I think The State/Mr. Show to Simpsons/Family Guy is an apt comparison, except Mr. Show should be the Simpsons in that analogy. It's just far more sophisticated and layered.
No sketch comedy show has EVER combined intelligence and insanity as well as Mr. Show, and no show has ever been so funny while trying. This might be a bit unfair, but the fact that Mr. Show was on HBO makes a HUGE difference. They were able to go places other sketch shoes couldn't, and they used that freedom well. Not for cheap jokes about celebrities or bodily functions, but jokes about hypocrisy (political and ESPECIALLY religious), tolerance (homosexuality) and more.
When they got surreal, it was usually brilliant. And every skit gets better the more you see it.
There are few comedy bits as ingenius and hilarious as: Wicked Sceptre, Thrilling Miracles ("That man's gone now."), Larry Kleist ("Larry is my name, insurance is my game...rrrrrrrraping was another game of mine..."), the Satanic Evangelists ("You truly are the mother of all whores."), God as Robert Evans ("Jesus, you're tops and you teach me new things every day.").
The State was very funny but a lot tamer. They relied on recurring characters, something Mr. Show NEVER did (with the possible exception of Ronnie Dobbs). And no show ever incorporated musical numbers as well as Mr. Show ("Can't a man not control his bitch with violence?" Y'all are brutalizing me!").
Hands down the best sketch show ever.
The State vs Mr. Show is such a difficult choice, it'd be like choosing your favorite child, ya know?
I feel The State was geared more towards complete absurdity whilst Mr. Show was 50% absurdity and 50% vulgarity; the most perfect blend to date. (Any cock'll do!!)
Both The State and Mr. Show blended the perfect amount of intellect in their silliness, because without that intellect, silliness is just gay and unfunny.
As I watch Mr. Show, I find myself constantly thinking, "Bob and David are complete genius'" whereas when I watch The State, I think that a little bit less. I laugh equally at both shows though.
I'm so glad season 4 came out for Mr. Show because to me, it was by far the funniest season. "I've broken all my ankles!" "Sad Songs are Nature's Onion" I've been watching it nonstop.
I don't feel that The State relied on reoccuring characters at all. Out of all of their skits, reoccuring characters were a small fraction of a whole. In fact, I didn't really find their reoccuring characters funny, sans Louie skits just because they're awesomely childish.
Anyone who can say with a straight face that SNL is currently a great show should be dead, face down in a quagmire with a 9 iron lodged between their shoulder blades. And the day that Cheri Oteri chick dies is the day I'm throwing a delightful party with balloons and cake and streamers all about. I hate her and the mere thought of her makes me want to push the elderly into traffic. She's like in fast forward and on speed at the same time; I'm just waiting for her bastard head to explode.
Having pointlessly said all that: The State and Mr. Show = both sincerely and equally loved by me. Cock rings, cock rings, cock rings.
<because without that intellect, silliness is just gay and unfunny. >
Do you see the irony in that statement? :P