Every Funny ‘X-Files’ Episode, Ranked
Part of what made The X-Files so great – in addition to the unrelenting sexual tension you could cut with an alien autopsy scalpel – was its tonal diversity. Some weeks you might get a paranoia-filled conspiracy thriller, while other times would present a straight-up horror story about, say, a house full of inbred mutants. Also, a not-insignificant number of episodes were funny as hell …
While not the most overtly goofy episode, there is much comedy to be mined from the premise of “Arcadia”; Mulder and Scully go undercover as a married couple in a suburban community where a monster is seemingly murdering residents who don’t adhere to the collective aesthetic. Did we mention that they’re working under the aliases “Rob and Laura Petrie”? Yeah, Mulder makes a pretty big gamble that no one in this town has ever seen, or even heard of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Come for Mulder in a pink golf shirt, stay for Scully calling him “Poopiehead.”
While the corporate synergy machine combining two popular Fox shows could have easily been disastrous (thankfully Mulder and Scully were never sent to investigate any strange happenings at Melrose Place) “X-Cops” thrust our favorite FBI agents into the world of Cops – and the results were shockingly delightful. Like, we get to see Mulder and Scully monologuing to a camera crew about why they get “paid the big bucks” for their paranormal investigations. Also it was far less grossly negligent than the real Cops.
In its seventh season, The X-Files went full Kazaam with “Je Souhaite” in which a couple of dim-witted bros draw the attention of the FBI after their wishes, granted by a sardonic genie, backfire horribly. Bonus points for the scene where Scully autopsies an invisible man, and the fact that it ends with Mulder and Scully drinking beer and watching Caddyshack.
While not the best episode by far, “Hollywood A.D.” features one of the funniest conceits in the entire series. A Hollywood producer, played by comedian Wayne Federman (and also, oddly, named “Wayne Federman”) makes a movie all about Mulder and Scully – and casts David Duchovny’s real-life buddy (and occasional on screen crush) Garry Shandling as Mulder and his then-wife Tea Leoni as Scully.
“How The Ghosts Stole Christmas”
A Christmas episode set entirely in a haunted house is awesome enough – but the ghosts happen to be played by TV icons Lily Tomlin and Ed Asner. It’s spooky, funny, and one of the best ways to celebrate the birth of Jesus other than watching Die Hard and/or getting drunk.
“Fox Mulder Freaky Fridays with Michael McKean” is such a strong premise that “Dreamland” is stretched into two episodes. There’s so much to love about this show; a bewildered Mulder casually screwing up his host body’s life, a horned-up McKean attempting to use his new waterbed to seduce Dana, Nora Dunn as the sleazy guy’s distraught wife – bonus comedy points for the part where Duchovny and McKean replicate the Marx Brothers’ famous mirror gag from Duck Soup. It's a simple equation Mulder + Michael McKean = Comedy Gold.
“Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” And “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat”
The rebooted 10th and 11th seasons of The X-Files each featured a comedy-centric episode written and directed by Darrin Morgan – and they’re both great. The first one, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster,” features Flight of the Conchords’ Rhys Darby as the titular were-monster.
While “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” is a bonkers story about The Twilight Zone, off-brand Jell-O, The Berenstain Bears, and other unexplained consequences of the Mandela Effect – wait, no, make that the Mengele Effect.
Boldly opening with our hero plunging a stake into the heart of a seemingly mortal young man and facing a potential multimillion-dollar lawsuit as a result (which seems fair), “Bad Blood” boasts a Rashomon-esque structure. In it, we get to see both Mulder and Scully’s perspectives of their investigation into potential vampirism in a small Texas town. A highlight is Luke Wilson as the local sheriff, who is a handsome romantic interest in Scully’s account but a buck-toothed, Cletus-like simpleton in Mulder’s memory.
“Jose Chung's From Outer Space”
Maybe this is an obvious choice for number one, but good lord what an episode of TV. This is the show that really cracked open The X-Files from a tonal perspective, illustrating that the series could be anything it wanted to. The unconventional structure and bizarro comedy somehow landed perfectly, starting with the cold opening, which began typical X-Files form, but then pulled the rug (and even the floorboards) out from under the viewer. And who didn’t love the left field casting choices; obviously there was Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Alex Trebek as the mysterious men in black –
But also putting pop-culture legend Charles Nelson Reilly front and center as author Jose Chung was a stroke of genius.
Of course, if we’re counting unintentional laughs, the funniest episode of The X-Files is still the one where Mulder fights half-naked cowgirls in virtual reality.
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