While there’s a lot of laughs to be found in classic sitcoms, like Seinfeld or Friends, sometimes changing up your comedy intake is for the best. Shows like The Office and 30 Rock further moved the dial, but, now, there’s a whole new fleet of TV shows and movies worth digging into — offbeat comedies.
Often absurd and rife with dark humor, these offbeat offerings take the best of classic situational comedy and combine it with fresh, contemporary beats. From self-aware dramatic irony to groundbreaking animated sequences to not-quite-grounded worlds, the elements that make these works great aren’t necessarily new, but the combination sure is fresh.
If you’re a fan of series like Broad City, Barry and Pen15, or films like Plan B and What We Do in the Shadows, check out these other shows and movies that are shaping not just our must-watch lists, but the comedy scene at large, too.
Hulu Originals: Must-Watch Offbeat Comedies
Plan B (Hulu)
This comedy marks Natalie Morales’ (Dead to Me, Santa Clarita Diet) directorial debut — and the actor more than proves their filmmaking chops in this first outing. Starring Victoria Moroles and Kuhoo Verma, you’ll feel the connection between Plan B and other teen comedies of late, like Booksmart (2019). At the same time, Plan B (2021) feels fresh — and not just because it centers two characters of color, though that is something to spotlight, for sure.
As the title suggests, the film centers around the characters’ attempts to secure a Plan B pill. After a regrettable one-time hook-up, Sunny (Verma) and her best friend, the more outgoing Lupe (Moroles), find themselves on a road trip: they can’t get Plan B at their local pharmacy without parental consent, so they drive to the nearest Planned Parenthood in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Plan B remains timely, especially after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe earlier this year. With a sharp script, the leads’ incredible chemistry and turns that feel perfectly surprising-yet-inevitable, Morales’ film is a must-watch offbeat comedy.
Palm Springs (Hulu)
If you’re like me, you may have thought Andy Samberg’s brand of comedy wasn’t for you. The thing is, with series like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and mockumentaries like Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016) and 7 Days in Hell (2015), Samberg has proved both his far-reaching comedy chops and his ability to hit more poignant notes, too (the latter ability mainly showing up in B-99). If you’re still not a fan of the SNL alum, this science-fiction comedy romance movie will convince you.
Palm Springs (2020) takes a page from the Groundhog Day (1993) playbook by having several of its characters repeat the same day again and again. Our protagonists, Nyles (Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti) meet at a wedding in Palm Springs, and drunkenly hook up in the desert. When Nyles is hit by an arrow — courtesy an angry J.K. Simmons (Juno) — he crawls toward a cave, warning Sarah to stay away. She follows him, naturally, and ends up sucked into a vortex, the nexus of the time loop Nyles has been stuck in.
With strong performances from its leads and a fresh script, Palm Springs is perfectly irreverent and full of laughs — until the all-too-real stuff boils to the surface and hits you, hard. What more could you ask for?
Created by its stars, Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine, Pen15 is the definition of cringe comedy. Self-described as “middle school as it really happened”, the show casts Konkle and Erskine — both in their 30s — as versions of their 13-year-old selves.
The social outcasts are surrounded by actual kid actors playing their middle school peers. It’s absurd and jarring at first, but slowly it becomes absurd and painfully accurate. There’s something about watching this retrospective visit to one of life’s more trying times alongside Konkle and Erskine that’s both hilarious and cathartic. Plus, Pen15’s continual inventiveness — not just the clever casting idea, but things like a completely animated episode — help it stand out.
What We Do In the Shadows (FX, Watch on Hulu)
In 2014, Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement penned (and starred in) a mockumentary horror-comedy movie called What We Do in the Shadows. This FX series, which first debuted in 2019, is part of the same franchise. Created by Clement, the 17-time Emmy-nominated series follows four vampire roommates living on Staten Island.
