Creativity – What is it?

What is creativity? It’s a great question. Alas there isn’t a simple answer.

The dictionary definition of creativity (and I’m doing a bit of summarising here) is the ability to use skill & imagination to produce new & unusual ideas. That’s technically fine. But so what? Are you truly any clearer on what creativity actually is from that definition? Maybe a little. In fairness though, I could throw loads of other definitions of creativity at you and you might dance a little closer to understanding, but ultimately all of them will be as slippery as the concept itself. They don’t meaningfully get us that much closer to understanding the concept. Much less the essence of it. 

The funny thing is, I’m fairly sure we all instinctively know creativity when we see it. We can even recognise our own sparks of creativity and ingenuity when they happen. Then why do we have such a hard time defining what creativity is, or indeed where those moments of creativity come from? 

The artist John Berger once said: “All creation is in the art of seeing“. It feels like there is a deeper truth in that statement than the dictionary definition. Granted, it is a bit more lyrical and creative, but I love the interesting sense of duality to it. 

The idea that creative output only truly exists with a broadcaster and a receiver feels accurate. Both need to be tuned to the same wavelength for creation to occur. If that holds true, then creativity itself is surely the initial signal for broadcast to commence. 

Still a bit too nebulous? Yeah, I know. I told you, there isn’t a simple answer to this. 

Let’s take the basic idea that creativity is rooted in a particular (even atypical) way of seeing the world. In order to facilitate and elicit moments of creativity, we must be open to seeing everything through a different lens. And the subsequent act of creation itself is then a natural direct response to that which you see before you. The combination of these two focal points is the moment where creativity ignites. 

To put it in less metaphorical terms, creativity feels a bit like you’re being posed questions that stimulate curiosity and lead down a new path (sometimes many paths) to an interesting answer. Often a very specific answer. That’s just as true for writing a new poem as it is for cracking a business strategy. 

If we can recognise creativity (but have a trickier time defining it), then maybe we are asking the wrong question. Are we actually more interested in questions like – Why do great thinkers think that way? Where do their ideas come from? What sparks those moments of creative combustion? 

Perhaps it is not a definition of creativity we seek, but rather an understanding of what it means to be creative, and, more specifically, how to tap into creative ways of thinking and seeing. The good news is that it can be learned. The reason I know this is because I have learned it, and so can you. The answer lies in practice. Tools of the trade are critical too, of course. But primarily it just takes lots of practice. Only through constant practice can creativity become our talent.

Look, there is no escaping the fact that there are certain people who are more naturally creative, but it will only get them so far in the long run. Everyone has to sharpen their creative skills through persistent hard work and consistent application. Everyone. 

So I can hear you saying, that’s all well and good Kalle, but I’m not very creative so I’m not sure there is much to develop. Bullshit, I say. Everyone has creativity within them, it simply has to be unlocked and harnessed properly. 

If you can cook, you’re creative. If you can tell a story, you’re creative. If you can build something, you’re creative. If you have the ability to fix something, you are creative. The spark of brilliance in producing a carefully crafted piece of communication, exists in the same sphere of creative magic as a great guitar riff. Really? Yes, really. 

Now, that said, not everyone is able to transfer those creative abilities to different settings, but with practice you can develop your own brand of creativity to turn your lens to anything.

Ultimately, creativity is a form of problem solving and that is most certainly something that you can get better at. As mentioned before, it’s all about training yourself to think differently and to bring an atypical lens to any situation, and to challenge the norms and draw out different ways of thinking from those around you.

In a future post I will share some of the many tips, tricks and techniques that I have learned to stimulate and accelerate creativity, but for now, I encourage you to begin with a simple daily creative practice (even if it is just for 10 minutes). Personally I try to write something new every day. But for you it might be doodling or dancing. It doesn’t matter what it is. Keep your creative mind limber. Nothing will develop your creative abilities more than pushing yourself to consistently create. 

Most importantly though, perhaps don’t ask what creativity is, but ask yourself how you can shift your perspective to see things more creatively.

A colourful adventure to recharge

I haven’t posted much recently because I’ve just had the gift of 5 weeks off work (one of the perks I get after 5 years at the job) and it was a truly remarkable experience. 

A few reflections.

There is no escaping how taxing the last couple of years have been during the COVID pandemic. I knew it had impacted me, but it wasn’t until I took my foot off the gas that I truly understood how much. When you really slow down for a moment in this non-stop world, it’s incredible how much you can take in. You see new things, you make connections, you rekindle old friendships, you find treasure in places you forgot to look.

I didn’t want my time to be too open ended, so I decided early on that I would try to accomplish five simple things while I was off.

