The Funniest Stand-Up Comedy


   

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Stand-Up Comedy Sets sorted by Recently reviewed (descending) / page 1 of 12


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Aries Spears: Hollywood, Look I'm Smiling posterAries Spears: Hollywood, Look I'm Smiling
      2011 | USA | Laughs: 4.0 | imdb: 7.1
      

This show was my first time seeing Aries Spears. I found his demeanor likeable and hoped for some high-octane material.

I'm a sucker for accents, so I enjoyed the large segment in the second half when Aries showed off a wild array of voices from English tourist to Italian-American bartender, from Robert De Niro to Chewbacca.

Apart from that the show had funny moments, but for me too much of it hinged on the black—white thing, which at this stage in our evolution strikes me as trite and bores me fast. Granted, maybe there was something in the comparison of corporal punishment across skin shades.

Neither am I a fan of bedroom jokes. Not only did Aries spend a lot of time there, he felt the need to bring midgets into that dusty refuge for uninspired comedy.

This is someone who has already traveled much of the road to Ali G, and my overall impression was that Aries was capable of much smarter material than he used in this set. His public seemed to relish him, but my sense is that if he didn't take the easy road he could reach a far wider audience. (Last viewed: May 2019)

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Anthony Jeselnik: Thoughts and Prayers posterAnthony Jeselnik: Thoughts and Prayers
      2015 | USA | Laughs: 5.5 (Watch Once) | imdb: 7.8
      

I watched this after the day after seeing Anthony for the first time (in his 2019 show Fire in the Maternity Ward) and was surprised to find it considerably weaker, which is good news as far as things to come.

The set may be uneven, but if you're an amateur of stand-up I'd still recommend you watch it as it contains a few really strong bits, including one of the best gun jokes I've heard.

Anthony's taboo topics (such as kids getting hurt) don't bother me, it's just that his craft is less polished on this show than on the next — from themes to writing to delivery. Some of the jokes are even objectively lame, such as the one relying on word play on the word deer or the one about an uncle at NASA.

But despite this and the fairly boring second part, this is still a far more worthwhile hour than all of the filth that passes as comedy these days.

Looking forward to seeing some of Anthony's future work. (Last viewed: May 2019)

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Anthony Jeselnik: Fire in the Maternity Ward posterAnthony Jeselnik: Fire in the Maternity Ward
      2019 | USA | Laughs: 6.5 (Laugh and Smile) | imdb: 7.2
      

This set was a pleasant surprise. It was the first time I saw Anthony. His brand of humor relies on saying things which are unexpectedly 'offensive' but not overly crass. This brings him closer to Ricky Gervais than to Jim Jefferies. The comparison can be extended in that unlike Jim, at no point does Anthony say anything that makes you laugh by being an unpopular opinion that you also happen to hold.

One distinctive feature of the show is that Anthony spends more time than customary reflecting on his own material, but not with the incisive insight of the master of this meta-comedy genre, Stewart Lee.

The set's pacing is incredibly slow, which means that in an hour you get about twenty minutes' worth of material. On the other hand, that gives you time to enjoy the jokes, so I wasn't complaining. The last quarter of the show was weaker than the rest.

Overall, this was a good experience: I'll be looking for Anthony's earlier material. (Last viewed: May 2019)

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Gallagher: The Maddest posterGallagher: The Maddest
      1983 | USA | Laughs: 0.8 | imdb: 7.9
      

It was fun to see a slice of the 1980s for a moment, but it wasn't funny. We've moved on, and so has comedy. We've been exposed to so much great and appalling comedy since the time this set was tape that there is nothing left to salvage. Or perhaps there is and I didn't see it — I couldn't get past the twentieth minute. (Last viewed: November 2018)

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Jerry Seinfeld: Stand-Up Confidential posterJerry Seinfeld: Stand-Up Confidential
      1987 | USA | Laughs: 2.8 (Don't Bother) | imdb: 6.6
      

If you've seen Jerry's other sets, you can probably skip this one. It will mostly be material you're familiar with, but less-well honed.

At the beginning of the set, I was surprised by Jerry's timing and delivery, which reminded me very much of George Carlin's. The tape is peppered with short recorded skits. Far from increasing the interest of the piece, these are too goofy to be funny. (Last viewed: November 2018)

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Robin Williams: Off the Wall posterRobin Williams: Off the Wall
      1978 | USA | Laughs: 0.2 (Just Awful) | imdb: 8.1
      

Very loud, very frantic, very unfunny. I know everyone's supposed to love Robin Williams, but to me this set is garbage. The man's utter lack of sense of timing could be a side-effect of the coke—it's no coincidence that the shot of Robin walking to the stage shows him rubbing his nose. Maybe this indigestible material was always meant to be performed to drunks or people on drugs. For me stand-up comedy works when the comedian manages to create some degree of empathy or rapport with the audience. It's hard to have any empathy when the comedian is behaving like a crazed monkey. (Last viewed: November 2018)

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Jerry Sadowitz: Total Abuse Show posterJerry Sadowitz: Total Abuse Show
      1988 | U.K. | Laughs: 3.5 (Smirk) | imdb: 5.0
      

I had to skip through much of the first part because Jerry spoke too fast for me and I have a hard time with his Scottish accent — and that's coming from someone who spent two months in Glasgow (Jerry's town) a year earlier and thought he was doing pretty well understanding the locals.

Because of the "accent gap" it's hard to give the set a fair review, but if Scottish accents are no mystery to you, then I feel confident that this is a show you shouldn't miss, if only because it is utterly original, for its time anyway.