Starring Kayvan Novak, Natasia Demetriou, Matt Berry, Harvey Guillén and Mark Proksch, three of the New York-based vamp roommates are the traditional sort — Nandor (Novak), Laszlo (Berry) and Nadja (Demetriou) — while one, Colin (Proksch) is a basement-dwelling energy vampire. Guillén, meanwhile, plays Guillermo — Nandor’s decade-long familiar who hopes to be turned into a vampire.
With episodes penned by Waititi and Clement, and a strong roster of guest stars, this charming, strange show is refreshingly off-kilter, expanding upon vampire lore while sticking the protagonists in both genuinely absurd and laughably mundane situations.
Other Offbeat Comedies Available With Hulu
Thoroughbreds (Watch on Hulu, HBO Max)
Before Anya Taylor-Joy starred in The Queen’s Gambit and became a household name, she had an impressive roster of early roles. While most viewers recognize her from The Witch (2015), she also starred in the somewhat under-the-radar Thoroughbreds alongside Olivia Cooke in 2017. The film also features Paul Sparks (House of Cards) and the late Anton Yelchin (Green Room) in one of his final roles.
In Thoroughbreds, diligent high school student Lily (Taylor-Joy) and her friend, Amanda (Cooke), plot to kill Lily’s step-dad (Sparks). The two used to be best friends, but drifted apart in the wake of Lily’s father’s death. Just before the two reunite, Amanda euthanizes her injured horse with a knife, and is charged with animal cruelty. From then on, she’s subdued, kind of emotionally stunted, which makes her all-the-more threatening — maybe.
This dark comedy-meets-teen-thriller balances its many genres rather perfectly. While the performances from its young leads will keep you on the edge of your seat, you’ll also find the film wickedly funny.
Zola (Watch on Hulu)
Directed by Janicza Bravo, Zola (2020) is a dark comedy based on a viral Twitter thread from 2015 by Aziah “Zola” King. Following the viral moment, writer David Kushner penned an equally popular article for Rolling Stone, “Zola Tells All: The Real Story Behind the Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted”. Soon enough, the misadventures were finessed for screenplay form.
In the film, Zola, played by Taylour Paige, works part time at a strip club. When she makes a new friend (Riley Keough), Zola finds herself traveling to Tampa, Florida to earn money — but things quickly take a turn. Well, many turns. Hyper-stylized and grounded by incredible performances — the cast also includes Colman Domingo, Nicholas Braun, and Ari’el Stachel — the film is also an intimate portrait of folks in the sex work industry.
A zany road-trip comedy that feels so of-the-moment, Zola is one of those offbeat comedies you won’t soon forget.
Swiss Army Man (Watch on Hulu)
Before Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan wrote and directed 2022’s Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Daniels, as they’re often called, made their debut with Swiss Army Man (2016). The absurdist dark comedy stars Paul Dano (The Batman) as Hank, a man marooned on an island. Ready to end it all, Hank sees a corpse — played wonderfully by Daniel Radcliffe — wash ashore.
The corpse’s most definitive quality is… its flatulence. Hank even uses it to jet ski to a more promising location. As the movie progresses, the body gains some sentience, and the name Manny. As Manny learns to speak and navigate social norms, the relationship between him and Hank becomes a bit more complicated. At the end of the day, Swiss Army Man is very original — and very, very disarming. There aren’t even any other offbeat comedies that feel like this one.
Shiva Baby (Watch on Hulu, HBO Max)
Emma Seligman made their feature directorial debut with 2020’s Shiva Baby, a comedy that stars Rachel Sennott as Danielle, a bisexual Jewish woman who finds herself just kind of drifting through life. When she attends a shiva with her parents, Joel (Fred Melamed) and Debbie (Polly Draper), things get a bit…chaotic.
Also in attendance are Danielle’s ex-girlfriend, Maya (Molly Gordon), who’s also extremely successful, and Danielle’s so-called “sugar daddy”, Max (Danny Deferrari), who’s joined by his wife (Dianna Agron) and their (screaming) newborn. A crucial moment of representation for bisexual folks and Jewish young adults, Shiva Baby provides Danielle with a microcosm of her potential life choices. And, of course, the searing judgment of her family and friends is close by.
