The Funniest Stand-Up Comedy


   

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Stand-Up Comedy Sets sorted by Recently reviewed (descending) / page 6 of 12


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Bill Bailey: Part Troll posterBill Bailey: Part Troll
      2004 | U.K. | Laughs: 9.1 (Laugh Out Loud) | imdb: 8.4
      

After discovering Bill in Cosmic Jam, we braced ourselves for disappointment when, the following afternoon, we started watching this show, produced seventeen years after the first. Indeed, few are the comedians who keep producing fresh material, and fewer still those who improve as the decades go by. You try it sometime. It must be a really hard job. But to our surprise and delight, this show was even better than the first. Perhaps not on all counts, as it was different, and thankfully so; for instance, there were fewer of these wild surreal drifts. But the show made us laugh harder, and on this site that's all that matters.

Part Troll confirms that Bill is the best thing to come out of the UK since Dark Side of the Moon. (Last viewed: September 2013)

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Ron White: They Call Me Tater Salad DVDRon White: They Call Me Tater Salad
      2004 | USA | Laughs: 6.2 (Laugh and Smile) | imdb: 7.6
      

The set got off to a weak start. After a couple of minutes, we feared that we might have picked a jerk for our evening's entertainment, but then it came out that Ron is Texan. "Ah, he's from Texas? It's okay then, if he's from Texas I can forgive just about anything." After all it wasn't so long ago that the country elected a Texan for entertainment—twice. I've had quite a bit of personal experience with Texans, and it has usually been that if you think they're being offensive, well… they can't help it. They just seem to savor that confrontational stance, and you're better off enjoying it too. Having cleared that up, we found quite a lot to enjoy in Ron's set. It was not high-grade, and there were a few trips to the sewer, but there were also a lot of good jokes and fun moments. Of course as a student of Southern accents, listening to Ron's beautiful idioms and intonations was a bonus. And once you spent some time looking as his nice smile, he didn't seem to be a jerk after all. (Last viewed: September 2013)

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Bill Bailey: Live Cosmic JamBill Bailey: Cosmic Jam (a.k.a Live)
      1997 | U.K. | Laughs: 8.3 | imdb: 7.8
      

I first encountered Bill as the character Manny in the (very funny) TV series Black Books, but it was only when I discovered him in stand-up (sixteen years after this set was recorded) that I realized what a genius this man is. With his easy relaxed style (the product not of sloppiness but of virtuosity), he had me laughing right away. It was only ten minutes into the show that I noticed striking parallels with the style of Eddie Izzard—in gesture, yes, but more importantly in the surreal, perhaps sometimes ad-libbed nature of his stories. About halfway into the set, Bill started using his guitar and piano for backup. I am normally not a fan of the musical comedy genre, but Bill carried it to perfection, and the laughter continued. On a cleverness rating the show would rank higher, but some shows that are not as clever do pull more laughs overall.

After this, I am hooked. I'll be looking for more of Bill's shows. (Last viewed: September 2013)

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Doug Stanhope: Beer Hall Putsch posterDoug Stanhope: Beer Hall Putsch
      2013 | USA | Laughs: 7.8 (Laugh and Smile) | imdb: 7.6
      

Doug Stanhope is still one of the brightest stand-up comedians. Doug has the best logic and critical thinking abilities of just about anyone I've seen on a screen. For the ageing INTP typing these worrds (only look that up if you have nothing better to do), that shred of sanity is comforting.

In my view, Beer Hall Putsch is Doug's best show in a while. Not that it matters, but Doug showed that he could deliver a great set without smoking or consuming alcohol. The show has plenty of new material, and old themes as well, but these are welcome. The segment about how his mom chose to die and how Doug and his partner handled it is a new theme—one more theme where it's good to hear a lucid voice in the midst of the general hysteria. It made me wonder if Doug has heard of The Peaceful Pill.

Throughout the show, there are good laughs and lots of grinning.

The segment where Doug made fun of an old boxing champion seemed needlessly mean and did nothing for us. Neither did the gross-out segment about a football player, although it led into good points and a strong ending.

