Seven side-splitting Canadian TV comedies that you need to watch
A new generation of funny people are pumping out a cornucopia of sitcoms, satires and sketch shows—most of them set in Toronto. Here, a guide to the best of CanComedy’s TV explosion
The All-Female Farce
Baroness von Sketch Show
The four women on CBC’s all-female sketch series fuse the madcap wit of Kids in the Hall with a feminist edge. The breakneck sketches stretch from 15-second hits to three-minute scenes, alternating between droll absurdism (a “stitch and bitch” session between surgeons), observational comedy (a bit about embarrassing online passwords) and sharp political satire (a World Summit headed by women).
For fans of The anti-sexist satire of Inside Amy Schumer.
Breakout star Meredith MacNeill is a gifted physical comedian. In one sketch, she struggles haplessly to remove her clothes before a massage.
The Small-Town Send-Up
Last February, co-writers Jared Keeso and Jacob Tierney parlayed the hoser humour of Letterkenny, their popular web series about life in small-town Ontario, into CraveTV’s first original Canadian sitcom. Inspired by Keeso’s childhood in Listowel (population 7,000), the show follows two foul-mouthed hicks through breakups, birthday parties and bad ideas (like Fartbook, a fart-sharing website) in a tight-knit community where everyone is a hillbilly, skid, hockey player or Christian. The show is salty but warm, with genuine affection for its setting.
For fans of The pungent blue-collar Canadiana of Trailer Park Boys.
Breakout stars Keeso and Nathan Dales exude charisma and depth in roles that could have easily fallen into hick stereotypes.
The Weirdo Romp
Nirvanna the Band the Show
Two lovable losers dream of booking a concert at the Rivoli, a quest that leads them on a string of ludicrous misadventures across the city. Matt Johnson and Jay McCarrol’s wildly experimental show, adapted from their web series of the same name, is shot around Toronto, guerrilla style: they invade the Santa Claus parade, torment Rivoli patio patrons and provoke hilariously candid reactions from people who don’t realize they’re being filmed. And the series regularly breaks the fourth wall—in one episode, Matt and Jay argue over how best to fade to commercial.
For fans of The prank-show audacity of Da Ali G Show and cringe comedy of The Office.
Breakout star Johnson emerges as a Woody Allen–like auteur—he plays obnoxious a little too well.
The Mommy Manifesto
Workin’ Moms picks up where Girls leaves off. The cynically funny series follows four affluent, angst-ridden young professionals in Rosedale—including PR agent Kate, played by series creator Catherine Reitman (daughter of Ivan, sister of Jason)—as they graduate from prolonged adolescence to the rough respon-sibilities of motherhood. The best bits are subtle: quick-witted snipes and unapologetic banter about unplanned pregnancies, postpartum depression and the etiquette of pumping breast milk at the office.
For fans of The lifestyle porn of Sex and the City.
Breakout stars Juno Rinaldi overflows with off-kilter energy as the most unpredictable of the moms—in one episode, she falls out of a tree dressed like a princess.
The Snippy Newscast
Satirical news outlet the Beaverton, Canada’s mild-mannered answer to the Onion, is now Canada’s mild-mannered answer to The Daily Show. Hosts Miguel Rivas, Emma Hunter and a grab bag of other upcoming Canadian comedians deliver news—both local (Peter Mansbridge’s retirement) and international (Trumpageddon)—with a snarky Canuck slant, alternating in-studio stories with “field report” sketches that have an unpolished, high-school-pageant vibe. The anchors’ political truth bombs about Justin Trudeau, Indigenous rights and gay blood donors often land even harder than their jokes.
For fans of This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Andy Borowitz’s satirical New Yorker column.
Breakout star The show’s best deadpan comedian, Aisha Alfa, delivers snappy reports on stories like the new sex-ed curriculum.
The Millennial Comedy
Two best friends—both named Jennifer, both second–generation Asian-Canadians—struggle to adjust to -independence after moving out of their childhood homes: finding an apartment, skirting the advances of male neighbours, reassuring over-anxious parents. The lighthearted sitcom is low-key—more pleasant than laugh-out-loud funny—deriving its strongest moments from the likability of its goofy cast, and the familiar streets, bars and houses of its Little Italy setting.
For fans of The comfort-food comedy of Friends.
Breakout stars Through clever dialogue, co-creators Samantha Wan and Amanda Joy convey the easy chemistry of lifelong friends.
The Storefront Sitcom
Behind the counter at his Regent Park convenience store, middle-age Korean immigrant Appa Kim collides with patrons of every race, gender and orientation, while trying to relate to his own cosmopolitan Asian-Canadian children. Based on Ins Choi’s play—which toured nationally after sold-out runs at Soulpepper—Kim’s Convenience updates a comfortable sitcom format with gutsy plots and gags that reflect the diversity of a modern metropolis.
For fans of Fresh Off the Boat’s riffs on race, and King of Kensington, CBC’s other—albeit much older—shopkeeper sitcom in a multicultural neighbourhood.
Breakout star Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, a veteran Toronto character actor, finds his defining role in Appa, who rises above the Asian patriarch archetype.