While the film has all the elements of a coming-of-age picture, it also manages to show that Danielle really is a work in progress. And that’s incredibly refreshing.
Broad City (Comedy Central, Watch on Hulu)
What can we say about Broad City that hasn’t already been written? Over its five seasons, the strange, edgy, laugh-out-loud comedy redefined the genre. Co-created by stars Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, Broad City allowed two (queer) women to be all the things women usually aren’t allowed to be on screen — irreverent, messy, honest, gross and just, you know, real.
Despite feeling like a realistic portrayal of Millenials navigating the many ups and (many more) downs of living in New York City, the show succeeds because of its hyperbolic approach. For example, in one episode, Jacobson’s character, also Abbi, travels across the boroughs to an island in the middle of the East River to deal with a missing USPS package. The whole ordeal isn’t what would actually happen, but it captures that feeling so perfectly. And that’s the power of a show like Broad City.
Not to mention, the chemistry and charisma between Glazer and Jacobson, who has gone on to co-create and star in A League of Their Own, makes you think fondly of your own “best frond” — all while feeling like your part of Abbi and Ilana’s inner-circle, too.
Ingrid Goes West (Watch on Hulu)
At its core, Ingrid Goes West is about grief — and the avoidance of it — as well as mental illness, and how social media can augment it. On the surface, though, this dark comedy will have you cringing more than an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm thanks to all of the anxiety-inducing situations its protagonist gets into.
Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Rec) stars as Ingrid, a young woman who travels to Los Angeles on a whim to meet her Instagram idol, professional influencer Taylor Sloane (WandaVision’s Elizabeth Olsen). Ingrid makes it her mission to stalk Taylor. The Pennsylvania transplant wants to be just like the influencer, from having her all-Anthropologie wardrobe and immaculately decorated Coachella-lover home to being part of her inner-circle.
Ingrid Goes West makes great use of Plaza’s very direct comedic delivery style, while also putting her in situations where she has to stumble and bumble in a way that’s perfectly awkward. You’ll laugh out loud throughout the movie, but, in the end, it’ll all hit you like a gut-punch as Ingrid’s sloppily curated world crumbles.
Offbeat Comedies on HBO Max
Search Party (HBO Max)
When her college acquaintance, Chantal, goes missing, Dory (Alia Shawkat) makes it her mission to find out what happened. And that’s strange, considering she and Chantal weren’t exactly pals or anything. Dory’s life just feels a bit aimless, and this is the spark of mystery she needs — the something worth focusing on and digging into.
But she’s also joined by her mess of a friend group: there’s Dory’s pathetic boyfriend, Drew (John Reynolds); narcissistic bud Elliot (John Early); and flighty actress pal Portia (Meredith Hagner). When Dory thinks she spots Chantal at a New York City diner, the mystery ramps up even more — and Dory crosses even more lines. Awkward, dark and a bit cringey, the mix of over-the-top personalities with the show’s sharp self-awareness makes Search Party a must-watch series.
Made for Love (HBO Max)
The phrase “can’t get you out of my head” is perfectly depicted in Made for Love, a satire that takes cues from science fiction. Palm Springs’ Cristin Milioti stars as Hazel Green, a woman who’s trying to escape from her husband of 10 years.
The only problem? He implanted some tech in her brain that allows him to know her every thought, action and feeling. If you’re a fan of Black Mirror, this dark comedy is a must-watch series. The premise is fresh and Milioti’s performance is, as always, incredible.
Barry (HBO Max)
A fan-favorite show, Barry stars SNL alum Bill Hader as the titular character — a hitman who considers switching careers. On a trip to LA, our protagonist finds himself in an acting class taught by Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler). As a result, Barry considers giving up his life of crime to get into acting, which he really enjoys. (If only all offbeat comedies started off this strong.)
Often, balancing such jarring tonal shifts — dark, intense scenes and truly hilarious comedic moments are braided together — is a real feat. But Barry makes it look easy. Executed flawlessly and brimming with originality, it’s no wonder Barry has already accumulated a whopping 44 Emmy nominations.
