best of 2023

Our 78 Favorite Comedy Moments of 2023


Photo-Illustration: Franziska Barczyk; Photos: Netflix, Patti Perret/Orion, Jonathan Browning/Netflix, Marcus Russell Price/Netflix
Photo-Illustration: Franziska Barczyk; Photos: Netflix, Patti Perret/Orion, Jonathan Browning/Netflix, Marcus Russell Price/Netflix

With the glut of stand-up, television, movies, podcasts, social media, and live performance, there’s never been more comedy produced on a week-to-week basis. 2023 saw a dramatic increase in stand-up specials, a resurgence of successful hard-comedy movies like No Hard Feelings and Bottoms at the box office, the continued run of acclaimed sitcoms like What We Do in the Shadows and Abbott Elementary, and institutions like Saturday Night Live and late-night TV continuing to dominate headlines — all while a pair of Hollywood strikes derailed formal comedy production for multiple months, pushing fans further into their podcast and social-media silos than ever before.

Ask any two people what made them laugh the hardest in 2023 and you’re bound to get two completely different lists reflective of their unique tastes, biases, and consumption habits. Ask enough Vulture staffers, though, and … well, you’ll still get a list reflective of our unique tastes, biases, and consumption habits, but one that veers slightly closer to a representative cross section of the 2023 comedy landscape as a whole. From the elaborate bits that had us cackling, like Cunk on Earth’s use of the song “Pump Up the Jam,” to the little line deliveries that tickled us, like Nadja saying “mall” on Shadows, here are some of our favorite comedy moments of 2023.

“Lisa From Temecula”

Saturday Night Live, February

Ego Nwodim is a damn star, and any episode of Saturday Night Live that gives her space to run amok is a fine episode indeed. “Lisa from Temecula” is a case study for what can make a 10-to-1 sketch so magical: It’s irreverent, not weighed down by trying to (ugh) satirize (yuck) current events (lame), with strong character work and a loose, silly energy emanating from the cast because work is very nearly over. Host Pedro Pascal and Bowen Yang giggling is one of those rare cases of breaking that feels completely justified: If you were sitting next to Nwodim hiking a leg up for leverage while sawing through a steak and telling you to stop hitting on her while a table rattled violently underneath, you’d crack too. Also, “Cook my meat” is the sort of catchphrase only she can pull off. A slay all around. —Rebecca Alter

The truth is revealed to Ronald Gladden

Jury Duty, April

God bless Ike Barinholtz’s dad. That dude held the final verdict of Jury Duty together. Alan Barinholtz calmly explained the premise of the show Ronald Gladden didn’t know he was on. It could have gone so, so bad, but there was a perfect alchemy between human golden retriever Gladden and the writers and performers of Jury Duty, making what might have been a vicious show in other hands a reaffirmation of human kindness. We needed those a lot this year! And God bless James Marsden for doing aftercare with Ron. Dude needed it. —Bethy Squires

Logan Roy: “Roast me!”

HBO, March

Succession finally admitted it’s a comedy. —Julie Kosin

Fake Carol Lombardini

Twitter, May to September

The class divide was strong this Hot Labor Summer — an angry, angry summer when the line between the workers and the people fucking the workers over shone bright. It fucking glowed, making an “us,” a “them,” and an unlikely celebrity of AMPTP lead negotiator Carol Lombardini. Do you know how bad at your job you have to be to get famous as an executive? The Carol Lombardini Twitter parody account was just one example of the solidarity writers found online. Dunking on billionaires became a national pastime way more fun than baseball. —B.S.

John Mulaney’s “Al Pacino” phone call

Baby J, April

John Mulaney’s first special after losing his spot as stand-up comedy’s No. 1 Sweetie Pie is a darkly funny, confessional coming-out party for the man behind the persona. Despite how deeply rooted in reality Baby J is, the comedic high point of the special just might be its silliest flight of fancy. While stuck in rehab, where a good chunk of the material is set, the comic received a call from his friend, Pete Davidson, who was apparently listed in Mulaney’s phone at the time as “Al Pacino.” (Don’t ask; it’s explained in the show.) Mulaney proceeds to act out his groggy side of the ensuing phone call, followed by what he imagines a starstruck nurse must have thought was happening on the other end of it. For someone generally not known as an impressionist, Mulaney’s Pacino is utterly uncanny — not just the voice, but the intonation, emphasis, and, well, every single thing he says. If nothing else, this moment will make it hard to ever see Pacino’s name again without hearing Mulaney say “Daddy Khaki Pants.” —Joe Berkowitz


Abbott Elementary, January

Quinta Brunson’s Janine may be the heart of Abbott Elementary, and Sheryl Lee Ralph’s Barbara its soul, but Janelle James’s Principal Ava is its hustle. She’s a cunning, confident avatar of grindset whose Nathan for You–grade entrepreneurial schemes are so crazy they just might work. In the season-two standout episode “Fundraiser,” Ava turns her focus to teaching the next generation of scammers her shady brand of salesmanship. She’s already hitting three-pointers with every shot in her first scene when she describes Jesus Christ as “a man who could turn water into wine and still only had 12 friends” while roasting a student for his shabby outfit. But when Ava starts giving students hands-on lessons in how to sell Baby Ruths ruthlessly, it’s like a symphony. The jokes flow out of her faster than the audience can process, and they only intensify when combined with the show’s secret weapon: adorable child actors who know their way around a line read. —J.B.

“Rebranded Mickey Mouse”

YouTube, March

Another borderline-techno-horror-capitalist-dystopian banger from Conner O’Malley finds him trying to pitch a dark and gritty rebrand of Mickey Mouse, like “Euphoria for Mickey Mouse” (the pitch document says, in shaky handwriting, that the characters will all be “BISEXUELLE”). By the end of the ten-minute video, the world has been destroyed by nuclear warfare. I won’t spoil how any of this gets from point A to point B, but part of it involves a Biden deep fake deploying the “Panera Bread Tactical Air Command.” All of this is smarter than Don’t Look Up.R.A.

Everything about Bottoms

Bottoms, August

Could not pick one moment. It could be the background gags, like how the school mascot is a dog with a huge dangling human dick (the team name? The Vikings, randomly). It could be the high-school comedy’s shocking death toll. It could be the blooper reel (see below) or Marshawn Lynch’s hilarious turn as teacher Mr. G. But mostly it’s Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri’s flawless chemistry and timing, like gay-girl Superbad. There was not a 20-second stretch of this film where people in my theater weren’t cracking up. —R.A.