Watching this set should be a no-brainer, but if you're still not sure, this might tip you over the edge: Doug shares definite proof that there is an after-life.

This reminds me of two more proofs that Doug has never mentioned: (i) at one stage, the popular rating of George W. Bush was 98%; (ii) at another stage, 99 senators bleated One Nation Under God on camera to protest against a court that had ruled to strike deities from the famous pledge (the hundredth senator was ill that day). I won't tell you what these two stats prove, that's homework for the kids.

Sorry about the digression. It's a great show. I hope you enjoy it. (Last viewed: September 2013)

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Maria Bamford: The Special Special Special! posterMaria Bamford: The Special Special Special!
      2012 | USA | Laughs: 4.5 | imdb: 7.2
      

I liked this show, less because of the laughs it delivered (I smiled a lot and did laugh once or twice) but because of how original it seemed to me. In some ways this set is more art than stand-up comedy—but if someone would like to object that all comedy is in fact art, I will happily concede as semantics don't entertain me. Between her amazing voices, her facial expressions and her quirky material, Maria is a riot. Her pacing is not always optimal, neither is she always easy to understand, but the set is definitely worth a watch if you think you might enjoy an "alternative performance" and offbeat humor. (Last viewed: September 2013)

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Zach Galifianakis: Live at the Purple Onion DVDZach Galifianaki's: Live at the Purple Onion
      2006 | USA | Laughs: 6.0 | imdb: 7.4
      wikipedia

This show combines takes from a comedy set in a small San Francisco club with a mock interview of Zach pretending to be his own twin brother. At first I found the stand-up awful (with Zach, acting hung-over, barely managing two weak jokes a minute), then I realized it was an exercise in "let's make it so bad that it becomes good", complete with Zach complaining that the DVD would be ruined because of how poorly the show was going, and it became quite funny. This is a DVD that feels like a draft—unpolished, full of holes, but it ends up working, and I smiled for most of the show. (Last viewed: September 2013)

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Bob Newhart: Button Down Concert DVDBob Newhart: Button Down Concert
      1995 | USA | Laughs: 8.0 | imdb: 7.0
      

I didn't know Bob Newhart before watching this set; it was a pleasant surprise. Bob made me laugh more than most contemporary comedians, and he did so without dragging me into the gutter. The laughter was clean, innocent, much as with a Bill Cosby set. One situation that was very funny the first time (a man on the phone listens to a counterpart explain something out of the the ordinary) became boring on the fourth take. Apart from that sin by excessive repetition, this was an excellent show. (Last viewed: September 2013)

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Ellen DeGeneres: Here and Now DVDEllen DeGeneres: Here and Now
      2003 | USA | Laughs: 6.0 (Light-Hearted) | imdb: 7.8
      wikipedia

I enjoyed this set. The first half is strongest. Much of the show has to do with how things have changed, a topic you'll enjoy if you're in Ellen's age bracket—give or take ten years on either side. Ellen loses steam somewhere in the middle and hits the bottom with a toilet joke (nothing too vulgar mind you). She then recovers to deliver a final message that wraps the show by coming full circle: "procrastinate now." Not many stand-up sets can claim to have a message, and among those that do, this one has the most compelling that I've heard. The comic power of this show may not be explosive, but if you choose to watch this bright comedian for the one hour of Here and Now, you're unlikely to regret it. (Last viewed: September 2013)

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Kathleen Madigan: In Other Words DVDKathleen Madigan: In Other Words
      2006 | USA | Laughs: 4.2 | imdb: 6.9
      

It took me a while after watching Kathleen's Gone Madigan to find the motivation to watch another of her sets. As it turns out, this earlier set is far better, though it took me a few sittings to finish it as the boring parts kept putting me to sleep. That lethargy, mind you, was not induced because the material was brain-taxing in any way. (I would never watch a show by one of my favorite stand-up comedians—such as Eddie Izzard—unless I'm able to focus: they're too smart and I'm too slow…) Indeed, the material is generally about as low-grade and harmless as a light beer.

