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The Best Comedy Shows Of 2021

After everything 2020 threw at the world last year, it's no question that we could use some humor to lighten the mood. Thankfully, there are many comedies in store for 2021, including animated series like The Great North and raunchier fare on cable networks and streaming services.

Even though most TV and film productions were delayed or canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, enough productions are now back on track that we can anticipate plenty of shows hitting our screens throughout 2021. A wide variety of comedy shows will come out during the year, meaning different audiences will each be able to find one that satisfies their needs. Shows like Young Rock will appeal to nostalgic viewers, for example, while fans of unscripted variety shows will hopefully get to watch offerings in this category from comedians like John Mulaney and Conan O'Brien before the year ends. 

Here are the best comedy shows of 2021 that'll have you laughing all year long.

The Great North (Fox)

Animated comedy series The Great North stars comedic powerhouses Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation's iconic Ron Swanson) as Beef Tobin, a single dad and fisherman who lives in Alaska. The show, which was created by Bob's Burgers alums Wendy and Lizzie Molyneux, features an all-star cast and shares the same charm and goofiness as the Burgers universe. There are plenty of comedic powerhouses among the voice cast, including Will Forte (SNL, The Last Man on Earth) and Jenny Slate (Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, Obvious Child) as two of Beef Tobin's children. Swanson's wife, Megan Mullally of Will & Grace fame, also makes an appearance as Judy Tobin's boss.

Each character is as wonderfully weird as you'd expect. Alaska itself is a character throughout the series (Judy's imaginary best friend appears during an aurora borealis and takes the form of Alanis Morissette, voiced by the singer-songwriter herself). While Offerman's character resembles his Parks and Rec predecessor, there's still plenty to discover about the Tobins, which makes this fresh and entertaining to watch. If you're looking for a family-oriented comedy praised by critics and animation fans alike, The Great North is definitely worth a shot.

Generation (HBO)

"I'm, like, a lot," says Chester (Detective Pikachu's Justice Smith), one of the many high schoolers who make up Generation's ensemble cast. The same could be said for the show itself, a comedy/drama series that feels like a natural successor to HBO's Euphoria — the sunny Orange County setting, the characters' explorations of sexual identity — but couldn't be more different in tone. There are still the conflicts and trappings of a coming-of-age show, but Generation never loses steam by taking itself too seriously or being too preachy. The show even opens with a character unexpectedly giving birth at the mall. 

Generation's characters are absurd, but in a realistic way that actual teenagers are, thanks to strong writing by father-daughter duo Daniel and Zelda Barnz. All of the show's teens do a solid job of bouncing punchlines off one another, but Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Misfits) stands out as guidance counselor Sam. He's a foil for the high schoolers' antics, their cringey parents, and the teachers the students treat with disdain, while also serving some solid one-liners ("You can do a little bit of arson," he chides one student before a field trip, "as a treat.").

Many of Generation's jokes require some level of Gen Z cultural competence, but it's not completely inaccessible to anyone over the age of 25. Unlike many other teen-centered shows currently on TV, Generation hits the perfect balance of laughing with its characters, rather than at them.

Young Rock (NBC)

Very few people have had a life as unique as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, so it was only a matter of time before it was portrayed on TV. Young Rock, which airs Tuesdays on NBC, follows Dwayne Johnson as he reminisces about his childhood and young adulthood. Adrian Groulx, Bradley Constant, and Uli Latukefu all star as Johnson throughout the ages, and all carry off Johnson's charisma. Stacey Leilua and Joseph Lee Anderson also star as Johnson's parents, Ata and Rocky Johnson.

There are plenty of hilarious beats throughout the first season of Young Rock, including the very premise of the show: Johnson is a presidential candidate in the year 2032 who sits down with actor-turned-journalist Randall Park to humanize himself to voters by telling stories of his past. As Johnson's stories jump from decade to decade, the show wonderfully captures the feel of each era, from grainy shots of 1980s wrestling matches to university-themed title cards during Johnson's college years. No stone was left unturned when it came to mining comedy from Johnsons' adventurous and entertaining life; they even recreated his infamous turtleneck and fanny pack outfit for the show.

While there are plenty of comedies that follow celebrities' childhoods (Everybody Hates Chris, Fresh Off the Boat), Young Rock still feels fresh thanks to the earnestness of its characters and nonlinear storytelling.

Resident Alien (Syfy)

Resident Alien stars Alan Tudyk (Rogue One, Con Man) as Captain Hah Re/Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle, an alien specimen who must blend in as a doctor in a small mountain town in Colorado. Based on the comic book series of the same name, the series is a perfect antidote to realistic workplace comedies or romantic sitcoms. Tudyk absolutely shines as the show's protagonist, who has to quickly learn human mannerisms and speech patterns to avoid arousing suspicion. Tudyk gets to show off his impressive voice acting chops in his narration and in a scene where Hah Re impersonates accents he hears on TV.

As Captain Hah Re becomes accustomed to his human persona, Harry, he frequently interacts with the town's residents as its only medical provider, which causes predictable (but entertaining) chaos. One of the town's residents, a 10-year-old named Max (Judah Prehn), can somehow see Harry's true form, and the show does a great job of injecting humor into Max and Harry's various plots to sabotage one another. It's a tall order to make an alien's plot to kill a child funny, but Tudyk somehow pulls it off. While the sci-fi premise of this show may not appeal to everyone, Resident Alien still has plenty of laughs to offer in its debut season.

And many more to come

Many comedies are scheduled to hit television and streaming platforms in 2021. Some of the most anticipated series this year are reboots, including the beloved animated series The Boondocks (2021) which is scheduled to launch on HBO Max later this year. The show's original creator, Aaron McGruder, and Regina King (Watchmen, If Beale Street Could Talk) are involved with the reboot, so it's safe to say that The Boondocks will be just as entertaining and thought-provoking as the original.

On the unscripted side of comedy, comedian Ziwe Fumudoh's self-titled variety show on Showtime premieres May 9. Fumudoh, a writer for Desus & Mero, became an internet sensation last year when she started hosting Baited, an Instagram Live show where she interviewed controversial figures like Alison Roman and Caroline Calloway.

Other comedies we're looking forward to in 2021 include the second seasons of Lisa Hanawalt's Tuca & Bertie and Awkwafina's Nora From Queens, as well as part two of PEN15's critically acclaimed second season. Comedy Central also has specials of John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch in the works, and comedic powerhouse Conan O'Brien is reportedly developing a variety show for HBO Max

Plenty of productions were delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, so some of these shows don't have concrete release dates. Keep an eye out for them later in 2021.