  • Travel to the places I love the most.
  • Spend time with people I love the most in this world.
  • Eat my favourite foods.
  • Do something creative every day.
  • Do at least one thing I’ve never done before.

I managed all of that and more. So much more.

Spent time in brilliant Berlin with my American family. Watched my brother-in-law run a magical marathon (he finished in the top 1%); Ate Currywurst & Kebabs; Wandered by the Berlin Wall; Made a million memories.

Returned to the inimitable New York City (where I lived for 7 years) and saw some of my oldest & dearest friends. Ate at my favourite restaurant in the world – Sripraphai; Saw some of the best art at the Met; Had a drink in the best boozer – Scratcher; Strolled the streets of 4 Boroughs in a way that Auster or Joyce would have been proud; Visited old haunts; Remembered fond old memories and made a mountain more of them.

The rest of the time was spent at home in bubblin’ Dublin. Jumped in the icy Irish Sea a few times; Did my first live gig in years and felt the warmth of a friendly room; Saw a fabulous Fringe show by my friend Erin; Dear friends and extended family stayed in our home, and we laughed and talked until deep in the night; I wrote something every day – some decent, some average, all good for me; I gave myself a creative challenge and wrote a drum n bass song (something I had never done before); Started some new healthy routines; Took some time to really rest.

Most importantly, I got to spend precious time with my wife and beloved boys. That was the golden ticket.

It was a privilege to have this time to recharge, reflect and refocus. I have only gratitude in my heart and I’m ready to bounce back into the river of regular life once more.

Culture Night 2022 at Tara Building

Photo by Eleanor Rogers

Culture Night is an annual evening of creative arts & culture around Ireland. It is a super cool experiential happening where the doors of various establishments & cultural institutions are opened late and  unique events are programmed at the participating locations. It’s such a rich and interesting night of creativity, and I absolutely love it.

This year I was kindly asked by the good folks at The Tara Building to moderate a panel discussion about creativity with a really interesting group of folks. Ashwin Chacko (illustrator), Rob de Boer (musician) and Jamie Whelan (architect) all joined me to discuss “How We Build It”, which was, in essence, a look at how we devise, build and deliver a creative idea. Originally Ruth Medjber (photographer) was due to join us but had to cancel last minute due to a family emergency. The conversation nevertheless flowed and we explored a fascinating and varied breadth of creative topics. 

I hadn’t done a gig in years (Thanks COVID!) so it was an extra special moment for me. The pre-show nerves were there of course, but it was such a delightful experience. The audience in the room was warm and engaged, with interesting questions. The panelists were funny, serious, insightful and thoughtful. I learned loads from them and I had an absolute  ball telling a few stories of my own too.

A gift of a night. 

Photo by Eleanor Rogers
Photo by Eleanor Rogers

100 Funniest Sketches of All Time (10 – 1)

10. More Cowbell – Saturday Night Live

More Cowbell! One of the best Saturday Night Live sketches of all time, and in the hall of fame for best sketches ever. I love Walken being his mad genius best version of Walken here . Will Ferrell is a bundle of funny bones and is gutbustingly funny. And Jimmy Fallon barely keeping it together is fantastic. Some sketches put their pants on one leg at a time, but this one makes a gold record. 

9. The Joke: The Musical - Mr. Show

What do you get if you turn a dirty joke into a musical. Pure genius is what you get from Mr. Show. A perfect example of the inventiveness and madness of their wonderful comedy minds. This one always makes me laugh. 

8. Horse Racing Commentary - The Day Today

There is something so perfect about Steve Coogan’s commentary in this sketch, but it is the writing that delivers so perfectly. The names of the horses still make me roar with laughter no matter how many times I hear them. Christ’s Chin!!

7. Apocalypse - Key & Peele

The apocalypse can’t get any worse can it? It can. This sketch has a brilliant cinematic feel, terrific atmosphere, and a silly, surprising twist that takes the sketch to another level. Easily my favourite Key & Peele sketch out of the many works of genius they have given us. 

6. Full Like A Kastrull - Veckans Nyheter

Henrik Schyffert is a comedy hero of mine. Growing up half-Swedish I sought out comedy from Sweden, and Schyffert was consistently involved in the stuff that made me laugh. His prank phone call show “Hassan” was inspired and this mish-mash hybrid of English and Swedish felt like it was made just for me. Perhaps difficult for a non-Swede to enjoy fully but still worth watching for his incredible linguistic trickery. Ultimately, I love his version of biting social commentary with bonkers delivery. Fun fact: Schyffert’s band Whale had a number one song with Hobo Humpin Slumpin Babe and it was all over MTV back in the day. 