Mae Martin’s snow-globes joke

SAP, March

Midway through SAP, a special packed with Mae Martin’s excitable brand of storytelling, the comedian delivers a bit of lightly surreal observational material that doubles as a great metaphor for their comedic approach. Each unique experience a person has, they posit, is like a little snow globe they keep on a shelf in their mind, and all human interaction essentially boils down to swapping our little snow globes in an attempt to reaffirm our flimsy senses of self. “I’m me,” Martin says in a childish voice, acting out an imaginary conversation by palming an imaginary snow globe and holding it out toward the camera. Even more than most comedy specials, SAP is an hour of Martin handing their snow globes to the audience — albeit ornate snow globes full of particularly well-crafted scenes — and this bit hits extra hard because it represents the perfect union of message and messenger. —Hershal Pandya

Luxx Noir London destroys Loosey LaDuca for bloodsport

RuPaul’s Drag Race, March


Luxx Noir London answers who should go home tonight  🤭👀 #Shorts #DragRace

♬ original sound - RuPaul's Drag Race

Drag Race often features comedy challenges, but the funniest moments are typically born elsewhere. That was the case when RuPaul asked the season-15 girls that evergreen reality mainstay, “Who should go home tonight and why?” While most girls answered directly, one contestant, Luxx, took another approach by going down the line and complimenting each girl, then finally arriving at Loosey LaDuca and complimenting her before delivering the “However!” heard around the world. “Loosey’s drag, I would have to say, for lack of a better word, is a little more on the more generic side. Everybody else on this lineup brings something a little different and unique.” When her speech finally ends, you can see even RuPaul holding back her laughter. It’s so ballsy, so needlessly mean, and so uniquely Luxx-ian in its confidence that there’s no choice but to laugh. — Jason P. Frank

Alf’s hog day

Bluesky, May

Just before Thanksgiving 2022, thousands of Twitter users spilled digital tears over the imminent demise of the platform. A red-pilled billionaire dingleberry had just asserted his ownership in the most cringe manner imaginable, and spirits were low. While the most pessimistic predictions proved wrong — Twitter is technically still standing, even if it’s not called that anymore — the app had become such a putrid zombie version of itself that it might as well be put out of its misery. But that initial moment of mourning found its spiritual opposite during Alf’s Hog Day on Bluesky. Of the many Twitter clones that cropped up in the past year, Bluesky came closest to replicating the dizzy euphoria of 2013-era Twitter, when brilliant, unhinged weirdos were cooking around the clock. Once the new app began to acquire that reputation in early beta, just as boatloads of Twitter normies washed up on its invite-only shores, Bluesky user Faine Greenwood accidentally kicked off a Sensual Alf trend. The details of how it spread are unimportant, but before the day was through, images of a certain nude, engorged alien from Melmac had become so rampant everyone from Jake Tapper to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had to comment on the madness of it all. Being there for it felt like planting a flag on a bold new world while the old one burned — and the flag had a crude photoshop of a near-forgotten sitcom character’s dick on it. —J.B.

Nathan Fielder’s insane little “nonverbal comedy” moment during comedy class

The Curse, December

Photo: Showtime

What Nathan Fielder does in this scene at the end of The Curse’s fourth episode is hard to describe — it all but defies being written about — but just know that he produces a sound and facial gesture so weird, unnatural, and upsetting that you question whether he is even from this earth. Maybe he isn’t? Is there some planet out there populated by even more awkward Nathan-like beings? If so, what can we do to destroy it to make sure this never happens again? —Ray Rahman

Maria Bamford’s big pratfall

Local Act, December

In her special Local Act, Maria Bamford covers a lot of the same ground she went over in her book Sure, I’ll Join Your Cult, also released this year. But as well received as that memoir was, Bamford is not a performer whose talents can be fully appreciated on the page. Rarely is that more evident in Local Act than in this bit about belonging to a 12-step program called Overeaters Anonymous. “What? A white woman was bulimic? How did it —” she begins, before collapsing onto the floor in a narcoleptic fit, knocking over the mic stand on her way down, and lying on the ground for a full ten seconds. When she finally collects herself, she immediately apologizes for the very act of taking up space: “I’m sorry, I lost interest in my own narrative.” —H.P.

Chris Diamantopoulos breaking cell phones

Mrs. Davis, May

Video: Peacock

You can make as ambitious a comedy as you want, but if you don’t have Chris Diamantopoulos in there playing a rambunctious little boy in a grown man’s body, it’s like, what’s the point? His routine of snapping cell phones in half after each use on Mrs. Davis was both so satisfying and wildly unnecessary — the true hallmarks of a classic bit. —A.V.C.

The Barbie blooper reel

Barbie, July 

Nothing was a bigger “we are so back” moment this summer than going to Da Movies in your cute little outfit, watching a comedy that people were taking seriously as art, then seeing a friggin’ blooper reel. The Barbie blooper reel made me feel like a child again. And seeing how the Barbs got to “Sublime!” made that moment even better. Gosling throws out so many choices, and it becomes clear how much work Greta Gerwig had to do in the edit in order to keep the emotionally resonant notes in the film. The whole movie could have been way goofier, but then it wouldn’t have also made people sob in the theaters. There were sillier lines attempted, but “Sublime!” was that perfect blend of stupid, pretentious, and desperately needy. It was just Ken. —B.S.

“Ramp guitar by Slish Valez”

I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson, May

Photo: Netflix

Sorry, “cellar door,” but you’re no longer the most beautiful phrase in the English language. That honor now belongs to “Ramp guitar by Slish Velez.” Like many linguistic innovations of the last five years, it comes from an episode of I Think You Should Leave. An early sketch in the show’s third season features a guy named Ronnie (Robinson) getting booted from a dating show just for being more interested in riding an on-set zipline into a swimming pool than he is in dating or anything else. A few episodes later, apropos of nothing, there’s an encore — the show’s farewell to Ronnie. It’s a wildly unnecessary recap of what we’ve already seen, namely Ronnie riding the zipline shot from every conceivable angle, sometimes in slo-mo, until all of a sudden, magic happens. The wistful guitar soundtracking this montage starts to go buck wild over a split-screen shot of Ronnie playing dead in the pool and speeding through a meal to get back into the water faster. As the guitar solo starts to go all the way off, it seems to match Ronnie’s accelerated leg kicks while descending the zipline again and again. When the music finally crescendos in a blistering high note, a helpful caption hits the screen: “Ramp guitar by Slish Velez.” Why would we need to know that? Who the hell is Slish Velez? And what even is a ramp guitar? Nobody has a clue. But the idea that anyone from that dating show would have strong feelings about these things is a lot of fun to think about. —J.B.

