TV is often used as an escape from the morbid reality of the real world we have to wake up to each day. Mass shootings, political upheaval, and financial inequality are just some of the issues on the collective mind of the populace, and entertainment can both reflect and deflect these topics in brilliant ways for us. Happy-go-lucky shows like Friends or Ted Lasso are simple and funny; these programs are pure distraction from the world. Sometimes we want something with a little more realism and intrigue, though, a show with commentary on life’s troubles, but without the burden of getting bogged down in a depressive state.
Enter dark comedy shows. This genre is an amalgam of serious-natured storytelling with a humorous twist. It’s easier to cry than it is to laugh at the dystopia of everyday life, but these genius stories are here to turn a frown upside down. We’ll supply the best dark comedy TV shows for you to laugh at, albeit with some guilt.
Many people wondered what Succession was about when it first started. Now a better question is, what isn’t it about? Jesse Armstrong has crafted an unhinged yet artfully specific critique of family trauma and the ways money and power don’t buy happiness. The Roy children should be happy about the incessant allowances delivered by nepotism. Instead, they have no social awareness, no ability to love, and certainly no capabilities in the world of business. The best episodes of Succession ride that fine line between cartoonishly funny dialogue and solemn, introspective therapy session. Jeremy Strong gives an especially strong performance as Kendall Roy, the child in the Roy family who just can’t get out of his own way, and we don’t know whether to laugh or cry with him.
If you take a small glimpse into the room of a person watching David Chase’s mob drama, you’ll wonder whether they’re watching a violent crime show or a slapstick comedy hour at the club down the street. The conversations that take place between Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and his cronies are only surpassed in laughs by the bickering between Tony and his wife and kids. The Sopranos was revolutionary in its day, and it still holds up as HBO’s ultimate drama because it’s completely in touch with the dynamics of human social interactions. The program is hyper-authentic, right down to the musings of Tony’s therapist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco). Tune into the show not just to see a mob hit, but also to enjoy misunderstood innuendos at an Italian-American dinner party.
Of all the adult cartoons you could watch, BoJack Horseman is the one that will make you think the most. Will Arnett’s tremendous voice work gives BoJack a sympathetic nature that’s hard to resist as he tries to overcome self-doubt, childhood regret, alcoholism, and a slew of other very real issues through the lens of an anthropomorphic horse. The sharp writing helps viewers see the humor in even the darkest of personal problems faced by these likable characters. Aaron Paul and Alison Brie provide excellent supporting voice work.
Vince Gilligan’s crime series became one of the darkest on TV by the end of its run. That shouldn’t overshadow the simple fact that watching Bryan Cranston parade around in his underwear and navigate the world of meth manufacturing in the first couple seasons was downright funny. The rapport that Cranston had with co-star Aaron Paul also was a strong contributor to the dark humor associated with their early partnership. Making people imagine their own high school chemistry teachers reacting to cancer the way Walter White did was sure to illicit more than just a chuckle!
One of the longest-running dark comedy shows on television, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is not going to be everyone’s taste, even those who have a twisted sense of humor. The ensemble cast of misfits who pull cringe pranks and desecrate each other’s names is an extreme example of unhinged satire. From burning houses down to poisoning folks who most certainly don’t deserve it, this FX cult classic turns the tables on the audience by making a mockery of things you should absolutely never find funny.
Similar to Succession, Mike White’s beautifully shot anthology series puts a microscope on the narcissism and lack of empathy that stews inside those with too many zeroes on the ends of their bank balances. The White Lotus makes us laugh at the ineptitude of the rich in completely novel ways, often through awkward dialogue and outrageous comments between characters that would make us sweat pure embarrassment in real life. The third season is heading to Asia, and we’re sure the cast of one-percenters will have plenty of casual racism for the locals.
Bill Hader has been a comedic mainstay on TV for ages through skit shows like Saturday Night Live, but Barry is an entirely different flavor of humor. Playing a hitman who finds himself completely out of his comfort zone in Los Angeles, Hader infuses this tragicomedy with dramatic undertones that ground the constant stream of surrealist humor. The fourth and final season is airing in spring 2023 on HBO Max.
Michael C. Hall makes this otherwise thrilling and dark crime drama quite the funny vehicle through his deadpan delivery of internal monologues as antihero Dexter Morgan. A serial killer who only kills bad people, Dexter has poor conversational aptitude and a lack of awareness for social norms. This leads to a myriad of conversations and thoughts that manifest in his head throughout the series. Due to his muted people skills, Dexter often says or thinks things that we want to say ourselves but have too much of a filter to try. This one device makes the Showtime series one of the best dark comedy series that anyone can find funny.
Amazon Prime’s big superhero series is still underrated, if you ask me and many others. Turning Marvel and DC Comics tropes on their heads, The Boys uses gore, brutality, and inhumanity to make us all bust a gut at the hypocrisy that lives within traditional superheroes. We all kind of know that, if granted with powers, humans would take advantage of the planet in the exact ways that The Homelander and his associates do in this series. Seeing this abuse and corruption unravel in buckets of blood shouldn’t be funny, but the delivery and special effects make it impossible not to laugh.
- Our favorite spy movies, ranked
- The 11 best Amazon original movies you can stream anytime
- The 10 best action movies on Amazon Prime that will blow you away
- Every Spider-Man movie, ranked
- The 12 best sci-fi shows to stream on Netflix right now