5. History Today - Newman & Baddiel

At the time this was surely the most quoted sketch in Engand and Ireland amongst students. It still holds up as one of the all time greats for me. Such a nice simple idea done really well. Two eminent history professors descend into schoolboy levels of stupid slagging. That’s you that is.

4. RAF Pilots - Armstrong & Miller

Two RAF World War II pilots babble like angsty slang-ridden teenagers. It became a recurring sketch on the show and every one of them has little gems to marvel at. But this one is my favourite, innit though?

3. James Brown Hot Tub Party - Saturday Night Live

Eddie Murphy was indisputably the funniest person on television during his stretch on Saturday Night Live. Not only do I love the ridiculous premise for this sketch, but I love how Eddie Murphy commits so fully to the bit and does a brilliant impression of James Brown. Should I get in the hot tub? YEAH

2. No Direction, Period - The Post Show

The Post Show was an online based sketch comedy team from New York and this sketch spoofing Bob Dylan’s musical output has long been a standard bearer for parody-style sketches for me. Who knew that this mock Bob Dylan documentary was something we never knew we needed. I would genuinely love to hear Bob Dylan sing some of these pop songs. I guess, thanks to this sketch, we already have.

1. Prince - Big Train

What’s the point in trying to explain one of the most brilliant surreal sketches ever written. Just watch it and be thankful you’re not a jockey. So absurd, so good. 

The sketch countdown is done!

100 Funniest Sketches of All Time (20 – 11)

20. GloboChem – Mr. Show

Mr. Show is probably my favourite sketch show of all time. Not only do I love Bob Odenkirk (Saul Goodman!) and David Cross as performers, but their consistently clever writing on this show never failed to bowl me over. What really made the writing stand out when I saw Mr. Show first (and it is still impressive) is the way they were able to weave their sketches so seamlessly and inventively together, from live onstage segments segueing into filmed sequences, tumbling through set changes and other cool crafty set ups that took the viewer on a continuous journey from beginning to end. And like all great comedic artists, as well as doing their primary job of being insanely funny, they really had something to say. 

19. Dangerous Drugs - Ali G

Ali G is a thing of genius. Put a guy playing the biggest idiot in a room with real people, and see how it plays out. This police drugs segment has always been my favourite, not least because of the brilliant quips (Sacha Baron Cohen uttering “Thank you”towards the end is pure gold), but also the patience of this policeman is a thing to behold. For a while, there really was nothing as odd and funny as Ali G on television, and this is still one of his peak moments, as it doesnt trade in being mean like some of his later skits. In other words, “is there any negative effects?”

18. Die Hard 12 - The Ben Stiller Show

The Ben Stiller Show famously had one of the most amazing writers room ever on a sketch show and it shows in the quality of this fantastic Die Hard parody. I love Stiller’s impression of Bruce Willis/John McClane (his facial expressions alone are brilliantly observed), and the preposterous escalating stakes of the sketch in the supermarket are done so well that it almost feels plausible as a sequel. Yabba dabba doo yabba dabba deebee dabba! 

17. World Cup Countdown - Alan Partridge/The Day Today

Alan Partridge is such a classic comedy creation and this sports round-up for the football World Cup was a perfect way to showcase his special brand of idiocy. I love the energetic banality (and clear lack of understanding) in his football commentary, and in a strange way doesn’t feel too out of sync with real commentary language – “EAT MY GOAL! The goalie has football pie all over his face”

16. Samuel L. Jackson Beer - Chappelle's Show

A few dodgy jokes aside, this parody of a Samuel Adams beer commercial was such a great concept. The aggressive over-the-top Samuel L. Jackson energy is such a brilliant contrast to an anaemic standard ad for a mass produced beer. 

15. Staring Final - Big Train

Big Train had some really great sketches and this animated one always tickled me. Expert commentators for a ridiculous event like the World Championship Stare-Out Contest is one of those ideas I wish I had thought of myself. I particularly love the onscreen statistics that flash up and the StareCam is a touch of brilliance. 

14. Mighty Mouse - Andy Kaufman (SNL)

Andy Kaufman is a comedy hero. Unafraid of alienating his audience with his uniquely odd sense of humour is a thing I am really drawn to, probably because I would never truly attempt it myself. This is a lovely slice of madness from Kaufman on the very first episode of Saturday Night Live. He could have done anything with this showcase moment, and he chose to do this. Love it. Here he comes to save the day!

13. Numberwang - Mitchell & Webb

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJDu5D_IXbc

Numberwang is easily my favourite gameshow. Rules that make no sense, overly enthusiastic presenter, and magical details like “rotate the board” Mitchell & Webb are easily in the top three of my favourite comedy sketch shows. Of course, that’s Numberwang!

