Welcome to Dataspin, a weekly data visualization of whatever the fuck.

The aughts were good years for television, and more than one critic has declared that we're living in a Golden Age. Plenty of that praise had to do with the rise of strong cable dramas—The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Wire, and so on—but the last decade or so has also given us the best crop of comedy shows that have ever been on TV.

This Golden Age didn't appear out of nowhere. As the chart below tries to map out, TV's funniest and most beloved scripts actually came from a relatively small number of people. These groups, whether they met in sketch theaters or on the standup circuit, have mixed their comic sensibilities to help form our current TV landscape. Naturally, older programs have bigger bubbles to show this progression, and special attention is given to the plentiful sketch shows (purple circles) of the '90s (the Golden Age of sketch comedy) that acted as incubators for this talent.

I wanted to focus on specific projects that these people collaborated on, so I ignored comedy institutions like Saturday Night Live, Second City, and the late night shows, which obviously acted as incubators as well. The whole web ignores the structural shifts in how television is created and viewed that have helped contribute to this creative output, but still, it's a fun visual practice. Consider it the unofficial yearbook for scripted humor:


For a larger image, click here. For a larger image without the cumbersome names, click here.

We're dealing with a pretty small number of pixels here, so there are many people, shows, and connections that unfortunately had to get bumped, and some less notable people (like Ryan Hansen) got on because I thought the connections between two shows (Party Down and Veronica Mars) was interesting. An incomplete list of snubs includes: In Living Color and its cast, Rob Corddry, Janeane Garofalo, SCTV, Kid In the Hall, Andy Dick, and the actual names of most of the members of The State.


Some great current television has been created by young upstarts and doesn't connect to this web particularly well, so due credit should be given to Elizabeth Meriwether (New Girl), Lena Dunham (Girls), and the entire cast of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. In order to make this fit I also had to sever one connection, that I know of: Dino Stamatopoulos (aka "Starburns") was also a producer and writer for Mr. Show. He's a funny dude.

Correction: The original image connected Key & Peele to UCB through Matt Besser. I meant Ian Roberts, who was also on UCB.


Got an idea for the column? Email me.

Image by Jim Cooke.