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Psych Funniest Moments, Ranked

Why become a full-fledged adult when you can grow up juuuuust enough? That's the premise of "Psych," a crime-solving comedy that ran for eight seasons on USA Network before spinning off into three movies and counting. The series, set in Santa Barbara, California, revolves around Shawn Spencer (James Roday Rodriguez), who's not big on holding down a job until he cooks up the idea for a "psychic" detective agency, where he pretends to use his "gift" to put bad guys away. His best friend, Burton "Gus" Guster (Dulé Hill), backs him up in investigations and keeps the lights on with his conventional job as a pharmaceutical salesman.

Helping to keep the guys tethered to reality are Shawn's dad, former Santa Barbara Police detective Henry Spencer (Corbin Bernsen), and three current members of the force — detectives Juliet O'Hara (Maggie Lawson), Carlton Lassiter (Timothy Omundson), and Chief Karen Vick (Kirsten Nelson). Although the characters are solving murders and often find themselves in real danger, "Psych" always tilts toward the lighter side. Here are the franchise's 15 funniest moments.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

It's beginning to look a lot like ... family drama (Season 3, Episode 9)

"Psych" is on top of its game when it comes to the holidays. For starters, in "Christmas Joy," pseudo-adults Shawn and Gus are practically helpless when a sobbing child asks for their assistance. Yet the main reason this episode appears on this list stems from Shawn's previous dalliance with Gus' sister, Joy (Faune Chambers Watkins), who's in town for Christmas. Ever the overprotective brother, Gus makes it clear that anyone who approaches his sibling romantically faces his wrath. That includes a just-being-friendly Lassiter, as Gus sternly stares down the detective while he casually asks Shawn what the penalty is for assaulting a police officer. Angry Gus is hard to take seriously, which is what the writers no doubt intended.

The magic revs up one night when Shawn and Joy both have a rendezvous on their mind, only to barely miss each other — and a suspicious Gus — in the Guster's upstairs hallway during a four-door montage reminiscent of a romantic comedy. Naturally, the secret doesn't stay hidden forever, and when it does surface, let's just say it's a good thing the Gusters treat Shawn like family.

The search for Bigfoot (Season 7, Episode 3)

"Psych" played the long game with this one. Borrowing from "The Blair Witch Project" and other found-footage flicks, "Lassie Jerky" pays off the show's frequent references to Bigfoot. ("Fun fact: He only wore a size 10," Shawn explains.) The plot sees Shawn and Gus venturing into the woods to help a pair of film students search for the mythical creature, and the mystery deepens.

It's all worth the wait, especially when Shawn takes to task anyone who has needlessly shot vertical video on their smartphone: "Gus, you shouldn't hold it that way. You're gonna get black bars on both sides." It turns out "Bigfoot" is merely "Big Ed" Dixon (Paul Wight, aka pro wrestling's Big Show), a former Army Ranger who just wants to be at one with nature. That said, he's fully aware of how his size (7 feet tall, 300-plus pounds) belies his gentle spirit. "I mean, I'm really dangerous, I'm just not vengeful or vindictive," he said.

Buzz is worthy (Season 7, Episode 7)

Buzz McNab (Sage Brocklebank) is the aw-shucks everyman of "Psych" — he happily does the grunt work at the Santa Barbara Police Department, and every so often, he gets a meatier role. In one Season 3 episode, karma rewards McNab while punishing Juliet and Lassiter, who twice attempt to sideline their subordinate with minutiae only for it to backfire. The first instance is the funniest: Juliet and Lassiter stake out a suspected diamond smuggler only to find a cargo container full of exotic animals.

"I hate marmosets," Lassiter laments. "Apparently, they don't like being shot at," Juliet adds, clearly on the same regretful wavelength. Fast-forward to Season 4, and the audience holds its breath when a bomb knocks McNab flat. Thankfully, he survives, and the writers find a way to make even that near-death experience comical through McNab's post-recovery appearance and concussion-speak. Then in Season 7's "Deez Nups," Juliet, Chief Vick, and Lassiter's fianceé are treated to a stripper who turns out to be — you guessed it — McNab. (His stage name is appropriately dirty, by the way.) More importantly, there's a lot to learn from the way he views life. Plus, you know, there are laughs to be had.

Class reunion (Season 4, Episode 7)

Gus' hidden talents (the "Super Sniffer," tap dancing, encyclopedic knowledge of strange subjects, etc.) emerge throughout the series' run. In "High Top Fade Out," his musical acumen comes to the fore when a former bandmate is murdered. 