12. The 4 Yorkshiremen - Monty Python

A true classic and one of my all time favourites. Originally written for “At Last the 1948 Show” and later popularised by Monty Python, it is so simple but so funny. In my day they didnt write sketches like this. 

11. Farming - Mitchell & Webb

This Mitchel & Webb sketch still makes me laugh out loud every time. There’s something so intangibly funny in David Mitchell’s performance that makes it even funnier than it has any right to be. “It’s actually made of chicken!”

The sketch countdown continues tomorrow…

100 Funniest Sketches of All Time (30 – 21)

30. Germans Who Say Nice Things – Dana Carvey Show

The short-lived Dana Carvey Show was so short-lived that I completely missed it when it was first shown. What I’ve seen of it is pretty hit and miss but there’s a few gems, including this bit of foolishness with future star of The US Office, Steve Carell. It trades on cliches but it is still so silly that it clicks with me.

29. Singin' In The Rain - Morecambe & Wise

Morecambe & Wise hark back to my days watching tv on my grandmother’s little black and white tv. She was a fan of Morecambe & Wise, so I was too naturally. Eric Morecambe had a sweet childlike spirit to him and it was never bettered than this parody of the classic musical sequence from Singin’ In the Rain. 

28. F.U.N.E.X - The Two Ronnies

The writer and the linguist in me loves this sketch. It is so cool to see a whole scene from The Two Ronnies played out using only letters to communicate. The sheer quality of their writing is where they always X.L. for me.  

27. Amsterdam Police - Harry Enfield & Chums

Harry Enfield and Chums was the first place I encountered the fantastic Paul Whitehouse, and I this sketch was one that stood out immediately when I saw it. Whitehouse’s accent and performance are perfectly on the money, and the premise is great and doesnt outstay its welcome. 

26. Sinn Fein Interview - The Day Today

The Day Today is such razor sharp satire and this sketch was a terrific piss take of the broadcasting laws at the time which prevented members of Sinn Fein from being allowed speak on camera due to their paramilitary links, so they were dubbed by an actor (this sounds made up but it is actually true). Steve Coogan’s character takes that baseline reality and kicks it up a level in absurdity with a very light helium-based approach. 

25. One Leg Too Few - Peter Cook & Dudley Moore

Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were firm favourites of my dad. This was always my favourite sketch that we listened to. Simple, smart and super funny. 

24. Ted and Ralph - The Fast Show

Ted & Ralph were the greatest running gag on The Fast Show. As well as being hilariously funny, there was real drama and melancholy to the unrequited love story of Ted the aristocrat and his Irish tradesman. Brilliant writing and top drawer acting. 

23. Too Long Johnny - A Bit of Fry and Laurie

Hugh Laurie is a fantastic musician and has woven a brilliant gag out of a classic bluesy number. It shouldn’t work but it does thanks to Hugh Laurie’s gifted performance.

22. Booking a Flight - Absolutely

Years ago I remember getting a free cassette with some English magazine I bought, and the tape featured a compilation of great sketches that worked well in audio format. This one stopped me in my tracks. I adored the blind stupidity of the Calum character, and the spelling sequence at the end is a thing of utter genius. Genius with a G, as in G for Gnome. 

21. Zoolander Sketch - Ben Stiller

The original sketch that launched the highly underrated comedy movie about vapid models. The film itself was a true high tide mark for Stiller comedies and the sketch has real flashes of that brilliance. Ben Stiller has always impressed me as an actor, director and writer, and in these early days he was also more than willing to drop Blue Steel on us.

The sketch countdown continues tomorrow…


100 Funniest Sketches Of All Time (40 – 31)

The funniest sketches of all time continues. Today’s selection is a mix of mad music, surreal monologues and unexpected twists. Here are sketches 40 through 31

In case you missed it: 

40. Business Time – Flight of the Conchords

The Flight of the Conchords are just so good. They never fail to make me laugh. I remember watching the show on HBO and loving their sense of humour. It was also one of those rare times where I was impressed by the musical comedy numbers. So often they can fall flat or be a bit one note (forgive the musical pun) but with them where was musical craft and real thought in the comic writing of the lyrics. This song is probably their most well known (the live version is even better I reckon) and for good reason, it is a fantastic mix of madness, melody and comic timing. The chorus will now be stuck in your head for days. You’re welcome. 