As the set progresses, Jerry's delivery settles to a more manageable pace. He uses so many props that it becomes funny in itself. He's also unashamedly "in your face", with great success. Part of the set relies on magic tricks. (Last viewed: November 2018)

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Jackie Mason: The World According to Me posterJackie Mason: The World According to Me
      1988 | USA | Laughs: N/A (Chuckle) | imdb: 7.7
      

In the first half of the show, Jackie Mason covers themes such as dating, searching for the "real me" and Ronald Reagan. One of his comic devices is to tell you that he can't stand jokes about Poles (or Italians) then immediately proceed to tell you one, a trick that is often funnier than the joke itself. Some of the material may not be acceptable to modern ears, but it can all be chalked up to the uncivilized ways of the previous century. The bulk of the show is really about Jews and Gentiles, and I don't think I've ever seen a stand-up comedian exploit that theme so thoroughly. Maybe Jerry Seinfeld or Larry David walked that landscape? Jackie Mason owned it, and for me that made the set worth watching, even though I never really laughed. (Last viewed: September 2018)

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Brian Regan: Nunchucks and Flamethrowers posterBrian Regan: Nunchucks and Flamethrowers
      2017 | USA | Laughs: 0.1 (Just Awful) | imdb: 6.0
      

As far as I can tell, Brian has lost whatever he once had. First off, he seems to be out of topics: the set begins with a weak segment about the scoring system of the game of tennis, and soon moves on to a discussion of various uninteresting aspects of American sports. Second, none of it is remotely funny. Perhaps Brian is confused by the contemporaneous political situation in the Trump United States and doesn't know his place as a comic in that sad place. To me, this unfunny show was a pathetic window into a decaying society. (Last viewed: September 2018)

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Rodney's Act posterRodney's Act
      2004 | USA | Laughs: 0.1 (Don't Bother) | imdb: 8.0
      

I've never been a fan of Rodney's in the movies but thought I'd give this highly-rated show of his a try. I want to like the guy—he looks like he would know how to make you laugh—but his brand of humor falls flat on me. It's a string of fast-paced one-liners which seems to draw laughs from the crowd, perhaps because it's mildly offensive for its time, perhaps because they're drunk. (Last viewed: September 2018)

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The Roseanne Barr Show posterOn Location: The Roseanne Barr Show
      1987 | USA | Laughs: 2.0 (Watch Once) | imdb: 6.4
      

Although it's not terribly funny, this show is an interesting watch because it's the only recorded stand-up special (at least that I could find) of Roseanne Barr who, right or wrong, is an icon of American comedy.

One interesting feature of the set is that at some stage Roseanne walks off the set and into a trailer, which is supposed to be where she lives with her kids and deadbeat husband. The show has a (boring) five-minute prologue in the trailer and an equally long closing section.

On stage Roseanne constantly chews gum for the first three quarters of the show, when she turns to eating junk food, still delivering her lines. I'd seen stand-up comics chug beer, but performing while eating was a new one for me. It's fair to say that Roseanne has a fun, energetic demeanor all of her own.

The themes include fat people, ovulating, reading maps, and a big long rant about men. I smiled and enjoyed this unusual show. (Last viewed: September 2018)

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Stewart Lee: If You Prefer a Milder Comedian, Please Ask for One posterStewart Lee: If You Prefer a Milder Comedian, Please Ask for One
      2010 | U.K. | Laughs: 1.7 (Don't Bother) | imdb: 8.4
      

This was the fifth show of Stewart's that I watched and the one I enjoyed the least, although some bits of it did make me smile. One of my problems with it is that Stewart does a long segment about the cast of a TV show that I'd never heard about (I guess that gives away that I either don't live in the U.K. or don't watch television). Even without that, it is his worst set up to 2018. But it's still attaching, if only for the unusual and memorable parts when Stewart harangues the crowd from the balustrade then sings a song on the guitar. (Last viewed: September 2018)

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Jim Gaffigan: Cinco posterJim Gaffigan: Cinco
      2017 | USA | Laughs: 2.0 (Don't Bother) | imdb: 7.0
      

At the start of the show, Jim quietens the applause by telling the audience their expectations are too high. The rest of the set proves him right. Usually Jim does well with mundane themes, but this time I found his treatment fairly unexciting. The themes included being fat, the seasons, cars, TV series, airports. He does warm up after about 45 minutes and hits a fairly funny three-minute streak. At some point Jim jokes that this might be his last show (one for each of his kids), and in truth I wouldn't be sad if he retired with this respectable body of work to make place for more motivated comedians. (Last viewed: September 2018)

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Jim Gaffigan: Obsessed posterJim Gaffigan: Obsessed
      2014 | USA | Laughs: 4.6 | imdb: 7.6
      

After watching a disappointing show of Jim's from 2009, it was a surprise that this one (from five years later) would be so pleasant and entertaining. He looks quite relaxed as he delivers his seventy-minute set; I didn't see the time pass. The themes include overeating, weddings, food, seafood, alcohol, bars, and having five kids. (Last viewed: September 2018)

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George Carlin: 40 Years of Comedy DVDGeorge Carlin: 40 Years of Comedy
      1997 | USA | Laughs: 2.0 (Light-Hearted) | imdb: 8.5
      wikipedia

This set starts out with a fifteen-minute retrospective of George's career up to that point, a retrospective that isn't particularly funny. Then there are thirty minutes of stand-up which is not exceptional for George but has good moments and spans such themes as advertising, religion and food marketing. The final thirteen minutes or so is an interview of George by Jon Stewart, the host of the show, who makes him reflect on his craft and art. That was my favorite part because it's a chance to get to know George a bit more intimately, behind the mask of the comedian that he always wears on his HBO specials. (Last viewed: September 2018)

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(This section: Stand-Up Comedy Sets)


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