“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was never a run-of-the-mill teen soap opera, but one of its most distinctive features was its sense of humor. Joss Whedon is a powerhouse, just as skilled at guffaw-worthy comedy as he is at heartwrenching tragedy. “Buffy’s” the perfect example of his unique voice, so we’ve compiled a list of 15 of the show’s funniest episodes.
Some of them made our sides split from beginning to end, some had punchy scenes that were so good, they deserved a spot on the list despite the episodes themselves moving toward the dramatic. And that’s kind of what made “Buffy” great if you think about it — the show made us laugh as much as it made us cry. Here are 15 times it did the former, in excess.
“You made a bear!”
This is probably the unfunniest entry on this list, but it has such an epically funny fight scene, we had to include it. It’s Thanksgiving, and Xander accidentally discovers a “lost” mission while breaking ground for a new cultural center. This releases a Native American vengeance demon that hounds Sunnydale for decimating his people. In the background is the budding romance of Xander and Anya — Anya, at her best, delightfully lacking in filter, informs Buffy and Willow that Thanksgiving is a ritual sacrifice (with pie) in between talking about how turned on she gets by watching Xander dig.
The funny part comes in when the demon grabs a pack of like-minded fellows and attacks Giles’ house on Thanksgiving night. The irony is strong and it’s not a little hilarious that Willow is painfully conflicted about fighting back, considering the actions of her ancestors led to so much tragedy for the Native Americans. The icing on the cake is Spike, tied to a chair in the middle of everything, telling Willow she needs to stop being so damn sensitive about everything and desperately trying to avoid arrows to the heart.
14. THE INITIATIVE
“Spikey. Let’s leave the Slayer alone. You know she’ll only slap you around, and I can do that.”
Pick your poison: Buffy derping her way through the yogurt and soda machines as Riley looks on; Xander and Harmony engaging in a slap fight… and ending in a draw; or, Willow playing counselor to a newly-neutered Spike. “The Initiative” was, ostensibly, a fairly run-of-the-mill episode in terms of plot. Buffy and Riley inch closer to their incredibly boring romance, with Willow’s adorable assistance, and Spike breaks out of the Initiative only to discover they’ve taken away his ability to hurt another living thing.
However, what it lacked in game-changing events, it made up for in cackle-worthy scenes sprinkled throughout. In addition to the list above, everything Harmony touches is gold; the only time Riley was ever interesting was when he was failing miserably to talk to Buffy and Xander and Giles patrolling together for the first time. This is the episode where everyone who’s normally really good at things is really bad at them — an excellent formula for funny.
“Spike! You’re covered in sexy wounds!”
Oh, Buffybot. Sick, sick Buffybot. Never has a blow-up doll provided audiences with so much entertainment. Spike, unable to take his unfulfilled feelings for Buffy any longer, picks up his order of one Buffy lookalike robot from Warren and proceeds to head back to his crypt for sexyfun times. That’s funny on its own, considering the Buffybot is such a bimbo. But then she gets loose… oh boy.
Warren’s programming works a little too well and the bot winds up going out to patrol on her own, where she meets up with some Scoobies who think Buffy’s just gotten back from a vision quest. It’s a whole thing. A comedy of errors ensues as Spike tries to cover his tracks and Buffy’s friends wig out over “her” relationship with him. Then the whole thing turns a corner when Glory kidnaps Spike and tortures him for information, but all Spike does is insult her. Non-stop fun.
12. BEER BAD
“Giles, don’t make Cave-Slayer unhappy.”
Okay, this episode isn’t our favorite — Xander’s so desperate to be included in the college scene he gets a job bartending near campus. The “big bads” are painful-to-watch cavemen and the bar owner behind it all barely musters enough anger and disgust to warrant poisoning a rat, much less a bunch of college kids. But we’ll be damned if it didn’t bring it home at the end.
It’s utter poetry watching Buffy’s erstwhile one-night stand, Parker, attempt to seduce Willow using the same game he used on Buffy, only to have his B.S. brutally, gloriously called out by her. Then we all get to cackle as he’s set upon by sudden and inexplicable cavemen, only to be saved by the girl he treated like crap… who is also a cavewoman. Once the dust has settled, Parker tries to apologize, and just when we think he and Buffy might have managed to patch things up, Buffy clubs him and heads off to play with a car window. It’s a hilarious reminder to believe someone once they show you who they are, and leave if you don’t like it.
This classic episode, where the town of Sunnydale loses their voices, is critically-acclaimed, Emmy-nominated and genuinely frightening. That said, it… Is. So. Funny. Watching everyone try to figure out what’s happening and then deal with it is simple, classic, slapstick gold. Poor Riley nearly dies in an elevator after he can’t give his vocal authorization and is deemed a hostile by the computer system. Buffy and Willow are disgusted by the guy selling wipey boards for $10. Spike is still plenty communicative with vulgar gestures.