Roy Wood Jr.’s Bed, Bath & Beyond report

The Daily Show, April


The Bed Bath & Beyond coupons were crazier than we thought @roywoodjr #TDSThrowback #DailyShow #comedy

♬ original sound - The Daily Show

Retail comedy is an extremely niche genre, but Roy Wood Jr. is the master of it. Case in point: this report about the bankruptcy of Bed, Bath & Beyond delivered “remotely” from an area of Bed, Bath & Beyond. Wood, who has since left The Daily Show but should have been named its new host by now, hits on all the details that evoke the BB&B experience — the “miserable” employees, the customers who “look like they’ve given up on life,” the preposterous coupons with offers like “Free Refrigerator With Purchase.” He even points out that a stemless wine glass isn’t really a wine glass: “Bitch, that’s a cup!” This is the most correct and accurate statement that’s ever been made. —Jen Chaney

Jeremy and Rajat’s actors roundtable featuring Justin Theroux

YouTube, March

Jeremy Levick and Rajat Suresh really built an entire hourlong Hollywood-awards-season actors’ roundtable video, shot indistinguishably from the real thing, featuring real actor Justin Theroux, and filmed fake clips from fake series including Theroux in Ron Howard’s MLK’s Dresser … because Rajat was in Severance for like two minutes. R.A.

“Bruba Go Do”

Comedy Bang! Bang!, March

If the improvisational nature of Comedy Bang! Bang! means it can sometimes ramble, Gil Ozeri blasts through those rambling waters like a speedboat, leaving Scott Aukerman and the other guests bobbing in his wake every time he appears on the podcast. Ozeri has become one of the show’s most essential players over the past two years, thanks to characters like Ned Belanela, Busiest Man in the World. In “Bruba Go Do,” Ozeri spends 20 minutes unleashing audio cacophony as Ned answers phone calls for his various personal affairs and careers, which include Sweetgreen delivery, pet grooming, pitching theme-park rides, and assembling swag bags for the Oscars (“three Gucci butt bracelets — that means they gotta wrap around the ass”). But what puts this appearance over the top is Ned’s virtual assistant, Bruba: a dumb, contrarian Siri with about seven prerecorded robotic responses. Listening to Ozeri frantically interact with Bruba is the funniest thing I heard on a podcast all year, not to mention a wonderfully absurdist gig-economy send-up. —R.A.

The “you dare me?” kid from Asteroid City

Asteroid City, June

Photo: Focus Features

In terms of sheer joke density, Asteroid City might be one of Wes Anderson’s funniest movies, with the postcard aesthetic of its titular desert town allowing for all sorts of Looney Tunes–adjacent nonsense, including a li’l roadrunner that goes “meep-meep.” For my money, the funniest recurring gag involves one of the genius kids, Clifford (Aristou Meehan), who has a habit of interrupting other characters to ask, “You dare me?” Despite Clifford’s savant status, the “dares” in question are all things your average 12-year-old boy might come up with — jumping off the roof of a bungalow, pressing a big red button that says “Do Not Press,” eating a hot pepper. Whether or not someone dares him, Clifford always goes through with it anyway, yelling “It’s an experiment!” whenever someone questions his behavior. It all leads up to a poignant moment when Clifford’s exacerbated father (Liev Schreiber) finally breaks down and demands to know the why of it all. “Maybe it’s because I’m afraid. Otherwise, no one will notice my existence in the universe,” Clifford says, leaving his father stunned. Then he climbs a cactus. —Chris Stanton

Novelty Song Summer

Various, August

“Planet of the Bass,” “Padam,” “One Margarita,” Flyana Boss, Ken. Every banger this summer was the dumbest song you’ve ever fucking heard, and that’s beautiful. No thoughts, just thots. —B.S.

Pete Holmes and Mike Birbiglia roast each other

You Made It Weird, November 

Pete Holmes and Mike Birbiglia may have different comedy styles, but it’s a universal truth that if you get two stand-ups together, they can’t help roasting the shit out of each other. —Emily Palmer Heller

Beyoncé’s little birthday party hat

The Renaissance Tour, September

The Renaissance Tour was the loosest Beyoncé we’ve maybe ever gotten. From “she ain’t no diva” to her stupid little walk at the beginning of “America Has a Problem,” this tour was meant to invoke joy, and laughter is a part of that. But nothing on the tour made me happier this year than seeing Queen Bey in her silly little birthday party hat at her birthday show in L.A. Beyoncé, it seems, knows that the best comedy comes through contrast, and the image of the imperious Bey with the cake topper of an ever-so-slightly too-small party hat made me giggle every time I thought about it. —J.P.F.

Musical Brilliance

Parodies, covers, tributes, and originals that are as unique as they are bizarrely hilarious.

“Parents in Structured Hats”

Chris Fleming: Hell, August

Not only did Chris Fleming make one of the best comedy specials of the year, he also finally spoke truth to power with this song about bad parents who wear bad hats and are also bad dog owners. If you’ve ever had to share space with people too hip and wealthy to function, this will heal you. —A.V.C.

Dylan Adler’s Foo Fighters cover

TikTok, November


Me and my gay twin were simply dumbfounded! We hadn’t set foot in a gas station since 1987! I hope that straight man learned his lesson and got all the diesel he desired. And bless you Foo Fighters ❤️. We indeed learned to fly ✈️ #gaytwinbrothers #fyp #gaytiktok #musicaltheatrekid #comedy #gaycomedy #foofighters #sunhats

♬ original sound - Dylan Adler

Comedian Dylan Adler has an identical gay twin, and this video will make you wish more of your favorite comedians had identical twins. This video also features the second-funniest piano sting since Julianne Moore didn’t have enough hot dogs in May December. —R.A.

The only good Taylor Swift parody

TikTok, October


Also if she made a song out Matty 😂How Taylor Swift sounds to non-Taylor Swift fans. Beat made by The Chivers Beat Company #taylorswift #erastour #1989

♬ original sound - FODÉ

For much of this year, Taylor Swift was the news, period, so you’d think there would have been more, and better, comedy about her. At least we have this parody song from British musician Fodé Busia captioned “How Taylor Swift sounds to non-Taylor Swift fans.” It’s a fake song performed in the style of 1989 about recent ex Matty Healy, and it’s better than anything on Midnights. I take issue with the “non-Taylor Swift fans” qualifier, because the lyrics are full of loving winks to her songs (plus that “Cruel Summer” B-side of a chorus). Shout-out to the scansion of “Love the tattoo on your chest / Have you ever been arrest-ed?” —R.A.

Mandal Man’s “Hairline With the Braids”

Twitter, March

Warning: This song will get stuck in your head, and you will find yourself wandering around the world repeating the lyrics “lineup with the braids” at random intervals for the next few months. Is there much more to this bit than this catchy song and some very crude animations highlighting how R&B singers back in 2008 used to style their cornrows? Not really. But at the same time, “[Jalen Rose Picture] + [Alicia Keys Picture] = Now That R and B 2008” is exactly the type of mathematical proof we need the world’s best academics to abandon their current endeavors in favor of and start working on immediately. —H.P.

