Who can forget the conveyor belt scene in I Love Lucy? Or Carol Burnett in the curtain rod dress? Female-driven comedy series have a long history of tickling our funny bones, while warming (and sometimes breaking) our hearts. With today's binge-TV culture, we have an embarrassment of riches to choose from, so much that the hardest part of making this list was trying to decide who to cut. Honorable mentions to Better Things, Broad City, and SMILF, just to name a few.
While the pioneering funny gals of the past cracked us up with slapstick humor and sight gags, today's women of TV comedy are much more rooted in reality (even when they're flying high in the "Good Place"). Best friend drama, mama drama, negligent boyfriends, clingy boyfriends, the list goes on. The truth about comedy is that every protagonist thinks they're living in a tragedy - some including multiple deaths. Yet through optimism and wit, these women keep hopping back up after life knocks them down, and never fail to make us laugh episode after episode. Here are the 10 Best TV Comedy Shows Featuring A Female Lead (On Air Right Now).
10 Russian Doll
This Amy Poehler-helmed Netflix comedy finds Nadia (the acerbic Natasha Lyonne) in a lethal time loop. She repeatedly attends her thirty-sixth birthday party and ends up dying, only to wake up and have to start the night all over again. This urban Groundhog Day can be an absolute riot.
Nadia taking the frustration of her situation out on a cooked chicken was particularly hilarious. However, with Nadia's outside world playing on a monotonous loop, she's forced to turn inward and look at herself, making surprising discoveries along her journey. Russian Doll is just as emotionally gripping as it is funny.
9 One Day at a Time
One Day at a Time is a Netflix series about an ex-military single mom who lives with PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Sounds like a hoot, right? In reality, One Day at a Time is one of the lightest shows on this list. It's a remake from a 1970s sitcom and fully embraces its multi-camera roots, complete with a laugh track. Penelope (Justina Machado) clashes with both her traditional values mother (the great Rita Moreno) and her two rebellious teenagers. Even through the tears, One Day At A Time is all about love and we dare you to watch an episode without smiling.
If you swoon at the sound of a British accent and think all men across the pond are modern-day Prince Charmings, Amazon's Fleabag will shatter that illusion like a plate at a Greek wedding. Fleabag, created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, based on her play of the same name, shows us that British men and women alike can be just as messed up as their American counterparts. The series finds "Fleabag" navigating life after having recently been dumped and lost her best friend. While there are some obvious downer moments, Fleabag finds the funny in all of life's gut-punches. A poster for the show features Waller-Bridge's mascara-stained face. After one episode of the show, yours might look the same as well... from both crying and laughing.
7 The Good Place
So far, the protagonists on this list have been deeply flawed people and NBC's The Good Place continues that trend. Eleanor (Kristen Bell) is a self-absorbed saleswoman who dies and goes to heaven, aka. The Good Place, but it's a total mistake.
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Desperate to not be sent to the "Bad Place", Eleanor has to learn how to be a good person for the first time in her (after)life. Watching her trip and bumble on this journey is a total scream. The Good Place finds us questioning our own morality - and craving fro-yo - and proves that existentialism can be a barrel of laughs.
The tales of late-twentysomethings juggling career and romance are hardly original to television, but the overwhelming majority of these characters have been white. HBO's Insecure depicts these universal rites of early adulthood passage from a black experience, and it proves to be refreshing both in terms of diversity and humor.
Creator Issa Rae gives us multi-dimensional female characters who shatter stereotypes. Issa and her friends live the SoCal life - the Coachella episode is a fan favorite - while experiencing problems that are relatable everywhere - ill-advised hookups with your ex, worries about friendship not being the same post-pregnancy, etc. - all while cracking us up. These women are raw, insecure, real, and totally hilarious to watch.
5 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
A show about a woman who escapes a bunker cult sounds decidedly unfunny. It sounds downright disturbing and bleak. But Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a Tina Fey-created Netflix comedy, is one of the most upbeat shows on TV today. Admittedly this pick is a bit of cheat, because it aired its last season in January 2019, but it's so funny it has to be on the list. Kimmy, (played by Energizer Bunny comedienne, Ellie Kemper) upon being a free woman, decides to create a life for herself in New York City. The fast-paced cynicism of the city is a stark contrast to Kimmy's perky demeanor. Fish-out-of-water comedies never fail to disappoint, and while Kimmy learns a lot about the real world, she's really the teacher. Her lesson is simple: positivity. Life can throw a lot at us, but keeping an upbeat attitude makes us unbreakable.
4 Grace And Frankie
Who doesn't love a buddy comedy? Netflix's Grace and Frankie finds the titular protagonists thrown together after their husbands leave them for each other. Polar opposites, these women can't stand each other. But over time, patchouli, vodka, and being dumped, the two find common ground. This premise may sound like a by-the-numbers crowd-pleaser, but Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin breathe exuberant life into their characters, making the show wholly fresh. It's also the first TV comedy since The Golden Girls to feature senior women as the protagonists. Grace and Frankie experience a myriad of issues that a mature audience can identify with. Health concerns, sexual needs, living in a society in which they feel invisible. Grace and Frankie's contribution to TV is a vibrant pleasure.
A show set in the world of 1980s female wrestling seems like a physical comedy goldmine. GLOW, another offering from Netflix, doesn't disappoint on the zany wrestling moves. There are slams, chokeholds, and piledrivers aplenty. What you might not expect is the comedy (and drama) that comes out of the characters' everyday female life. Protagonist Ruth (Alison Brie) struggles to find her identity. Her ex-bestie Debbie (Betty Gilpin) doesn't want hers solely defined by motherhood. Their co-workers all have their own issues too. The GLOW women may have over-simplified wrestling personas, but their identities (and struggles surrounding them) are much deeper and more nuanced.
When looking back on our tween years, the awkwardness can make you want to laugh or cry. If you prefer the former, Hulu's Pen15 is your new favorite show. For millennial women, Pen15 transports you back in time, to the pre-texting days of the early 2000s. Protagonists Maya (Maya Erskine) and Anna (Anna Konkle) are played by adult millennials, while their peers are played by real middle-schoolers. This may sound beyond bizarre but it really works on a comedic level. Maya and Anna whither and shrink at glares from the mean girls, who are a good foot shorter than them. It's simultaneously a funny and heartbreaking era, which wholly sums up adolescence.
1 The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
There's a reason why this show has won a zillion awards. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, an Amazon original, is uproariously funny. Midge Maisel is a picture-perfect housewife whose husband up and leaves her for another woman. She finds an outlet for her rage and misery by performing stand-up comedy. Maisel is set in 1950s Manhattan, a backdrop that provides a sense of whimsy to the show. Besides the gorgeous setting, we love the show because Midge has absolutely no filter when she gets onstage. This gets her into trouble several times, but the audience gets to celebrate her candor. She voices hard truths about female life that often go unsaid. She makes us laugh out loud and want to stand up and cheer. Sometimes we just have to say our piece and drop the mic.