The best part by far, though, has to be Giles’ lecture. Without the benefit of speech, Giles, who’s figured out that they’re being attacked by “The Gentlemen,” basically creates a silent movie complete with soundtrack and title cards. Anya’s so into it, she makes popcorn. Considering how funny “Buffy” was in general, it’s not surprising one of its best, most terrifying episodes would also be one of its funniest.
10. TABULA RASA
“Oh, listen to Mary Poppins… You English men are always so… bloody hell! Sodding, blimey, shagging, knickers, bollocks. Oh god… I’m English.”
There’s a reason there are three “amnesia” episodes on this list — it’s funny when we get to see characters do things they wouldn’t normally do; like Giles, threatening to put Spike over his knee because they think they’re father and son. Or like Buffy calling herself Joan. Then there’s the actual loan shark. In “Tabula Rasa,” the gang gets their brains scrambled by one of Willow’s spells gone wrong. They draw hilariously incorrect conclusions about their relationships given the information they have at hand. Giles and Anya assume they’re married, Spike thinks he’s Giles’ son, and Xander and Willow believe they’re dating.
Buffy doesn’t have an ID or anything on her, so she names herself Joan the Vampire Slayer and she and Spike joyfully discover how good they are at violence, until she realizes he’s a vampire and runs away terrified. This episode works so well due to the utter commitment the Scoobies have to their new identities. “Tabula Rasa” is a hilarious vaycay in which the characters get to romp in different sandboxes for our amusement. Dance, Randy, dance!
“Check out Spike and the principal… there’s something going on there. Sexual tension you could cut with a knife.”
Andrew’s always reminded us a bit of “The X-Files'” Lone Gunmen, so it’s not surprising that any episode he gets all to himself would be comedically-driven. In an attempt to make a reality show pilot documenting the history of the Slayer’s battle against the First, Andrew spends this episode filming a day-in-the-life of Buffy and the slayer trainees. This involves his fanboy commentary on all manner of things, like Buffy’s personal journey, the tension between Willow and Kennedy, and Xander and Anya’s relationship (he seriously ships them).
Everything that comes from Andrew’s perspective is heavily embellished to the point of being ridiculous. He envisions winning a battle with Dark Willow and gives everyone sexy, soft-focus, slow-mo intros. Andrew’s always funny because, while he might be a murderous coward, he owns it, and that makes him really earnest. His fanboy adoration of everything that surrounds him, meanwhile, is annoying and endearing at the same time.
“Private Harris reporting for… Buffy! Lady of Buffdom, Duchess of Buffonia, I am in awe! I completely renounce spandex!”
This classic episode is the first time we meet Rupert’s ne’er-do-well warlock buddy, Ethan Rayne. In the name of Chaos (the god), he casts a spell that makes everyone take on the persona of their costume. What follows is nothing short of spectacular. Willow turns into a ghost, Buffy turns into an 18th century noblewoman and Xander becomes a commando with exactly zero chill.
Not only is it always hilarious watching familiar characters play outside their comfort zone, watching their new personalities negotiate the Halloween havoc Ethan and Spike unleash is double trouble. Xander keeps shooting at demons that are actually cats, Buffy cries and faints and thinks cars are demons, and Willow’s exasperated being one of the few people around who knows who she is. The actual LOLs are plentiful, but our rewind over-and-over moment was Willow walking through the library wall and scaring the bejeezus out of Giles. Index cards everywhere!
7. LIFE SERIAL
“Stop touching my magic bone!”
Given everything she has to go through on a daily basis, it’s impressive we don’t see more drunk Buffy. It’s great for Sunnydale and everyone she saves, but darned if DrunkSlayer isn’t one of our favorite slayers. “Life Serial” was the first time the Trio legit messed with Buffy. Already feeling directionless, Buffy attempts several different jobs after failing at auditing classes with Willow and Tara. Xander fires her from construction and she hilariously unravels at the Magic Shop when Jonathan casts a spell that puts her in a time loop.
At the end of this rotten day, the Slayer does was a lot of normal folks do and gets wasted with some pals. But this is “Buffy,” not our boring lives, and she gets to get drunk watching a vampire and demons play kitten poker. She also slays at the puns when Spike demands someone stake him (pokerwise) and she pipes up, “I’ll do it!” Buffy’s great at handling big, demon-y problems, but it’s always been a little funny watching her fail at life. She does that a lot this episode.
6. LOVERS WALK
“I may be love’s bitch, but I’m man enough to admit it.”
This was one of the first episodes that let James Marsters really leaned into the comedic side of the former big bad vampire, Spike. He blows back into Sunnydale a drunken shadow of his former self. He’s all moony about Drusilla leaving him for a chaos demon, and tries to force Willow to make him a love spell.
As if his drunken pathos weren’t enough, Spike’s romantic, passionate side gets the spotlight as he spends much of the episode in various unintentional therapy sessions. In one of the most brilliant worlds-collide scenes in television history, he winds up at Buffy’s house telling Joyce his woes over cocoa. Everything is dialed up to 11 when Angel attempts to come to Joyce’s rescue and can’t get in because his invitation was rescinded back when he was soulless. Choking laughter describes our reaction to Spike goofily pretending to bite Joyce while Angel watches.
