12 Comedy TV Shows That Will Break Your Heart
Comedy and drama are like light and darkness. You can’t have one without the other. But if you have a bit of both, you get the most beautiful golden hour. That’s what a dramedy is, a perfect mix of the two core storytelling genres into something truly special.
One of the best dramedies on TV right now, Barry, has finally returned for season three on HBO. Its darkest season yet is the latest reminder that there’s nothing better than a heartbreaking comedy show that will make you laugh and make you cry all in one episode.
Updated on April 17, 2023, by Hannah Saab:
With the current 4th season of Barry shaping up to be a hard-hitting and emotional one, it’s the perfect time to delve into more sad comedy shows that make audiences can make audiences laugh and cry.
12 ‘Kevin Can F**k Himself’ (2021 – )
Kevin Can F**k Himself is a show that seeks to break down and subvert harmful sitcom tropes, not only through its plot, but also through the style of the show itself. Inspired by the way that the Kevin James-led sitcom Kevin Can Wait killed off its lead female character TV, Kevin Can F**k Himself follows Allison (Annie Murphy), the wife of a traditionally irresponsible and neglectful sitcom protagonist Kevin (Eric Petersen), who makes the decision to kill her husband in order to take back her life.
The scenes between Allison and Kevin are shot like a traditional multi-cam sitcom, complete with cheesy jokes and comedic misogyny. The rest of the show is shot like a single-cam drama as Allison leads her own life outside of her husband. There are definitely moments on Kevin Can F**k Himself worthy of laughter, especially in the sitcom sections of the show, but there are even more moments that will pull at your heartstrings.
11 ‘Our Flag Means Death’ (2022 – )
Our Flag Means Death is one of the most special shows on TV right now. The endlessly entertaining pirate show found a way to blend absurd comedy with a sense of poignancy in a way that genuinely resonates with the audience. The show stars Rhys Darby as Captain Stede Bonnet, an English gentleman who left his privileged domestic life in order to sail the ocean as “The Gentleman Pirate,” the most polite outlaw on the seven seas. To be honest, he’s not very good at his job, so when he meets the famed Blackbeard (Taika Waititi), who is looking to find a happier way of life, they make a deal to teach each other the keys to being a pirate and a gentleman respectively. Wacky adventures ensue.
However, what is really special about the show is how it naturally becomes something else. Stede and Blackbeard’s friendship develops into something else, a genuine, loving romance. The show confronts head-on the traditional beliefs surrounding masculinity, and how it is defined. The way that the relationship between Stede and Blackbeard develops at the end of season one will leave you in tears begging for more. The LGBTQ+ show also features a tight-knit crew of pirates who each have hilarious (and sometimes tear-jerking) stories of their own.
10 ‘Kidding’ (2018 – 2020)
Kidding is one of the best shows of the past few years that never got the love it deserved. Film icon Jim Carrey stars as Jeff Pickles, a Mister Rogers-type children’s TV host who has a mental breakdown after the death of his son and the subsequent collapse of his marriage. As he tries to put his life back together, he decides the best way for him to properly process the events of his life is to talk about them on the show.
Kidding uses Michel Gondry‘s absurd yet beautiful aesthetic to be both hilarious and incredibly dark. It’s a show that seeks to understand the darkness that lives within us all, even when we try to put on a happy face. This tonal tightrope walk is achieved thanks to brilliant writers, like creator Dave Holstein, and a cast of actors who excel at both comedy and drama, including two of the best character actors on the planet, Catherine Keener and Judy Greer. After two critically acclaimed seasons on Showtime, Kidding was unfortunately canceled, but the show will live on in our hearts as something truly special.
9 ‘GLOW’ (2017 – 2019)
GLOW is a fictionalized telling of how the real-life pro wrestling show Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling came to fruition in the 1980s. It wasn’t started as a wrestling company, but instead as a TV show first, and therefore hired actors that trained to wrestle. The show focuses on three primary characters: Ruth (Alison Brie), a struggling actor who sees GLOW as the break she’s been waiting for, Sam (Marc Maron), a director who views GLOW as a way to fund projects he’s more excited about, and Debbie (Betty Gilpin), a soap opera actor who sees GLOW as a chance to get back at her former friend Ruth, who slept with her husband.
What makes GLOW so special is how the show builds its characters’ relationships. At its core, the show is about people who don’t want to be there. Ruth wants to be famous, Sam wants to make what he wants, and Debbie wants to have her old life back. But each of them finds a way to come together and make the best out of what they have. GLOW is a truly special part of the Netflix catalog.
8 ‘The Big C’ (2010 – 2013)
Laura Linney makes every movie and show she’s in better. Whether it’s her Emmy-winning performance in the HBO miniseries John Adams, any of her three Oscar-nominated film roles, or her scene-stealing performance on Netflix’s Ozark, she is consistently the best part of every project she’s involved with. The Big C is no exception. The power of the Showtime show comes from her powerful screen presence. Not many actors could sell a show about being diagnosed with cancer as a comedy.
She plays Cathy Jamison, a suburban mother whose life is turned upside down after being diagnosed with stage IV melanoma. Cathy then embarks on a mission to make the best of every second she has left. This results in comedic moments like using the fact that she has cancer to stop someone from cutting the line at a home and garden store or buying a car she can’t drive. But at the same time, Cathy never forgets that she is getting closer and closer to the end of her life. The Big C is the definition of a show that will make you laugh and make you cry.
