I’ve talked a bit on here about some of my favorite songs and how they influence my own art, but not so much on the comedy. I think stand-up comedy favorites come in two flavors. There are really solid albums that are full of laughs all the way through and can be listened to over and over again. For me that would be stuff like Bob Goldthwait’s “I Don’t Mean To Insult You, But You Look Like…”, Robin William’s “A Night at the Met”, and Dov Davidoff’s “The Point Is”. All of those I can listen to over and over and still laugh. They’re almost like a comedy opera where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
The other kind are the outstanding set pieces. A bit for all time. The stuff you can quote to your friends the next day. When you think back over a whole comedy show and you remember a particular section of it clear as day… That’s what we’re talking about here.
And yeah, there’s no George Carlin, Richard Pryor, or Carrot Top (shock!) here. Carlin and Pryor are album experiences to me. And Carrot Top is all about the live experience. Not kidding.
1. Eddie Izzard – Death Star Cafeteria (from ‘Circle’)- The first time I heard this bit I was in my car driving through San Francisco. I nearly had to pull over because I was laughing so hard I was afraid I was going to hit someone. Granted, I’m a Star Wars nerd, but I think this one has a little something for everyone. 🙂
2. Eddie Izzard – Covered In Bees (from ‘Glorious’)- Ok, I admit, I listen to A LOT of Eddie Izzard. This bit is a little more standard stand-up than his other stuff, but it’s a great example of a mix, which is a technique I use a lot. And it must resonate with his fans since he’s still selling “Covered In Bees” t-shirts at his gigs years later.
3. Robin Williams – Golf (from ‘Live On Broadway’)- I found it really cool that 30-some years into his career, Robin Williams came up with one of his most finely crafted comedy pieces ever. And it really is as close to a perfectly written bit as you can get. There’s different layers to it. There’s the basic concept of the ridiculousness of golf, but the added Scottish act out on top of it, plus the energy he bring really takes it over the top. A lesser performer could do a lot of the same premises and not be able to sell it.
4. Christopher Titus – Dad’s Funeral (from ‘5th Annual End of the World Tour’)- Titus is dark. And I don’t mean fake, made up dark for shock value. He takes the most horrible parts of his life and puts them on stage and makes them pass-out-from-lack-of-air funny. This bit about his Dad’s funereal requests and what they actually did is one of the absolute best pieces of comedy I’ve ever heard. Check out both clips for the full experience.
5. Bill Cosby – Dentists (from ‘Himself’)- “Himself” was one of the first comedy specials I saw as a kid. And while now we have the term “ROFL”, I actually was rolling on the floor laughing watching this bit. Couldn’t catch my breath. It was probably THE moment that turned me into a comedy fan.
Admittedly, it’s a mixed memory now that we know more about Bill Cosby. (And I’ve heard plenty of other stories from other comics.) But in the interest of separating the art from the artist, this is still and amazing bit.
6. Bob Nelson – Football – If Bill Cosby was THE moment, this bit from Bob Nelson was the second. Bob always does great characters and “dem helmet and dem should’em pads” and “dain bramage” pops into my head at random intervals. A sure sign of a memorable bit. And now you can see Bob in Branson in his own theater.
7. Mitch Hedberg – X (from ‘Mitch All Together’)- Mitch had a zillion really awesome bits that are just fun to remember. This is one that always makes me laugh when I hear it. It’s a great mix of anthropomorphism and just off-center thinking.
8. Ralphie May – Popeapalooza (from ‘Girth of a Nation’)- Ralphie is one of those guys that can get away with saying just about anything on stage. And his take on the aggrandizement of the pope’s death is fantastic. He does it right after a bit about a tsunami killing thousands and then says, “Ok, in this next joke, only one person dies.” Brilliant.
9. Greg Behrendt – Crybaby Spiderman (from ‘Uncool’)- Generally Greg is an album guy for me. But this bit is a standout (with Chicken Situation in a close 2nd). He’s got a great storytelling style on here with material that nobody else could really do, because it’s so “him”. There’s an interesting conundrum at the end. The closing line is a joke that’s kind of obvious. But it had to go there because that’s what the audience expected at that point. And they almost beat him to the line. I think his delivery suffers because of it, but there’s almost nothing you can do when you’re delivering a joke like that. Part of the laugh is that the audience was on the same wavelength as you.
10. Patton Oswalt – Sky Cake (from ‘My Weakness Is Strong’)- I often run across things that make me think, “Damn, I wish I wrote that.” This bit is one of those. It cuts. It’s well written. It has Patton’s signature sideways thinking. He makes great points. The first time I heard it, I laughed uncontrollably. And then felt sad that I didn’t think of it first.
Be sure to leave me a comment below and tell me what your favorite stand-up comedy bits are too!