“Orbo the Digital Man”

YouTube, November

Every year I bemoan the death of musical comedy, and every year someone comes along to make me love it again no matter how hard I resist. This year, that person was Ian Lockwood, a comedian who performed some original pop songs at Vulture’s biweekly Pretty Major show at Union Hall. One of those songs, “Orbo the Digital Man,” has haunted me for months, doing double duty as an earworm and a Harlan Ellison–inspired horror-sci-fi short story. In the song, which as of November has a music video, Lockwood does a peppy duet with his cool computer friend Orbo, an AI “who thinks he’s real,” shrieking in agony because he’s “lived for thousands of years ’cause time works different inside the computer.” I recently went to see Lockwood live again, and let me tell you: Nothing’s quite as cathartic as singing along “Ow, ow, let me die please let me die ow” with Orbo live. Who can’t relate? —R.A.

Bowen Yang’s tribute to “Vogue” on Matt Rogers’s “RockaFellaCenta”

YouTube, November

This November, comedian Matt Rogers released his album of original holiday songs, Have You Heard of Christmas? Most of the tracks are polished, fully produced versions of the songs he’s performed for years both live and in his 2022 Showtime special. There are a couple of new music videos, including one for a song with MUNA. But the biggest new laugh on first listen came from “RockaFellaCenta,” a song that, in the special, was pretty much just about going on a cute date to see the “big, big, big, big, big tree” at Rockefeller Center. Now, it features a bridge from Bowen Yang paying homage to Madonna’s very slow “Vogue” rap; Yang rattles off daytime TV stars and stalwart NBCUniversal employees with the same deep-toned reverence Madonna gave to Monroe and Brando. I live for the forced rhymes and for Yang and Rogers doing what they do best on Las Culturistas: stupid-smart pop-culture jokes with layers upon layers. —R.A.

“Bachelor Party”

A Whole Lifetime With Jamie Demetriou, March

The stereotypical bachelor party, in which a groom-to-be lives out one final hurrah of freedom before marriage, is an increasingly outdated idea. But what happens when a mild-mannered teetotaler puts way too much pressure on himself to plan one despite being visibly mortified by everything it entails? Such is the premise of this sketch from Jamie Demetriou’s Netflix special, which crosses a distinctly I Think You Should Leave sensibility with a dose of British pathos and features some of the best line deliveries and facial expressions you’ll see this side of the former. The final beat, in which Demetriou recoils in shock after his first ever sip of a Guinness, is the single best sketch ending I saw this year. (See also Demetriou’s movie-stealing cameo as an English bulldog trapped by a “magical fence” in Strays.) —H.P.

Jackie Kashian’s Tiny Comedy Special 

YouTube, July

With so many comedians self-releasing unremarkably shot comedy specials in 2023 for little other reason than to create clips for social media, it can sometimes seem as if all the glamor and pageantry of specials has disappeared. Veteran comedian Jackie Kashian took this trend to the extreme, proving a point by shooting an entire special using a wireless microphone, the great outdoors, and the rearview camera of her car. It’s the world’s first and only special that makes me want to get better at parallel parking just by looking at it. —H.P.

Everything Ken Marino does in “Once Upon a Time Proms Away Prom-otional Event”

Party Down, March

Some people would assume that food poisoning is not funny. Those people clearly have not watched the fifth episode of the third season of Party Down, in which catering professional Ron Donald eats some rancid sea urchin and tries to power through an event despite the bacterial coup taking place in his digestive system. As Ron, Marino engages in physical comedy that is breathtakingly funny and genuinely surprising — his fall after walking into a bathroom wall contains more steps than an actual ballet. Basically, if you haven’t watched a sweaty Ron Donald poop into a pot in the middle of a kitchen, you haven’t really lived. —J.C.

Benny Feldman’s one-liners

Twitter, September

There was a time in the early aughts when you could throw a rock and hit dozens of one-liner comedians doing obvious impressions of Mitch Hedberg varying drastically in quality. As these comedians realized they could only get so far writing disparate, economically worded jokes without possessing any sort of unifying comedic point of view, this faction began to taper off. Benny Feldman is the rare comedian who can do both. Yes, the jokes in this clip are perfectly structured  — “I hired a bodyguard to protect my fish in a barrel. Not so easy now, is it?” — but what’s even more impressive is the fact that they’re all very clearly products of Feldman’s singular imagination. —H.P.

Craig Healy’s Seppita Mobile ads

Twitter, February 

Comedians Nick Corirossi and Scott Gairdner’s Craig Healy character (played by Corirossi) is a weapons-grade mercenary satire machine, and this year he came for Ryan Reynolds. During Super Bowl LVII, the duo posted parody commercials for fake, Healy-owned cell-service provider “Seppita Mobile,” promising “moreada bars” and “international rate root.” If it weren’t for Healy’s Pig Latin, these short videos would be stylistically indistinguishable from the white-void aesthetics of Verizon, the faux-humble celebrity snark of Reynolds-owned Mint Mobile, and the non sequitur joke style of seemingly every phone- and insurance-company ad campaign in recent years. Allan McLeod and Mike Mitchell knock it out of the park as “guys who get cast in commercials as schmucks.” —R.A.

Toast of Tinseltown arrives in the U.S.

Roku, August 

Every time a network writes Matt Berry a check, an angel gets its wings. Berry’s Toast of London sequel series arrived on Roku this year for American comedy fans to devour, bringing us that much closer to being truly free. —A.V.C.

Joy Ride’s pussy-tattoo reveal

Joy Ride, July

According to the rules of improv — famously the coolest way to start any sentence — the best time for a callback is right after the audience has forgotten whatever the performer is calling back to. This is something the creators of the ecstatically bawdy Joy Ride understand. Within the film’s first 40 minutes, they dangle the rumor that Stephanie Hsu’s character Kat has a “pussy tattoo,” leaving audiences to ponder whether she actually does have one, what it might consist of, and whether we might even see it. Those questions have likely evaporated after the alleged ink fails to appear in a sexually violent (in a funny way?) set piece midway through. By the time the trailer-teased K-Pop performance arrives 20 minutes later, that pussy tattoo should be the last thing on the audience’s minds … which is why it’s such a delirious comedic shock when the scene ends with a pantsless Kat sporting an enormous tattoo of the devil on her mons pubis — featured in close-up, no less. Thankfully, viewers are (almost entirely) spared a glimpse of the part of the tattoo that lives on Kat’s insides. —J.B.