39. Mr. Robot - Eugene Mirman

Years ago at a comedy gig in New York this bedraggled comedian called Eugene Mirman got up onstage and took off on the most odd flights of fancy in his routine. Half the audience was bemused. I was laughing my head off. His offbeat sense of humour really connected with me. To say it was surreal would do it a disservice. It was just quirky and unlike other stand up I had ever seen. He made choices that were fresh and unusual to my ears. I immediately picked up his album and I never looked back. It’s fair to say I am a huge fan. This kooky sketch is a great example of his unique brand of comedy. It is pure fire. But it begs the question “Is fire an emotion?”

38. Language - A Bit of Fry & Laurie

Many moons ago, a friend of mine loaned me a VHS tape (yes, I’m that old) of several episodes of “A Bit of Fry & Laurie” and it was like discovering a comedy goldmine. The sketches were smart and clever, with a very particular sensibility that spoke to me. This was a type of sketch comedy I hadn’t really seen before. They trusted their audience’s intelligence and they were happy to tackle highbrow topics. And just as readily they could throw in simple silly one liners. It was my kind of show and I still love it. I had to return the VHS tape long ago but I have since found many of my favourite sketches online, including this one. 

37. Taxi Driver Confessions - Chris Rock Show

One of the most fun experiences I had while living in New York was attending a taping of The Chris Rock Show. It was on HBO and usually featured an interview, some sketches and a musical act. On the night I was there he interviewed Cedric The Entertainer and the musical act was Nas (who was so high he had to start his song again). Grandmaster Flash was perched up in a booth above the audience and was spinning amazing tunes in the downtime between recording set-ups. The sketches that night were a bit hit and miss, but the piece that stood out was his funny take on a popular HBO undercover camera show at the time called Taxicab Confessions. Chris Rock went out in a New York yellow cab and actually picked up real passengers, and they recorded the conversations and broadcast them on his show. Nothing is funnier than real interactions with New Yorkers. And hats off to Chris Rock for his on-the-spot thinking and conversational skills. Watch and try not to laugh. 

36. The Sopranos - Mad TV

Mad TV wasn’t ever really on my radar but I had heard it mentioned so many times on podcasts  in the intervening years, I knew I had to find some of the best sketches and watch them. This one, which must have come out at the height of The Sopranos fervour, just made me roar with laughter. The idea of putting a show like that on the heavily censored, sterile world of American network television was a comedy gift waiting to happen. There’s lots to love about the near-perfect performances in this sketch, but the real star of the sketch is the video editor. He deserves a big pile of gabagool.

35. People Buying a House - Mitchell & Webb

If you’ve ever watched daytime TV in Britain you will definitely have seen this show parodied so expertly by Mitchell & Webb. Much like the previous sketch, the jumpcuts are the unsung hero here. A simple sketch but like so many of theirs, they absolutely nail it. Just like Jeff’s shelves.

34. Four Candles - The Two Ronnies

The Two Ronnies are masters of playing with words and this sketch might just be their finest example of that. Lets light a candle for their contribution to comedy history. In fact, lets light four candles. 

33. Boyfriend - Snuff Box

Matt Berry is almost always the same in everything he does, but that’s absolutely fine with me, because Matt Berry being Matt Berry is always hilarious. Before seeing this set of sketches I knew him from The IT Crowd and Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, and have since loved him in Toast and What We Do In The Shadows. There is something magnetic about him. When I first discovered this recurring sketch from Snuff Box I dont think I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life. The premise is so simple (ridiculous and predictable even) but it is 100% hysterical thanks to Matt Berry’s delivery. I don’t know how many times I have seen these, and despite knowing the punchline a mile away, it always gets me. If you dont like it, then F*#k You!

32. Fish Slapping Dance - Monty Python

This little underrated gem from Monty Python is as good as anything they made. Short and sweet. Unlike the fish.  

31. Del Boy - Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle

Stewart Lee is an absolute hero of mine. I was a huge fan of Fist of Fun back in the day, and even more so his series Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle. This sketch is that series crowning achievement. After a lengthy rant about the British public’s choice of their favourite funny moment (Del Boy from Only Fools & Horses falling through the bar), the show cuts to this ludicrous sketch about Del Day, which manages to elevate the whole thing to a level of high comedy art. I love his commitment to the madness of the central idea of celebrating the day people first witnessed Del falling through the bar, and I imagine he spent the bulk of his series budget on just this sketch alone. Money well spent. It is a thing of genius. 

