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Abbott Elementary's 15 Most Hilarious Moments So Far

Bursting onto our screens in 2021, Quinta Brunson's "Abbott Elementary" has quickly become a firm favorite in the world of TV comedy. The mockumentary-style show tells the story of staff members at a Philadelphia public school who always have the odds stacked against them. Winning Emmys for its writing as well as its standout performances, the series has been quick to go viral. Every episode is a mine of quotable gold, with its gang of eccentric teachers all lovable in their own right. In short, this critically acclaimed comedy delivers everything you need for some grade-A escapism.

Fans can't get enough of "Abbott Elementary," be it the devil-may-care attitude of Melissa, the alarmed fright of Gregory, or the wisdom of Barbara taking the chaos in her stride. While we wait for more memes to be born, we're revisiting the 15 most hilarious moments in the program so far. Spoilers ahead.

Janine trying to win Barbara's approval

No matter the job, there's always a social hierarchy. When we meet Janine in the pilot episode of "Abbott Elementary," she's a full-of-life rookie who desperately wants to get on with her fellow staff. No one sits on a higher pedestal than the cantankerous Barbara, who is something of an inspiration to Janine. However, their relationship is a one-way street to begin with. In one of the episode's early scenes, Janine asks if Barbara received her email about hanging out after school, only for Barbara to quickly reply that it must have gone straight into her spam folder. To add insult to injury, Barbara turns her entire class around to face the other way. Ouch.

It's here that the beautiful love-hate relationship between the two is born. This memorable scene includes a hilarious Freudian slip from Janine (she calls Barbara "Mom"), and there's something that eagle-eyed viewers no doubt found funny — she's standing in front of a poster that reads "It's cool to be kind." Fans are thrust into Barbara's uncomfortable silence after listening to Janine tell her that she reminds her of a third-grade teacher, and it's impossible not to laugh.

Barbara and Baby Shark

If you've ever been near a child under the age of eight, you'll probably know just how grating the viral song "Baby Shark" can be. No one seems to know this more than "Abbott Elementary" stalwart Barbara, who is immediately tasked with trying to wean Janine's kids off the hype in the show's pilot episode. Shaking their tail feathers in the classroom while Janine is trying to remove a rug for cleaning, the song acts as the ideal distraction to keep them busy. Unfortunately, the kids aren't the only ones distracted. It doesn't take long until Barbara storms in, claiming her class is too distracted to learn the letter "C." In her truthful words, "It's like 'Back That Azz Up' for kids."

Despite the fact that she has only been on screen for a few minutes at this point, viewers already know that Barbara Howard is destined to be a memorable TV character. Introduced to the show with an extremely quotable moment, her razor-sharp tongue and no-nonsense attitude make her a standout among a hilarious cast. According to an interview with Variety, Sheryl Lee Ralph never wanted to play Barbara at all (she revealed that she had her eyes on the role of school principal Ava Coleman), but fans would have missed out on laugh-out-loud moments like this if that came to pass.

Ava's Pixar-inspired TikTok

Regardless of your age, you're bound to have seen at least one Pixar film. As such, you'll know that they have a unique way of pulling at your heartstrings. In the Season 1 episode "Wishlist," Janine is tasked with helping livewire principal Ava secure new supplies for the school year. They come up with the idea of secretly making a video of Barbara, who quickly refuses to help. Taking matters into her own hands, Ava creates an emotionally manipulative film that exaggerates the school's situation. "I followed how they make the Pixar movies," she explains. "It's a trick how they make you cry, but it works."

It's a hilarious insight into how Ava's chaotic brain really works. She gets what she wants, but she's more impressed by her own voice acting and a delusional dream to pursue work in cartoons. The film itself is a hilarious play on the charity commercials of years gone by, compounded with Ava's foresight to bribe kids into bringing out their inner movie stars. Watching Janine look on in a quiet state of disbelief is a moment to remember, and it's only made better by the realization that Ava has already published it.

Reversy toilet

The interactions that the staff of "Abbott Elementary" have with Janine never disappoint, but one of the most memorable encounters is her introduction to substitute teacher Gregory. Escorting one of her kids to the bathroom after she threw up in class, she's met in the toilet stalls by an alarmed and damp Gregory, carrying one of his students' trousers. Instead of calmly asking what's going on, Janine immediately shouts for security, paired with screams of "Random man!" and "Child pants!" These first few seconds are enough for fans to wind themselves laughing, but the situation ramps up when we learn about the "reversy toilet."

Another funny moment in the first half of the show's pilot episode, fans are left as confused as Gregory as to why "reversy toilet" is even a thing. And it's a good question. Awkwardly watching their respective kids while their problems get sorted, we learn that the end toilet shoots water back into the air instead of flushing after use. Forgetting to even introduce herself properly until after the fact, this clumsy moment of miscommunication is one to watch over and over again. In the humble words of Gregory: "Yeah, that was disgusting. But she seems nice."

