Weird, dark, and awkward: The best British comedy shows

Rich Fulcher and Matt Berry in Snuff Box
Rich Fulcher and Matt Berry in Snuff Box

The first time I saw an episode of Monty Python on television I was hooked on British comedy. As a teenager in the mid-80's I loved watching The Young Ones on MTV. And now, the last 10 years has been a golden age of British comedy. What follows is not a comprehensive list of every British comedy show -- just a selection of shows that I've watched or re-watched over the last decade. Feel free to add your favorites in the comments. I've loosely organized the list by genre, or by groups of actors who've worked together on multiple shows.

 

Matt Berry, Richard Ayoade, and The Mighty Boosh

Snuff Box

Snuff Box [Amazon | Netflix] - Matt Berry and Rich Fulcher play two hangmen who spend most of their time in a lounge drinking whiskey. The show is interspersed with Python-esque sketches. Snuff Box is only six episodes, and aired once on BBC 3 back in 2006. A DVD was released in 2011, and the show recently became available for streaming on Netflix.  You might recognize Matt Berry as the big boss Douglas Reynholm on the IT Crowd. Both Berry and Fulcher also appeared on The Mighty Boosh.

  • Garth Marenghi's Darkplace [Amazon | YouTube] - A hilarious faux 80's haunted hospital drama starring Matthew Holness and Richard Ayoade.
  • Man to Man with Dean Learner [YouTube] - A spin-off of Darkplace, Man to Man is a talk show that's a must see for Richard Ayoade fans.
  • AD/BC: A Rock Opera [Amazon] - A 30-minute 70's style rock opera show from 2004 starring Matt Berry, Julian Barratt, and Richard Ayoade. Noel Fielding and Rich Fulcher have bit parts, too.
  • Toast of London [YouTube] - Matt Berry plays Steven Toast, an eccentric failed actor.
The Mighty Boosh

The Mighty Boosh [Amazon | Netflix] - Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt are out there. The show also features Rich Fulcher, who Noel once described as "the weirdest person I've ever met."

  • Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy [YouTube] - A British Pee Wee's Playhouse set in the 70's on a bunch of psychedelic drugs. Surreal and bizarre.
  • The 2011 offbeat comedy The Bunny and the Bull [Amazon | Netflix] was directed by Paul King, who also directed The Mighty Boosh.
  • Julian Barratt from The Mighty Boosh was in the 1996 show Asylum alongside Simon Pegg. This show is a bit difficult to track down.
The IT Crowd

The IT Crowd [Amazon | Netflix] - Yes, the infamous "have you tried turning it off and on again" show. Written by Graham Linehan (Father Ted, Black Books), and featuring Richard Ayoade, and Matt Berry.

 

The Legacy of Monty Python

Monty Python's Flying Circus

Monty Python's Flying Circus [Amazon | Netflix] - The movies are fantastic, but the Flying Circus is what originally got me going on British comedy. The box set is indispensable.

The Young Ones

The Young Ones [Amazon | Netflix] - As a teenager, The Young Ones left a lasting impression on me. 30 years later and it's still weird and funny.

  • Bottom [Amazon | Netflix] - Can't get enough? Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonson of The Young Ones are bickering roommates in Bottom.
Little Britain

Little Britain [Amazon | Netflix] - Matt Lucas and David Walliams are two strange lads who play almost all of characters in this fun sketch comedy. Some bits are better than others, but when it's good it's fantastic.

  • Come Fly with Me [Amazon | Netflix] The lads play just about every character in this airport comedy. More hit and miss than Little Britain.
The League of Gentlemen

The League of Gentlemen [Amazon | Netflix] - What if you crossed Little Britain with Delicatessen [Amazon | Netflix]? This is a local show for local people. Definitely the darker side of British Comedy.

  • Psychoville [Amazon] - If you're a League of Gentlemen fan, you'll probably like Psychoville.
 

Simon Pegg, Dylan Moran & Friends

Black Books

Black Books [Amazon | Netflix] - Clerks [Amazon | Netflix] may be the ultimate movie about working retail in the U.S., but thankfully there's Black Books for the U.K. Dylan Moran is perfect as the grouchy, nihilistic book store owner, and Bill Bailey is his wacky foil. Simon Pegg's bit role as the chain bookstore manager is hilarious.

Spaced

Spaced [Amazon | Netflix] - Simon Pegg stars in this roommate comedy that's laced with cultural references, weirdness, and inside jokes.

  • Green Wing [Amazon] - More of a dramedy - I know British comedy fans on both sides of the fence about this show.
  • There are 2 or 3 wonderful, full length Dylan Moran standup shows on YouTube
  • A Film with Me In It [Amazon | Netflix] - Dylan Moran stars in this dark comedy where everyone keeps freakishly dying.
  • Burke and Hare [Amazon | Netflix] - I suppose selling cadavers for science counts as dark comedy. Starring Simon Pegg.
 

Awkwardness: The cringe humour of The Office UK, and Mitchell and Webb

The Office UK

The Office UK [Amazon | Netflix] - Ricky Gervais is an acquired taste for some, and funny beyond belief to others. This depends on how comfortable you are being uncomfortable.

Peep Show

Peep Show [Amazon | Netflix] - If you enjoyed cringing your way through the awkwardness of The Office, Mitchell and Webb will test your cringe reflexes to the limit.

  • That Mitchell and Webb Look [Amazon | Netflix] - Highly recommended sketch comedy from Mitchell and Webb with less cringing than Peep Show.
 

Further Explorations

Some additional shows that have been recommended to me that I haven't investigated yet.

  • Big Train
  • Nighty Night
  • Jam
  • Brass Eye
  • Monkey Dust
  • Human Remains
  • Rising Damp

So, Anglophiles, what other shows am I missing? I look forward to hearing about your favorite weird U.K. comedies in the comments.