To Shawn's eyes (and ears), Gus, Tony (Jaleel White), and Joon (Kenan Thompson) reuniting to sing during their friend's funeral service is like a kid finding out Santa Claus is real. The viewers get a treat, too, in the form of a video of a Blackapella performance, complete with Hammer pants and dazzling gold outfits. "Five years behind the curve," Gus points out with the benefit of hindsight. As they investigate their friend's murder, Shawn and Gus find themselves babysitting Tony and Joon, who keep ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's a clever wrinkle, basically putting Shawn and Gus in Juliet and Lassiter's shoes for a while.

The blast from Gus' past provides great fodder all episode. As for Shawn, he is desperate to be a part of the group, and the way he unlocks the final clue to put the murderer away — with his singing voice — is as silly as it is helpful. Finally, once the danger passes, Shawn suggests a new band name that is perfectly ridiculous. (Ahem, that reveal is too good to spoil here.)

Geeks inherit the Earth (Season 5, Episode 3)

This episode, "Not Even Close ... Encounters," is all about letting its geek flag fly. When a lawyer says his colleague has been abducted by extraterrestrials, Shawn and Gus try to avoid turning into UFO conspiracy theorists. They're successful at first, even inflicting light physical harm when one strays too far from reality. But it becomes harder to stay grounded when they run into childhood friend Dennis Gogolack (Freddie Prinze Jr.), who has transformed from a nerdy stereotype to a "total jock" — or at least, that's what he would have his wife believe. Gogolack's secret bunker full of Renaissance fair costumes, sci-fi memorabilia, and weather-tracking computers is a sight to behold, and watching him own what makes him happy pays off until the end of the episode.

Meanwhile, seeing Shawn and Gus track a suspect while wearing Capt. Adama's helmet from the original "Battlestar Galactica" and Lt. Geordi La Forge from "Star Trek: The Next Generation," respectively, is a riot. Bonus: Henry and Lassiter are hysterical as they debate the merits of a peanut butter prank.

Going for glory (Season 1, Episode 6)

If one had to guess which "Psych" character is most likely to be a Civil War re-enactor, Lassiter would get everyone's vote. Things get real, however, when one of the participants is murdered in "Weekend Warriors." But before they solve the case, Shawn and Gus relish the chance to give Lassiter — who goes by the book even in a historical role-playing context — a hard time for his stiff attitude and mustache fit for a cartoon villain. Elsewhere, perk up your ears for the scene when Shawn has to convince Gus to join the re-enactment. Shawn shows up at Gus' office in full Union regalia and asks the receptionist to introduce him as "Lieutenant Crunch." "Actually, I've been promoted. It's Captain Crunch now." Even if you see that line coming, Roday Rodriguez's delivery crushes it.

Eventually, Shawn gets Gus to play along by promising him he can go as a certain Oscar winner from "Glory" — only to saddle him with a uniform befitting a marching band. Oh, and the inscription on the watch Henry orders for Shawn is classic, as is the process he uses to arrive at the words of fatherly "wisdom."

Taking on a bounty hunter (Season 2, Episode 9)

The audience learns through flashbacks that Henry spent much of Shawn's childhood steering him toward law enforcement. Firefighters? Superheroes who "wear their underwear on the outside"? They can't hold a candle to police in the elder Spencer's eyes. Then there are bounty hunters, who draw the disdain of both Henry and Lassiter in "Bounty Hunters!" As for Shawn, he saw Byrd Tatums (Kevin Sorbo) haul in a perp when he was a kid and has had a man-crush ever since. The vest, the hair (smells like "ginger blossoms"), the wristbands — Shawn is all in.

Years later, Shawn gets a chance to prove himself to his "hero" when a murder suspect escapes Juliet's custody and goes on the lam. The catch: The man he and Gus are trying to corral is innocent, and staying ahead of Tatums while keeping the wrongly accused out of the bounty hunter's clutches is no easy feat. Believe it or not, it helps that the fugitive doesn't see the "Psych" duo as a threat. Of course, neither does Tatums, and just about the only thing missing in his laughter-inducing scenes is him lifting Gus' Echo and slamming it to the ground like a wrestler.

Shawn and Gus ultimately get the last laugh on Tatums with some help from Lassiter and Juliet, so everybody wins.

Back to school (Season 5, Episode 13)

A show chock-full of '80s references wouldn't be complete until it scored an appearance by the "Karate Kid" himself. And in "We'd Like to Thank the Academy," Ralph Macchio delivers the goods as Nick Conforth, Lassiter's rival from back in the day at the police academy. Indeed, "Psych" makes a montage of an obstacle course/shooting exercise better than the "Police Academy" films ever did. Though, to be fair, this episode wouldn't exist otherwise, so, yay for Steve Guttenberg and Co!

