15 Dark Comedies to Stream That Will Make You Laugh (and Cringe)

by Abby Montanez
dark comedies to stream on hbo max

Have you ever heard or seen something you didn’t know if you should laugh or cringe at? That is the very essence of dark comedies—which is why I tend to stream them. They toe the line between funny and offensive. Maybe it’s not the exact phrase expressed by a character that’s controversial, but the context in which it’s delivered. What else could make a series dark? A hit-man who aspires to be an actor? Superheroes that use swear words? A hot priest?

The 15 shows mentioned below undoubtedly have the ability to split a crowd,  yet they’re beloved by so many. (Some are even critically acclaimed.) That’s because aside from the macabre or satirical moments, there must be certain endearing qualities. Touching moments that evoke sympathy. If you’ve ever described your own sense of humor as dark, here 15 comedies to stream next.

1. After Life

The comedy style of actor/director Ricky Gervais is inherently dark—just like the plot of his Netflix show, “After Life.” A journalist named Tony, played by Gervais, mourns the death of his wife, and the series follows him on his journey to healing. While this often includes lashing out at strangers, his outrageous and brash outbursts are coupled with moments of joy and, of course, a lot of laughter. 

Now streaming on Netflix 

2. Atlanta

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Donald Glover’s “Atlanta” has moments where it’s straight-up scary. Like, Jordan Peele-level of horror. If you’ve watched the “Teddy Perkins” episode or “Woods,” you know what I’m talking about. Although centered around Paper Boi, Glover’s version of Justin Bieber, this series sheds light on the darker sides of fame. The characters, however, have no problem making jokes out of what seem to be the show’s bleakest moments.

Now streaming on Hulu

3. Barry 

Never did I think Bill Hader had it in him to be a hit-man. Nor did I think Henry Winkler would return to TV. To both points, the unassuming nature of this show and its characters is perhaps what makes “Barry” one of my favorite dark comedies to stream. Hader lends his awkward yet charming persona to the role of Barry Berkman, an aspiring actor living in Los Angeles, who is unable to untangle himself from the world of contract killing. This show comes with the gore and shock-value you’d expect from something like “Game of Thrones,” but in a delightfully comedic way that only an SNL alum like Hader is able to accomplish.

Now streaming on HBO Max

4. BoJack Horseman

Animated comedies often get a bad rap. In “BoJack Horseman,” Will Arnett lends his husky vocals to the lead character, a former sitcom star (and horse). While on the surface it seems like a simple comedy, there is an underlying darkness as BoJack becomes more self-aware. It strikes a balance between wanting to laugh and cry as a viewer, oftentimes confronting themes such as death, depression and drug addiction. 

Now streaming on Netflix 

5. Dead to Me 

Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini may seem like an unlikely pair, but in “Dead to Me” these ladies are able to constantly one-up each other’s craziness. As Jen (Applegate) grieves over the sudden death of her husband, she meets fellow widow Judy (Cardellini) at a support group. They form a quick, codependent relationship that’s full of major plot twists and turns over two seasons. This was one of the dark comedies on everyone’s must stream list, praised for its fresh spin on love and loss. 

Now streaming on Netflix 

6. Flaked

While not dissimilar to “BoJack Horseman,” Netflix’s “Flaked” also features Will Arnett who serves as the show’s star and co-creator. He plays a character named Chip who seems to struggle with the realities of everyday life. Chip is a recovering alcoholic with a persona that is juxtaposed by the sunny disposition of Venice, California. Though the show gives off major rom-com vibes with the addition of a love interest and an endearing best friend named Dennis, the darkness of this comedy stems from the insecurities many of us often feel.

Now streaming on Netflix 

7. Fleabag 

I will watch just about anything starring or created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. With a number of accolades already under its belt, “Fleabag” is the British comedy you need to be binging (if you haven’t already). The characters are flawed. The banter is intelligent and quick. Centered around a somewhat complicated but very relatable main character (played by Waller-Bridge, who remains nameless in the series), we follow her around the streets of London while she navigates her way through a major life trauma. No matter what predicament our leading lady finds herself in, rest assured it likely ends in disaster. 