Hacks (HBO Max)
With an impressive 17 Emmy nominations under its belt, Hacks isn’t one of the non-mainstream offbeat comedies on our list. But it’s made waves for a reason, and if you haven’t watched it’s first two seasons yet, here’s your sign to catch up.
The series centers on Deborah Vance (Jean Smart), a legendary stand-up who needs to reinvent her act to stay relevant. Not to mention, her residency at a casino is at risk. That’s where Ava (Hannah Einbinder) comes in.
Although she’s a troubled young comedy writer — she can’t find work due to a reputation-ruining Tweet — Ava also has the point of view Deborah needs to stay fresh. Come for the truly hilarious writing and pitch-perfect performances, and stay for the relationship between Hacks’ stars.
A Black Lady Sketch Show (HBO Max)
Created by Robin Thede, the show is composed of comedy sketches performed by a cast of Black women. Series regulars include not just Thede, but comedic greats like Gabrielle Dennis, Ashley Nicole Black and Skye Townsend. For a time, Laci Mosley and Abbott Elementary creator Quinta Brunson were also recurring writers and actors on A Black Lady Sketch Show.
If SNL feels incredibly tired to you too, try this HBO series. The guest star list alone should convince you as it includes — takes a deep breath — Issa Rae, Vanessa Williams, Angela Bassett, Laverne Cox, Nicole Byer, Amber Riley, Miguel, Omarion, Raven-Symoné, Kelly Rowland, Tia Mowry, Gabrielle Union, Kyla Pratt, Wanda Sykes and Patti LaBelle.
Dynamic, clever and always-surprising, the Emmy-nominated A Black Lady Sketch Show finds humor in the specifics, but makes those details universally understood. It’s one of our favorites comedies — in general, not just among offbeat comedies — so if you want to laugh consistently at sharp observations and layered jokes, tune in.
Los Espookys (HBO Max)
Set in a Latin American country where the strange and supernatural are mundane, Los Espookys isn’t quite like anything else on TV. Given that it’s created by singular comedians who are known for tapping into the absurd with matter-of-fact delivery — Julio Torres, Ana Fabrega and Fred Armisen — that isn’t too surprising.
The show, which is mostly filmed in Spanish with English subtitles, centers on a group who turn their love of all things horror into a business. For the most part, the friends’ jobs have them fabricating horror film scenarios into seemingly real moments — or real enough to trick onlookers, anyway.
Other Offbeat Comedies: Series to Get You Through the Week
The Afterparty (Apple TV+)
Set in a lavish cliffside mansion that belonged to uber successful singer Xavier (Dave Franco), The Afterparty centers on a high-school reunion gone wrong. After a night full of twists and turns, Xavier is found dead at the foot of his house, and his former classmates are the prime suspects.
The problem? For Detective Danner (Tiffany Haddish), things are tricky; most of the attendees have a reasonable motive. And that leads to The Afterparty’s unique narrative structure. Each episode centers on one major character, allowing them to tell their side of the story. And each episode is catered to that character in terms of style and genre.
Featuring an incredible cast of actors, including Sam Richardson (Veep), Zoë Chao (Strangers), Ben Schwartz (Parks and Rec) and Ilana Glazer (Broad City), The Afterparty is one of many reasons to sign up for Apple TV+, and is definitely one of 2022’s most underrated shows.
Tuca & Bertie (Netflix; Adult Swim)
This adult cartoon created by cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt — best known for her work on BoJack Horseman — revolves around the friendship between two 30-year-old bird-women, Tuca and Bertie, voiced by Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip) and Ali Wong (Always Be My Maybe) respectively.
Tuca, a carefree toucan who is living her best life, and Bertie, a neurotic songbird, might be an unlikely pair, but the roommates are also the best of friends. When Bertie decides to move in with her robin boyfriend Speckles (Steven Yeun), Tuca moves upstairs to keep the decidedly not-safe-for-kids fun going. If you’re a fan of Broad City or BoJack — or both — you’ll likely love the absurd humor and surprising amount of heart and depth on display in Tuca & Bertie.
