Historical Sketch Comedy Moments of Genius

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We know you’re waiting for the latest Outlander recap and podcast! Your bloggers have been distracted by attending a costume event AT VERSAILLES, so expect that post & podcast tomorrow (Wednesday!). In the meantime…

This isn’t strictly costume-related, but if you’re into historical costume, and you spend a lot of time watching historical films and TV shows, I think it’ll be relevant. To me, there isn’t much that’s funnier than historical humor. Sure, I like a witty Jane Austen adaptation as much as the rest of them, but if someone is going to REALLY poke fun at history? And do it well? I’m in! We’ve covered some historical comedies before, including Monty Python, Blackadder, and Another Period. But there are also some great British sketch comedy shows that often have a historical focus. Here’s some of my faves!

Psychobitches

The basic idea is a modern psychiatrist has therapy sessions with women from history. Sometimes it’s the therapist (Rebecca Front) who makes me laugh the most, but these three sketches are pretty damn genius. You can find many more on YouTube.

Mary Queen of Scots

Who knew Mary Queen of Scots could cut a bitch? (NSFW for swearing)

Maria von Trapp

I can’t explain why this makes me howl, but it does!

Salome

You can’t resist her dance!

Watson & Oliver

Watson & Oliver is a British sketch comedy show led by two actresses, Lorna Watson and Ingrid Oliver. Most of their sketches are modern, but they have a running series that is a spoof on the Regency era. The Regency sketch from series 1, episode 1 is funnier, but sadly not available online.

Mitchell & Webb

Oh, David Mitchell & Robert Webb — two British comics who make me cry I’m laughing so hard. They’ve had a series of sketch shows, including The Mitchell and Webb Situation and That Mitchell and Webb Look. And the two actors starred in the hilarious (modern-set) comic series Peep Show. They’ve got a gazillion historical sketches, these are just my highlights.

Nazis

It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

Explorers

Who is responsible for some clunker names for “new” lands? Oh right. The captain.

Posh Dancing

Any fan of Pride and Prejudice should enjoy this take on Mr. Darcy, Caroline, and Elizabeth. (NSFW for swearing)

Linden Trees Smell of…

Queen Victoria tells it like it is. (NSFW for naughty references)

Bronze Age

“Zeitgeisty”!

English Civil War

Anyone who has ever done any historical reenactment will hopefully join me in dying of laughter:

What’s your favorite historical comedy sketches? Link to them in the comments!

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

20 Responses

  1. Madeleine

    “Let them eat cake” is a fabulous French and Saunders tv series that only had 6 episodes. Set in revolutionary France, there are some great outfits and one particularly amazing wig!

    Reply
  2. Susan Pola

    French and Saunders. Also the genius Danny Kaye in the Court Jester. ‘The pellet with the poison is in the vessel with the pestle, chalice from the palace contains the brew that is true.’

    Reply
  3. Andrew

    There is also Stiff Upper Lips (1998). This is a rather well done parody of a whole bunch of Merchant-Ivory films. Here’s the intro:

    Reply
  4. Gail

    Well, better to be in France at Versailles than in Cleveland at CSA (congrats by the way, on the Stella Blum (?)).

    Reply
  5. Mina

    Horrible Histories anyone? I know that it is actually made for children, but some of the sketches are just hilarious!

    Reply
    • MoHub

      Historyonics preceded Horrible Histories and did some very clever stuff, including having “Under Pressure” playing while Elizabeth I was vacillating about signing Essex’s death warrant and segueing to “Killer Queen” when she signs.

      Reply
  6. Shona

    Have you seen Upstart Crow, written by Ben Elton, starring David Mitchell as Shakespeare? It’s no Blackadder but it can be funny.
    To my FrockFlicks educated eye there are some good Elizabethan costumes too. The innkeepers daughter has a great shape from her stays in particular.
    Would love to know what you think.
    https://thevelvetonion.com/2016/04/28/upstart-crow/

    Reply
    • Shona

      But dodgy stomachers and no doubt back lacing, don’t have too high hopes…

      Reply
  7. LE

    What about drunk history (especially the uk version they tend to borrow the left over costumes from other productions) ?

    Reply

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