I’m a believer that stand up comedians are not only some of the most talented people in the entertainment business, but also the most brave. To be able to go infant of hundreds, even thousands of people and attempt to make them laugh, a job that can go so south so quickly, and keep them entertained for hours, there’s a small percentage that succeed at that. Since I was a kid and insomnia kicked in during middle school, I began watching comedy specials to keep me entertained. It was there that I found my love for stand up and my curiosity in how these comedians do it so well. I wanted to be like them. I wanted their physicality, their confidence, their humor, I wanted it all. I decided I could share with you my top stand up performances.
Side Note: As all of my list posts go, this is only an opinion. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I would love to hear from you all on your favorite stand ups. Until then, come listen to me ramble. Also, these are in no particular order.
#1: Donald Glover, “Weirdo” (2012)
Not a lot of people can say they’ve accomplished much at the age of 23, but Donald Glover was already a writer for the acclaimed comedy show, 30 Rock, proving himself to be an extremely talented young comedian. He got his first televised stand up opportunity in the form of a thirty minute Comedy Central special in 2010 at the age of 27. Showing that he could handle a stage and an audience, two years later he created, Weirdo, which in my opinion, blows away his first special. Glover holds the audience in the palm of his hands, you can see how comfortable he is on a stage. With jokes such as the Trinidadian nanny and the childhood tale of Terry in Home Depot, this hour long special leaves you wanting more from Glover, which we have seen a substantial increase in since 2012. While he’s wrapping up his career as Childish Gambino and continuing his run on his show, Atlanta, I do wish we could squeeze out one more comedy special from this triple threat.
#2: Bill Hicks, “Relentless” (1992)
The last special to be released while he was still alive, “Relentless”, is a hilarious and thought-provoking look on how Hicks believed the country was failing at the time (God forbid he got a hold of how the country’s doing now). His commentary on drugs, pornography, the Persian Gulf War, and the dangers that have been caused by patriotism all come together to give a sense of Hicks’ intelligence as well as his sense of humor. If anyone wanted to get a sense of Hicks as a comedian, I would recommend starting with this classic.
#3: Eddie Murphy, “Delirious” (1983)
Good god, who can unsee that skintight red leather? Remember back at Donald Glover where I mentioned his success at age 23? Welp, Murphy had his most successful stand up at the tender age of 22. Having to be clean cut for his job on Saturday Night Live, he had no problem cutting loose on stage, using “fuck” a total of 230 times and “shit” 171 times. Controversy also struck after for Murphy’s opening joke, using slurs to talk about gay men. However, in 1996, Murphy released a one page apology for his actions, claiming, “I deeply regret any pain all this has caused.” Watching this special amazes me due to his age. I can’t even imagine performing a sold out show in a little over a year. The amount of success this man held at such a young age shows there’s potential in people to be able to find it themselves at any time. Props to Murphy for causing me to go short of breath at the Aunt Bunny falling down the stairs bit. I’m also wondering if the person who owned that camera still has the pictures of Eddie’s crotch.
#4: Sam Kinison, “Breaking the Rules” (1987)
An ex-preacher with a temper more explosive than TNT, Sam Kinison proved himself in his first HBO special. His early bits such as his love life with women and the oddness behind the crucification of Jesus Christ caused me to break out in laughter when I first watched it during a class in school years ago. His enormous stage presence worked so well, even shocking Robin Williams. His iconic long coat and matching hat created an image that almost contrasts to his loud mouthed “oh oh OOOOOOOOOH!” gorilla screams. Kinison was a personified speedball on stage and so far, I haven’t seen anyone that can match a presence like Sam.
#5: Richard Pryor, “Live in Concert” (1979)
This is every aspiring comedian’s bible. Richard Pryor, one of the most well known and beloved comedians of all time, in one of the most well known stand up specials of all time, it’s the bread and butter of comedy. Pryor manages to get a diverse crowd laughing maniacally at the topics of race, sex, family, all while adding in Patti LaBelle as an opener. Pryor showed the world what being a comic on stage meant. His demeanor, his physicality, his strong voice, the confidence he held, created a step by step look at what success on stage is. To this day, comedian’s site Pryor’s “Live in Concert” as a classic, a favorite, and an important piece of comedic talent.