The Funniest Shakespeare Plays: We Rank Them All

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The Funniest Shakespeare Plays: We Rank Them All

Regarded as the greatest writer in the English language as well as the world’s preeminent dramatist, William Shakespeare has many other accomplishments to his
name. He was an accomplished poet and actor. His plays have been translated into
every major living language, including Klingon. He lived past the age of 50 despite living
in the 1500s. He married the second-most-famous woman named Anne Hathaway. (And he married her when he was eighteen and she was twenty-five, which is super cool). But for our purposes, we today examine the legacy of William Shakespeare; one of
history’s greatest wits, a man of infinite jest, a real laugh-a-minute type-dude—a jokester. Here is my definitive, authoritative ranking of every Shakespeare play, based on how much they make us laugh. For, as the Bard wrote, “there is nothing either yuks or gags, but laughing makes it so.”

38. Titus Andronicus

I’ve only seen the poster for the Anthony Hopkins movie version, and on it his face is painted all blue: the color of profound sadness. Put a clown nose or draw a dick on that face and then we’ll talk. In the meantime, sorry, Tony.

37. Henry VIII

This play is known as “the Shakespeare play with the most stage directions.” It was also the play whose effects caused the Old Globe to burn to the ground.

36. Two Noble Kinsmen

This play is adapted from the same source as A Knight’s Tale with Heath Ledger. No one sings “We Will Rock You” in this play. Ergo, booooooooooo. A-booooooooo!

35. King Lear

George Bernard Shaw once wrote that “no man will ever write a better tragedy than Lear.” Graham Techler once wrote that “George Bernard Shaw once wrote that ‘no man will ever write a better tragedy than Lear.’” Case: closed.

34. The Tempest

Stephano is a drunk. Alcohol abuse causes 88,000 deaths every year in the United States. Not funny.

33. As You Like It

If I were a really clever critic, my headline would read “As I DIDN’T Like It.” And that’s why they call me Graham “Snappy” Techler.

32. Love’s Labour’s Lost

When a movie shows us the funny, that means more butts in seats. The 2000 musical adaptation of this play failed to show audiences the funny when it grossed a mere $300,000 of its $13 million budget. That means there were no butts in seats, because the movie was not showing us the funny.

31. Richard III

The great actor Anthony Sher portrayed Richard by literalizing his “spiderlike” movements implied by the line “why strew’st thou sugar on that bottled spider?” People that move like spiders: not funny.

30. All’s Well That Ends Well

This play features a character named Lavatch, a clown in the household of the Countess of Rousillon. A clown named Lavatch once knelt beside be at this kid Spencer’s birthday party and whispered in my ear “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, will never put you together again.” This play sucks.

29. Julius Caesar

I once saw a production of this play at the American Repertory Theatre in 2006 where, for the entirety of the fifth act, there was a car hanging from the ceiling, and the entire cast and crew did a dance to a British synthpop song at the end. Something’s going on in this play that I don’t understand, and that makes it ROYALLY UNFUNNY.

28. Twelfth Night

I auditioned for this play in high school with a Malvolio monologue and bombed horribly and didn’t get the part and I think the director hated me after that. So either Twelfth Night isn’t funny, or I’m not funny, or both, but I’m done with it regardless.

27. Timon of Athens

This is not a particularly funny play, probably because it was co-written by Thomas Middleton, who was a miserable shit. It was later adapted by Thomas Shadwell in 1674 into a play called The History of Timon of Athens, the Man-Hater. For real. That play would rank much higher, but no dice.

26. Much Ado About Nothing

The climax of this play hinges on pretending the heroine has died and then pretending that heroine is actually her own twin sister who doesn’t exist so that this guy Claudio can marry her anyway. I am also too confused to be laughing right now.

25. Troilus and Cressida

One of Priam’s sons is named Margareton, which is a bananas way of masculinizing the name “Margaret.” Theoretically funny, but in my mind this play is trying way too hard.

24. Cymbeline

I could literally say whatever I wanted about Cymbeline and no one would correct me because no one has ever seen or read this play. Make up your own mind, sheeple.

23. and 22. Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2

You would think these plays would rank among the funniest due to the inclusion of Falstaff, perhaps Shakespeare’s greatest comic creation. But you forget that it also features the complicated politics of a divided nation, which used to be hilarious, but really isn’t anymore.

21. Pericles, Prince of Tyre

The only funny thing about this play is that it’s co-author—George Wilkins—had the job title of “pamphleteer.”

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