One of the best things to come out of the creation of YouTube was increased accessibility of sketch comedy. We didn’t have to wait for new episodes of SNL to get quality comedy in four-minute segments anymore. People with access to a video camera, microphone, and sense of humor could entertain literal millions. More often than not, they ended up making better videos than SNL could anyway. If you’re looking for some of the best sketch comedy to subscribe to, you’re in the right place.
BriTANick is still active, despite their last sketch being uploaded last August, which was their first sketch since February, with a three-year silence before that. Most of their YouTube activity comes from the particularly productive time from 2008 to 2012, with roughly 30 of their 34 sketches coming out in those years. That’s a lot of time spent on either side of the camera, and when you’re making YouTube videos for almost free, it can be hard to keep up that level.
One of the main reasons we’re fans of the group is how consistently good their sketches are. Most groups have a few gems sprinkled throughout a ton of duds, but for BriTANick, if their name is on it, then you’re in for a great video. That’s mostly thanks to their brazenly honest creative process wherein the two of them have learned to say no to each other’s ideas. They both admit to being happier with their output once they did. It’s harsh, but it’s absolutely something that other groups could learn to do. Saying no shouldn’t be taken as a personal attack and it’s hard to hear, but once you get past the initial awkwardness, the quality of your work goes through the roof.
Most of their sketches demand a certain understanding that something’s going to be weird right away, but then everything else is going to follow the rules of that video’s specific world. That’s probably why their videos are so easy to identify after only a few lines, if you haven’t already seen one of them as a character. Some personal favorites are “The Faux Pas,” “The Coach (featuring Joss Whedon),” “The Morning Routine,” “The Morning After,” and especially “On the House.”
Since these guys started so long ago, you can see some decent names as guest stars, including Beck Bennett, Rachel Bloom, and Chris Lowell. Also, Joss Whedon’s a huge fan of theirs, which is why he took time out of his Marvel laden schedule to teach Nick Kocher how to pee. Link
In a lot of movies and shows, it feels like every joke is a repackaged insult, usually directed at someone’s perceived shortcomings or physical failings. We’re not calling for an end to that, we’re just saying it’s not the only way to make a career out of comedy. For proof, we have Improv Everywhere. The group’s mission statement seems to be make as many people as happy as possible without throwing any sort of shade. They’re like if Ellen DeGeneres made a sketch group, and we’re comfortable admitting we like Ellen because everyone likes Ellen.
Improv Everywhere doesn’t always follow a traditional, scripted sketch format, usually opting for a mix between large improvised group activities and sketches performed live in public. For the former, they schedule the No Pants Subway Ride every year and froze Grand Central a few years ago. They’ll also put together things like the Random Parade Leader, where random people get to lead a parade for a few blocks, and Best Buy Blue Shirt Takeover, where dozens of blue shirt wearing participants all wander around a Best Buy.
Their most well known scripted stuff is their “Movies in Real Life” series, where Ghostbusters chase white sheeted ghosts through the New York Public Library, Gandalf stops people from passing, Indiana Jones runs from a giant boulder, and Rocky once again jogs through the streets of Philadelphia. Besides that series, they’ve turned bars into taverns from the 1860s (a particular favorite of ours), Subway cars into time machines and late night game shows, and installed a real world mute button.
They largely accomplish their “make everyone smile” goal, as we’ve never seen a video that offended a member of the public. Even the YouTube comment section is largely entertained, and we’ve all seen how easy it can be to get them to go off about race, religion, economics, Pogs, street puddles, Fudgsicles, voyages to the Amazon, and virtually anything else anyone has an opinion about. If you can calm Internet commenters, you’ve done something special. Link
Some of the best sketch comedy has the simplest premise and it doesn’t get much simpler than Zebra Corner’s “If ‘Real People’ Commercials Were Real Life” series. Those of us still watching TV have seen the obviously-a-lie commercials claiming to feature “Real People-Not Actors” reacting to whatever shitty product they’re trying to hock, and we don’t think the commercials could be more insulting to our intelligence. But where most of us roll our eyes and try to forget what we just saw, Mahk decided to take action.
Mahk, himself, is about as real as a person can get, with a gray t-shirt, jeans, a refusal to shake hands, and the single thickest Massachusetts accent you can get this side of Mark Wahlberg. He consistently picks on Chevy, who’s absolutely the most guilty of this horrible marketing trend, though Burger King, The Bachelor, and Movantik are all targets too.
The green screen is one of the most blatant in recent memory, but we’re not faulting them, as top notch special effects aren’t what we come to them for. The reason we go to Zebra Corner is to finally see someone tell Chevy that their cars aren’t all that special, big opening doors don’t impress us, and the trucks are only passable even if you’re trying to sell them in Spanish. Also, Febreze is acceptable but it won’t cover up your sewage disaster of an apartment, try laying off the opioids if you can’t poop rather than adding another pill to the mix, and Deal Dash is just so goddamn stupid and a scam. Link
Honest Ads on Cracked.com
In the same vein, though delivered from a different angle and with a much higher budget, is the Honest Ads series from Cracked. It’s one of the only series Cracked makes that resembles their video efforts of the early aughts, before Hollywood level production value capabilities blinded them to what made their videos good. Tight writing, simpler, original ideas, and a cast that can sell the script. Roger Horton is easily one of our favorite sleazeball corporate types and if it weren’t for the factually accurate descriptions of unsavory (occasionally illegal) business practices he brags about, we might actually be tempted to buy something from him.
Each of his Horton brand products follow some general trend of modern times, including gaming consoles and developers, Wal-Mart level big box stores, car companies, and make-up ads. Each of their 36 (as of the time of this writing) videos has friendly narration courtesy of Roger, but each of them dissects their respective industry with an educated and intelligent sarcasm. It breaks down the veneer marketing firms put over whatever products they’re trying to sell and could accidentally make you smarter with your money. It’s kind of a short form Adam Ruins Everything, only far more hostile to the industry in its sights. Link
They might not be active as a sketch group anymore, but Derrick Comedy members are a constant presence behind the scenes, though D.C. Pierson has found moderate success on camera and Donald Glover is slowly but surely taking over everything in the entertainment world (a move that we completely support). They uploaded their last video about 6 years ago, but before that, they were one of the most productive groups on YouTube. They had a new video nearly every month for four years, which is a pace that fries most groups after less than a year. Think how many of your friends wanted to make YouTube videos and could barely make two.
One of the best things about watching these videos now is seeing Donald Glover’s humor take shape. The style that eventually came to define his contributions to 30 Rock and his character of Troy on Community slowly forms through the videos and it’s a great thing to watch. Their channel is also the only place you can find humor like theirs, which is a sentence that sounds like something that could apply to anyone’s group, but theirs is different. A lot of groups blaze in and fade out with plenty of the same kinds of jokes and punchlines, but Derrick Comedy puts out videos that no one else would have thought of.
For our favorite video, we’re sticking with “Jerry.” It’s a multiple minute long poop joke with Donald Glover’s unique physical humor all over it. On the best of days, we tolerate a poop joke, but that’s for jokes where the punchline is literally a piece of shit. For Jerry, it’s his insistence that he didn’t poop himself and all the different ways he attempts to come back to class. Then there’s the one where a kid pays an assassin to kill his parents for not buying him a new bike. So they run the gamut. Link
Few comedy groups pull the star power Comic Relief does. Its only rival might be season premiers and finales for Saturday Night Live. They’re mostly pulling British talent, so the jokes land a bit better if you’re in touch with what comedians and actors are doing across the pond, but most of their scripted stuff is worth checking out regardless.
More so than their comedy, Comic Relief is a highly successful charity. It was founded in 1985 in response to poverty and famine in Ethiopia and their annual Red Nose Day regularly raises millions of pounds (remember, British) to support both African and British poor. This is a group you can feel good about subscribing to, since their internet success directly translates to the success of the less fortunate.
Besides their wildly successful charity ventures, the thing we admire most about Comic Relief is how consistently they produce high quality comedy. A lot of groups like theirs often rely on star power to drive mediocre ideas, but most of their videos are fundamentally strong and then add stars on top of that. Their Luther parody has strong impressions from the support cast and the writing is tight, so it’s good before they even got Idris Elba to participate. Link
Describing Aunty Donna is going to be difficult, if only because there really aren’t any groups doing what they’re going. We can’t tell you “if you like X, you’ll like them,” because there’s nothing we can think of to replace the X. Something we’ve seen used to describe them is surrealist, and we guess that’s about the closest you can get if you want to say it all in one word. Their videos generally follow one single idea, but do it in a roundabout, absurd way. For example, Broden Kelly decides his lanyard is misspelled, so he tosses his coworkers around the office until his ID finally reflects his true Manbeast personality.
Something that always seems to happen with groups like theirs is that they become extremely well-known while also having no one ever hear of them. Their fanbase is wildly supportive and circles the globe, but no one we’ve talked to has ever seen them. They’ve had professional funding for YouTube series and companies have commissioned pilot episodes, yet most of their success comes from their live touring act, which rarely leaves Australia or the UK. They finally came to the US this year, but the tour was fairly short, enough that we blinked and missed our shot at tickets.
We know some people aren’t going to like their style, but we highly recommend you at least try a video. “Bigoted Bill,” “Bikie Wars,” “Subtly Spying on a Hot Girl,” and any of the “Haven’t You Done Well” installments are great starting points, showcasing the diversity of their humor and their ability to make consistently weird, great videos. Link