5. THE ZEPPO
“Gotta think. I can’t believe I had sex. Okay, bombs. Already dead guys with bombs.”
Xander’s perpetual mortality and lack of superpower comes back to haunt him in this episode, as Cordelia taunts him for being the most useless of the Scooby Gang. So, he picks up a sweet new ride and falls in with a bad crowd. Or rather, a dead crowd. Xander attracts the attention of Jack O’Toole, a delinquent student with a lot of charisma. While the rest of the gang fight a literal apocalypse, the episode focuses on Xander finding his own two feet, fighting off some demons of his own.
Joss Whedon’s send-up of a moronic, too-cool-for-school crowd is hilariously on point — these idiots are bent on the destruction of anything they don’t like, and they come off as only slightly smarter versions of the cavemen in “Beer Bad.” That’s a good thing because the only thing Xander could dependably fight off are idiot zombies. Aside from that, seeing a Scooby battle from Xander’s perspective (everyone at wit’s end while he struggles to keep up) was tongue-in-cheek greatness.
4. BEWITCHED, BOTHERED AND BEWILDERED
“My Valentines are usually met with heartfelt restraining orders.”
Repeat after us: “Stay away from love spells. They either don’t work or backfire. Ask any movie or witch or television show that’s featured one.” Cool, now that that’s out of the way, did you guys hear about the time Xander used a love spell to get Cordelia to love him and it made every woman who saw him love him? OMG, we DIED.
That’s pretty much the long and short of it. Cordelia caves to peer pressure and breaks up with Xander once her terrible friends find out about their relationship. In revenge, Xander has a pre-rat Amy cast a love spell, but of course, it goes horribly awry. His first clue is when Willow hits on him. Then other clues follow like Cordelia’s friends shunning her again, this time for ditching Xander, Buffy hitting on him… oh, and who could we forget Miss Calendar. Girl went to the library for Giles, left with a craving for Harris. The only thing funnier than Sunnydale’s women losing their minds over Xander is his utter panic once he realizes what’s happened.
3. BUFFY VS. DRACULA
“Dracula. Poncey bugger owes me 11 pounds for one thing.”
Joss Whedon created a new vampire mythology that stands well on its own when he created the Buffyverse. So, it was damn delightful when he threw us all a curveball and tossed Dracula into the mix. What followed was delicious campy goodness that mashed up the romance novel Dracula mythology with Buffy’s Valley Girl tone. Dracula’s a huge douche with way too much flair, and Buffy’d faced far worse at that point, so he certainly never posed much of a threat.
But the funnier choice was to have her fall under his spell a little before kicking his ass, and given her general restlessness starting the season, it made sense. “Buffy vs. Dracula” sees the gang totally taken in by Dracula’s charisma and celebrity; Xander to the point of becoming the Count’s Sunnydale Renfield. Giles and Riley are appalled, of course, but it’s endlessly amusing watching everyone else fan out over this smarmy twerp.
2. SOMETHING BLUE
“This is the crack team that foils my every plan? I am deeply shamed.”
The tagline “You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll hurl,” works just as well for “Wayne’s World” as it does for watching Buffy and Spike suck face and plan their wedding. Reminder: “Something Blue,” took place in season four, way closer to the time when Buffy and Spike were blood enemies than the time when they were sex friends with very confusing feelings for each other. When Willow accidentally casts a spell that causes her will to become reality, she bitterly tosses out a line grumbling that if Spike is such a priority, Buffy should just marry him. She also turns Xander into a literal demon magnet and makes Giles go blind.
So, while demons descend upon Sunnydale once more, Buffy and Spike make out profusely in Giles’ apartment, much to his disgust. On the gross-meter, this is somewhere around having to listen to your college roommate hook-up… times 20. Thank goodness, though, because it provided us with infinite comedic gems like BlindGiles shouting, “Stop that right now — I can hear the smacking!”
1. BAND CANDY
“Whoa, Summers! You drive like a spaz!”
If you were making your own list of funny “Buffy” episodes and didn’t include “Band Candy,” you’d be fired. Hear us? Fired. We’d make up a job just to fire you from it. There is no funnier hour of television, at least in this series… and this was a seriously funny series. The plot is beautifully simple — the Sunnydale adults get all hopped up on, you guessed it, band candy and turn into teenage versions of themselves.
Giles goes all warlock-without-a-cause and Joyce all of a sudden gets a taste for bad boys. Even Principal Snyder finally manages to have some fun, though on him it just comes across as weird. There’s a bunch of bonus makeout sessions between Joyce and Giles if you ship that sort of thing. Buffy 100% did not, and watching her play “grown-up” to Giles and Joyce’s uncontrollable teen antics never gets old. Is there a gif of her pulling the cigarette out of his mouth? Because there should be.
Which Buffy episodes made you titter, snicker or guffaw? Laugh it up in the comments!