The collected works of comedic geniuses Mustafaa Simpson, izzyplzz, and Alvaro Chavez

TikTok, March-November

The best New York–based sitcom of 2023 is a series of TikToks filmed on a definitely illegal rooftop space by three obscenely talented queer Brooklynites. Mustafaa Simpson, izzyplzz (real name pending), and Alvaro Chavez make videos at the intersection of Broad City, Portlandia, the 1960s surrealist Czechoslovakian film Daisies, and a scary dream. The boys pack their two-minute videos to the gills with jokes, always starting in the middle of a discussion about something relatively normal, like gentrification, dating, or being broke. Through perspective shifts, musical montages, pop-culture references, and every CapCut effect they can find, they soon spiral out of control — or into a touching memorial for Selena. If an Ingrid Michaelson needle drop or the words “Jack’s Wife Freda” are inherently punchlines to you, you’ll appreciate their whole deal. —R.A.

Bedtime with James Adomian’s MyPillow guy

Jimmy Kimmel Live!, January to December

James Adomian’s 2023 appearances as Mike Lindell on Jimmy Kimmel Live! were that rare bit of MAGA humor that was always welcome. Adomian takes what could have been a one-note topical character and imbues him with an aw-shucks naivete and palpable desperation that lets you sympathize with him in a way that’s hard with the actual insurrectionist pillow merchant. My personal favorite was his October appearance where Dominion was repossessing his office supplies as he talked to Kimmel. Adomian’s Chris Farley-esque willingness to go all-out for the laugh pays off when he manically sprays glue on his laptop and then a little in his mouth for good measure. —John Roy

Asif Ali’s snake-charming act out

Verified Stand-Up, November

Jokes about the importance of representation in media can err on the side of being a little preachy, which is the direction this joke about snake charmers from Netflix’s Verified Stand-up showcase appeared to be heading before taking a delightful turn into much weirder territory. In it, Asif Ali, an accomplished actor who’s popped up in projects like Wandavision and Don’t Worry Darling, begins to ponder how exactly people in history discovered that venomous snakes could be tamed by flutes, and he does an incredible act-out of the first snake to ever be “seduced” via this method featuring a whole lot of horny writhing and very little in the way of “important” messaging. —H.P.

Penélope Cruz throwing vegetables

Ferrari, December

Photo: Neon

As Laura Ferrari, Enzo’s rightfully unhappy, rightfully spiteful, and unexpectedly loyal wife, Penélope Cruz goes gonzo in full angry-Italian mode. Within the first 15 or so minutes of this movie, she has shot a gun at her husband’s head and ignored him at their dead son’s grave; she’s a wonderful whirlwind of hyperbolic line deliveries and eyes-narrowed glares. Her disgust with this man’s inability to keep his personal and professional lives in check is hilarious because her expressions are outsize, but she’s not wrong. Enzo is messing around, and he is embarrassing her! So when Laura gets home from a grocery-store run to find him gone again and starts throwing vegetables around their kitchen in a frustrated fury prompted by something snide her extremely petite mother-in-law says, all that catharsis is comedic, relatable, and triumphantly petty. It’s a great moment of physical comedy in an unbearably tense situation. Honestly, Laura should have lobbed something at her judgmental MIL’s head, too. —R.H.

“Shovel in the Dirt”

Instagram, November

In this short starring comedians Mekki Leeper, Zack Fox, and Langston Kerman, the former signs up for a hip-hop dance class online and gets a much more explicit lesson than he anticipated. Put Fox’s character in the hall of fame of guys who bluff their way through a clear lack of qualifications just by being extremely confident. —H.P.

Sam and Joel on Somebody Somewhere 

Somebody Somewhere, May

Many of the best comedy moments of the year were big swings with the goal of getting the audience to positively guffaw. But there’s something to be said for using comedy as storytelling like HBO’s Somebody Somewhere did so effectively this season. Sam (Bridget Everett) and Joel’s (Jeff Hiller) relationship is tracked not by heartfelt speeches (though there are some of those), but by their ability to laugh together, and that laughter was infectious. Rarely has an audience felt so let in on an inside joke, and that made it all the harder when we, and the characters, were deprived of it. —J.P.F.

Shoresy’s romantic overtures

Shoresy, October

Shoresy, the Letterkenny spinoff created by and starring Jared Keeso, tells the story of a longtime hockey player whose identity is a bit too tied up in the sport as he tries to reverse the fortunes of a dreadful minor-league hockey team in Sudbury, Canada. Between the show’s deft, intimate world-building and addictive comic patter, the six-episode first season brimmed with delights when it premiered in 2022. (It’s on Hulu in the U.S.) The second season, which premiered in September, generally failed to reach the same heights — the narrative stakes felt comparatively slight, and certain running jokes were hit a bit too often — though it smartly built on the will-they, won’t-they dynamic that exists between Shorsey and the town’s beat reporter Laura. The scenes between the two (here’s another) showcase some of the season’s sharpest, most distinct writing and tee up Keeso to enjoyably modulate his performance; it’s tough to imagine “I’d tongue-kiss a toaster to vacuum your fucking car” sounding so romantic coming from anyone else. —Neil Janowitz

The blue star turns out to be a chipper nihilist

The Super Mario Bros. Movie, April

Many of the jokes in The Super Mario Bros. Movie are exactly the caliber of joke one might expect from a 2023 blockbuster based on beloved IP starring Chris Pratt. (Donkey Kong at one point declares that “It’s on like Donkey Kong!”) But the exceptions are delightful, and none more so than when a blue star is introduced while going through the world’s most adorable existential crisis. It’s not even a crisis, really — doom has won. Super Mario Galaxy side character Lumalee (not to be confused with Lumidee, the Queen of Spanish Harlem) is having a blast in prison, contented with the knowledge that “time, like hope, is an illusion.” Voiced by Juliet Jelenic, daughter of the film’s co-director Michael Jelenic, the blue star sounds like a haunted toddler. Every time it speaks, all the other prisoners groan. (“We’re depressed enough already!”) It’s an inspired running gag, but probably not quite as funny for the many viewers who had to explain to their child afterward the concept of an “infinite void.” —J.B.

“Pride Parade”

What We Do in the Shadows, July

You know the minute you see Anthony Atamanuik’s face that season five’s third episode, “Pride Parade,” is going to be a What We Do in the Shadows all-timer. But somehow his “Ay, I’m being gay over here!” isn’t even the best line of the episode. I’d contend that honor belongs to Nadja’s “How do you feel about taking the virginity of a dead ghost?” or Nandor’s “We are very busy. A little bird recently flew into my bedroom, and I’ve been trying to make him my friend,” or the way Matt Berry proudly says “Mario who?” or the way Matt Berry says “Bullshit,” or, well, you get the idea. This is one of those whirlwind Shadows installments so rich with detail that you could leave it on a loop for a whole day and notice something new with every viewing. (It took me until my third watch to appreciate the twistedness of Colin Robinson owning two lava lamps.) Any of the episode’s four or five subplots would’ve been a perfectly fine standalone piece, but Shadows is apparently too ambitious to not have an orgy, trip to the beach, Freaky Friday, parade, comptroller’s race, speed dating, and voyage to space all in the same episode. After all, in the words of Nandor: “We do not go to space because it is easy, but because it is hard, and because it will be fun.” —A.V.C.