Janine tells Jacob to shut up about his trip to Africa

Throughout Season 1 of "Abbott Elementary," Jacob's insistence on bringing up his past travels becomes a running joke. Constantly talking about his time spent in Africa, his character is an obvious play on the kind of white people who make their supposed allyship public knowledge. However, it doesn't take long for him to be called out on his antics. As the staff gathers for their first appearance in the break room, Jacob seemingly talks to himself about his last placement in Zimbabwe. Before he can share what he's learned, Janine cuts him off with a reminder not to bring it up again. In her own words, "It's weird."

While the moment might not instantly get huge laughs, it's a scene that grows in humor the longer you sit with it. Before we get to learn more about Jacob's character, we're presented with the superficial kind of guy viewers will love to hate. After all, we all know a Jacob, the kind of person who loves the sound of their own voice. Seeing him being effortlessly shut down by a few words from Janine? It's hilarious and satisfying at the same time.

Finding out how Ava got her job as principal

It's rare for an opening episode to deliver so many memorable zingers, but Quinta Brunson's incredible writing for "Abbott Elementary" makes that happen. When the fly-on-the-wall cameras first meet Gregory, he's a man who means serious business. He's a man with a goal. He wants to take on the role of principal one day, so he feels the need to justify why he's working as a substitute teacher. But there's an even bigger question at play — just how did Ava get the job?

In true Ava style, the answer holds a lot of hilarity. Cold cutting straight from Gregory to her spilling the beans, she launches into a story about how she saw the school's superintendent having an affair. Not only does the answer seem fitting for her character, but the delivery is just too perfect — there's a clear look of delight in Ava's eyes. If there's anything that makes the classroom go round, it's hot gossip.

Jacob, Barbara, and Melissa watch the local news

There aren't many reasons you'd be rushing into work early other than to beat the traffic. Although it's an unlikely alliance, Jacob, Barbara, and Melissa all find common ground when it comes to needing something to laugh at. In the Season 1 episode "Light Bulb," the focus of the show's now infamous cold open is the Action News channel. Melissa explains that getting in early to watch the show calms the group down, particularly if there has been road rage on the way to school. Though Jacob tries to sell the idea that the staff members are simply supporting local "on the ground" journalism, what we actually see is a small dog driving a remote control car in sunglasses.

Not only is it a fun treat to see the staff come together to mindlessly laugh their morning away, but we also see janitor Mr. Johnson being able to get away with murder, asking cheeky questions while no one pays him the slightest bit of attention. The icing on the cake? Barbara's crush on the news anchor. A "non-regional diction" just does it for her, apparently.

Little science Oprahs

Whenever a fictional high school introduces a gifted program ("Glee," anyone?), there's bound to be plenty of drama in hot pursuit. In Season 1's sixth episode, Janine and Jacob are eager to pitch the gifted program idea to Ava, looking to encourage the school's brightest minds to shine. Immediately mocking their obvious enthusiasm, Ava finally agrees to give the program a try after realizing that she could be like "Charles Xavier with legs." It's a chaotic exchange, but one that produces lots of iconic lines in a short space of time.

While Ava is trying to recall the name of a rock climbing movie, Janine tries to pitch her idea in Ava's terms — by telling her she can produce "little science Oprahs." It's hands down one of the funniest scenes from the opening season of the show, and it gets better and better the more you watch it. The writing is sharp and witty, and the delivery is on point from start to finish.

Barbara and Melissa's teaching advice

One of the most interesting colleague dynamics in "Abbott Elementary" is the pairing of Barbara and Melissa. Despite being polar opposites in their approaches to teaching and life in general, the two often manage to find common ground, whether it's Barbara encouraging Melissa to start dating again or the pair joining forces to take a pessimistic view of Janine's enthusiasm. In the episode "Work Family," Barbara learns that Gregory's class is underperforming in math and offers to give him some pointers. Enlisting Melissa's help, the trio adds a spot of pizazz to a question about farmer Hank and his many turkeys. As Gregory learns, adding some singing, dancing, and silly voices can engage the kids in applying some critical thinking.

It's difficult to know where to laugh first — Barbara's sultry shuffles, Melissa's pantomime voices, or Gregory's questioning of his existence straight down the camera. He finally gets into the spirit of things, though his singing voice is best left to be desired. It's a hilarious look at what lengths teachers will go to in order to get their students to focus, and what happens when they start to lose their minds. If farmer Hank didn't know what hit him with all those turkeys, he sure isn't going to have a clue after seeing this.

Meeting Zach

If there's a single scene that encompasses the entire vibe of "Abbott Elementary," it's when the staff first meet Jacob's boyfriend Zach. Episode 11 ("Desking") hits peak comedic stride when the staff begin to question Jacob about his new relationship. Reluctant to give too much detail, the others are quick to draw their own conclusions. "So he knew you and he was like... more?" is a burn that will make you spit your drink out, highlighting Ava's quick wit and lack of conversational awareness. But it's when Zach himself turns up that things get even more interesting.

