The Funniest TV Shows of 2021 (So Far)
If you're looking for a laugh, these are the new series to binge.
Comedy TV is tough, both to work in and be a fan of. For every hilarious series that comes out, triple the amount of lame ones airing that just don't connect. In the TV-watching experience, almost nothing is more irritating than spending a couple episodes absolutely stone-faced when you were expecting to laugh. Luckily, we both watch a ton of TV and have excellent, discerning taste when it comes to funny stuff, so instead of slogging through a series to see if you'll warm up to it or rewatching The Office yet again (please, dear god, don't do that), check out one our verified picks for the funniest TV shows of 2021. There's already a bounty of series to catch up on from the first half of the year, and we'll be updating this as the rest of 2021 chugs along.
ALSO READ: The Best TV Shows of 2021 (So Far)
Dickinson (Apple TV+)
Season 2. 10 episodes.
The second season of Apple TV+'s Emily Dickinson comedy freed itself from all the questions that are associated with the phrase "Emily Dickinson comedy" by evolving into an even weirder, truer version of itself. These 10 episodes find Emily wrestling with the question of fame, both on a practical and spiritual level as she considers publishing her poems. The ways in which her conflict manifests are surreal, and range from the unnervingly elusive (the appearance of a certain "Nobody" personified) to downright amusing (Nick Kroll as the drunken ghost of Edgar Allan Poe). All the while, the show finds time for trips to the opera and the spa, a spider dance from Emily's sister Lavinia (Anna Baryshnikov), and a look at Amherst's Black community.—Esther Zuckerman
Season 1. 8 episodes.
Take a huge dose of early 2000s, TRL-era nostalgia and mash that up with the comedic sensibility of the Tina Fey-Robert Carlock universe established in 30 Rock, and you've got Girls5Eva created by Meredith Scardino. The premise of this Peacock series finds the four surviving members of a Spice Girls-esque girl group—the fifth died in a tragic infinity pool accident—reunited after their one-hit-wonder is sampled on a rap track. All at creative and emotional impasses in their lives they decide to give fame another shot. Anchored by excellent and hilarious performances from Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sara Bareilles, Busy Philipps, and Paula Pell, Girls5Eva is as absurd as it is sweet, never losing sight of the strange bond between the women at its center.—EZ
Hacks (HBO Max)
Season 1. 10 episodes.
It's understandable if HBO Max's Hacks sounds a bit familiar when you first hear the premise. Do you really want to watch another show about the trials and tribulations of being a comedian? The trick co-creators Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky pull off is finding a sharp, nuanced take on the see-sawing dynamic between legendary Vegas stand-up act Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) and the young comedy writer (Hannah Einbinder) exiled to the desert to punch up her aging employer's material. If the two characters simply bickered the whole time, trading barbed put-downs and inter-generational zingers, the show would get tedious fast. Instead, the writers and performers carefully draw out the connections and the tensions between the two women, lending the showbiz plotlines a Larry Sanders-like complexity. Similarly, the world around Vance, from the soda dispenser in her kitchen to the Ace Ventura slot machine in the casino, is layered with funny, glitzy specifics that make the show feel both surreal and lived-in.—Dan Jackson
Invincible (Amazon Prime)
Season 1. 8 episodes.
For all of its intense bloodshed—and there is tons of it—Invincible, the animated series adapted from The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman's comic series, wrings out as many laugh-out-loud moments as possible in its complicated, The Boys-adjacent understanding of what it means to be a superhero. Chalk it up to its absolutely stacked cast—Steven Yeun as a teen balancing high school life while learning that he can fucking fly, Sandra Oh as his human mother, J.K. Simmons as his stronger-than-god father, and Gillian Jacobs, Zazie Beets, Jason Manztoukas, Walton Goggins, etc. surrounding them—who bring the necessary intensity and charm to their characters wading into a messy universe-wide conspiracy stuck with the foibles of an earthbound mindset.—Leanne Butkovic
Made for Love (HBO Max)
Season 1. 8 episodes.
When Hazel (Cristin Milioti) runs away from her megalomaniacal tech bro husband Byron Gogol (Billy Magnussen) after being trapped for 10 years inside the simulated-nature campus of his company, she learns, to her terror and chagrin, that Byron has implanted her brain with his newest prototype, a chip that allows him to read her thoughts and see through her eyes as she tries to free herself from him. The darkly comedic show was adapted from Alissa Nutting's 2017 novel, and hilariously and irreverently examines the nature of love, human relationships, and the personhood of sex dolls.—Emma Stefansky
Mythic Quest (Apple TV+)
Season 2. 9 episodes.
