Updated: Jan 5, 2021
The ground rules: This is not a list ranking the greatest comedies. This is a list ranking the best casts of those comedies. Things that will be taken into account are how funny the show actually was, how many funny characters were on the show (both main and recurring) and the success that cast members went on to achieve outside of the show.
First thing’s first. I will not be including Friends on this list. Friends is not funny. Friends featured six actors and only Chandler had anything even slightly resembling a sense of humor.
And I know what’s coming. BUT PHOEBE! SHE SANG THAT SONG ABOUT THE CAT! AND THE WE WERE ON A BREAK THING! AND JOEY LIKED SANDWICHES!
This show is a black eye on the face of comedy. It had Jennifer Aniston and then FIVE actors who went on to either have an embarrassment of a career or no career at all.
Good golly I hate that show!
10. 30 Rock
30 Rock is sort of a weird cast. The show itself was not anything special. It was critically acclaimed, but in today’s day and age “critically acclaimed” gets tossed around too often and is usually just code for “not popular but we want to sound interesting and smart” (see the show The Wire).
The reason 30 Rock makes this list is because the cast was packed to the gills with comedians who were great elsewhere. Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Jane Krakowski, Jack McBreyer, and Tracey Morgan all found success through other platforms, and are all remembered mostly for their roles on other shows and in other movies.
Liz Lemon was above average, at best. Tracey Jordan was just an exaggerated version of Tracey Morgan. Kenneth and Jenna were there mostly for B stories and were rarely anything special.
Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of Jack Donaghy was the only consistently great part of 30 Rock. He was perfectly casted, his sarcastic wit was always spot on, and his character arc was great.
The show had a bunch of secondary characters that, simply put, sucked. The series was touted as smart but they constantly brought out over-the-top silly characters like Dr. Spaceman and Greta. Their running gags were more “aha” than “haha” in that they weren’t funny but were a bit clever.
Overall, 30 Rock was a fine comedy, and worth a watch if you’ve watched every other comedy on this list. The cast has several comedy greats but their best work was done elsewhere. It’s sort of like when the Miami Heat signed Lebron, Allen, and Bosh and created a super team. They were fine but no one remembers those guys as members of the Heat because their best work was done with other teams.
9. Schitt’s Creek
Schitt’s Creek had a mix of unknowns and comedy legends in the cast. David, Alexis, and Stevie were all complete nobodies at the start of the show, while Johnny, Moira, and Roland have all been well known in Hollywood since the 1970s.
Johnny and Stevie were excellent straight-men for the cast. They kept the story moving while having some very memorable comedic scenes. Alexis also had quite a few hilarious moments throughout the show. Her B stories often were funnier than the actual focus of the episode. She also created electric catchphrases like “Ew David!” and “Love that journey for you.” Roland’s scenes had more of the slapstick, goofy comedy, which was sometimes very funny.
The cast also became the first cast, in a drama or a comedy, to sweep all the major acting categories at the Emmy’s. Johnny, Moira, David and Alexis all won their respective categories, which was a feat that literally no other show in history has ever been able to accomplish.
While the entire cast had their moments, the show belonged to David and Moira. Despite being on PopTV, which is apparently a real channel that actually exists, David and Moira quickly moved to the forefront of comedy TV in just 5 years.
The show had moments that became instant classics like “Fold in the cheese”. Those moments were supplemented with catchphrases like “I’m very uninterested in that opinion” and “I’m trying very hard not to connect with people right now”. These catchphrases were adopted into people’s everyday vernacular, despite the show coming out of nowhere, seemingly overnight. The two have to be considered among the best comedy characters ever.
As for secondary characters, the Jazz-a-Gals, Patrick, and Ted were all solid and gave a few laughs throughout their runs on the show but were nothing to write home about. Their long-running jokes were very subtle and not at all relied upon.
Overall, the show was stellar and brought out 2 all-time characters. However, those 2 characters sort of Michael Jordan’d the show and didn’t really give anyone else a chance to shine as bright as them, which is the only thing keeping them from moving up further on the list.
8. Arrested Development
Arrested Development, like 30 Rock, was a show that was not as funny as the critics made it out to be but had a cast that all went on to do huge things with their careers.
A cast with Jason Bateman, Tony Hale, Michael Cera, Will Arnett, David Cross, Jeffrey Tambor and Ron Howard is as elite as a cast can be.
While on the show, though, the group was only moderately funny. They had running jokes that some people found funny but overall the show just seemed to miss the mark. It did, however, create a litany of memes like Tobias crying in the shower, and George-Michael collapsing to the floor upon arrival but it never really became mainstream.
It’s a shame the show writers tried so hard to be so different and quirky. The subtle humor and the outlandish jokes kept the show from expanding its audience. If they took a path to a more mainstream type of comedy, augmented by the talent they had, they could have created the greatest show of all time.
There is not much else to be said about Arrested Development due to the fact that it was short-lived. But the cast belongs in the discussion for best ever strictly due to the volume of stars that it actually produced.