Now streaming on Amazon Prime Video

8. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

The recent renewal of season 15 of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” makes it officially the longest-running live-action comedy series to date. There’s a good reason as to why this show has lasted so longyou can start by thanking Charlie, Mac, Dee, Dennis and Frank. Up next are the hijinks, and don’t forget the show’s weird and often troublesome storylines. Sharing many similarities with the beloved classic “Seinfeld,” this show takes things one step further with its grotesque and startling antics. 

Now streaming on Hulu

9. Santa Clarita Diet 

In the same vein as “Zombieland” or “Warm Bodies,” Netflix’s “Santa Clarita Diet” offers a fresh, comedic look at the undead. Some have even called it a zom-com. Led by realtor couple, Joel (Timothy Olyphant) and Sheila (Drew Barrymore), there’s so much to love about this show if you can get past the flesh-eating. The relationships feel authentic and the premise is intriguing to say the least. After Sheila mysteriously turns into a zombie, she finds herself revitalized despite the obvious setbacks it brings upon her family. All I’m saying is if there’s a better, more oddball couple to look up to other than Sheila and Joel, show me. 

Now streaming on Netflix 

10. Search Party 

This dark comedy originally aired on TBS, and after a (however long) hiatus, it got picked up by HBO Max to release its third and fourth seasons. If you want to feel better about your life as a twenty-something, tune into “Search Party” for utter chaos amongst a group of four friends. John Early, who plays Elliott, is not the show’s main character, but the one who will make you laugh out loud the most as you follow the group on a misguided adventure and its aftermath.

Now streaming on HBO Max

11. The Boys 

While watching “The Boys,” think of superheroes (aka Supes) as modern-day celebrities. Some would even consider them to be gods. But what happens when they start abusing their powers? Or, just like in Hollywood, they’re corrupted by a conglomerate? If you thought “Deadpool” was raunchy, “The Boys” gives Reynolds a run for his money. Represented more so as villains, this superhero show is unlike any you’ve ever seen. 

Now streaming on Amazon Prime Video

12. The End of the F***ing World

Two teenage outcasts set out on a cross-country road tripone obsessed with the idea of murder and the other in search of life outside the suburbs. Where does the comedy aspect come in? In typical British fashion, the dialogue is full of witty banter and the backdrop somewhat ominous and gloomy. All that combined, “The End of the F***ing World” is absolutely hilarious and yet downright disturbing at the same time. 

Now streaming on Netflix 

13. The Flight Attendant 

“The Flight Attendant” starring Kaley Cuoco, is one of HBO Max’s newest original shows. It follows Cassie (Cuoco), a flight attendant who spends a night with a passenger and wakes up the next morning unable to recall anything that has happened. Throughout the show, viewers see her character begin to unravel when questions are posed about that night. There are also frequent flashbacks to Cassie’s childhood, as she tries to piece together events from both the past and present. 

Now streaming on HBO Max

14. What We Do in the Shadows

Remember when I asked what makes a show dark? Well, for “What We Do in the Shadows,” that might have something to do with the fact that vampires can only come out at night. This outlandish comedy follows a clan of four vampires in Staten Island who can’t help but cause havoc at every turn. Based on the 2014 mockumentary, which goes by the same title, this horror-comedy has become a cult phenomenon. 

Now streaming on Hulu

15. You’re the Worst

“You’re the Worst” is perhaps the edgiest rom-com to ever air on TV. The show is carried by a cast of foul-mouthed characters, their cynical outlooks on love, plus some seriously dark subplots (addiction, depression, and more). I’d almost call the relationship between Gretchen (Aya Cash) and Jimmy (Chris Geere) cruel, in a masochistic type of way. And just like its main characters, you can’t help but binge this show for all its messiness. 

Now streaming on Hulu

What other dark comedies are you going to stream in 2021? Let us know in the comments below.

Main image courtesy of Warner Media / photo by Phil Caruso

About the Author/s

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Abby is The Digest's Managing Editor. She spends her time looking at dogs on Instagram and eating her way around Jersey City.

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