Stand-Up Comedy from the 1980s


   

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This section is for stand-up comedy from the 1980s. By default they are presented starting with the ones ranking highest on the laugh-o-meter, but you can also sort them by year, title or IMDB rating.


Stand-Up Comedy from the 1980s sorted by Laugh-o-meter (descending)


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Bill Cosby: Himself DVDBill Cosby: Himself
      1983 | USA | Laughs: 8.0 | imdb: 8.2
      wikipedia | who was involved?

Many comedians make you feel dirty just for listening to one minute of their show. When you spend an hour with Bill Cosby, you feel like you've just visited with a genius uncle. Bill can make you laugh forever with ordinary topics such as dogs and children: Why would he ever bother with smut?

Unlike many comics who do their whole show without an expression on their faces, Cosby is an actor too—he may well have the most expressive face in the business. There isn't much Cosby stand-up on DVD, and, although on this one Bill is actually sitting for most of the show, it's a treasure. (Last viewed: October 2010)

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George Carlin: What Am I Doing in New Jersey? DVDGeorge Carlin: What Am I Doing in New Jersey?
      1988 | USA | Laughs: 7.5 | imdb: 8.3
      wikipedia | who was involved?

The show starts with a long boring introduction where George gets lost in a cab to New Jersey, then with a rather crass, long warm-up. But then George launches into several routines that had me laughing pretty hard: one where he develops the theme that "America is a great country but a strange culture", and one about tricks to keep clerks on their toes. (Last viewed: September 2010)

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Eddie Murphy: Delirious DVDEddie Murphy: Delirious
      1983 | USA | Laughs: 7.5 | imdb: 8.2
      wikipedia | who was involved?

Starts in the gutter, stays in the gutter, but dog-gum… it's funny, and you can't help laughing even if you cringe. (Last viewed: September 2009)

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George Carlin: Carlin on Campus DVDGeorge Carlin: Carlin on Campus
      1984 | USA | Laughs: 7.0 | imdb: 8.1
      wikipedia | who was involved?

Some of Carlin's show repeat old material. I like that most of the material here is original. There is a long and effective segment on driving. And even though I'm not a sports head, I love Carlin's upbeat-downbeat comparison of baseball and football. (Last viewed: October 2010)

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George Carlin: Carlin at Carnegie DVDGeorge Carlin: Carlin at Carnegie
      1982 | USA | Laughs: 6.5 | imdb: 8.2
      wikipedia | who was involved?

In this show George wears a spectacular green outfit, and that's a good thing because in the beginning there is not much else to hold your attention. It was a good fifteen minutes until I cracked a laugh. Before then, the funniest thing was to see members of the audience roaring at jokes that completely flopped in our living room. I should also say that I don't care for the faces Carlin makes (in this show and others) to mock people whom he wants to portray as having a low intellect. Why does he have to cross his eyes? Is strabismus a sign of low IQ? I don't suffer from that condition, but the mime annoys me—I find it to be stupid, mean, gratuitously offensive comedy. This show has other weak bits: one of these interminable sessions where George pretends to read "the news"; and a variation on his classic bit about the words you cannot say on television. It only felt like an hour long. So why the 3.25 stars? I really like the part about fussy eaters. And for me, the segment about dogs (also on George's Best Stuff) may be his best skits ever. It is followed by a few minutes about cats, also George at his best. (Last viewed: March 2011)

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Sam Kinison: Breaking the Rules DVDSam Kinison: Breaking the Rules
      1987 | USA | Laughs: 6.1 (Watch Once) | imdb: 7.3
      who was involved?

This show is in the "Watch Once" section with a strong warning: steer clear if you have a low tolerance for adult themes, as Kinison spends most of the set below the belt. It may be funnier if you have had three beers like many of those in the audience. I am not particularly interested in Sam's favorite themes, but he smiles a lot and I do find him attaching. Some of the jokes would be great if he didn't yell all the time… I most enjoyed the segments about marriage and about how lying will enhance your relationships. (Last viewed: September 2010)

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George Carlin: Playin' with Your Head DVDGeorge Carlin: Playin' with Your Head
      1986 | USA | Laughs: 6.0 | imdb: 8.2
      wikipedia | who was involved?

