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Although you can’t see the biggest names in comedy live on stage right now, you’ll find a lot of them tickling funny bones on the small screen.
Take Ricky Gervais, for example. Netflix have premiered the second season of his poignant comedy After Life, which is crammed full of his cutting candour and signature no-holds-barred humour.
And that’s not all. We’ve rounded up several more UK sitcoms featuring our favourite stand-ups with something sure to please every comedic sensibility. From Lead Balloon and Father Ted to JOSH and Sunny D, here are the shows that always leave us in stitches.
Where to watch it: Netflix
Everyone knows him as David Brent from the ultimate workplace sitcom The Office. In addition to co-creating and starring in that, Ricky Gervais has given us Extras and Derek. But it’s his latest creation, the dramedy After Life, that’s really touched fans. It follows Tony, a local newspaper journalist who’s struggling with life after the death of his wife. Although that premise sounds anything but funny, Gervais’ edgy humour keeps up the laughs even when we want to cry.
The first series came out in 2019, with fans loving everything from Tony’s interviews with the oddball townsfolk – including a man who received the same birthday card from five different people and another man who had a water stain that resembled Kenneth Branagh – to his amazing dog. The second series is filled with all of these things plus more of Tony’s strangely uplifting struggles with grief.
Where to watch it: YouTube and Google Play
There’s no shortage of laughs in this sitcom about a grumpy, washed up comedian going about his day-to-day life. Lead Balloon came out in 2006 and ran for four series until 2011. It was created, co-written by and stars Jack Dee as Rick Spleen, and every episode contains a disaster of his own making.
You can’t help but chuckle as Rick’s abrasive manner annoys whoever he’s dealing with – like a local chemist who touts the benefits of echinacea, a librarian who won’t pardon his late book fine and a cleaner (played by fellow comedian Omid Djalili) who hasn’t “invisibly mended” his coat.
Where to watch it: BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime
Airing from 2015 to 2017, this eponymous sitcom arrives courtesy of Josh Widdicombe. He stars as a lovable loser who shares his flat with two university pals played by comedians Elis James and Beattie Edmondson. They live near North London’s Holloway Road with none other than Jack Dee as their very odd landlord.
Widdicombe and Dee have great chemistry together, demonstrated early in the 2014 pilot episode that aired as part of BBC’s Comedy Feeds. Tip: If you binge-watch JOSH, keep your eyes peeled for other well-known faces such as Romesh Ranganathan as a theme park attendant and Michael Ball as a vengeful celebrity hairdresser.
Where to watch it: All 4 and Amazon Prime
Set inside a parochial house on Craggy Island, this British-made sitcom about a trio of dysfunctional Irish priests never fails to put fans in a good mood. Running for three series between 1995 and 1998, Ardal O’Hanlon plays dimwitted Father Dougal McGuire, and there are so many great moments in Father Ted that include him. The absolute belter of a Christmas special, A Christmassy Ted, remains a firm favourite – seeing the trio wander into the lingerie section of Debenhams department store.
With the alternative version of Eurovision coming in May, it also brings to mind another favourite episode – the one where Dougal gets “Eurosong fever” and he and Ted write My Lovely Horse to represent Ireland. Watch their dream sequence of that legendary tune below.
What’s more, if you watch all of Father Ted, you’ll spy other popular Irish comedians in cameos – like Ed Byrne as a teenager mocking the priests on a telephone chat line and Jason Byrne as a referee who discovers their win at the annual All-Priests Five-a-Side Over-75s Indoor Challenge Football Match isn’t entirely legit.
Where to watch it: All 4 and Amazon Prime
This laugh-out-loud sitcom pokes fun at the ups and downs of four socially inept teenagers. Running over three series from 2008 and 2010, it was followed by a duo of movies in 2011 and 2014. The boys get up to the usual antics from skipping school to binge drinking. However, mixed among their cringeworthy capers, there’s hilarity and heart – especially as lead character Will McKenzie tries to pull one of the most desired girls at school.
Emily Atack rose to fame playing the object of his affection – promiscuous, yet kind-hearted Charlotte Hinchcliffe. From their first conversation at a party, viewers can’t help but laugh hysterically at Will’s awkward interactions with her.
Where to watch it: YouTube
Created by writer and comedian Dane Baptiste, Sunny D features him as a disenchanted thirty-something still living at home. Trapped in his childhood bedroom thanks to a low-paying job, the pressure is on to leave and start a new life – especially because he quarrels endlessly with his twin sister and is constantly fussed over by his aunts.
Baptiste’s pilot for Sunny D was released in 2015 and then green-lit into a four-episode series, each one themed around different facets of his disenchantment with life. Full of fun flashbacks and flash forwards, the show received positive reviews for the writing, packed with solid jokes.
Where to watch it: All 4 and Netflix
If you like to mix your comedy with a bit of social unrest, then this is the show for you. Premiering in 2018, Derry Girls has two series to its credit, with a third to be filmed later this year. Set in Northern Ireland in the early ’90s, it follows a group of teenage Catholic girls as they deal with typical adolescent things – from crushes and detention to Take That concerts – against the backdrop of the Troubles.
Derry Girls’ cast includes Irish comedy veteran Tommy Tiernan as the long-suffering Da Gerry. It’s a perfect role for him with scenes of passion in protecting his family as well as slapstick interactions with his father-in-law Granda Joe. Anyone remember their infamous takeaway chips argument?
We think these are some of the best UK sitcoms to keep you laughing. Do you agree? Tell us which shows crack you up on Twitter.
Plus find out when your favourite stand-ups are going on tour in our comedy guide.