The second season of Apple TV+'s game dev workplace comedy deepens the relationships between its key characters while staying true to its own impish spirit. With Raven's Banquet in their rear view, Ian and Poppy—now co-creative directors, uh-oh—butt heads over plans for the next expansion, while Rachel and Dana manage their fledgling relationship and Jo relishes the power of being Brad's assistant-turned-sworn enemy. The season kicked off with the superb special episode "Everlight" in April, and its back half is structured around a thrilling yet absolutely devastating arc involving backstory scribe C.W. Longbottom, who gets his own 1970s-flavored standalone episode this season (Mythic Quest continues to kill it with the standalones) and a follow-up that expands the limits of comedy TV.—ES
Resident Alien (Syfy)
Season 1. 10 episodes.
When an extraterrestrial crash-lands on Earth after his spaceship is struck by lightning, he disguises himself as a vacationer in a small town, Dr. Harry Vanderspiegle (Alan Tudyk), in order to blend in. There's just one problem: When the town's local doctor is mysteriously murdered, the other residents, unaware of his disguise, elect Harry to be their new medical professional, and Harry has no choice but to agree. Based on the comic by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse, the show is an absolute delight, following Harry as he ingratiates himself with the townspeople (save for one terrified little boy who can see through his disguise), while also searching for the alien superweapon he dropped in the crash, meant to wipe humanity from the face of the planet.—ES
Starstruck (HBO Max)
Season 1. 6 episodes.
If you long for the swoons and frustrations of rom coms, head on over to HBO Max, which has imported Starstruck from the UK. Created by and starring Kiwi comedian Rose Matafeo, Starstruck puts a spin on Notting Hill. Matafeo's character Jessie has a drunken New Year's Eve hookup with a handsome man who just happens to be movie star Tom Kapoor (Nikesh Patel). Each of the six episodes jump between seasons as Jessie and Tom flirt and elide one another. The chemistry between Matafeo and Patel will tug at your emotions while you'll cackle at the comic creation that is Jessie, who wears her confidence on her sleeve and crumbles when it fails her.—EZ
Miniseries. 9 episodes.
The first of Marvel's Disney+ miniseries started Phase 4 off with a bang, trapping Wanda Maximoff and a mysteriously resurrected Vision in a small-town sitcom universe, riffing on classic family comedies like Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, and Malcolm in the Middle. When a grief-stricken Wanda attempts to create her own idyllic family life, her creation goes nuclear in more ways than one, and reveals a new facet to her chaotic superpowers. The show is both fun and emotionally affecting, drawing from the best of comedy television from the past six decades to build an endlessly self-referential pocket universe of small-town family hijinks.—ES
The Way of the Househusband (Netflix)
Season 1. 5 episodes.
The series that you can watch the quickest, at five episodes averaging 17 minutes apiece, also happens to be one of the funniest and joke-dense of the year. Adapted from the bestselling gag manga by Kousuke Oono, this Netflix anime yucks around with the idea that the most deadly and feared yakuza member, known as the Immortal Dragon, retires into domestic life to support his career wife, Miku, the one person not intimidated by his off-putting personality. Minus a few asides from the house cat Gin, The Way of the Househusband operates on one joke—a terrifying man does mundane things, like clipping coupons and taking jazzercise classes—but, incredibly, it works every single time.—LB
Season 1. 6 episodes.
Ziwe, the comedian, is not writing jokes for a cozy night in for Ziwe, the late-night talk show adapted from her Instagram Live series Baited. Her questions for her guests—the likes of Fran Liebowitz, Eboni K. Williams, and Julio Torres in-studio; Stacey Abrams, Lil Rel Howery, and Gloria Steinam over video chat—are provocatively inspired about race and class, almost always borderline unanswerable. Whether she's moderating a roundtable with a group of real-life Karens, asking Andrew Yang who his favorite billionaire is (trick question; there are no good billionaires), or cutting to a song about infantilizing women, Ziwe, impeccably dressed, governs her own world with panache. Should you choose to accept her invitation inside, you shall be greatly rewarded.—LB