I don't particularly care for the show's wrapper, a film noir segment called "The Envelope", but the show itself delivers laughs. Some of the jokes in the show don't work for me, but several segments (such as those on greetings and lost things) are quite effective. (Last viewed: August 2010)

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Bill Cosby: 49 DVDBill Cosby: 49
      1987 | USA | Laughs: 6.0 (Watch Once) | imdb: 7.2
      who was involved?

The main theme for most of this show is aging—what happens to the body, to the mind, and to marriage. As a bonus theme, Bill throws in a segment about joining the navy. It's good because it's Bill, but the two themes are stretched a bit thin over the show's 65 minutes. Worth watching once. (Last viewed: September 2013)

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Robert Klein: Child of the 50's, Man of the 80'sRobert Klein: Child of the 50's, Man of the 80's
      1984 | USA | Laughs: 6.0 (Watch Once) | imdb: 6.8
      who was involved?

Robert Klein seems to be a member of the illustrious Awful Prologue Association, which also includes George Carlin and Eddie Izzard: before the stand-up set starts, the tape shows a short segment of an unbearable musical number.

This is a very pleasant set, partly because of Robert Klein's charm and talent, partly because it contains very little that could be considered vulgar, and partly because of its genuine 1980s atmosphere. If you expect a relaxing hour rather than intense laughter of the stomach-cramping kind, you'll probably enjoy it. (I did laugh several times.)

The segment on child birth was funny, but it brought home that since those days, comedians have gone deeper into such topics, which, along with other aspects of relationships, used to be a bit taboo. Louis CK comes to mind.

There was a very funny segment about a comedian telling a joke in English but delivering the punchline in Yiddish.

The 1980s hair of the ladies in the audience was something to behold, as was the orchestra that accompanied Robert near the end. Robert could have been a professional singer—he has a superb voice. And though I am usually not a fan of musical comedy, he makes it work, for instance with Can't Stop My Leg, which ends this set as it did his 1977 set, Robert Klein Revisited. (Last viewed: September 2013)

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Bill Hicks: Sane Man DVDBill Hicks: Sane Man
      1989 | USA | Laughs: 5.9 | imdb: 8.6
      who was involved?

This show has some very funny moments. It also has some very gross moments and some otherwise annoying moments. On the funny side, it's not all that common that a show that is nearly 25 years old (at the time of viewing) can make me laugh. That's a sign of the comedian's care to seek out "universal" material and to avoid drawing too much on current events—comedians that do irritate me. Bill seems to love sound effects, and he uses his microphone to animate his skits. Sometimes that works, often it gets annoying, especially when he simulates explosions or launches into a loud rendition of a popular song or an electric guitar. The video editing is also unpleasant, with lots of amateurish effects such as frames merging or rotating. About halfway through the show I was enjoying myself, but by the end Bill had piled on so much vulgar material that he had depleted his early goodwill, and I no longer felt I'd want to recommend the set or watch it again. For most people, One-Night Stand, which contains most of the same material but without the most vulgar and annoying bits will be a better (and shorter) show to watch. (Last viewed: January 2013)

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Robert Klein on BroadwayRobert Klein on Broadway
      1986 | USA | Laughs: 4.5 (Light-Hearted) | imdb: 7.5
      who was involved?

Near the beginning of the show, Klein put his talent for accents to excellent use—I had some good laughs. It probably wasn't the best day for me to watch as I nearly fell asleep a number of times. For my taste, the musical finale is self-indulgent and won't make much sense to people who haven't seen Robert's Can't Stop My Leg in an earlier (and stronger) incarnation, such as at the end of Robert Klein Revisited. Overall, between Klein's talent and his refreshing lack of vulgarity, this show is probably worth watching once. (Last viewed: September 2013)

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