Soccer and sketch comedy are two of my favorite things in the whole wide world. But sketch comedy about soccer is notoriously hard to do well. Thankfully, the 11 sketches below, from both sides of the Atlantic, nail it.
In compiling this list I found that the very best sketches are the ones that not only offer laugh out loud moments, they also offer some satirical insight into the beautiful game and the business of being a football fan.
11. Fútbol Flop — Key & Peele (2013)
The fact that soccer players dive is an easy target. But if you’re going to make a joke about the dramatic nature of diving, you may as well go all out, add some Mozart and have the player fake his injury all the way to the afterlife.
Best line: The wink that Peele’s flopper gives to Saint Peter at the pearly gates.
10. Ron Manager — The Fast Show (1994)
Paul Whitehouse played TV pundit Ron Manager on BBC sketch comedy series The Fast Show, and his magnificent ramblings always took the post-match conversation in unexpected, unrelated directions. Whitehouse says the inspiration for Ron Manager was Alec Stock, real-life boss of QPR for most of the 1960s.
Best line: “Small boys, jumpers for goalposts, secretly rolling the ball in dogmuck and getting your friend to head it … “
9. Landon Donovan vs. Copier — This is SportsCenter (2010)
Easily the funniest of ESPN’s This is SportsCenter sketches, this one sees Landon Donovan take his frustrations out on the office photocopier … and the photocopier reacts accordingly.
Best line: “I didn’t even do anything!”
8. Alan Partridge Football Commentary — The Day Today (1994)
Steve Coogan’s comedic creation, Alan Partridge, made his TV debut in the 1990s as a sports reporter who refuses to let his lack of football knowledge prevent him from adding commentary to highlights.
Best line: “The proof is in the pudding and the pudding, in this case, is a football.”
7. Smithy Meets the England Football Team — Comic Relief (2009)
In this sketch, specially created for the 2009 Comic Relief telethon, James Corden’s lovable character Smithy, from the sitcom Gavin & Stacy, is doing some work at a hotel when he accidentally walks in on the England team—who are in the middle of a challenging game of hangman. Smithy delivers the cathartic teamtalk that every England fan always wanted to deliver to the underachieving national team after the failure to qualify for Euro 2008—advising David James to stick with a sensible haircut, suggesting Frank Lampard try passing to Steven Gerrard, and telling John Terry to do his crying indoors.
Best line: “Because he is as good as you, if not a teensy bit better.”
6. Roger Nouveau Football Fan — The Fast Show (1997)
In the mid-to-late 1990s, the success of the Premier League attracted new, middle-class fans to English football. These fans, with their desperate attempts to replicate the behavior of serious supporters, were perfectly skewered by Roger Nouveau Football Fan (played by John Thomson) who supports Arsenal, but used to like Manchester United, and is thinking about giving Newcastle Athletic a try.
Best line: “I’m sorry, but Bergkamp plays for Arsenal, not for Holland.”
5. We — That Mitchell and Webb Look (2007)
Robert Webb plays a man who recently decided he was a massive Liverpool fan, David Mitchell plays his cynical office mate who, early-morning whiskey in hand, deconstructs the concept of fandom.
Best Line: “Raiders of the Lost Ark! It’s a film I like, so I’ve decide that myself, and anyone else who likes it, was actually in it, taking part.”
4. The Philosophers’ Football Match — Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1974)
Germany’s finest thinkers take on Greece’s greatest minds in this classic Monty Python sketch. If you thought actual soccer was slow-moving, wait until you see the philosophers in action.
Best line: “Hegel is arguing that reality is merely an a priori adjunct of non-naturalistic ethics, Kant via the categorical imperative is holding that ontologically it exists only in the imagination, and Marx claims it was offside.”
3. Arsenal (‘33) vs. Liverpool (‘91) — Harry Enfield’s Television Program (1991)
How to decide if modern footballers really are better than their early-20th century amateur counterparts? Have them play each other, of course. This sketch pitches Liverpool, the dominant team of 1991, against the Arsenal team of 1933. In black and white. Along with some great visual humor—the primitive left-right shimmy of Charles “Charlie” Charles still makes me giggle—this sketch also underlines just how silly it is to try and compare teams from different eras.
Best line: “They may also be surprised by the pace of the black-and-white game.”
2. An American Coach in London — NBC Sports (2013)
I’d wager that every American soccer fan is familiar with Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) by now, as the former NFL coach who was ever-so-briefly in charge of Tottenhham Hotspur went superviral as part of NBC Sports promoting its first season of Premier League coverage. But what I really love is that these sketches are the antidote to the standard US-based jokes about soccer (see: the Key & Peele diving sketch above). Lasso’s glorious ignorance is soccer humor about Americans, made by Americans, and the joke is that Lasso’s lack of soccer knowledge makes him a dinosaur in the modern US sports landscape. Also, brilliant though Sudeikis is, the unsung hero of these sketches is Brendan Hunt, who plays the deadpan assistant coach. See the follow-up episode here.
Best line: “How many countries are in this country?”
1. Watch the Football! — That Mitchell and Webb Look (2006)
The Sky Sports football hype machine is satirized by David Mitchell in this faux football commercial, which mirrors the rhythms of real-life promotional spots on British TV. The editing gets faster and faster as Mitchell becomes more and more excitable, overselling every game in a way that’s both recognizable and ridiculous.
Best line: “It will never be finally decided who has won the football! There’s still everything to play for and forever to play it in!”