Dead to Me (Netflix)
Created by Liz Feldman, this dark comedy made waves with its gripping first season, thanks in large part to the chemistry between co-leads Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini. They play two grieving women who end up bonding during a group therapy session. But, over the course of the first season’s twists and turns, we learn that Judy (Cardellini) has a preexisting connection to Jen (Applegate) that she’s not being forthright about.
It’s these continual surprises that keep you hooked. And the second season is no exception. Its premiere sees Jen and Judy teaming up to hide a dead body. And the secrets only build from there. After all, Judy has a penchant for telling the truth, even when it’s detrimental — and that can spark Jen’s anger issues to surface.
That combination can be brutal, but it’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. Part pulp, part visceral examination of how grief shapes and bonds us, there’s nothing else quite like Dead to Me, even among offbeat comedies.
One Mississippi (Prime Video)
Created by star Tig Notaro, One Mississippi is a somewhat autobiographical look at the stand-up comic’s life. It’s also the definition of dark comedy: in the pilot, Tig travels home when her mother takes an unexpected fall and ends up in a coma.
The only one there when her mother is taken off life support, Tig has an emotional moment — and, a beat later, asks the very real question of how long it takes for someone to actually die once they’re taken off life support. She proceeds to sit around a bit awkwardly. And it’s just a very real moment. One Mississippi is full of moments like this — raw, tender, funny and dark, all at once. It’s not quite like the other offbeat comedies on this list, but it’s definitely doing something singular.
Much like in real life, the character of Tig is navigating life post-several medical emergencies. But the show also grapples with sexual assault, what it means to be a family and more. Plus, it star’s Tig’s real-life wife, Stephanie Allyne (The L Word: Generation Q) as late-in-life queer person Kate, Tig’s love interest.
Portlandia (IFC, Watch on Prime Video)
Portlandia is kind of the most offbeat of offbeat comedies. After all, it’s a love letter to Portland, Oregon — a quirky city associated with the slogan “keep Portland weird”. Created by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, the show also stars the comedic duo in a variety of sketches, playing a variety of characters.
Some of those odd Portlandians are recurring characters, like the owners of the feminist bookstore, while others are more one-off. A perfect satire of all things hipster as well as all things mundane and trendy (i.e. binging all of Battlestar Galactica and then being purposeless when it ends), Portlandia launched a whole new brand of comedy, and is always worth a rewatch.
Other Offbeat Comedies: Movies to Stream
The Little Hours (Watch on Paramount+, Prime Video)
Little Hours features some great comedic talent. Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza and Kate Micucci star as nuns who are foul-mouthed — and eager to sleep with the convent’s attractive new gardener (Dave Franco), who himself has been exiled for adultery. But they aren’t the only comedy stars who fill out the cast of this raunchy medieval romp.
There’s also John C. Reilly as Father Tommasso, Molly Shannon as Mother Marea, Fred Armisen as Bishop Bartolomeo and Jemima Kirke as the witchy Marta, just to name a few more cast members. Set in the Middle Ages, Little Hours perfectly blends anachronistic dialogue and humor with its setting, making it one of the best offbeat comedies on this list.
The Overnight (Watch on Prime Video)
In The Overnight, Adam Scott (Severance) and Taylor Schilling (Orange Is the New Black) co-star as Alex and Emily, the L.A.-based parents of a young kid. They’re new in town, and not really sure how to make friends as adults, so they take their son to playdates in the neighborhood park. There, another parent, Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), invites them over for dinner.
But what starts out as a pretty standard dinner party invite turns into something a bit more unexpected for the straight-laced transplants; Kurt and his wife, Charlotte (Judith Godrèche), are swingers. While the kids are asleep, they plan to invite Alex and Emily to participate in an orgy. Witty and surprising, The Overnight is what you might expect from a film produced by Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass.