The History of Comedy

The BEST episodes of The History of Comedy

Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!

How comedy has affected the social and political landscape throughout history.

Last Updated: 3/22/2022Network: CNN
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One Nation, Under Comedy
star
8.37
35 votes

#1 - One Nation, Under Comedy

Season 1 - Episode 4 - Aired 7/16/2017

The evolution of racial humor and how comedy about shared experiences can cross cultural barriers to unite people in laughter are explored.

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The Spark of Madness
star
8.27
11 votes

#2 - The Spark of Madness

Season 1 - Episode 6 - Aired 7/30/2017

The mind of the comedian is explored, as well as the difficult road that many seem destined to take where mental illness and substance abuse are remarkably common.

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F***ing Funny
star
8.02
94 votes

#3 - F***ing Funny

Season 1 - Episode 1 - Aired 2/9/2017

The evolution of inappropriate humor throughout history is traced, showcasing the work from groundbreaking comedians who risked their careers, prison sentences and even their lives as they fought against censorship.

The Comedy of Real Life
star
7.95
64 votes

#4 - The Comedy of Real Life

Season 1 - Episode 3 - Aired 2/23/2017

A look at how comedians find humor in the simple, daily experiences most people share.

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No Offense
star
7.94
16 votes

#5 - No Offense

Season 2 - Episode 6 - Aired 8/19/2018

There has always been a need for family-friendly comedy, and many artists have taken the task despite the inherent challenges. Comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Gaffigan, Ellen DeGeneres and Sinbad found success on stage "working clean." For comedians like Bob Saget, Tim Allen, and Whitney Cummings, they found themselves altering their comedic voices when they landed lead roles on network sitcoms. Writers for television shows across every era – from I Love Lucy and In Living Color, to Will & Grace and Modern Family have always found creative ways to use euphemisms and innuendo, while still abiding by the rules set by the what were often strict network censors.

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On Parody and Satire
star
7.82
11 votes

#6 - On Parody and Satire

Season 1 - Episode 7 - Aired 8/6/2017

Demonstrating how effective and funny it can be when you look at something serious and just twist it ever so slightly.

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The Funnier Sex
star
7.73
64 votes

#7 - The Funnier Sex

Season 1 - Episode 2 - Aired 2/16/2017

A look at the greatest female comedians and how they were able to succeed in every genre where humor is found despite rampant sexism and prejudice.

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Carnal Knowledge
star
7.63
16 votes

#8 - Carnal Knowledge

Season 2 - Episode 1 - Aired 7/15/2018

One of the oldest forms of comedy, sexual humor, has been a part of funny storytelling throughout history. From Aristophanes to Shakespeare to Sarah Silverman, the ubiquitous nature of relationships and sexual pursuits throughout life has made sexual humor an attractive topic for comedy—frequently pushing the limits of both comfort and political correctness. Whether it be Mae West or Animal House, Eddie Murphy or American Pie, sexual humor has always found a way to get past the puritanical and continue to land on the front lines of comedy.

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Drawn to Be Funny
star
7.62
13 votes

#9 - Drawn to Be Funny

Season 2 - Episode 3 - Aired 7/29/2018

Some of the very first "stars" of comedy came from the minds and pencils of talented animators. From Felix the Cat to Mickey Mouse and Popeye to Bugs Bunny, animated comedy dates back to the earliest part of the last century and continues to attract audiences today. Television programs like The Simpsons, Ren & Stimpy, and Beavis and Butt-Head paved the way for even more subversive and hilarious shows like South Park, Rick and Morty, and Bob's Burgers. Theatrical releases like Aladdin, Shrek, and Toy Story proved that audiences didn't have to physically see comic legends like Robin Williams, Mike Myers and Tim Allen to fully appreciate them.

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Gone Too Soon
star
7.60
15 votes

#10 - Gone Too Soon

Season 2 - Episode 4 - Aired 8/5/2018

An exploration of the ways the deaths of comedic legends affect their audiences and comedy in general and how that connection makes the loss more significant. Comedic performers connect with their audiences in a unique and personal way, so when one of them is gone too soon, the loss can feel more profound. Whether it be comedic legends like John Candy, Phil Hartman, Bill Hicks, John Belushi, Chris Farley, and Gilda Radner, or lesser-known comics like Patrice O'Neal, Greg Giraldo, Harris Wittels, and Mitch Hedberg, their voice is gone prematurely. Even when a comedian has been with us for a long time like George Carlin, Garry Shandling, and Joan Rivers, it still feels as if they had a lot more to say.

Sketch & Improv
star
7.59
17 votes

#11 - Sketch & Improv

Season 2 - Episode 2 - Aired 7/22/2018

Ever since Commedia dell'Arte brought traveling troupes through Renaissance Europe presenting short shows with improvised dialogue, sketch and improv comedy has been an important part of new comedic talent. On television, sketch comedy has always been present with Your Show of Shows, Monty Python's Flying Circus, SCTV, The Kids in the Hall, Mr. Show and In Living Color, providing decades of short-form comedy to audiences. In comparison, Saturday Night Live has spent over 40 years recruiting talented performers from influential improv groups to create the longest-running sketch show in American television history.

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In It Together
star
7.54
13 votes

#12 - In It Together

Season 2 - Episode 5 - Aired 8/12/2018

Comedy teams have always been an important part of classic comedy – think Laurel & Hardy, Abbot and Costello, the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Martin and Lewis, and Nichols and May. The tradition of comedic teams has continued over the decades with the examples of Cheech and Chong, Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, the Blues Brothers, and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. It continues to reinvent itself today in the form of sketch teams like Key and Peele, musical acts like Garfunkel and Oates, and twin brother stand-up team, the Lucas Brothers.

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Ripped from the Headlines
star
7.50
10 votes

#13 - Ripped from the Headlines

Season 1 - Episode 5 - Aired 7/23/2017

The origins of topical humor are traced, from the invention of the monologue to the "fake news" shows of today.

Politics Aside
star
7.00
10 votes

#14 - Politics Aside

Season 1 - Episode 8 - Aired 8/13/2017

A look at the many different ways that comedy has lampooned and influenced politics over the years.

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