Zach's intro prompts one of the most quoted interactions from the show's run: "Black?!" "Actually, it's pronounced Zach." A scene you can't quite believe you've just witnessed, it's a testament to how far "Abbott Elementary" is willing to go, skilfully mining topics for comedy that many other comedies would make a mess of. Ava is clearly the queen of this scene, but the looks on the faces of the other teachers are also priceless.

The janitor and the Illuminati

Every good comedy needs a character that hangs around in the background before taking center stage to deliver a killer blow. In "Abbott Elementary," that honor falls in the lap of Mr. Johnson, the school's janitor. We see him rear his mischievous head in numerous episodes throughout Season 1, but it's his first appearance that continues to be the funniest. After Ms. Schwartz is accused of kicking a kid in the show's pilot episode, Ava suggests that Mr. Johnson is brought in to watch her class while they find a substitute. Janine's initial reaction gives the game away that he already has an interesting reputation — cut to a scene of him telling small children that the Illuminati runs the world.

It's the last thing you expect the scene to depict, yet somehow it all makes humorous sense. We've seen plenty of eccentric and quirky school custodians over the years, whether that's Sue Sylvester's minions in "Glee" or Groundskeeper Willie in "The Simpsons." What drives the laughs home even more is that he takes his job very seriously, committing to the bit with a whiteboard pen in hand. "That's who runs the world, kids" is the only line Mr. Johnson gets, but what an impact it makes.

Barbara's surprising selfie

There's never a dull moment in "Abbott Elementary" when Barbara Howard is on screen. In Season 1's fourth episode, "New Tech," Ava acquires new technology for the school to help students with their reading skills — or, at least, the school district mandates it. While the younger generation of teachers is quick to get on board, Barbara is left not knowing which end is up. Janine makes the most of the fact that she's finally got some form of control, but it's when Barbara accidentally takes a selfie that their differences are as clear as day. Asking "Now who took that picture of me?" mere seconds after pressing the button, Barbara putting her best foot forward in front of Janine is hilarious to watch.

Whether it's a colleague or relative, we've all been there — painfully watching someone try (and fail) to figure out technology they're unfamiliar with. Knowing how smug Janine must feel, it's even funnier to watch Barbara try to keep her cool. As the self-proclaimed "Miss Tech," shopping on the App Store or having a Hotmail account has never seemed like a cooler boast.

Ava's theory about zombies

When Janine causes a power outage in the Season 1 episode "Light Bulb," all hell breaks loose. As Melissa constantly shakes her head and Barbara tries to instill some calm and order, Ava is determined to bring the unnecessary drama. After she runs around the hallways with a flashlight on her head, her attention turns to Janine, who has passed out on the floor. While the rest of the staff either try to comfort or revive her, Ava is wary of getting too close. Why? Because she's looking "pale like a zombie." She adds: "You know they eat the hottest people first — let me back my tasty a** up."

Even though she's delusional at times, she's not exactly wrong. If you think about the best horror movies of all time, particularly zombie and slasher movies, the trope of the hottie dying first totally exists. Though her thought process makes us immediately laugh, we've got to admire her levels of self-confidence. Is Janine okay? Who knows. So long as Ava isn't eaten by the school's non-existent zombies, there's nothing to worry about.

The bra of no support

In Season 1's first episode, Janine tries to comfort an overly-anxious Ms. Schwartz after Ava refuses to hire a teaching aide. Asking if Barbara can offer any pearls of wisdom, Janine is brought back down to earth by a wisecrack only Ms. Howard could have delivered. "My support was gonna do about as much as that five-year-old bra you got on right there." It shouldn't sting as much as it does, but the delivery and subsequent reactions are utterly hilarious.

Considering most of the teachers can't afford basic classroom supplies, it's not too much of a surprise that their wardrobes follow suit. What's particularly funny is Barbara's eagle eye on Janine's outfit, given both have only been in the break room for a matter of minutes. This episode really focuses on the pair's natural tension, and sly digs like this one only add fuel to a fire that we know will blow up later on.

Janine and Tariq's awkward handshake

What cements "Abbott Elementary" as a new comedy classic is that the jokes are always strong. In Season 1's final episode, "Zoo Balloon," the staff escort students on a field trip to the local zoo. Janine's boyfriend Tariq reveals he's been offered a job in New York, resulting in an awkward conversation about their potential future. There's an interesting rap involving babies and rabies, but the conversation ends with Janine telling Tariq she doesn't want to move with him. The two part ways with their very own "handshake" — Tariq dances at a distance while Janine quietly makes it rain.

Not a word is spoken and their facial expressions betray no emotion, making this perplexing moment even funnier. But, when Janine begins to open up about wanting to explore who she is on her own, Tariq throws it back in her face by being the idiot we love to hate. She tells us — the viewers — what she really thinks, and we realize that Janine is finally done with it. Just as well — Tariq's dance moves aren't all that.