Sparkle & Grin: Our Favourite Christmas Comedy Specials

We all need a little release from this difficult year; our Comedy Team's favourite festive gems might be just the ticket

Article by Comedy Team | 10 Dec 2020
  • Christmas TV

The nights are drawing in, your big coat’s in constant use, and you find yourself once again asking what to watch while you glug your Glühwein. After, quite frankly, the worst of years, we deserve comfort and self-care. For The Skinny’s Comedy Team, that means dusting off our funny festive faves. But instead of gushing about Tim and Dawn finally getting together, or the one with the priests, we’re shining a fairy light on the Christmas comedy specials commonly forgotten.

I always love the festive episodes of Bob’s Burgers. Something always goes wrong but in true Christmas style it always comes together in the end. Capers across these episodes include: a guy who thought he was a mannequin comes to life (honest to God, freaky AF); Bob confronting his daddy issues; a big snowball fight; and a musical episode where the Belcher family end up at a rave. You just can’t help but feel a bit warm and festive watching chaos descend on the family, and I also think Linda Belcher is the kind of matriarch I aspire to be in life. Pass the jingle juice, Bobby. (Yasmin Hackett)

In Anglophonic terms, Le Splendid – the comedy troupe behind Santa Claus is a Stinker (1981) – sit somewhere between Monty Python and The State. The modest headquarters of a Christmas Eve suicide helpline spirals into chaos when the lift breaks in their building, killing the operator. Based on a farce they wrote for the stage in the 70s, this is a dingy, even slightly nasty film at times – yet it produces sufficient laughs for my Parisian mum to still choose it ahead of any saccharine Hollywood fare every year in December. In that regard, I suppose it’s like a festive, French Withnail & I(Louis Cammell)

hallo skinny readers !!! howl this dog has missed you !!! i have been busy retraining as a covid sniffer dog and it great to return to my vital work as a comedy journalist !!! my favourite christmas special is ‘a charlie brown christmas’ which aired 273 dog years ago. charlie is unhappy because christmas is all about being greedy. good grief, he even cross with his dog snoopy for going “commercial” (which is very funny because it rare for a dog to be uncritical of consumer capitalism). the special is a lovely story about finding meaning and it also where i learn most important word in english language - “ailurophobia” - which mean a fear of cats !!! [love from fringe dog] (Fringe Dog)

Drifting into bittersweet territory is the 2008 Gavin and Stacey Xmas Special. Oft overlooked in the festive Britcom category, G&S has an uncanny knack of feeling cosy and homely and this extended ep has it in spades. It weaves deep into the fibre of mundanity (Mick’s exacting prep of his turkey) without ripping off The Royle Family, and allows for bubbles of surrealism which can only happen at a tight-knit family gathering (Nessa and Stacey admitting to a night with Russell Brand).

And what family Christmas would be complete without some feuding? We’ve got family tension because of Gavin’s promotion, rivalry between Smithy and Dave Coaches over the fathering of Neil the Baby, and Smithy’s despair at Nessa and Dave’s engagement. Sure, parts of it haven’t aged well; casual racism and homophobia that wasn’t okay in the noughties feels even more out of place in something remembered so fondly, and oh boy, the product placement for Fred Perry is off the chart. Ultimately though, the audience is shoved through the front door of the Shipmans' home, told to take your shoes off and not kicked out til New Year’s. (Polly Glynn)

We also want to give a shout out to the Still Game Hogmanay special The Party (Jack and Victor in their prime, yes please), the US Office (brb, crying buckets at THE TEAPOT), the Adam Buxton podcast (every festive edition with long-time collaborator Joe Cornish) and the four 30 Rock holiday specials, particularly when we find out the Lemon family aren’t as sunny as they lead us to believe, or when Colleen Donaghy (the scene-stealing Elaine Stritch) dispatches anyone in her way with her withering barbs. So, our advice to you – crack open the Celebrations, put the heating on, and hunker down with these treats.

Watch Bob's Burgers on Amazon Prime; watch Gavin & Stacey on BBC iPlayer; watch A Charlie Brown Christmas on Apple TV; Santa Claus is a Stinker is available on DVD