Funny how? My love affair with stand up comedy
With one of my favorite comedian riding to town this month, I thought I reflect a little bit about my love for stand up comedy. As you, my dear reader, might have already figured out, I am quite into things: I can obsess about records, toys, street wear, urban art and cinema... hell, pop culture in general! But somehow stand up comedy never made my list of obvious obsessions.
I rarely go to gigs and don't really catch up with what's out there at the moment. Yet again, stand up has fascinated and entertained me since I was a little boy back in Germany and I think nobody comments as poignantly on the weird spectacle of human existence than Stand Up Comedians!
I feel they fill the role of the court jester, who was the only person allowed to mock the king and therefor had the power to touch on some uncomfortable truths without ( literally ) risking his neck.
When Philosophers and Politicians debate, things can get very emotional and heated. One feels compelled to take a stand, argue for or against and feel either insulted or vindicated.
As comedians are meant to be funny, we are not so pressured to take their rants as serious personal attacks, but rather chuckle along as we can relate to the stories about the trials and tribulations of modern life.
Of cause there are as many types of comedy as there are pebbles on a beach, but personally I always enjoyed most humor that touches on real issues and moral dilemmas.
But let's rewind the clock and talk a little about the comedians that I love...
It all started for me with this guy! I won't bore you with elaborate ramblings about German comedy, but OTTO has to be name dropped because I listened to this specific record over and over all the way back in 1981!
One can compare him to a thin Bill Bailey: Surreal humor fused with great musical craftsmanship and physical slapstick. Very silly but very funny!
There are so many great comedians out there that I love, for example the whole Monty Python crew, but in order to keep this blog post snappy let me just ramble about some stone cold classics and some more recent discoveries...
When I moved to London I ended up in a flatshare with my friend Mark Ward who at this time shared the flat already with another dude who came straight from NZ and wore big glasses and mighty sideburns: Turns out Jarred was a budding stand up comedian and always had some stand up specials on rotation in our communal VHS player.
Through him I got to discover Eddie Murphy as a stand up comedian and not as the Hollywood star I was used to seeing in flicks like Beverly Hills Cop or Search for the golden Child.
Eddie just KILLS it in his flamboyant leather outfits doing impersonations, songs and just hilarious routines. Both of his specials from the 80ties are absolutely amazing and I can watch them on repeat. Thanks Jarred!
Next up is every Lefties favorite comedian: Bill Hicks. In his short career he left a distinctive impact with many classic routines. I just love his delivery and clever philosophic observations, peppered with a lot of sex, drugs and Rock'n'Roll. He died of cancer in 1994 way too early at the age of 32.
His legacy can still be felt today and I can really recommend the documentary film about his life from 2009 also.
From Bill Hicks to one of the longest serving comedians ever, George Carlin. I must have come across his comedy specials when I searched for more Bill Hicks material. This guy is insanely talented and has been called "the dean of counterculture comedians" for a reason: Starting out in 1960 he kept working all the way up 2008, recording his last comedy special for HBO the same year he passed on.
What makes Carlin for me so endearing is his razor sharp intellect and his mediations on the power of language. Being able to switch from clever satire to full on ranting, George Carlin is still the gold standard when it comes to the thinking mans and womans comedy.
Onwards and upwards: Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle. Two absolute heavyweights of stand up comedy. Chris Rock comes out on top for me though: I just love all his specials and can listen to his rants and observations any time. Especially when it comes to call out issues of race in America, few comedians are as fearless as him.
I find it interesting that I never found Chris Rock funny in any of the films he was acting in though: Grown Ups 2 anyone? But when it comes to stand up he's a beast with his powerful delivery he apparently modelled on Baptist preachers delivering a sermon. Truly never scared...
You really have to be fearless to go out there, and these two ladies have bigger balls than most men: Joan Rivers and Margarete Cho never shied away from talking about their own demons, being it extensive cosmetic surgery or drug addiction.
Especially Joan Rivers is an absolute legend! Starting out in 1965 she became first woman to host a late night network television talk show and her raunchy self deprecating comedy was very unusual to be delivered by a woman back in the Sixties. All the way up until her death in 2014 she was working and nobody did bitchy celebrity comedy just like her. RIP!
Now, as you might have noticed dear reader, my earlier stand up crushes are all American. So let's give the Brits a little love! This island has so many talented comedians, you wouldn't know where to start! I do love how many different flavours of comedy can be successful at the same time and co-exist next to each other: Bill Bailey, Ricky Gervais, Jimmy Carr, Sarah Millican, Frankie Boyle, Michael McIntyre...
The British exceed in is dwelling in the melancholy of human existence: Steward Lee and Simon Amstell always bring the goods when I feel ready for a slice of poetic depression and woe! And I think I don't know any comedian who is as constantly every so slightly disappointed with humanity than Steward Lee...
Now a bit of a controversial pick near the end of my list: Everybody's favourite debonaire dandy / egomaniacal serial shagger Russell Brand! Whilst there are many many occasions where it's competely understandable to hate Russell Brand, you can't take away from the man his total commitment to his own vanity. And it does take some vanity and obsession to go out on a stage to stand in front of a group of strangers and go: Look at me! I am funny!
Clever enough to know about his addictions and desires, Russell manages to never completely disappear up his own bum so let's not be too hard on him. Really enjoyed his last Comedy Special, give it a try!
Now to the big guy who inspired me to count down my favourite comedians, Mr Bill Burr.
Nobody does a good rant like good old Billy Freckles and I can't wait seeing him this week performing at the Apollo in London. Apart from great rants, a killer delivery and a fearlessness to really lean into controversial topics, it's his down to earth approachability and heart in the right place that I really rate.
He is just a very funny guy and I love listening to him. Plus his advice on life he gives out on his weekly podcast is damn PRICELESS!
So I hope you enjoyed my little excursion into my fave funny people and maybe see you at the Bill Burr show this weekend!