Originating on CBC Television in 2016, “Baroness Von Sketch Show” has seen us through the chaos of the last five years. The Canadian sketch comedy series is created by Carolyn Taylor, Meredith MacNeill, Aurora Browne and Jennifer Whalen, a dynamic foursome whose varying talents combine into comedic gold. A smash hit in their native Canada, the series earned a cult following in the U.S. when sketches began making the rounds on YouTube, earning fans in Reggie Watts and Lea Delaria, who shared early videos. IFC brought the series to American audiences in 2017, and will debut the fifth and final season (which premiered in Canada in the fall) on February 24.
“Baroness” always — and proudly — skews feminist, though the comedy is always queen. The humor is a deeply satisfying blend of broad slapstick with sharp satire. Many of the sketches combine a shrewd social criticism, whether of diet culture or parenting double standards, with a wacky brand of outsized character work. The hallmark of a “Baroness” sketch is a relatable everyday scenario that is gradually heightened to insane extremes. It’s only after you catch your breath from laughing that you realize the oversized wig is actually a critique of unrealistic beauty standards. That one-two punch is the chef’s kiss of comedy.
While we’re sorry to see the “Baroness” ladies go, we thought we’d send them out with a bang. In honor of the fifth and final season premiere, here are some of the best sketches from “Baroness Von Sketch Show.”
“Did You Want a Fight?”
Canadians fighting is a rare sight. In just under a minute, this highly relatable sketch exemplifies one of the “Baroness” comedy writing maxims: The sketch is as long as it needs to be and no longer. “Sometimes that’s all you need, just get in and get the fuck out,” MacNeill told IndieWire back in 2017. According to Whalen, who sent some her favorite sketches via email, “this sketch has a very funny life of its own on TikTok.”
“Sweetie, when you hit 40, your body’s just not the same. Your liver’s thrown in the towel.” While these women could make any topic funny, they make a meal out of the undignified horrors of aging, especially from a woman’s perspective. Mainstream comedy tends to favor the young, but as this sketch makes clear, there’s so much untapped material out there.
One of MacNeill’s character sketches, she plays a woman being tortured for secret codes she can’t remember because of “Mom Brain.” As Browne and Whalen, in their most ridiculous bearded bad guy drag, taze and waterboard the poor wigged mom, she rattles off her grocery list and her son’s achievements.
“Red Wine Ladies Night”
The ultimate example of the entire foursome at their best, this drunken ensemble sketch spawned a series of excellent follow-ups. There’s the movie trailer inspired “Red Wine Ladies at The Cottage” and the increasingly horrific “Red Wine Ladies: Last Table at the Wedding,” but the original “Red Wine Ladies” established the recurring motifs: A girls’ night devolves into ever more chaos with each “eyes, eyes, eyes” cheers. As the minutes tick by, all bets are off.
“Queer Theory Reading Group”
“It’s a new relationship. She can’t shake her essentialist view of gender,” Taylor says sheepishly in this deep cut sketch perfectly calibrated to appear to queer fans, of which “Baroness” has many. This also spawned a follow-up with the same characters, but the original still has that certain something. Taylor herself is gay, and often plays lesbian characters in the sketches. “Queer Theory Reading Group” feels so refreshing is because yet again, “Baroness” is drawing on culturally specific source material that is completely invisible to most comedy writers.
MacNeill is in fine form in this silly sketch that builds on the joke of a woman whose marriage and life is falling apart, but at least her hair still looks great. The hair and make-up team deserves major props throughout the show’s run, but the visual gag of MacNeill’s increasingly ridiculous wig and extensions really makes this one sing.
This sketch parodies the indignities of shopping as a woman over 40, though it’s relatable to anyone whose body doesn’t fall into fashion’s idea of correct proportions. Whalen shares that the “beige nightmare outfit” that her character compares to “a dry vagina” inspired the sketch. “It was gifted to me an a swag bag with a tag reading, ‘Woman over 40,'” she wrote. “I’m still mad.”
This is a perfectly written sketch that answers the question: What is the perfect sound of disdain to make when a man refers to caring for his own children as “babysitting”?
“Jan Brought Snacks”
MacNeill starts at a 10 and then flies off the handle as a controlling boss who is incensed at her employee for bringing chocolate covered pretzels to the office. “You put those in the garbage, then I’m going into the garbage. You just turned me into a garbage eater.” It’s another insanely calibrated MacNeill performance, which really pops with Whalen and Browne’s support as straight women.
Another action thriller parody akin to “Mom Brain,” “Baroness” revels in unusual contrast. Putting the women in tactical gear in order to get a friend’s stuff from her ex-boyfriend’s apartment is just a brilliant confluence of unexpected themes. And remember, whatever you do, “Do not smell his t-shirts.”
The fifth and final season of “Baroness Von Sketch Show” premieres on IFC on February 24.