7. New Girl
The single most underrated sitcom, maybe ever. This show was absolutely fantastic, and it was not due to the writing. New Girl was funny because two characters carried an entire show on their backs for 7 seasons.
Schmidt and Nick Miller both belong in the conversation for greatest tv comedy characters ever.
For the sake of this list, I will mention the other characters. Jess, Winston, Coach and Cece were also on the show. That is all I will say about them as they were basically non-contributors when it came to comedy.
Back to the good part.
Nick Miller, played by Jake Johnson, took the tired, played out character of sloppy burnout failure, and completely changed it. He made it funny and new and was consistently a bright light on the show. Schmidt, played by Max Greenfield, was the polar opposite. He was over the top, loud and brash. When the two would meet they were unstoppable. The best comedy duo since Jerry and George on Seinfeld.
One flaw in the show’s make-up is that there were very few secondary characters, and aside from Megan Fox’s, Reagan, none of them were anything to write home about. When you have bland characters like Jess, Coach and Cece, you need to have other side characters to spice up the bland story, which was New Girl’s biggest issue.
The show New Girl was very good for a long time, before tailing off in the last few seasons. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s watched the show who didn’t love it. This is likely only due to Schmidt and Nick. If anyone tells you differently, you have my permission to get violent.
Entourage is one of the earliest HBO comedies. The show consisted of a cast of 5 guys who all went on to do absolutely nothing with their careers. HOWEVER, the show also featured multiple cameos from A-Listers in every single episode that helped to create a wider base of characters.
This cast, while small, was absolutely flawless. Jeremy Piven as Ari Gold, Adrian Grenier as Vince, Kevin Dillon as Drama, Jerry Ferrera as Turtle, and Kevin Connolly as E were all the perfect choices. The fact that they were all very believable really added to the quality of the show.
Entourage is a rare gem of a comedy because every single episode is funny. Even when the show takes a dark turn in season 7, the writing and the characters are still as funny as ever, if not funnier.
What also sets Entourage apart from other comedies is that every character is funny. Even the cameos are amazing. Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Gary Busey, Seth Green, and Bob Saget all have several appearances and each one is memorable.
While the show had very few running jokes and catchphrases, it was still able to lean on innovative storytelling and cameos to keep the die-hard fans engaged.
Entourage’s success is probably more due to the writing than the cast, but each character was funny in their own unique way so Entourage finds itself on this list.
5. How I Met Your Mother
How I Met Your Mother consisted of a fairly small cast with five main characters and only a handful of recurring characters. The show produced one of the greatest comic characters in history with Neil Patrick Harris’ portrayal of Barney Stinson. His catchphrases, off-color jokes, and wild escapades set the tone for the rest of the show.
The other characters, however, left a bit to be desired. As the show progressed, the comedy sort of took a back seat to the story, which is why the cast doesn’t show up higher on the list.
Robin and Marshall simply stopped being funny halfway through the show while Lily stayed consistently below average in the comedy realm. Ted was annoying the whole time. The whole time. Every episode. Awful. But despite these shortcomings, the cast had more chemistry than any other sitcom cast and they were able to keep the show up and running with good acting and random bursts of great comedy.
The show also ran an absolute clinic on catchphrases, long-running jokes, and gimmicks. Suit up, the slap bet, Robin Sparkles, the duck tie, and literally countless other jokes all kept the viewers around and made them feel like they were a part of the journey.
As for secondary characters: the gang’s coworkers, their parents, Barney’s conquests, and Ted’s girlfriends like Zoey, Victoria, and Stella were all there to advance the story more than they were to be funny.
Overall, How I Met Your Mother was a fantastic sitcom with one of the best stories you’ll find on TV. However, the earlier seasons definitely had a funnier collection of episodes, but that is likely due to the writing more than the cast.
Veep was anchored by the greatest sitcom actor of all time. Julia Louis Dreyfus (JLD) is the only person to ever win an Emmy for three different lead TV characters. While nobody would dispute the greatness of Elaine from Seinfeld and Christine from New Adventures of Old Christine, Vice President Selina Meyer was, by far, her greatest role.
The show snuck under the radar of the public for a while but is now gaining notoriety and that must be due to the incredible cast the show had. Once again a show that did not boast many A-List stars but had several funny people who worked well together.
Ben, Kent, Gary, Jonah, and Mike (played by Kevin Dunn, Gary Cole, Tony Hale, Timothy Simons, and Matt Walsh, respectively) did an excellent job keeping the viewers laughing while Selina was not on screen. The show had so many characters that knew how to get a laugh, so they were able to keep every minute of every episode funny.
Regardless of how the rest of the cast performed, JLD was funny enough for everyone. Her acting alone would land the show on this list. The other great characters were just gravy.
There were some solid running jokes and incredible secondary characters who kept the show interesting. But the main cast and the originality with which they approached each episode was what made this show so great.
3. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
The longest running sitcom on TV, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has long been seen as one of the best TV shows of all time by viewers and critics alike.
