5 acts putting the weirdness back into sketch comedy

Sketch comedy is back and better than ever with new blood such as Aunty Donna, Lazy Susan, and Foil, Arms & Hog

There was a moment in the 90s when sketch comedy ruled supreme. Born from the loins of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Goon Show,the lineage ran from Harry Enfield & Chums through to The Fast Show, smashing the white male-dominated form along the way with the likes of Smack The Pony and Goodness Gracious Me.

With the turn of the millennium, sketch comedy became a broader, brasher affair. The surreal otherness of Reeves & Mortimer and Big Train was displaced by mass-market catchphrases tailormade for Friday nights on BBC 1. As with any phenomenon, it quickly went from fringe to mainstream to passé.

In recent years, there’s been a revival, not just of the form, but of its manic strangeness too. Here are some of the excitingly funny people who are making sketch comedy brilliant and weird again.

Aunty Donna

Best Day Of My Life (feat. Demi Lardner) - Music Video #3 / Aunty Donna - The Album

It’s hard to think of anything as weird or wonderful as Aussie trio Aunty Donna. From their early YouTube videos (Always Room For Christmas Pud is a festive classic) to their Netflix series Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun, Mark, Broden and Zach take simple scenarios (like realising your bum can make a serviceable drum) and push them way past the point of logic. It’s physical (nobody has funnier eyebrows than Broden Kelly), stupidly clever, childlike, profane and completely insane. Even their online merch store is funny. They’ve been heavily hinting at a world tour so watch this space.

The Pin

Why You Should Always Click 'End Meeting' - The Pin

Like many others, The Pin’s (aka Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen) leap from radio to online video accelerated during lockdown. Unlike many others, The Pin’s videos are consistently hilarious. Many of the duo’s greatest hits mine the endless torture of work Zoom calls for unexpected laughs, not least when Nick Mohammed (Ted Lasso) tries to elbow his way into the middle of some daddy bonding in a job interview. Their stage play, The Comeback, was rightly raved about when it launched in 2020.

I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson

'Focus Group' Sketch | I Think You Should Leave w/ Tim Robinson | Netflix Is A Joke

Most of the best sketches from Tim Robinson (Detroiters, Saturday Night Live) start with someone being caught in a lie, mistake or an embarrassing situation and doubling down to the point of madness. Something as simple as pulling a door that should be pushed or suspecting someone doesn’t like their birthday present can lead to eye-twitching lunacy or even death. It’s a world populated by people completely unaware that they’ve lost all reason and it’s weirdly cathartic watching them wreak hilarious havoc on everyone and everything in their path.

Foil, Arms & Hog

An Englishman Plays Risk - Foil Arms and Hog

Irish trio Sean Finegan (Foil), Conor McKenna (Arms) and Sean Flanagan (Hog) bonded over a mutual love of Father Ted and progressed from there to weekly videos on YouTube and acclaimed live tours. They’ve said their only over-arching theme is “whatever makes us laugh”, with a particular emphasis on Irishness that translates better than an Irish cop who can’t speak the language. There’s a charming innocence to their comedy that should only accelerate their move towards international fame. Catch them on tour later in 2023.

Lazy Susan

Lazy Susan's whimsical French woman in a film

Freya Parker and Celeste Dring are next level funny. Even something as seemingly derivative as mocking cliched kooky female characters is weaponised in their hands. Both accomplished actors and comedians, Parker and Dring bagged a Best Newcomer nomination at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2014 and have since appeared in everything from The Windsors to Jurassic World: Dominion. BBC Three picked up Lazy Susan for a series of shorts last year and it’s abundantly clear that this is only the beginning.