The sketch countdown continues…



100 Funniest Sketches Of All Time (50 – 41)

Past the halfway point in the list of 100 funniest sketches of all time. Today’s batch of ten sketches are all pure gold. Here we go then from 50 – 41

In case you missed it: 

50. Brilliant – The Fast Show

The Fast Show was BRILLIANT. Paul Whitehouse might be one of my favourite comic actors and this silly recurring sketch is a brilliant showcase of his abilities. I always loved the way they pieced these particular sketches together with multiple takes and then stitched them into something almost arty. In a strange way, the rapid fire style of The Fast Show was a real precursor to the shortform content we see everywhere on TikTok and Reels now.

49. Mastermind - The Two Ronnies

The Two Ronnies at their clever, crackling best. This sketch is a great example of what I loved the most about them. It starts with really sharp writing. They have crafted it and shaped it on the page, and I love to imagine them seated together going over every line, perfecting it, tightening up the jokes, sharpening the segues. And then when it comes time to perform it, (which they do really well) it all flows so effortlessly because they put the time in to write it so thoughtfully. For me, this sketch is a hall of fame contender for writing.

48. Jazz Club - The Fast Show

Jazz Club on The Fast Show was the same joke every time, but what a joke. It was GREAT. For me personally it resonated even further. My dad was a big fan of jazz and it was consistently the sound that bounced out of the speakers in our house. It is part of my creative influences almost by osmosis. So, this sketch, while making fun of the pretentiousness of jazz fans and certain musicians, I still see deep affection for jazz in there. 

47. Argument - Monty Python's Flying Circus

I’d like to have an argument please! Probably my favourite Monty Python sketch. So simple and so well done. Michael Palin at his mild mannered best and Cleese & Chapman are snarkingly perfect. For the longest time Cleese was my favourite Python probably because of his physicality and my deep love for Fawlty Towers, but as I get older I relate more and more to the amiable Palin who has a kind of innocence and confusion about him that feels very real. In lesser hands this sketch could easily gone nowhere, but Palin keeps it anchored in something human and that is why I love it so much. 

46. Cake - BrassEye

There are precious few people who deserve the title of genius to be bandied about with their name. But for me, Chris Morris is most certainly in the conversation. BrassEye was Chris Morris at his scathing, sharp best. Building on his cleverly crafted The Day Today, he really pushed his satire of the bombastic television news industry to a new level with this show. I will never forget the first time I saw the Cake segment on the show. It was the first time I can remember seeing a show blur the lines between reality and fiction, and I was amazed at his ability to dupe unsuspecting celebrities and politicians into talking on camera about “a made up drug” and then to cut it together into this preposterous news report – which makes it equal parts jawdropping and hilarious. Sacha Baron Cohen went on to make this type of stuff his trademark, but Chris Morris is one of the master craftsmen who built those foundations with BrassEye. A show that has never been equalled and it had a huge impact on me.

45. Social Class - The Frost Report

This was one that I came across when I was down a deep nerdy sketch comedy rabbit hole on YouTube one night. This is like seeing a supergroup of comedy – John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett – in a sketch written by Marty Feldman (my favourite person in the brilliant Young Frankenstein movie). Visual and verbal comedy at its finest -Sight gags mixed with social satire. I look up to this kind of thing.

44. Soupy Norman - Barry Murphy & Mark Doherty

Soupy Norman by Barry Murphy and Mark Doherty was a thing of genius. They took a Polish soap opera called “First Love” and re-dubbed it with Irish comedians into a coming of age story of a Cork girl moving to Dublin. The choice to make the dialogue a ‘Bad Lip Reading’ style delivery, rather than make any true sense only adds to the silliness and fun of it. Probably the funniest thing to have ever been produced by Irish TV and you can thankfully find all 8 of the episodes on YouTube. It’s definitely one of the things I share the most with others when they ask me about the funniest thing I have seen. True brilliance at work.

43. Borat - Sacha Baron Cohen

Before his global renown, Sacha Baron Cohen had a golden period as the most interesting and edgy comedian around. It was amazing to watch him go out into the world and take real chances with his comedy characters in very real (and sometimes dangerous) situations. His Kazakhstani journalist Borat has worn out his welcome a bit by now, but there was a time when this magnificently awkward, idiotic character was as fresh as anything I had seen. This song is probably my favourite Borat moment. It is him at his best, using comedy to prod society and expose their ignorance, while holding an uncomfortable mirror up to their blinkered beliefs, and still be really really funny.

42. I Said Bitch - Key & Peele

Key & Peele are just excellent at what they do. This sketch is an undeniable little masterpiece. Starting with a super simple idea, they build on it slowly and continue to escalate it to such ridiculous extremes. And it feels properly cinematic in its execution. I think about the time and money it must have cost to put this one sketch together, but they had such belief in the idea and knew it would deliver a bigger impact if they went all in. I love that about it. 

