Master of None (Netflix)
A late entry to the 2015 comedy race, Master of None is notable because it has no interest in racing at all. Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang's series approaches every episode like a chapter in a book, tackling different perspectives and issues with empathy and crackling wit. Master of None definitely exists within the dramedy tradition, delivering emotional wallops that bruise even when you see them coming. But Ansari and Yang have such specific senses of humor that their characters still feel like believably funny people. Jokes aren't there just for the sake of it; they're part of ongoing conversations. So much of Master of None feels like you're eavesdropping on funny, flawed people just going about their lives, and depicting that kind of lived-in humor is much harder to achieve onscreen than you'd think from the unencumbered flow of their conversations. If I had to pick any character from this list to keep me laughing over a delicious meal, it would be Ansari's Dev.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)
Few comedies are as consistently on their game as Brooklyn Nine-Nine. That's especially impressive when you consider that it's the only show on this list that had to make a 22-episode season in 2015. Veteran showrunners Michael Schur and Dan Goor (Parks and Recreation, The Office) assembling such a stellar cast meant that Brooklyn Nine-Nine almost immediately bypassed any awkward stage to become a well-oiled joke machine. In the back half of its second season and the front half of its third, Brooklyn Nine-Nine continued to lean on its well-established character dynamics, Andy Samberg's raucous energy, and Andre Braugher's mellifluous bass to sell its jokes. Quite simply: Brooklyn Nine-Nine is my first stop for guaranteed laughs.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
"A woman escapes from years of captivity in an underground lair and tries to readjust to the world" sounds like a disastrous logline for a comedy, and yet Tina Fey and Robert Carlock's second show together (after the dearly departed 30 Rock) took the duo from NBC to Netflix and lost none of their charm or vigor. The world of Kimmy Schmidt is both Technicolor and full of grime — fantastical and somehow all too real. There are certainly stumbling points (seriously, why have Jane Krakowski play a Native American who howls at the moon?), and the show takes a couple of episodes to get going. But with Ellie Kemper and Titus Burgess at its core, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt eventually finds a groove brimming over with whip-smart jokes and wit.
Review (Comedy Central)
Review isn't an easy show to love, but man, does it commit. Andy Daly stars as Forrest MacNeil, a man so committed to his job reviewing "life itself" that he inadvertently blows up his own life with every escalating review. If the first season (which aired in 2014) pushed Forrest to the edge, the second season catapulted him off the cliff into the depths of existential despair. Okay, that doesn't sound very funny, but such is the power of Daly's performance as an increasingly unhinged and delusional man. Yes, it's incredibly uncomfortable, and yes, it's absolutely hilarious.
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (Netflix)
This very easily could have failed. This very probably should have failed. But Netflix's prequel to David Wain and Michael Showalter's 2001 cult classic was instead one of the most enjoyable comedies of the year, thanks to its absurdist humor and the palpable enthusiasm of its deep and talented cast. Not only did actors like Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Janeane Garofalo, Christopher Meloni, Elizabeth Banks, and Bradley Cooper return in their original Wet Hot roles, but a whole new set of cast members joined in, including Lake Bell, Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Josh Charles, and more. Even the fact that there was no way to get all of these actors on set at the same time became its own self-aware joke.
Key & Peele (Comedy Central)
When Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele announced midway through the fifth season that Key & Peele had come to its end, it was doubly depressing, because that fifth season only proved their show's brilliance all over again. Throughout the series' run, Key & Peele and its writers explored everything from racism to fragile masculinity to those drunk couples you see having an enormous fight while leaving a bar. The fifth season went for broke, putting director Peter Atencio's skills to the test with ever more complicated sets and homages, like the scathing musical "Negrotown," released early amid growing protests against police brutality. Key and Peele can rock silly wigs and spin wordplay with the best of them, but their ability to tap into the cultural consciousness and put words to our most conflicted, volatile, and pained feelings is what makes the loss of their show sting all the more.
You're the Worst (FXX)
This acidic romantic comedy could have coasted on its own cynical energy and Chris Geere and Aya Cash's chemistry for five seasons if it had wanted to. Instead, it immediately grew more ambitious in its second season, exploring why Jimmy (Geere) and Gretchen (Cash) are the damaged people they are. In particular, the show delved into Gretchen's clinical depression, giving Cash room to showcase her remarkable skills. (There's no overselling her: Cash is just magnificent.) But even in the depths of Gretchen's depression, You're the Worst still managed to find sparkling moments of hilarity, in no small part thanks to supporting actress Kether Donohue as Gretchen's best friend (a sort of drunk Betty Boop), Darrell Britt-Gibson as volatile rapper Shitstain, and Geere's ability to fit at least five facial expressions into a single reaction shot.