The through-line of this caper is Shawn and Gus helping Conforth get his crimefighting mojo back, and we dare you not to laugh at the scene where the trio pulls over Lassiter for speeding — the comic timing between all four characters is wonderful. Capping the whole thing off is a zany shootout at a grocery store where a PA system is a crucial tool for the good guys' best friend, Shawn's sweet kicks buy him crucial time, and Gus' practice impersonating Michael Winslow comes in handy.

Henry's do-over (Season 3, Episode 5)

Long before Shawn was using his unconventional methods to solve crimes, Henry was doing it the traditional way, and he was darn good at it, too. But there was one case in the 1970s in which not all the elder Spencer's t's were crossed. In "Disco Didn't Die, It Was Murdered," it's up to Shawn and Gus to make sure a conviction Henry helped secure doesn't unravel on a technicality, and the throwback references are ripe for comedy.

First, Henry steps all over Shawn's toes in hilarious fashion, arriving ahead of the best friends at their first lead and one-upping his son's well-established nickname game. From there, the deeper their investigation goes, the further they sink into the '70s: Clothes straight out of a Bee Gees concert; a car that handles a bit rough, causing Gus' left side to fall asleep and give him a stylish strut; an informant named "Pookie" who thinks Shawn has taken one too many drugs.

If this episode doesn't leave you in tears of joy — and perhaps talking jive — check your pulse.

All they can be (Season 4, Episode 10)

Even Shawn and Gus would agree they're the last people the U.S. military would recruit. That goes double when comparing the goofballs to the gargantuan pro wrestler John Cena, who guest stars as Juliet's brother, Ewan, in this episode set primarily on a military base. And Ewan is a highlight, as the special ops soldier is the only one who can get away with giving his tough-as-nails sister a noogie and carrying her around the station as effortlessly as he would a blanket.

"You Can't Handle This Episode" hits its stride when Shawn and Gus try to play soldier, and their trademark silliness slams into the brick wall that is Major Gen. Felts (Robert Patrick, in excellent casting). They come so close to blowing themselves up with an anti-tank weapon, and they're inappropriately giddy when Ewan scores them "costumes," aka fatigues. Gus also provides a needed diversion while doing pushups and channeling "An Officer and a Gentleman," then almost bonds with Ewan over Louis Gossett Jr. movies — until Juliet's brother reveals his inspiration is "Enemy Mine." (We'll let you Google why that's unsettling.) Avoiding arms dealers is funny, too, as Ewan's size is a disadvantage for once: "I've never met a man who's so big he couldn't hide behind a plane!" Shawn quips. Four stars, for sure.

Written in the stars (Season 1, Episode 10)

Sober Lassiter is Shawn's biggest skeptic. Drunk Lassiter, on the other hand, is astounded by Shawn's reasoning, even though he still never buys into the story that he's psychic. Running into an inebriated Lassiter is enough of an ego boost for Shawn that he helps the detective decrypt an "unsolvable" crime when the Santa Barbara Police Department veteran suffers a crippling case of self-doubt. That Shawn and his cohorts help without Lassiter knowing is a spry twist.

In "From the Earth to the Starbucks," the case revolves around a dead astronomer, and Shawn taps into Gus' love for all things celestial by taking a job at the planetarium on the sly. To give Gus a chance to flirt with an intern named Jessica, Shawn volunteers to lead a show where the patrons sit in a dark room and look up at a faux night sky. Appropriately, this episode is ground zero for Gus's go-to pickup line: "You heard about Pluto? That's messed up, right?"

This sets up the best bit of the episode. As Shawn is not even an amateur stargazer, his lack of knowledge has the planetarium visitors tied up in mental knots — and "Psych" viewers in stitches. And when Gus and Jessica come back around after a long chat, she's concerned. "They've been in there 45 minutes," Jessica says. "So?" Gus responds. "It's a four-minute show," she responds. Which explains why the patrons spill out of the auditorium like a gaggle of drunk Lassiters, knocking over garbage cans, each other, and everything else in their path. Pass the Dramamine!

Shawn meets his match (Season 2, Episode 3)

If psychics are real, surely Shawn can't be the only one out there helping law enforcement, right? That's where "Psy vs. Psy" takes off: Treasury Department Special Agent Lars Ewing (Lou Diamond Phillips) comes to Santa Barbara with "psychic" Lindsay Leikin (Bianca Kajlich) in tow, and it marks the first time Shawn is in danger of having his secret exposed. Leikin is ahead of Shawn at every step of the investigation, causing Gus to doubt Shawn can keep up: "I'm getting something," he says, mocking his best friend. "She's ... better than you!"