41. Heroin Galore - The Fast Show

The Fast Show was consistently hilarious and sometimes their one-off sketches were funnier than their recurring characters simply because they seemed fresh and unusual. For me, they were often at their best when they did these stylish, note-perfect parodies of BBC programming. I learned after seeing it that it was a take on the famous film Whiskey Galore albeit with a very different cargo. The decision to make it in black & white also really stands out and is the kind of attention to detail I love. 

The sketch countdown continues tomorrow…

100 Funniest Sketches of All Time (60 – 51)

My carefully curated list of the 100 funniest sketches of all time continues. Today’s selection is a mix of classics and lesser known gems. Here we go from 60 to 51.

In case you missed it: 

60. Put a Bird On It – Portlandia

Portlandia had a cult following for its run. I was a fan of Fred Armisen’s comedy and I adore Carrie Brownstein’s band Sleater Kinney, so I had high hopes for it, but I never totally connected with the show. For some reason I felt it was trying a little bit too hard or something. That said, this sketch was one that stuck out. In particular I love the moment in the sketch when an actual bird arrives on the scene. The lesson here is clearly, if in doubt, put a bird on it. 

59. The Valets Love Liam Neesons - Key & Peele

A list of sketches like this could almost include all of Key & Peele’s sketches. They are that good. My favourite recurring characters were the valets and the enthusiastic nutty conversations they had. A lot of it is in the ridiculous over-the-top energy of it, but also the decision to always have a crazy ending to close them out. Ending a sketch is such a tricky thing sometimes and they always decided to go big, which felt right, especially because it became something I would eagerly anticipate every time one of the valet sketches appeared on the show. This particular sketch has now entered the lexicon in my household, to the point where we refer to the actors solely now as Liam Neesons and Bruce Willy. 

58. Last F**kable Day - Inside Amy Schumer

I never got a chance to watch Inside Amy Schumer when it was on, but I was sold as soon as I was sent a link to this star-studded sketch featuring entertainment icons Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Patricia Arquette. I loved her clever take on the unreasonable demands on women in the entertainment industry, while also sticking the landing on a seriously funny sketch. 

57. History of Punk - Saturday Night Live

Fred Armisen appears on this list once again, this time with one of his Saturday Night Live sketches that parodies punk era Britain brilliantly (with a lovely twist). Armisen’s affinity for the punk scene just beams out from the screen. You can’t help but smile seeing him and Bill Hader having bucketloads of fun. It’s not surprising that the two of them went on to expand this documentary-style sketch into short film length parodies on the superb Documentary Now series.  If you haven’t seen Documentary Now, you are missing out on a comedy masterclass down to every detail. 

56. Focus Group - I Think You Should Leave

I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson is a uniquely bonkers brand of sketch comedy. Not for everyone, but I absolutely love it. There’s a surreal vibe to a lot of them, but often done very subtly. One of the things that I particularly like is the unpredictability of the sketches and this one is a lovely example. 

55. Daves I Know - Kids In The Hall

Growing up in Ireland I wasn’t exposed to the Canadian cult favourites Kids In The Hall, so I came to their stuff later when I lived in America. But in a pre-YouTube world their stuff was hard to find, so I eventually got to catch up via d’internet. Like most sketch shows it was a bit hit and miss, but they were never better than this ridiculous song. If your name is Dave, you’re really gonna love it.

54. Dead Parrot - Monty Python's Flying Circus

This sketch is usually number one on most lists but this list is not in order of funniness, so I have popped it in here at the midway point to savour. It’s probably true to say that without Monty Python’s Flying Circus there really wouldn’t be a lot of the other sketches on this list. They were bright, brilliant, bonkers skits that influenced generations of comedy writers 7 performers, myself included. There is nothing I can say about this sketch that hasn’t already been said, other than the fact that it will likely leave you pining for the fjords. 

53. D**k In A Box - Saturday Night Live

Andy Samberg is a funny man (My son adores the sitcom Brooklyn 99 and we recently bonded over the ridiculous movie Hot Rod). Justin Timberlake also clearly has a sense of humour. Together they created the most foul-mouthed, Christmassy boyband ballad of all time. Juvenile humour never sounded as good.  

52. Nick The Lounge Singer - Saturday Night Live

I love the loose, freewheeling energy to this sketch. It feels like these early days of Saturday Night Live were a little less tightly scripted and they sometimes just set up a premise and let funny people do funny things. In fairness, a sketch with a young Bill Murray as a lounge singer at a ski lodge is a great set up (doesnt hurt to throw in Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, along with Paul Shaeffer on piano). It meanders a bit but Bill Murray is committed to the bit and he has that inimitable glint in his eye that I’ve always loved. 