Fresh Off the Boat (ABC)
ABC's latest gem combines the sweetness of familial love with a brand of sharp humor all its own. With showrunner Nahnatchka Khan (Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23, American Dad) at the helm, Fresh Off the Boat isn't self-congratulatory about putting a nonwhite cast front and center; it's just confident in its ability to make people laugh. It helps that Fresh Off the Boat has one of the best sitcom casts out there, thanks to Randall Park as the earnest Huang family patriarch; three child actors with astonishing comic timing in Hudson Yang, Forrest Wheeler, and Ian Chen; and the incomparable Constance Wu as the incomparable Jessica Huang.
Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central)
No entertainer had a sharper upward trajectory in 2015 than Amy Schumer. Despite her increased prominence, her Comedy Central show took no notice of Schumer-mania, keeping its focus on sketches that wrapped incisive social commentary in terrific jokes. The third season fired off some of the show's best and boldest sketches, like "Last Fuckable Day," in which Schumer, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus skewer Hollywood's impossible standards for women past 30. Then there was "Football Town Nights," which used a Friday Night Lights parody to make ruthless fun of how athletes get free rein and undue protection when they commit sexual assault. Honestly, though, Inside Amy Schumer would be on this list even if it consisted of just the episode "12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer," a meticulous and star-studded spoof of 12 Angry Men that followed a deadlocked jury of men deciding whether or not Schumer is attractive.
One of the smartest things Amazon did all year was pick up Catastrophe, a vicious comedy starring Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, from the UK's Channel 4. Delaney and Horgan play two people who have one week of enthusiastic hotel sex, only to have everything come screeching to a halt when Sharon finds herself pregnant. Delaney and Horgan aren't interested in treacly happy endings; their onscreen Rob and Sharon characters are electric with passion and resentment. Catastrophe is unflinching and hilarious as it tears into what exactly makes relationships work — and what makes them fall apart.
HBO's series took a huge risk when it threw out its main premise — an ambitious politician is stuck as an ineffective vice president — and made Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) the full-fledged president of the United States. But the fourth season tackled the presidency's bureaucracy just as mercilessly as it did the veep's — with the bonus of depicting a cutthroat election cycle as Selina frantically campaigned to stay president. Selina and her bumbling team of type-A monsters managed to find themselves everywhere from Iran to an unforgettable round of congressional questioning. Special shout-out to Anna Chlumsky for delivering the most scathing rant in Veep's already storied history of scathing rants.
Broad City (Comedy Central)
Perhaps because it aired so early in 2015, Broad City is getting less attention on top 10 lists these days — and that's a shame. The series was more confident than ever in its second season. Creators and stars Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer produce comedy that is unapologetically brazen, flailing, and free — as ambitious as their characters are stunted. My favorite way to describe Broad City is as a "stoned 30 Rock"; the depth of its joke writing sneaks up on you from within a thick haze of smoke. While a couple episodes missed the mark, the highs of season two are just about perfect. For more on just how good Broad City can be, please see the sex-positive adventures of "Knockoffs," the bizarro-world Kelly Ripa encounter in "Coat Check," and the wild goose chase of "St. Marks."
BoJack Horseman (Netflix)
Netflix's first original comedy took time to settle into itself, but once its second season rolled around this past July, Raphael Bob-Waksberg's show knew exactly what it was: a deeply funny comedy about a set of truly tragic characters. It doesn't take long to forget that you're watching yet another show about how myopic Hollywood is, or that half the (excellent) cast is composed of walking, talking animal people. Even more so than the first season, the second season was a finely tuned machine, churning out jokes and emotional blindsides so rapidly that it could make your head spin. And the jokes weren't just dialogue-driven. Thanks to production designer Lisa Hanawalt, you can pause BoJack at just about any time and find five more gags lurking in the background, whether on a poster, a sign, or the furry face of a passerby. BoJack Horseman could devastate you one second then make you roll with laughter in the next. For that, it won my heart for 2015.
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