Shawn's not buying it, though he does retreat to cooking (poorly) with an Easy-Bake Oven, of all things, to get his mind right. Juliet and Lassiter, meanwhile, swoon over Ewing. Juliet has a big-time crush on the agent, letting her romance-novel fantasies run wild after the agent compliments and flirts with her. As for Lassiter, he wants to be teacher's pet, trying to prove himself with his law-enforcement knowledge and gushing over Ewing's "Washington black" suit.

Making this episode extra special is Mildred, the stenographer Ewing takes with him everywhere. Every scene she's in is delightful, and Gus even uses her to pull one over on Shawn right before his final showdown with Leikin.

What if ... ? (Season 5, Episode 14)

Many shows have cribbed "It's a Wonderful Life," but only "Psych" has Tony Cox guest-starring as Shawn's superego. In "The Polarizing Express," Shawn messes up big time, creating an opening for a criminal to go free. He falls asleep, and while he pieces together clues, he gets a glimpse of what life would be like if he had never come to Santa Barbara. As Shawn's guide on this trippy trek of self-discovery, Cox takes multiple shots at Shawn, who can only stand there and take it despite doing his best to play against little-person stereotypes.

The comedy "CliffsNotes": Henry is glued to the couch and "has become Nick Nolte"; Juliet is an action hero-type cop in Miami, complete with car chases and explosions; and Gus is the doormat in his relationship, but Shawn saves the funny by watching as if it were a '90s sitcom. But the best alternate reality revolves around the changes at the Santa Barbara Police Department. Lassiter is now the chief, wearing full Civil War re-enactment gear and barking out orders for his officers to shoot more bad guys while Chief Vick has undergone a specific type of makeover. "Why does Chief Vick have a German accent?" Shawn asks. "Because you watched 'Austin Powers' last night, and you have a thing for Frau Farbissina — and now so do I," Cox shoots back. 

The episode slows down long enough for the characters to thwart a bombing but otherwise keeps its foot on the gas. Pro tip: Watch for the Grinch causing mayhem.

Lights, camera, duos! (Season 2, Episode 1)

The episode called "American Duos" is so good, it secured two moments on this list (see below). As is often the case, the episode's opening flashback sets the tone. Preparing for a talent show, Shawn is dressed as Tears for Fears' Roland Orzabal, while Gus is the spitting image of a young Michael Jackson. Still, their performance never gets off the ground until years later, when Shawn and Gus go undercover to figure out who's trying to kill a judge on an "American Idol"-type reality show by entering the contest themselves.

Their audition is ... not great. So much so that Juliet can't stand to be seen with them, and the switch she flips is side-splitting. Normally one of the most easygoing characters on the show, she transforms into part Olivia Newton-John from "Let's Get Physical" and part drill sergeant, catching viewers off-guard in the perfect way. Once Shawn and Gus reach the second round — which is in front of a live studio audience — "Psych" fans are thrilled to see everything come full circle. We'll just say the Orzabal and Jackson outfits are back, and the music and dance crazes of the '80s make rousing cameos.

High marks (Season 2, Episode 1)

"Psych" doesn't get any better than this. When a reality show judge (Tim Curry) thinks someone is trying to kill him, Shawn, Gus, and the Santa Barbara Police Department try and smoke out the culprit. From there, Curry steals the show as Nigel St. Nigel, an extreme version of Simon Cowell.

St. Nigel rubs everyone the wrong way — "an equal opportunity bastard" in Gus' words — and the audience wins every time. The police, his fellow judges, the show's host — no one is safe from his barbs. Even Henry gets caught up in the madness when Shawn and Gus use the elder Spencer's place as a safehouse for St. Nigel. Curry's spot-on one-liners are too numerous to mention, though he memorably describes riding in Gus' Toyota Echo as like being "incarcerated in a blueberry" and dislikes the steak Henry serves him because "it's still got the marks where the jockey was hitting it." Now, imagine those lines being delivered in Curry's English accent. You can thank us later.

But wait, there's more. Fellow guest-stars Gina Gershon and Cristián de la Fuente are a revelation as St. Nigel's fellow judges. Notably, Gershon plays the barely lucid Emilina Saffron (think: a fictional version of Paula Abdul), who uses her feminine wiles and bodily functions to drive Lassiter nuts. And even though de la Fuente barely talks throughout the episode because St. Nigel keeps cutting him off, his facial expressions are equally memorable.

All of it adds up to an episode worthy of the TV comedy hall of fame, if such a thing existed. Which it should!