Frankie Quiñones as Luis

This Fool, July


We always knew Luis was a romantic. #ThisFoolHulu #FrankieQuiñones

♬ original sound - hulu

Frankie Quiñones brings an electrifying energy to the role of Luis, a quick-tempered yet silly and sensitive ex-con, on Hulu’s This Fool co-created by Chris Estrada (who also stars), Pat Bishop, Matt Ingebretson, and Jake Weisman. Like Igebretson and Weisman’s previous series Corporate, This Fool includes dark satire in its bag of comedy tricks, and Estrada’s punk-rocker lead character Julio is a bitter depressive, while Luis, by contrast, is a human ball of lightning who throws his whole body into big, broad, physical gags at every opportunity. Quiñones gets laughs portraying both Luis’s explosive anger and the softer, sentimental side he previously hid for years. Scenes where he attacks a mannequin at his security job and where he makes a premature marriage proposal are equally hilarious. The resulting performance powers This Fool through a highly rewarding second season. —J.R.

Tom Thakkar’s Apu impersonation

YouTube, July

Indian American comedians have been debating whether or not it’s okay to use an Indian accent as a punch line onstage for years, but no comedian has had a take on this as fresh as half-Indian stand-up Tom Thakkar, whose father left his family before he met him. In his special, Thakkar Noir, he gets big laughs by hypothesizing how this absence may have impacted his comedy career. “I can’t do a fun, racist impression of him that I’m sure we’d all enjoy,” he says. “It’d probably help my career a lot if I could do one. But yeah, I never heard him talk, so … I mean, I don’t want to bum you guys out. I’ll try one.” He drops into an exaggerated, inauthentic Indian accent inspired by The Simpsons’s Apu. “My dad would be like, ‘I do not want to be a father.’ Is that good? I don’t know what he sounds like. I’m trying my best. ‘Thank you, come again. Not to my house!’” —H.P.

Kate stops Ian’s flash mob

Starstruck, September

Photo: Max

Of the many laugh-out-loud moments featured in Starstruck’s near-perfect third season, none stuck with me as much as this joke from Kate and Ian’s wedding, where the preternaturally goofy Ian begins performing a choreographed dance with his friends to the Black Eyed Peas song “I Gotta Feeling,” and the always high-strung Kate cuts it off before it begins and yells, “Do it at your next wedding!” —H.P.

Malik Elassal’s unfortunate timing

YouTube, November

Most times, when a joke is considered “too soon” it’s because a comedian made a bold choice to address a hot-button issue before the audience has had enough time to process it and the risk does not pay off. In this case, comedian Malik Elassal had been preparing a particular set for a taping on October 7, one that just so happened to feature an extended bit about Israel’s former occupation of Lebanon, and he had no choice but to persevere with his planned material despite the news of Hamas’s attack on Israel breaking that morning. The room gets tense, but against all odds, Elassal successfully dismounts this tightrope. “Bro, when I woke up today and saw the news, I was like, ‘My taping!’” he jokes afterward, getting big laughs out of the idea that that was genuinely his biggest concern. —H.P.

Dina Hashem explains the political divide

Dark Little Whispers, November

In addition to single-handedly bringing back the art of the prank call, comedian Dina Hashem’s other major accomplishment this year was releasing her first hour-long special, Dark Little Whispers, on Amazon Prime. It’s packed to the brim with sly, caustic, self-deprecating, and politically trenchant jokes, so choosing just one quotable from it would be impossible if not for the fact that it features this instant classic about the difference between conservatives and liberals: “I think conservatives just like a guy like Trump, you know? I think they just like a con man — like an honest, straight-up, in-your-face, ‘This is what I am’ conman. Whereas liberals like more of a con … artist.” —H.P.

Yedoye Travis and Earl Sweatshirt talk about Shaq

YouTube, October 

Sometimes, comedy is as simple as setting up a camera and letting two naturally funny people ping-pong off one another about whatever pops into their heads. Seemingly, this is what happened in the first episode of That’s Deep, comedian Yedoye Travis’s “existential interview show” for Complex, in which Travis and his guest, rapper Earl Sweatshirt, wax poetic about Shaquille O’Neal’s generosity as a corporate spokesperson and human being. “I think Shaq is really big in China,” Earl volleys at one point. “He’s really big everywhere,” counters Travis, barely able to contain himself. “Sorry, but I’ll never say any[thing] funnier than this,” Travis later wrote on Twitter of this exchange. —H.P.

The Miami Vice shout-out in The Bear

The Bear, June

Everything about this throwaway moment in The Bear’s season-two premiere “Beef” works to make it a moment of welcome goofiness in an increasingly tense episode: how Ebon Moss-Bachrach covers his face while telling the alarm company that the password to turn off the siren is “gofastboatsmojito,” an homage to Michael Mann’s 2006 film Miami Vice, as if Richie’s a little embarrassed to admit his cinephilia in front his coworkers; the cut to Sugar, Syd, and Carmy sitting in a row, all of them seething a bit at Richie taking his time to intervene in the omnipresent noise; Uncle Jimmy, across from them, utterly nonplussed by both Richie’s phone call and the trio asking him for more and more money for this restaurant. The siren is an irritant, but it’s also a complement; no characters here are on the same page, and the energy Richie uses to overexplain the password (“go fast boats and then mojito, all one word”) further emphasizes that disunion. Miami Vice itself, though? Great cinema. Richie has taste! —R.H.

“Worst Day of My Life”

Instagram, October

Proposal fails are an incredible subgenre of internet content often played for laughs, despite the fact that the underlying event captured on camera is actually quite tragic. In this short made by comedians Ahamed Weinberg (the rejected proposer) and Holmes (a photographer he’s hired to document the event), the pair play out the aftermath of one of these fails in excruciating detail. As funny as it is to see Weinberg try to make the most of the photographer’s time after his girlfriend dumps him to take new dating-app pictures while still freshly devastated, it’s also touching to see the bond the pair form during this low moment, and the impossible-to-predict ending it ultimately leads them to. —H.P.