Charlie, Mac, Dennis, Dee and Frank have carried every episode on their back for 14 seasons, using minimal supporting characters and only a few running jokes. Not only is the cast incredibly funny in the show, but they also all have a hand in the writing of the show, so bonus points to them.
A cast centered around 5 people would normally get stale as time goes on. But over the 15 years that Sunny has been running, the characters have remained fresh and hilarious. This is likely due to each character evolving into an even more exaggerated version of themselves each season.
With Charlie’s illiteracy worsening, Dennis spiraling into more of a sociopathic darkness, Mac’s sexual curiosity, Dee’s constant victimization, and Frank’s revolting personality, each character is able to go further and further each season to keep the viewer engaged with a whole new set of jokes and antics.
Their success outside of the show is also something that sets them apart from other casts as each of them has had success. Danny Devito was an icon in the 80s and 90s, and has reinvigorated his career by joining Sunny. Charlie Day has been in several Hollywood hits like Horrible Bosses and Fist Fight. Glenn Howerton, Rob McElhenney and Kaitlin Olson were all so good on their show that they were each given a separate sitcom of which they were the star (AP Bio, Mythic Quest, The Mick).
The show does employ a few side characters that are in an episode or two each season. The characters are all fan favorites. Rickety Cricket, The McPoyles and Gail the Snail steal the show every time they appear.
Sunny is an incredible sitcom that is constantly reinventing itself, but the cast being so good at what they do is what gets it put into the three rank on this list.
2. Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recreation sort of put together what all these other sitcoms couldn’t. They combined a massive ensemble cast filled with a good mix of unknowns and well-established stars and supplemented that with great cameos, great recurring characters and great running jokes.
Amy Poehler led the cast with other well-known stars like Rob Lowe and Adam Scott. It also featured relative unknowns who went on to become big stars like Rashida Jones, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Nick Offerman and Aziz Ansari. The show also set the tone for their comedic careers, as well. Each character’s style of comedy made its way into their work outside of Parks and Rec, like Chris Pratt in the Marvel movies, and Aubrey Plaza in a litany of comedies. And of course, despite not being huge stars, Donna and Jerry/Garry/Larry were always great additions to the show.
I would be remiss if I didn’t give a full shoutout to Ron Swanson for being one of the greatest TV characters of all time. His no-nonsense attitude and his incredibly dry humor kept the show going at such an elite level from start to finish. Any scene with Ron ended up being absolutely fantastic. He has an unreal amount of memorable scenes and one-liners. Ron Swanson has to be considered one of the best TV comedy characters of all time, and there is a strong case for him being number one.
The key to the success of Parks and Rec, though, was the quality of the recurring characters. Jean Ralphio is probably the greatest secondary character of all time. Despite appearing in only 21 of 125 episodes, he became a fan favorite and made everybody want more. His catchphrases and his sing-song deliveries quickly became iconic (which were only made better by the reactions of the cast around him).
Also appearing in several episodes were Perd Hapley, Joan Calamezzo, Jen Barkley, Mona Lisa Saperstein, Tammy 1, Tammy 2, Jeremy Jamm and Paul Rudd as Bobby Newport. It is rare to have a comedy have this many supporting characters that, very simply, do not miss.
With the best television character of all time, in Ron Swanson, and the best secondary character of all time, in Jean Ralphio, as well as a plethora of other amazing characters, Parks and Rec comes in as one of the greatest casts in a comedy show.
1. The Office
The Office has a massive cast and everyone is cast perfectly. Very few shows accurately capture exactly what it is they are trying to depict. But The Office is cast so well that watching the show really does show what an actual workplace is like.
Obviously, it goes without saying that Michael, Dwight, and Jim are among the funniest characters in TV history.
Outside of the main characters like Michael, Jim, Pam, Dwight, and Andy, the show had so many supporting characters that made it what it was.
With Stanley, Phyllis, Creed, Darryl, Angela, Ryan, Kelly, Toby, Kevin, Oscar, Meredith and Erin, the show had a wide range of directions in which they could go to be funny and they used everyone so well.
On top of those recurring every day characters, there were characters like Gabe Lewis, Jan Levinson, Holly Flax, Jo Bennet, Todd Packer, Robert California, David Wallace, Moze Schrute and Nellie Bertram who came along in some episodes and contributed even more to the comedy.
It is borderline impossible to find a show that even has that many characters, let alone a show that has that many funny characters.
The running jokes and catchphrases, especially from Michael Scott, are absolutely legendary. “That’s What She Said” “No God Please No!” and “I Declare Bankruptcy” are all from The Office. Incredible.
With so many characters to choose from, the show produced several stars who went on to have success after the show ended. Steve Carrell is an A-List movie star. John Kraskinski, Ellie Kemper, Jenna Fischer and Mindy Kaling all became stars of their own shows. Ed Helms, BJ Novak and Craig Robinson also regularly appear in movies and other TV shows.
Very few shows even came close to creating as many great comedic characters as The Office and that is why it needs to be hailed as the greatest cast ever.
Ranked by Tom Fitzgerald
Written by Tom Fitzgerald
Edited by Jake Zall & Nick Mandala