51. Spoonie Luv's Personal Ad - Crank Yankers

Crank Yankers was the brainchild of Jimmy Kimmel & Adam Carolla and featured some brilliant comedians doing prank phone calls. Those calls where then reenacted onscreen using puppets, which made them really unique in look and feel. Tracy Morgan’s calls (as the character Spoonie Luv) were always my favourite because they veered into his particular brand of madness, and the reactions from the other end of the phone were priceless. 

The sketch countdown continues… 

100 Funniest Sketches of All Time #50 – #41 


100 Funniest Sketches Of All Time (70 – 61)

The list of the funniest sketches of all time continues today with a snappy selection of the sublime to the ridiculous.Here are the sketches from 70 to 61…

In case you missed it: 

70. Schweddy Balls – Saturday Night Live

The Schweddy Balls sketch is essentially a dick joke filtered via a pitch perfect parody of a National Public Radio show. But juvenile humour has its place on a list like this too. Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon (my favourite cast member at the time on SNL) play it so wonderfully straight. There is a lovely moment near the end where Molly Shannon nearly breaks but keeps it together. Juvenile, yes. Silly, yes. Funny, hell yeah. 

69. Cute House - The Dress Up Gang

Sometimes great comedy is about unexpected contrasts. This sketch does this with a simple conceit and then delivers that one-note gag over and over. The sketch is maybe a bit too long but I’m a total sucker for this kind of humour that gets funnier through repetition. It’s so fuckin’ cute. 

68. Sharing a Lyft - Conan O'Brien, Ice Cube & Kevin Hart

Conan O’Brien is a genius and easily my favourite late night host. For whatever reason I adore his particular brand of foolishness, whether it is his writing on The Simpsons & SNL or his many skits & segments on his late night shows. This particular segment from his show is so simple and so funny. Send a camera crew out to follow Conan, Ice Cube and Kevin Hart for the day driving around LA and see what happens. It’s no surprise that they all have fantastic chemistry and banter, but it is Conan, who keeps playing up his idiot persona, that serves up genuine laugh out loud moments. This video truly never fails to make me smile. 

67. Falconhoof - Limmy's Show

Limmy’s Show from Kevin Limond is an absolutely bonkers sketch show.  Limmy feels truly unique, and his observational eye feels uniquely Scottish. This Falconhoof sketch lampoons a late night tv phone-in game and gets the details beautifully right, as well as adding a ridiculously over the top Scottish twist to it. I properly roared with laughter the first time I saw it. One of a kind, although thankfully there’s actually more than one Falconhoof sketch.

66. Voice Recognition Lift - Burnistoun

Sticking with all things Scottish. This is such a clever sketch about what happens when modern technology meets an impenetrable Scottish accent. Simple and superbly done. Top drawer comedy.

65. Star Trek: The Wrath of Farrakhan - In Living Color

In Living Color was an amazing, influential sketch show with an embarrassment of riches in the cast. This sketch is a great example of the show’s ability to juxtapose popular culture with social commentary, while still being preposterously over the top and silly at the same time. Carrey’s gurning impression of William Shatner is a thing to behold, and Damon Wayans’ Louis Farrakhan is the perfect deadpan complement. It’s the kind of sketch where you imagine they came up with the name and it almost writes itself after that. 

64. Going For An English - Goodness Gracious Me

I never saw Goodness Gracious Me when it aired, but I’ve been a fan of the performers on different shows they have done. This is a clever little sketch that manages to lampoon British late night culture with perfect precision. How can you not love a sketch with the line: “What’s the blandest thing on the menu?

63. Who's On First - Abbott & Costello

Old school classic wordplay from Abbott & Costello. Still one of the most well known comedy routines of all time and with good reason. Yet another entry on the list that relies on crisp, clever writing as its foundation. Who’s on first? Indeed.

62. Bradley Cooper: Between Two Ferns - Zach Galifianakis

Between Two Ferns is a thing of slow, gentle, quirky genius. Zach Galifiianakis has expert delivery. Bradley Cooper plays along really well. Deliberately awkward as hell. And the way this escalates is terrific. And that final cut to the credits is comedy timing of the highest order.

61. Night Before Christmas - Drunk History

If you havent watched Drunk History yet, do yourself a favour. The conceit is super simple. Get the host drunk and ask them to tell a story as best they can. Then get super famous actors to re-enact the drunken storytelling verbatim. This Christmas Special featuring some A-list actors, and it really shouldn’t work but it really does because of the po-faced delivery. 

The sketch countdown continues..

100 Funniest Sketches of All Time #60 – #51