Kim & Aliya’s guide to surfing the web

TikTok, May


Does anybody else feel like the babysitters’ plot line was extra in this internet safety video? #90s #internet

♬ original sound - Kim & Aliya

Los Angeles comedy duo Kim Seltzer and Aliya Kamalova Forrest Gump themselves into a ’90s-era informational video about the internet in this TikTok sketch, in which they exploit the video’s stagey awkwardness by playing two babysitters lingering awkwardly in the background, getting spoken over, and offering details about their personal lives. The Jamison family doesn’t appear to see or hear them, which makes this a comedy video that borders on VHS horror. Give these girls an Adult Swim “Infomercials” slot, dammit! —R.A.

A24 Projects Featuring Nathan Lane

Nathan for you.

Chekhov’s pussy

Dicks: The Musical, October

When Megan Mullally’s kooky mom character, Evelyn, sings that her pussy fell off, it just seems like another outrageous and stupid joke that Dicks: The Musical fires off at a rapid pace. When Evelyn later reveals that she scooped up the runaway pussy and keeps it in a bag in her purse, it just seems like a silly callback to the first joke. But when, at the 11th hour, she saves the Sewer Boys by siccing her pussy, complete with eyes and teeth and labia-as-wings, on the sewer worker trying to exterminate them, it’s more outrageous and stupid than we could have ever imagined. Never has the concept of Chekhov’s gun, or the comedic rule of threes, been used to such surprising and delightful ends. —E.P.H.

The sex scene in Beau Is Afraid

Beau Is Afraid, April

Photo: Takashi Seida

To be clear, the funniest thing about Beau Is Afraid is that it exists at all. After creating two critically adored box-office hits for A24, director Ari Aster received the keys to the kingdom. He used that clout to secure a $35 million budget — four times as much as he got for his previous film, Midsommar — to make Beau Is Afraid, an impenetrably dark satire about what it feels like to be a middle-aged neurotic Jewish man. (The joke was on A24 when it made less than a third of its budget back.) The second-funniest thing about the film, though, is the moment when the titular Beau (Joaquin Phoenix) finally beds his childhood crush, Elaine (Parker Posey). It’s already a discombobulating shock when Elaine plays Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” from her phone to set the mood. By the time Beau agrees that the sex feels good while looking more terrified than anyone has ever looked and Elaine responds by restarting the song, viewers can only laugh to keep from screaming. —J.B.

Patti LuPone and Nathan Lane’s double act

The A24 Podcast, October

While both Dicks: The Musical and Beau Is Afraid had more than their share of laugh-out-loud moments, maybe the funniest thing that came out of either was two old queens bitching their way through an episode of The A24 Podcast. Patti LuPone and Nathan Lane rag on Broadway, people in their history, and everything they set their sights on. LuPone, ever the bulldozer, came in without any reservations, but she needed a straight man. And while Lane might be the gayest straight man on record, listening to him process what LuPone said then volley back with the perfect foil was a masterclass in conversation. Whether I laughed because it was purely funny or simply laughed out of surprise over what they would say on record, it didn’t matter. I laughed. —J.P.F.

Zainab Johnson showing rather than telling

Hijabs Off, October


Candy can save a kid’s life! #comedy #4u #funny #standup Full Special ‘Hijabs Off’ streaming NOW only on @Prime Video (Taylor’s Version) UPCOMING LIVE SHOWS! 12/22-23 Wilmington, NC   1/11 Manchester, CT   1/12 North Andover, MA   1/13 North Adams, MA   1/14 Brooklyn, NY 1/20 San Francisco, CA   1/26 Pottstown, PA 2/1 Traverse City, MI   2/2-3 Lexington, KY   2/15-17 Baltimore, MD   2/18 Charlotte, NC 2/23-24 Dallas, TX 2/29-3/2 Tempe, AZ   3/8-10 Tacoma, WA   🎟️🎟️🎟️ link in bio 

♬ original sound - Zainab Johnson

There are shades of Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette in the way Zainab Johnson pulls the rug out from beneath her audience in the final third of her Amazon Prime special Hijabs Off. After an intimate 40 (or so) minutes dense with autobiographical jokes, Johnson begins what seems, at first, to be a silly observational chunk about why parents need to give their kids access to candy in order to take away kidnappers’ primary incentive (“You got to arm your kid against the enemy”). But then, without ever losing her comedic momentum, she launches into an anecdote about a personal encounter she had with a stranger on the street as a child. It’s obvious the story is going to take a dark turn, but the consistent laughs Johnson gets thanks to her pacing and joke structure ensures its ending elicits gasps anyway. The idea that comedy can paper over traumatic experiences isn’t new, but credit to Johnson for demonstrating how this happens in real time rather than explaining it in explicit terms. —H.P.

Sam Jay on white people using the N-word

Salute Me or Shoot Me, September

Photo: HBO

In her second hour-long special, HBO’s Salute Me or Shoot Me, Sam Jay is so good at cloaking her material in a series of impassioned rants that, at times, it hardly registers as material at all. But the few times she says something that scans more immediately as a typical setup–punchline analogy, the joke hits that much harder because she doesn’t overuse this approach. Where this shines best is Jay’s joke about why she no longer gets mad when white people use the N-word. “When it comes to the word nigger — hard er — you got to think about the white people that are using it,” she explains. “When I hear a white person say ‘nigger,’ it’s never a white person on the rise … It’s always a white person who’s falling down the mountain, and ‘nigger’ is the last branch they could grab before they break their fucking neck.” —H.P.

The debut of Timeless Toni Storm

AEW, August to December

Pro wrestler Toni Storm spent this year steadily building one of the silliest and most outlandish wrestling gimmicks in the history of the form. After losing her championship belt to Hikaru Shida, Storm let the frustration and paranoia over her fading relevance slowly take her out of reality and into the mad world of Sunset Boulevard. Over months, she began talking and acting like a Gloria Swanson who lifts, eventually coining catchphrases like “Watch out for the shoe!” (after which she throws a shoe), gaining a butler named Luther, and adding an Eve Harrington–style hanger-on named Mariah May. She refers to AEW owner Tony Khan as “head of studio Mr. Khan” and pronounces the word “film” with two syllables. She accepted her next championship win like it was an Oscar she had to thank Jack Warner for, and she recently received a classic introduction from TCM’s own Ben Mankiewicz. It’s a gimmick that’s not only fun to watch but that invites comparisons between modern pro wrestling and the classic Hollywood studio system, which is very interesting! —A.V.C.

Django Gold on libertarians

YouTube, September

With his oddball sense of humor, flair for language, and ability to oscillate between deeply dark observations and absurdist fodder, Django Gold’s YouTube special Bag of Tricks is one 2023’s most underrated. Look no further than this bit critiquing libertarian ideology, which he calls a “movement of codified selfishness,” before imagining how a libertarian might tackle the problem of an elderly woman on an airplane struggling to put her bag in the overhead compartment. (Hint: They’d simply “let her die.”) —H.P.

