The Office – Diversity Day (S01E02)

“You’ll notice I didn’t have anybody being Arab. I thought that would be too explosive. No pun intended. But I just thought, “Too soon for Arabs.” Maybe next year. Um… You know, the ball’s in their court.”

With the pilot of The Office being quite literally a remake of the pilot from the British series, “Diversity Day” is the U.S. series’ first real go at it. And one hell of a go it is. The episode centers around the coming of a speaker to teach the employees of Dunder Mifflin about the importance of tolerance and diversity. Or so we think: it’s later revealed that the speaker, Mr. Brown (not a test, that’s his real name), only needed to collect a signature from boss Michael Scott. All the other signatures? Just so he could save face in front of his staff. With a sour taste left in his mouth, Scott decides to do his own diversity day. And the results are amazing. The peak of this episode involves a note-card-on-the-forehead type game, where instead of famous people, everyone has to guess which race they have. These scenes are a gold mine of hilarious exchanges, such as Kevin and Angela’s “Wanna get high?” “No.” “I think you do… mon.”, or Pam and Dwight’s “OK, if I have to do this, based on stereotypes that are totally untrue, that I do not agree with, you would maybe not be a very good driver.” “Aw, man, am I a woman?!?” The Office always hit the nail on the head when it comes to typical human behavior when put in an uncomfortable situation, and this episode in particular really pushes the discomfort, see Michael Scott doing an insanely racist imitation of an Indian convenience store owner to Kelly Kapoor, finally, or (who else) Scott asking Oscar Martinez if there’s something “less offensive” than Mexican he can call him. After all, there are certain connotations. If someone ever asks you to show them the line between racist and hilarious, just show them “Diversity Day” and they’ll understand.

Seinfeld – The Pez Dispenser (S03E14)

“You’re breaking up with me?”
“I… am breaking up with… you.”
“Wow.”
“Shocked?”
“I really am.”
“Never expected this did you?”

What did Seinfeld do better than pointing out the quirks of human socialization? And what, if anything, pointed out the quirks of human socialization better than Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David’s 90’s TV sensation? This episode finds George Costanza dating a woman, Noel, who is by all accounts (George’s most of all) well out of his league. Sensing that he would soon be dumped, George take’s pal Cosmo Kramer’s “incredible” advice and decides to outmaneuver her with “a preemptive breakup”. And it works. George now has all the hand. The scene where he pulls off the breakup is marvelously revealing of George’s true inner piece-of-shit: he goes in thinking that at best he would be escaping this relationship with his dignity intact, and soon finds himself saying that Noel should be thinking about him at all times when she plays piano. What a guy. The other subplots of this episode hold plenty of water in their own right: Kramer’s attempts to market a cologne that smells like the beach and Jerry being forced to host an intervention (it’s not a surprise party!). The culmination of this episode, though, has to be when George finally gets his comeuppance. After finding out the George’s close friend Elaine was laughing through one of her recitals, Noel gives George a taste of his own medicine and dumps him on the spot, leading to one of the classic exchanges of the series: “You can’t break up with me! I’ve got hand!” “And you’re going to need it!” It’s almost a sin to have to choose one episode of Seinfeld, as there are plenty of classics that never fail to leave me in stitches, but the astute social commentary and overall hilarity of “The Pez Dispenser” make it my choice for this countdown.

The Mighty Boosh – The Nightmare of Milky Joe (S02E06)

“Ahh, take care Bollo. I’ll never forget you. We’ve had some crazy times here, have’t we… hehe. See you.”
“See ya, Harold.”
“Howard.”
“Oh, yeah.”

