The X-Files is not a show best known for its rip-roaring comedy. Nevertheless, the usually serious and creepy investigations undertaken by FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully occasionally veered off into more humorous and even farcical adventures. Episodes that treated the usual subjects of conspiracies and bloodthirsty cryptozoological monsters with a tongue-in-cheek tone were a welcome respite from the often gloomy plotlines upon which the show was centered. It could even be argued that producer Chris Carter’s willingness to experiment with different styles is what helped The X-Files attain such longevity.
There are more lighter episodes of The X-Files than you might realize, as they became more common in the later years of the program. We’ve chosen what we feel are the 10 best X-Files episodes to watch when you’d like a few laughs to accompany your search for the truth.
There are two levels of humor in this episode. Blatantly hilarious is Mulder and Scully’s posing as married couple Ron and Laura Petrie (straight out of The Dick Van Dyke Show) as they go undercover as new homeowners in a planned community to investigate the disappearance of several residents. The two seem to settle a little too easily into married couple bickering, with Mulder getting a kick out of Scully’s discomfort. Best line — Mulder to Scully: “Woman, get back in here and make me a sandwich!” The episode is also a perfect parody of life in planned communities and all the little petty rules Homeowners Associations dictate to maintain conformity. It’s bliss watching Mulder subvert the rules in order to rock the boat, through tactics such as installing a pink flamingo on his lawn, digging a hole in his front yard that is supposedly for a reflecting pool, and trashing his own mailbox (including pouring orange juice all over it).
9) Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose
This story about Mulder and Scully enlisting the help of Clyde Bruckman (Peter Boyle), a man with possibly real psychic abilities, to track down a serial killer who is murdering fake psychics is not really a comedy. But Boyle played the character with such a dry, sarcastic wit that his lines and performance make this one of the funniest episodes of the series. Boyle balanced the humor with a sense of pathos, as his character was burdened with being able to see how people will die. When Mulder asks to know his own fate, Bruckman tells him he doesn’t want to know and later hints that it might be sexual asphyxiation, appropriate considering Mulder’s (and apparently Duchovny’s) very active libido. When Scully asks how she dies, Bruckman mysteriously tell her that she’s doesn’t.
8) Small Potatoes
7) Hollywood A.D.
Mulder and Scully come across an ancient bowl that supposedly has Christ’s voice recorded on it like the grooves in a record, speaking an incantation to raise the dead that translates to “I Am the Walrus.” Bones and bodies seem to come alive and start dancing. The case gets made into a film starring Garry Shandling as Mulder and Tea Leoni (Duchovny’s wife) as Scully. The real Mulder and Scully go to Hollywood to observe the filming, interact with the stars, and ultimately witness how badly Hollywood (typically) botchedsthe facts. A lot of meta-reference make this more of an X-Files send-up, and it’s hilarious to see them poke fun at themselves.
This second season episode about a creature that is killing circus freaks was the trend-starter for X-Files comedy episodes, combing biting, dark humor with otherwise suspenseful and nauseating elements. Thankfully, writer Darin Morgan also managed to balance the sideshow actors’ weirdness with dignity. Fun fact: In the scene where Scully appeared to eat a bug (which she later revealed to have hidden with slight of hand), the cameras were to have been stopped and the real insect replaced with a candy insect. But Gillian Anderson quickly chowed down on the real bug, disgusting all around. How can you not love her?
This story is presented as an episode of the reality show COPS, with Mulder and Scully tagging along with the LAPD to investigate a series of reported “monster” attacks during a full moon. Mulder uses the camera time to present his wild ideas to a wider audience, much to Scully’s horror. The monster turns out to have a tendency to appear as its victim’s worst fear, which in one case (based on a sketch artist’s drawing of what a witness saw) even includes Freddy Krueger.
A malfunctioning UFO near Area 51 creates a rip in the space-time continuum that causes Mulder to Quantum Leap into the body of Man in Black Morris Fletcher (Michael McKean). Mulder ends up stuck in Fletcher’s miserable marriage and making it worse, calling Fletcher’s kids by the wrong name, falling asleep while watching porn in the living room, and accidentally causing Fletcher’s wife to think he is having an affair with “Special Tramp” Dana Scully. Meanwhile, Fletcher takes advantage of his new life as Mulder, buying a waterbed, hooking up with Skinner’s secretary and going by the book so much that Scully eventually realizes it cannot be Mulder.
3) Jose Chung’s From Outer Space
“Jose Chung’s” is not only one of the funniest X-Files episodes; it may be the best episode of the whole series. Once again, we have writer Darin Morgan to thank for another hilarious story; the guy pretty much invented the X-Files comedy genre. In this episode, a standard alien abduction tale is told from the perspective of several different people, whose accounts all wildly contradict one another. Author Jose Chung, played memorably by Charles Nelson Reilly, struggles to piece together all these conflicting tales as he writes a book that recounts one conspiracy covering up another in true X-Files style. Best moment: Hard to choose, as there’s Mulder’s girlish scream when he finds a dead alien, Detective “Manners,” Mulder watching Bigfoot videos like they’re porn, a cigarette-smoking alien, and the Men in Black, who look rather suspiciously like Jesse Ventura and Alex Trebek.
2) Je Souhaite
This episode features Jenn, a genie who is disgruntled with her job and fed up with the unending stupidity of the people whose three wishes she grants. Two brothers who find her don’t prove any better, wishing for such things as invisibility, a yacht they can’t afford the taxes on, and a horrific return from the dead for the brother who became invisible and got hit by a truck. The paraplegic brother (played by Will Sasso of Mad TV) misses the obvious of wishing for the use of his legs and considers asking for a gold wheelchair. When Mulder obtains the genie’s services, he wishes for world peace and is granted an ironic wish when Jenn makes everyone on Earth but the two of them disappear. Mulder uses his second wish to undo the first wish, and then begins writing what is basically a legal contract for world peace to keep Jenn from screwing with him again. However, Scully convinces Mulder that humankind needs to achieve peace legitimately and Mulder uses his last wish to finally free Jenn from her service as a genie. Best line: When Scully, ever the skeptic, begins trying to rationalize her examination of an invisible body, Mulder replies with an exasperated, “OH!” It’s what most of us had been thinking for years about Scully’s refusal to acknowledge all the strange crap she had seen.
1) Bad Blood
Mulder commits a major oops by staking a pizza delivery boy he thinks is a vampire, only to find the teen was wearing fake teeth. Before delivering their report to Skinner, Mulder and Scully go over the story and reveal that they each have markedly different takes on the case in which they went to Texas to investigate murders that Mulder was sure from the get-go were due to vampires. In Scully’s version, Mulder is even more enthusiastic than usual about chasing down the supernatural, and Scully is presented as a persistent whiner in Mulder’s version of the tale. Scully recalls the sheriff they worked with (Luke Wilson) as a handsome Southern gentleman, while Mulder (perhaps jealously) remembers him as a buck-toothed doofus. Best scenes: There are many, but among the most amusing is Mulder waking up from being drugged singing the theme to Shaft; Mulder recalling the pizza boy vampire soaring at Scully “like a flying squirrel”; and Mulder trying heroically to capture a runaway RV, only to end up being dragged around by it in circles as the trailer park denizens watch on in amusement.
Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.