A perfect sitcom pilot

Primo, May

Amazon Freevee’s Primo had one of the best sitcom pilots I’ve seen in years. The Shea Serrano-created and Mike Schur-produced sitcom centers on a Texas high-school boy (Ignacio Diaz-Silverio) raised by his mother (Christina Vidal) with the help of her five wildly different brothers. That alone is already new ground for television, but the actors make it immediately relatable. The joke-dense script is every bit as sharp as previous Schur efforts (the Wolf of Wall Street moment from Carlos Santos’s hustle-bro uncle Ryan is one laugh-out-loud example). Hopefully enough people catch on to this excellent contemporary comedy with classic television influences so it gets the follow-up seasons it deserves. —J.R.

Chico Bean dancing with an auntie in the audience

85 South: Ghetto Legends, June

Photo: Netflix

Bottling the energy of live comedy onscreen is a notoriously tricky proposition, and few succeeded at doing so in 2023 as effectively as Karlous Miller, DC Young Fly, and Chico Bean from The 85 South Show. Their improvised Netflix special Ghetto Legends is a gigantic party packed with live music, stand-up, and impromptu roasts, and the loving shots of the raucous crowd make the room’s excitement palpable even to viewers watching at home. At one point during a song they’re riffing, their keyboard player — legendary producer Bryan Michael Cox, of all people — starts playing some soulful chords, overwhelming Chico with the urge to walk into the crowd and “dance with your auntie.” Right on cue, an older lady rises from her seat, the pair make their way toward each other as if pulled together by magnetic attraction, and they launch into a flirty dance like the two most fun guests at a wedding reception. Cut to Miller quipping, “Chico, you about to fuck around and be somebody’s step-granddaddy in this bitch.” —H.P.

Nate Bargatze’s bad timing in “Washington’s Dream”

Saturday Night Live, October 

It’s usually funny when hosts break on Saturday Night Live, but what stand-up comedian Nate Bargatze does in this sketch isn’t exactly that. This isn’t like Ryan Gosling’s endless giggling during Kate McKinnon’s alien-abduction bit or Pedro Pascal melting down while Ego Nwodim vigorously sawed into her steak as Lisa from Temecula; Bargatze isn’t dropping his character or disrupting the flow of the sketch. Instead, his stumbling over the lines and his timing lag actually add to the sketch’s absurdity, to the idea that Revolutionary War hero, Founding Father, and first President George Washington would single-handedly instill all of America’s most irritating eccentricities of language but also refuse to engage with the idea of racial equality when directly asked about it. His unexpected emphasis on certain words and his overall awkwardness add to the friction the sketch builds between the heroic, principled Washington romanticized in American history and the committed ignorance he sticks to here, and while Bargatze is solid throughout the episode, the blank stare he throws to the audience after Kenan Thompson requests America be a land of freedom for everyone is his best touch. —R.H.

Cole Escola’s Our Home Out West

YouTube, November 

Oops, Cole Escola slipped and accidentally released a half-hour masterpiece of a Christmas special displaying their unparalleled talents as not just a comedian and actor but a master of form, really, and a champion of style, actually, a celebration of treacle and raunch in equal measure that people will gather together to watch every Yuletide season forever. Escola deserves the world’s biggest budget to truly realize their grand visions, but until then, they do a miraculous job making do with cardboard sets and good wigs. —R.A.

Kenny DeForest’s stand-up special

YouTube, August

In Kenny DeForest’s Don’t You Know Who I Am?, the stand-up packs compelling stories, like the opener about the game where he gave up his pro-basketball dreams, with colorful language and solid punchlines. He’s aware of how he comes across and plays off it effortlessly, at one point referring to himself as looking like someone “who just stormed the capitol.” It’s the special of a comic who has found their voice and knows just what they want to say with it, and it makes you eager to hear what DeForest will tackle next, which is why it’s all the more tragic that we lost him this year. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying Do You Know Who I Am? the way DeForest intended you to. Allow him into your heart the way you would any comic, and be happy he put out a rare autobiographical stand-up special that still manages to deliver wall-to-wall jokes for the entire 50 minutes. —J.R.

“Pump Up the Jam”

Cunk on Earth, January

The Netflix mockumentary Cunk on Earth chronicles world history in a way that is both deeply absurdist and cuttingly smart. An example of the former is the series’ insistence on using Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam” as a point of reference to contextualize the timeline of major historic events. “Christ’s message was spread far and wide by the apostles almost 2,000 years before the release of Belgian techno anthem ‘Pump Up The Jam,’” host Philomena Cunk (Diane Morgan) says in one episode, for example, before a hard cut to the song’s music video, which appears in every episode for up to 45 seconds. As the video plays, fun facts appear at the bottom of the screen, like “When this video was first broadcast, audiences feared it was real, and that jam would be pumped into their homes through the screen.” Initially, this seems like a hilarious one-off gag, but the reveal of it being a recurring bit heightens the joke, and because of how inherently out of left field these segues are, they feel surprising every time. By the last episode, history finally catches up to “Pump Up The Jam,” with the fall of the Berlin Wall coinciding with the song topping the charts. An incredible payoff. —Tom Smyth

George Santos goes head-to-head with Ziwe

YouTube, December

If laughter is the soul of comedy, where does a gasp, followed by eyes bulging out of your head, followed by nervous laughter alone in your room fall? That’s what Ziwe’s George Santos interview elicited when, toward the end, she pressed the former representative on how we can get him to go away. “Stop inviting me to your gigs,” Santos said. “But you can’t. Because people want the content.” The moment revealed an insight that Santos’s lack of knowledge about Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, and James Baldwin couldn’t take away: He’d gotten one over on Ziwe, and she couldn’t take the moment out because in a culture where gags go viral, his moment of self-knowledge was the biggest gag of all. — J.P.F.

“Darmine Doggy Door”

I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson, May

I Think You Should Leave has a knack for giving voice to the sheer panic inherent in being alive right now. This year, “Darmine Doggy Door” served as the flagship sketch for a much-needed third season, an heir to Karl Havoc’s nihilist musings. But unlike Karl, the salesman trying to get you to invest in a doggy door does want to be around some more; he just can’t believe the conditions in which we’re expected to exist. Cries of “WHAT THE FUCK?” and “WHAT THE FUUUCK?!” resonate hard with those of us who wake up every day screaming exactly that. The salesman marvels in horror at the relief the thought of his own death produces, before raging at the faltering civilization pushing him to this point. “What the fuck is this world? What have they done to us?” he asks the viewers, who can do nothing but ask it right back. “WHAT DID THEY DO TO US?!” he cries, I cry, we all cry out into the abyss. It is hilarious. —A.V.C.

Our 78 Favorite Comedy Moments of 2023