The Funniest Stand-Up Comedy


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Stand-Up Comedy Sets sorted by Recently reviewed (descending) / page 1 of 13

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Joe Rogan: Strange Times posterJoe Rogan: Strange Times
      2018 | USA | Laughs: 3.5 (Smirk) | imdb: 7.4

I'm new to Joe Rogan: I first learned about him by watching a show where he lets the producer of the documentary The Game Changers defend his film — and actually lets him speak. Joe's relative level-headedness impressed me and made me want to check out his stand-up.

I went into the show with low expectations but was pleasantly surprised. Although I didn't enjoy Joe's delivery (what seemed to me like an endless scream) and thought he pandered a little too much to the gross-out crowd, he made some good points and had me smiling throughout the set.

Will probably be looking for some of his earlier material.

(Last viewed: December 2019)

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Frankie Boyle: Live posterFrankie Boyle: Live
      2008 | U.K. | Laughs: 0.1 (Don't Bother) | imdb: 7.6

This show came highly recommended by a friend, so I was tickled. After fifteen minutes, I hadn't laughed. Paused it. Another fifteen-minute section a few days later: still no laughs. I tortured myself with this go-stop-go-stop routine a few more times over the next few months, but finally gave up. This guy is hilarious to a lot of people, but to me his humor is way off-mark.

The things I enjoyed the most were the shots of the gorgeous theatre, Frankie's ginger features and his accent, which was thoroughly understandable although markedly Scottish. These two months in Glasgow a few years back must have helped.

That's it for me with Frankie Boyle. With apologies to my buddy, I don't think I can bring myself to try another of his sets.

(Last viewed: November 2019)

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Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife posterAli Wong: Hard Knock Wife
      2018 | USA | Laughs: 1.1 (Just Awful) | imdb: 7.3

I started watching this show the night after finishing Ali's first set, Baby Cobra, and found the contrast disturbing. First, it looked like Ali had seen an acting coach between the two sets, as there was a lot of effort to make her face more expressive. I love a good clown, but to me the acting felt forced. Second, it felt as though Ali had closely studied (and copied) Jim Gaffigan's technique of alternating between voices — in her case between the voice of a calm factual narrator and that of an outraged commentator. I have nothing against that technique, it just took me by surprise after watching the previous show.

My first sitting only lasted fifteen minutes, during which I didn't laugh. To be fair, for much of that time the topic was lactation, not one to which I particularly relate, but which is fair game given the amount of crude material regarding male physiological functions which women have to endure when they watch male stand-up comedians in the company of their male friends.

The second quarter was an exercise in gross-out, with more disturbing flickers of traits borrowed from other stage humorists, such as Eddie Murphy. No laughs.

During the third fifteen-minute sitting, Ali attempts to create humor by drawing from her family life, which is fine in theory. But apparently Ali still hasn't learned that for a situation to be funny, the audience must be able to relate to it. Bill Cosby speaking about family interactions with his wife and kids in an everyman way? Yes, relatable. Ali Wong speaking of her husband mooching off her millionaire income? Not relatable.

In summary, the amount of borrowing in that set made me feel like I'd been fed a product, a product designed by "clever" business people who had done their homework studying competing products. Funny how you can copy the general lines of a product but completely miss its essence.

Sometimes a knock-off is still functional. In this case, seeing that the "product's" function is to trigger laughter, I don't feel it's too harsh to state that the result is complete garbage.

At that stage, of course, the final quarter wasn't a soft landing, but the crash that one had come to expect. Thankfully, I had Ricky Gervais' last set lying around to cheer me up.

Sadly for Ali Wong, comedy is not ninety percent attitude, even though it might look like it. It's ninety percent brains. You can buy a loud dress, but you can't buy a certain kind of neuronal wiring — at least not yet.

(Last viewed: November 2019)

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Ali Wong: Baby Cobra posterAli Wong: Baby Cobra
      2016 | USA | Laughs: 3.3 | imdb: 7.5

For some time I must have had Ali confused with another female stand-up comedian whom I couldn't stand, because it took me three years to give this show a try.

It was not nearly as bad as I had assumed — I may have been pushing it, but I was able to get through it in only three sittings. Sure, it was far cruder than I like my stand-up to be, but nowadays that seems to be standard fare, which would make Ali "middle of the road" if she were a white US male comedian.

There were some good moments, particularly when Ali demystifies the point of marriage from "the female perspective". Planning to try her next set, Hard Knock Wife.

(Last viewed: November 2019)

More About Ali Wong: Baby Cobra:
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Wanda Sykes: Not Normal posterWanda Sykes: Not Normal
      2019 | USA | Laughs: 1.0 | imdb: 7.1

If you're the kind of person who laughs uncontrollably if Wanda Sykes so much as bats an eyelash, then this tape is for you. From what I could tell from the fifteen minutes I tried to watch before canning it, it's an insipid mixture of easy jokes and mentions of people who, with a few exceptions, will be forgotten tomorrow. One exception is the president in office at the time of the taping. But it's not enough to say "Trump" to have a stand-up comedy set, Wanda!

I enjoyed some of this artist's earlier work but find her recent production extremely weak — except when she's acting, as in Bad Moms.

(Last viewed: October 2019)

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Aziz Ansari: Right Now posterAziz Ansari: Right Now
      2019 | USA | Laughs: 1.0 | imdb: 7.6

In this excruciatingly slow set, Ansari appears to try to connect with the public about something he's done for which he'd like to make amends. Only watch if you're absolutely certain that nothing can worsen your present state of boredom.

(Last viewed: October 2019)

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Bill Burr: Paper Tiger posterBill Burr: Paper Tiger
      2019 | USA | Laughs: 6.0 | imdb: 8.2

I can't say that much stood out from this set — more material about injustice toward males? I enjoyed it. Those who like Bill should find it pretty decent.

(Last viewed: October 2019)

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Louis C.K. 2017 posterLouis C.K. 2017
      2017 | USA | Laughs: 4.5 | imdb: 7.6

This unequal set marks a definite dip in the Louis's production. In the first half, he shows himself at the peak of his comedic powers and displays masterful control of timing, voices and facial expression. Sadly, he spends the end of the set digging himself ever deeper in a dunghill. If you're a fan I'd still recommend watching the show, but with disclaimers

(Last viewed: October 2019)

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Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones posterDave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones
      2019 | USA | Laughs: 1.5 (Don't Bother) | imdb: 8.4

If you like stand-up comedy sets where the audience laugh wildly at parts of the set-up that weren't even intended to be funny, then this show might be for you.

For me, Dave's stand-up has been going downhill for sometime now. This is not rock-bottom yet (the set probably has three -and-a-half decent bits and isn't particularly crass), but I feel less and less enthusiastic about watching the man's new releases — a shame, as I like him.

If I don't want to be depressed about this state of things, I might just have to wind the clock twenty years and watch Half Baked again tomorrow.

(Last viewed: August 2019)

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Aries Spears: Hollywood, Look I'm Smiling posterAries Spears: Hollywood, Look I'm Smiling
      2011 | USA | Laughs: 4.0 | imdb: 7.2

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)

More About Aries Spears: Hollywood, Look I'm Smiling:
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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)

More About Anthony Jeselnik: Thoughts and Prayers:
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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: 7.0

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)

More About Anthony Jeselnik: Fire in the Maternity Ward:
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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)

More About Gallagher: The Maddest:
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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)

More About Jerry Seinfeld: Stand-Up Confidential:
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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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(This section: Stand-Up Comedy Sets)

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