The set opens promisingly, but often slides into mediocre territory, where minor personalities of yore, whose names mean nothing to me, are discussed. But there are enough funny bits to make the set worth watching on a slow day, and the show did leave me with greater appreciation for Madigan. (Last viewed: August 2013)

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Jim Carrey: Unnatural ActJim Carrey: Unnatural Act
      1991 | Canada | Laughs: 7.0 | imdb: 7.8
      

A short-and-sweet set with lots of smiles and some good laughs. There is some culturally insensitive material about Middle Eastern cultures that I found crass. Neither was the adult material particularly helpful, and Jim's pacing wasn't all that great. Despite these few flaws, it's a good set. These kinks would probably disappear if Jim did more stand-up—too bad there isn't more material by him. (Last viewed: August 2013)

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Daniel Tosh: Completely Serious DVDDaniel Tosh: Completely Serious
      2007 | USA | Laughs: 0.0 (Don't Bother) | imdb: 7.7
      wikipedia

If you're a young professional from Los Angeles, this set might make you laugh. But if you've lived outside that box, you'll want to skip this boring act. (Last viewed: May 2013)

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Louis C.K.: Live at the Beacon TheaterLouis C.K.: Live at the Beacon Theater
      2011 | USA | Laughs: 5.9 | imdb: 8.4
      wikipedia

This show has some good segments, but you can easily skip it if you've seen other sets by Louis. I, for one, have lost any interest for his obsession with self-pleasuring and other below-the-belt activities. But that must be what sells best. (Last viewed: January 2013)

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Louis C.K.: HilariousLouis C.K.: Hilarious
      2011 | USA | Laughs: 6.5 | imdb: 8.5
      wikipedia

Louis got a divorce since his previous recording (Chewed-Up). Although I'm thrilled for him, I'm sad to lose the funny material about his interaction with his spouse. As the previous one, this show doesn't have a lot of laughter-triggering material, but I didn't mind because I enjoyed listening to Louis's bright mind at work. The first part is probably the funniest. It's also the dirtiest. I really didn't need to hear another twenty minutes of Louis on the general theme of men pleasuring themselves. (Last viewed: January 2013)

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Doug Stanhope: Oslo: Burning the Bridge to Nowhere DVDDoug Stanhope: Oslo: Burning the Bridge to Nowhere
      2011 | USA | Laughs: 7.0 | imdb: 7.5
      wikipedia

At the beginning of the DVD, Doug apologizes that the show was filmed at the inspiration of his producer without much notice and issues a number of disclaimers. Nevertheless, I found the first half to be the best of his that I'd seen in a while. Comparing it with his other releases, much of the material was fresh, and Doug didn't dwell much in the gross-out or obscene departments. Sure, the set didn't feel nearly as tuned or polished as that of an Eddie Izzard show, but that didn't matter. It was nice to hear Doug share his thoughts in front of a non-Anglo audience, outside of the US context. It sounds like Doug has reached the "give up and just live" stage of his life, and that produces a different voice, perhaps as valuable, one that isn't as angry, one that is resigned to the overall scarcity of critical thinking among the human animal.

What about the second half? Apart from the boring encore, it was good too. This is when Doug rolled out the "adult" material. Once again, the material was fresh, and when graphic language was used, it usually felt like there was a point—unlike the gratuitously obscene rampage in the more drunken sections on some of his other sets.

Not laugh-out-loud comedy, but a very good show for fans of Doug's and probably also for a good many people who haven't come across him yet. (Last viewed: January 2013)

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Jay Larson: Comedy Central PresentsJay Larson: Comedy Central Presents
      2011 | USA | Laughs: 4.0 (Don't Bother) | imdb: 6.2
      

During this short set without adult themes, I found Jay pleasant and often on the verge of making me chuckle—without ever quite getting there. Not a big waste of time, and I would give Jay another try to see if his comedy improves with age, which sometimes happens, as with Louis CK for instance. (Last viewed: January 2013)

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(This section: Stand-Up Comedy Sets)


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