In a series which made its name from its absurdity, “The Nightmare of Milky Joe” stands it’s ground as a truly bizarre, and truly hilarious, bit of comedy. This episode finds Howard Moon and Vince Noir setting sail for the U.S.A. to make it big as musicians. Their plans hit a speed-bump, however, when they get thrown overboard when the captain finds Vince cutting his hair in the middle of the night. After some time stranded on a desert island, a sense of isolation sets in and forces our protagonists to go to extreme lengths to deal with their loneliness. This manifests itself in Milky Joe, a coconut on a stick Howard shares deep discussions with about jazz and Sartre: Milky even does a series of lectures on geology. Unfortunately for Howard, he soon finds himself one upped by Vince, who fashions himself not one, but two female coconut people to keep him company. Men have needs, after all, and Howard soon procures one of the two female coconut people and the two form a happy relationship. No, no, not happy. An abusive relationship. Howard is being abused by his coconut wife, and soon finds himself in hot water when he accidentally murders her when he finally decides to stand up for himself. Remember: stands up to an abusive coconut on a stick. Things snowball out of control for our heroes, as the pair find themselves in coconut court after working together to try and hide the corpse, and Milky Joe turns on them, delivering a scathing testimony against Howard’s character. The Mighty Boosh knows absurd, and “The Nightmare of Milky Joe” is like an absurd layer cake, with each absurd layer just that much more absurd than the one before.

Community – Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design (S02E09)

“There he is… what the hell is this?!”
“Latvian independence parade. … Don’t look at me, they had the proper permits!”
“Dang it! We lost him! Luckily, I sent the diorama car to the chem lab to have the explosive analyzed, we can -“
“Isn’t that him playing the trejdeksnis?”

I fell in love with Community as soon as it aired back in 2009, with it’s blend of smart, witty writing and zany circumstances blending nicely for some excellent comedy. And no episode exemplifies this blend more than season 2’s “Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design”. The action begins with Jeff Winger being confronted by the dean of Greendale Community College about a certain independent study he was doing that semester: Conspiracy Theories in American History. While the topic sounds viable, sure enough, Winger’s ploy was completely bogus, he even stooped so low as to say he was doing the study under the guidance of a certain Professor Professorson (supposedly it’s Dutch for ‘professor’). Determined to fight his way to his own bitter end, Winger takes Dean Pelton, as well as an interested Annie Edison, to where this Professor Professorson’s office supposedly is. And much to the viewers, and Jeff’s surprise: he exists. While Jeff is satisfied to simply chalk it up to dumb luck, Annie is not so easily sated, and launches a full scale investigation, finding out that Professor Professorson was actually a student who faked a class and wound up having to fake a whole night school as his lie snowballed out of control. The episode culminates in a wild series of double crossings and fake outs, with the coup-de-grace being a local police officer showing up to warn the group about the dangers of fake guns. And not without reason: in 100% of fake gun related shootings, the victim is the one with the fake gun.

Spaced – Mettle (S02E03)

“What’s that?”
“It’s an axe.”
“It’s a bit dangerous, isn’t it?”
“Yeeaaaahhhhh.”

While most know about the brilliance of Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, and Nick Frost through works such as Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, it was the TV series Spaced where the trio made their start, employing the same reference-laden humor that endeared us all to Shaun. In “Mettle”, three subplots find three of the show’s main characters all with their, well, mettle put to the test in various ways: Tim and Mike forced to rebuild a sabotaged robot which they were planning to use in robot wars, Daisy needing to put in an actual day’s hard work, and Brian having to come up with a last second installment for an art gallery after Paolo Vincenzo pulled out. This episode is full of pop culture references, Daisy almost leads a revolt against the wicked manager of the “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”-like restaurant in which she finds herself employed, and Time and Mike seek revenge against their robot saboteurs in an underground robot-wars arena (the first rule of robot club is you do not talk about robot club. The second rule is… no smoking). The lifeblood of this episode is in Brians escapades, knocking himself unconscious with a can of paint as he was searching for the last missing ingredient for his gallery installation. Things go swimmingly for our protagonists, landlady Marsha Klein even goes so far as to Brians piece “a knock out”, much to the chagrining amusement of Brian himself. Tim and Mike get their revenge, and Daisy escapes her job with dignity intact as well. Though the series was cut short before it had the chance to end well, in this particular episode, everything does.

(This clip isn’t actually from the episode, but it’s still amusing)

And there you have it, my top 5 most entertaining episodes of TV comedy. I hope you enjoyed reading it, and if you ever have the time, give some of these a watch. I’m sure you’ll enjoy them.