7 ‘Looking’ (2014 – 2015)
Looking really captures what it feels like to be in love. There are moments where it’s funny and joyful, and there are just as many times when it breaks your heart. Love isn’t one emotion, it’s the full spectrum, just like Looking.
The show follows three gay men living in San Francisco as they look for different things out of their relationships. Patrick (Jonathan Groff) wants to find a relationship that feels real, Dom (Murray Bartlett) wants to find his future, and Augustin (Frankie J. Alvarez) wants to find stability. It’s one of those rare shows that is able to balance comedy and drama in a way that feels incredibly real and emotional. If you haven’t seen Looking, you need to fix that as soon as possible.
6 ‘Hacks’ (2021 – )
For a show called Hacks, its creators are anything but. Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky have created a show that uses comedy to tell a compelling and dramatic story about two women who find cross-generational companionship after being exiled from Hollywood.
The show focuses on Deborah Vance, played by the legendary Jean Smart, a comedian whose longstanding residency has made her the Queen of the Las Vegas Strip. She is then joined by comedy writer Ava (Hannah Einbinder), a comedy writer whose opportunity in Los Angeles dries up after she makes some controversial tweets. Ava views being Deborah’s comedy writer as a punishment, but it’s the only job she can get. Deborah’s long career in the entertainment industry has made her cruel and vindictive. These two broken women find a connection in each other, and a friendship blossoms. Hacks is funny and heartfelt, and at times, the show will bring you to tears, especially when it reckons with the way a brilliant comedian like Deborah gets treated in a male-dominated industry.
5 ‘After Life’ (2019 – 2022)
You’d expect anything with Golden Globe winner Ricky Gervais to be gut-busting, and indeed, After Life is full of hilarious moments. Created, written, produced, and directed by Gervais, the series follows the protagonist, a newspaper writer named Tony Johnson, who experiences the worst moment in his life when his wife dies from breast cancer. Things take a dark turn and Tony contemplates suicide, but soon decides to punish the world for his wife’s death by being mean and frank, no matter who he hurts.
While it’s funny to watch Tony’s quips and comments about his dim-witted co-workers, annoying strangers, and more, the series soon reveals itself to be a serious examination of how someone deals with overwhelming grief and sadness. As Tony confronts the loss he has experienced, he learns more about embracing life and everything in it while he still can.
4 ‘Barry’ (2018 – )
Bill Hader‘s post-SNL career has been one of the more interesting of recent alums. He co-starred in the modern rom-com classic Trainwreck, the big-budget horror hit It: Chapter 2, and co-created the brilliant series Documentary Now! But his crowning achievement is co-creating, producing, writing, directing, and starring in Barry, one of the best shows on TV.
The show follows Hader as the titular likable TV assassin Barry, a hitman who finds a passion for acting while on a hit in L.A. and decides to give up his life of murder and pursue an acting career. However, his career change runs into difficulties as keeping the two careers separate proves to be impossible. Everyone has done things we regret, and we all deserve a second chance. That’s what makes the show so compelling. The audience is emotionally invested, and it hurts to see Barry spiral further into the darkness while trying to find his second chance at life.
3 ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ (2017 – )
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is truly marvelous. Amy Sherman-Palladino created a show that uses stand-up comedy as emotional release. It hones in on how, for many comedians, stand-up acts as a sort of therapy. It allows them to work through whatever is going on in their life in a way that turns their problems into art.
The show kicks off with Miriam Maisel’s (Rachel Brosnahan) life falling apart. After years of supporting her husband Joel (Michael Zephaniah) as he chased his dream of becoming a stand-up comedian, he leaves her for another woman. She then drunkenly gets on stage at a club and airs her grievances, in turn finding a love for comedy, and sparking the interest of Susie (Alex Borstein), who decides to manage her as a comedian. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel could be classified as a drama and no one would really bat an eye, but at its core, it’s a show that lets you laugh your way through the pain.
2 ‘Ted Lasso’ (2020 – )
Ted Lasso is known for being the most positive, uplifting show on TV. While that is absolutely true, and the show’s greatest strength, that’s not all there is to Ted Lasso. The show has connected with audiences because of its genuine and relatable storytelling. While this is definitely in part due to the kindness in the show’s heart, it’s also due to the character arcs, which aren’t afraid to dip into some darker parts of life.
Ted’s (Jason Sudeikis) divorce, which prompts his move across the Atlantic, has proven to be an especially touching plot line for viewers. This is partly due to the perceived parallels between Ted and the actor who portrays him, Jason Sudeikis, who himself has been going through a divorce. Regardless of outside events, the characters of Ted Lasso are filled with so much depth and pathos, that you can’t help but feel everything along with them.
1 ‘Bojack Horseman’ (2014 – 2020)
On the surface, BoJack Horseman‘s premise seems like it’ll provide viewers with absurd humor. A washed-up star of a forgotten ’90s sitcom finds himself looking for meaning through antics with a feline agent, human sidekick, and witty friend. Anyone who has seen the award-winning Netflix show knows it’s a ridiculously dark comedy delivered through entertaining animation.
BoJack’s story gets more messed up with each new season, and the laughs soon give way to dread as fans watch the protagonist fall deeper into alcoholism and depression. It’s a raw portrait of a character dealing with mental health conditions and not getting the help he needs, all sandwiched between well-written jokes and memorable storylines.
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