office.
Before you protest its placement in the comedy list, consider that Orange is the New Black so often toes the line between drama and comedy it almost can’t be classified. But the Emmys count it a comedy, and thus, here it is. The highly addictive Netflix series about a group of diverse, complex, fleshed out and nuanced women in prison followed up its successful first season with a sophomore effort that upped the stakes, added even more characters, and even stripped its story of the main love triangle that many viewers were deeply invested in. Though OITNB kicked off from the bisexual, slightly insufferably wasp-turned-drug-smuggler Piper Chapman’s point of view, the multifaceted women of Litchfield became the stars in season two. From newbies like Vee to old favorites like Suzanne a/k/a “Crazy Eyes”,Taystee and Poussay to new favorites like Rosa, each character continued to take stereotypes and expectations and flip them on their head. Keep it up, Jenji Kohan.
Silicon Valley, HBO
Confession: I may have watched all of Silicon Valley in one sitting. I’m not saying that it happened, but… it definitely happened. The story of six awkward, talented dudes trying to make it in the tech world is a perfect time capsule of accidental success. It treasures little moments, bombastic characters, and a collection of wonderful character actors — everything we’d expect from series co-creator Mike Judge (Office Space). It also happens to star some of our favorite people, those aforementioned character actors: T.J. Miller, Kumail Nanjiani, Martin Starr, Josh Brener, and adorable newcomer Thomas Middleditch. Silicon Valley takes its time (I watched the pilot one or two times before falling into that bingewatching k-hole), but it evolves into an absurdly fun farce you can’t turn away from.
Key & Peele, Comedy Central
In Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s world, no one is safe. The sketch comedy partners skewer everything from football teams to nerds to little kids to MEEGAN! They poke fun at a wide range of folks of all shapes and sizes, and play a multitude of characters with a seemingly endless amount of personalities and accents. This season, they switched up their usual structure of sketch, stand-up, sketch, and instead peppered each episode with car conversations between Key and Peele a la True Detective. Season four has heralded the return of favorites like Rafi, Carlito, Barack Obama and his anger translator Luther, and yes, Meegan, but also introduced us to new ones like this creepy, creepy kid. This year we also get a much-needed boost of episodes, bringing the full count up to 22. Here’s hoping our favorite valets make another appearance in 2015, because… how you gonna mess with the valets?
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, FOX
When Andy Samberg and Brooklyn Nine-Nine won Golden Globe awards earlier this year after only a few episodes, many were, understandably, shocked. How could a new show that seemed all too Parks and Rec-y (from the Parks and Rec creator, no less!) beat out established favorites? Well, by being very, very good, that’s how. Brooklyn Nine-Nine has managed to establish itself as one of the best comedy sitcoms on TV in practically record time. The ensemble is every bit as eccentric and lovable as its Parks counterpart, AND full of colorful characters that seriously deserved their own break out roles (Joe Lo Trulio, Chelsea Peretti, Terry Crews). Plus, it gave us the straight man/goofball combo we didn’t know we needed: Jake Peralta (Samberg) and Captain Holt (Andre Braugher).
Bob’s Burgers, FOX
Though we’re a bit disappointed by season five’s air schedule (so many breaks!), 2014 also saw the tail end of Bob’s Burgers season four, a season filled with conventions, slumber parties, a magician competition, the reunion of Linda and the Ta-Tas, a Halloween hostage situation, and of course, plenty of burger puns. Bob’s Burgers has solidified itself as one of the best comedies out there, not just in the animated category but across the board. Wildly silly, endlessly creative, musical, and full of enough sex-positivity to get Tina Belcher’s approval, Bob’s Burgers shows zero signs of slowing down.
Louis CK has nothing to prove. He’s had nothing to prove for some time; his talent, and his voice, truly speaks for itself. And after a long hiatus, he returned with a season that were more like episodic short films than a TV show. Tinged with self-aware romanticism and dripping with nostalgia, Louie season four peeled back Louis CK’s persona to reveal something painfully honest and worth a second, third, fourth viewing. It also had its fair share of controversy, but part of the joy of watching is unpacking everything you’ve consumed, and Louie gave us that in spades.
Review, Comedy Central
If you haven’t watched Review yet, please do so immediately — after you read this post, of course. The little show that could from actor, comedian, and writer extraordinaire Andy Daly is one of the most hilarious bits of TV we’ve seen in a long time. Period. The basic premise is this: Andy Daly plays Forrest McNeil, the host of a show who will try anything — literally anything — that a viewer suggests, and give it a review. Sound simple enough, until you take into account the sheer depravity of mankind… and also what a ninny Forrest is. The proposed life experiences range from addiction, racism, divorce, and… eating 15 pancakes? If you’re not sold after this video, well, I guess we can’t be friends.*
*Just kidding. We most certainly can be friends.
Honorable Mentions: Nathan For You, You’re the Worst, The Flash, Parks and Recreation, Jane the Virgin
What were your favorite funnies of the 2014 TV season? let us know in the comments below or chat with me about it on Twitter @RachelHeine!