Atlanta has come a long way since it first premiered in 2016. Donald Glover’s series, which he once described as “Twin Peaks for rappers,” pushes the boundaries for what can be done (and what is expected) in a comedy TV series. Surreal, poignant, and hilarious, the FX program, which just ended its third season, stars Glover as Earnest “Earn” Marks, an up-and-coming music manager looking to put his rapper cousin Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles (Bryan Tyree Henry) on the map. They’re joined on this journey, by friend Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) and Earn’s ex Vanessa (Zazie Beetz).
This is a story about making it in the music industry, but Atlanta twists tones, toys with narrative structures, and digs deep into themes from all corners of the Black experience in America. While we wait for the show to return for its fourth and final season, here are 10 thought-provoking, off-beat, immersive comedies to watch if you loved Atlanta.
If it weren’t for the success of Atlanta, FX may not have continued to pursue the music industry-themed comedy narrative any further. But thankfully, they did. And who better to lead a quirky rap-infused dramedy than Dave Burd (aka Lil Dicky). Dave follows a fictionalized version of the real-life comedic rapper and explores his own issues with identity, and relationships while the offbeat and, often-times, baffling intricacies of the music industry loom large overhead. Doja Cat, Benny Blanco, Justin Bieber, and Kevin Hart are just a few of the celebrities who have appeared.
Where to watch: 2 seasons on Hulu.
In 2016, Issa Rae burst onto the scene with Insecure, the HBO comedy series she created and starred in. What began as a web series called Awkward Black Girl transformed into a groundbreaking television series that garnered multiple Emmy nominations and put Rae on the map as a formidable creator in Hollywood.
Similar in tone to Atlanta, Insecure gives a peek at an aspect of the human experience that was, up until recently, not at all represented on television: it explores what it’s like to be a Black woman in America. Representation aside, Rae’s creation does a fantastic job of reaching a bigger audience, while touching on relevant cultural issues and gender dynamics in the workplace and maintaining a humorous tone throughout.
Where to watch: 5 seasons on HBO.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge creates, writes, and stars in Amazon’s widely-acclaimed comedy series, Fleabag. The show follows a nameless woman, as she lives her life in London while dealing with love, loss, and everything in between. Even though the episode length runs about 30 minutes (much like the majority of the entries in this list), the show delivers on the hype — it’s hilarious, dramatic, emotional, and surprising. And it also turned Andrew Scott, who was most known for his dastardly take on Moriarty in Sherlock, into a sex symbol for playing Waller-Bridge’s character’s would-be love interest, aka “Hot Priest.”
Where to watch: 2 seasons of Prime Video.
If you’ve never heard of Random Acts of Flyness, you’re not alone. The hard-to-describe sketch comedy series premiered in 2018 and flew under completely the radar. Created by Terence Nance, the tone of the series was weird, abstract, and poignant. The program was made for late-night audiences and offered odd ideas and loose narratives that felt rooted in artistic, off-beat, and symbolic concepts meant to provoke thought and emotion in the viewer that may be tough to put into words. Of the show’s sketches, the Jon Hamm–hosted commercials about “White Thoughts” and a skincare product to cure them is a prime example of the show’s deep cutting brilliance, and star appeal. If you’re looking for strange content akin to Atlanta’s Black Justin Bieber and Teddy Perkins, this show is for you.
Where to watch: 1 season on HBO Max.
Ramy Youssef’s semi-biographical comedy series about a Muslim-American man’s American experience living in New Jersey first premiered on Hulu in 2019. Since then, Youssef’s star has quickly risen. Narratively speaking, the storytelling structure of the program is reminiscent of Atlanta, but shines a light on the regularly misunderstood and misrepresented Muslim one. Ramy’s honest struggles with faith, family, and romantic relationships all contribute to the complex Emmy-winning dramedy.
Where to watch: 2 seasons on Hulu.
Netflix’s adaptation of the 2014 movie, Dear White People, follows a group of Black students at Winchester University as they experience life at the prestigious, yet fictional, Ivy League college. Justin Simien, the director of the movie and creator of the series, crafted a program that explores the institutional racism that exists within the university landscape. It’s the foundation of the series which allows its characters to dissect the systemic racism, classism, sexual identity, and societal expectations that make up present-day America. Oh, and it’s also quite funny.
Where to watch: 4 seasons on Netflix.
Bill Hader showcased his comedy chops as a sketch performer on Saturday Night Live. But he also struggled with mental health and anxiety issues. Thankfully, he found the wherewithal to channel these struggles into HBO’s groundbreaking comedy series Barry. Hader plays the title character, a hitman suffering from an identity crisis who turns to the craft of acting as a means of spiritual rebirth. Unfortunately, it’s not at all easy to leave his life of killing behind. Like Atlanta, the series is presented in an off-beat tone, while digging into deeply resonant issues. And, much like Donald Glover, who doesn’t just star in that series, but also writes and directs episodes, Hader has stepped behind the camera to help bring his Emmy-winning vision to life.
Where to watch: 3 seasons on HBO.
Reservation Dogs is its own unique thing, but there’s an Atlanta-style offbeat flair to the groundbreaking series. Created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi, the program follows four Indigenous teens living on a reservation in small-town Oklahoma who share a big dream of leaving their humdrum community behind to live the good life in the far-off exotic locale known simply as “California.” To fund this big escape, the group engages in all sorts of criminal activity, and doing so introduces the reservation’s quirky cast of characters. Much like Atlanta, Reservation Dogs boasts humor, authenticity, and the ability to convey cultural concepts in a way that is completely relatable to mainstream audiences.
Where to watch: 1 season on FX.
A sketch-comedy series featuring a cast entirely made up of Black women, the show’s writers room follows suit, and the production’s Dime Davis is the first Black woman sketch-comedy director. Robin Thede is the creator and star of the program which is, as the HBO synopsis states, “set in a limitless magical reality.” While the show touches on relevant cultural issues like mental health, faith, sex, relationships, and more, it’s worth noting that it took until 2019 for a show like this to come into existence. Over the course of its three seasons, notable guest stars like Angela Bassett, Laverne Cox, Tia Mowry, Loretta Devine, Kelly Rowland, and David Alan Grier have appeared to deliver the laughs.
Where to watch: 3 seasons on HBO.
Donald Glover first became a recognizable name in Dan Harmon’s brilliant NBC sitcom Community. Before taking on the role of Earn, the music producer, he was Troy Barnes, the lovable, somewhat dim-witted, totally nerdy, college jock. Sure, he was already dabbling in music under his hip hop moniker Childish Gambino, and previously cut his teeth in the sketch comedy group Mystery Team and as a writer on NBC’s 30 Rock, but it was the absurdist elements of Harmon’s Community that really showcased that thing that makes Donald Glover so — well, Donald Glover.
Where to watch: 6 seasons on Netflix.