Last week’s post, The Top 5 Comedies of All Time sure got a lot of heated debates going. I love when that happens – and true to form I was taken to task for forgetting to include some really great movies. This, my friends, is why I play the game. I love when readers geek out on this stuff like I do and getting in passionate debates on the merits of “Life of Brian” vs. Ghostbusters as an all timer makes writing these #thereisnospoonfriday blogs so much fun for me. I got a ton of suggestions for this week’s topic, but the one that I got more than all others is to take on the top standup comedians of all time. Many of you have no idea that as a young man (with a bad ass mullet) I once dreamed of being a stand up, only to let life, money and the pursuit of girls and fun blow that dream out of the water before ever really starting. Nevertheless, I am a big fan of great standup and really appreciate good comedy. I see some old friends, some former campers of mine from summer camp and other acquaintances I have known over the years still pursuing this dream and I am 100% jealous. My younger cousin is now pursuing this dream too, and I could not be happier for him – check him out here – Max Fine in action. As with all my prior lists, this is according to ME and my preferences for standup. Bring the debate and question the hell out of my picks though – I love that stuff. Here we go:
5. George Carlin – Probably one of the smartest and most articulate comedians of all time, and really damn funny too. While he will always be Rufus from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” to me, his stand up always delivered and he was covering some really important and groundbreaking stuff. He was all about social commentary, and from his “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” to his take on guns, abortion, and most frequently – religion – he was always funny while delivering a really intelligent view on every subject he tackled. A lot of comedians list him as the “Godfather” of standup and rightfully so. Watching him at any period of his career was to watch a master class in standup, intelligence and humor. My favorite bit from him was when he discussed religion and the concept of God – Watch George Carlin here.
4. Robin Williams – while most people know and love Robin Williams as the movie star he was (and he was as big a movie star there ever was) I think of him mostly as one of the all timers in standup. To watch a Robin Williams gig was to watch pure energy and brilliance while laughing your ass off. He did everything from impersonations to social commentary to just plain wackiness. It amazes me to know that sometimes 10 – 15 minute stretches of his performances were 100% improvisations done right there on the spot in stream of thought. This guy was an entertainer, pure and simple. It is a well known fact he struggled with addiction, but I have to say my favorite bit he ever did was his take on alcohol and drugs. Watch and enjoy the man in his prime – Watch Robin Williams here
3. Andrew “Dice” Clay – I know people are going to look at this list and see “The Diceman” and freak out that a) he is even on this list and b) he is ranked higher than Robin Williams and George Carlin. To that I say this is MY list – and for my money the hardest I ever laughed at any standup was his first HBO special, “The Diceman Cometh”. That first special was more than just hysterical – it was dangerous. He was pushing the limits of everything PC and taking a big giant crap on all of it. I know a lot of people found his humor beyond acceptable in our PC age. Listen – I am one of the most accepting people I know and hate any kind or form of hate speech – but to the people who think Dice’s comedy was anything but humor I say you need to chill out – big time. He was playing a character – a rough, crude, sexist and dick-ish character that was funny as hell to watch. Yes – his career does not match the level of others on this list, but he gets #3 solely for the finest hour plus of comedy I have ever seen. My favorite bit he did was not the crude stuff but rather his impersonations of some famous actors on a camping trip – Watch Dice here
2. Jerry Seinfeld – This guy is a standup genius. Yes – he will forever be associated with one of the greatest TV shows of all time (Top 5 TV shows of all time) but even he would tell you he is a standup first and foremost, and in my mind the second greatest there ever was. His humor is the complete polar opposite of Dice and most modern standups. No cussing, no sexual crassness. Just pure observational humor. And it is awesome. So many comedians try to imitate his style and delivery, but no one can match his intelligence and natural ability. One of my favorite Seinfeld bits was when he discussed cabbies in NYC – Watch Jerry here
1. Chris Rock – The GOAT. I thought a long time about this, and thought who could I possibly put ahead of him and the answer every single time was no one. No stand up ever delivered the goods so consistently and so hysterically every time you saw them. His humor is part edge, part politics, part social commentary and melds all the styles of the greats who came before him but makes them better. I have always wondered why his comedic chops hasn’t translated well to movies like other comedians have, but his standup is without peer. So many great bits to choose from, but I will go with his take on OJ Simpson from one of the funniest stand up sets I have ever seen — Watch Chris Rock here
Two HUGE notable omissions I must discuss – Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor. Both, in their prime, were very deserving to be on this list (I know, I know – Ed – Dice? C’mon dude!) but this is my list and while I loved Richard Pryor he never gave me the laughs these 5 did and to be honest his prime was a bit before my time to truly appreciate him. With regards to Eddie – in is prime he was unstoppable. I just can’t get past the last 15 years of not funny Eddie Murphy to put him on my list. Alright readers – who are your Top 5 Comedians of all time? Does my Dice pick upset you? Let me know in the comments. As always, until next week – there is no spoon.
Good list but no Rodney Dangerfield and/or Steve Martin? not even an honorable mention.
Both really great! Rodney for me should have been honorable mention for sure – not sure how I forgot him. For shame. Martin – good not great. Much better film and TV than standup in my opinion, and this list is standup specific.
I think you have created a really nice list and I agree with all of them except Dice. True he was edgy and took things to the extreme but among your list of some of the smartest comedians of all time he seems out of place. Chris Rock and George Carlin are definitely on my list, and while Jerry is not really my flavor of comedian I acknowledge his supreme talent and he is really funny. There are so many comedians to choose from and so many different styles I think off the top of my head I would put my top five as this:
Tie 5. Bill Burr & Dave Chappelle
4. Louis CK
3. Lewis Black
2. George Carlin
1. Chris Rock
Thanks for sharing!