My 6 Favorite Stand-Up Comedians Working Today
What do you do when you have to take a long drive on your own? Me personally, I listen to stand-up comedians to pass the time. They’re always good for a laugh, and there are a lot of great CDs out there to choose from. You’ve got the classics, like George Carlin, and new guys, like Aziz Ansari. There’s also the added benefit of their voices sounding like there’s someone else in the car. Oh, the crushing loneliness…
Nah, it’s not really like that, I promise. But ever since I started buying comedy albums, I’ve taken on a new appreciation for today’s stand-up comics. I’ve also discovered some really great talent, and I thought I’d take this week to share. Maybe next week I’ll get back to talking about superheroes…although this group would make a pretty great superhero team. Join me after the jump for my six favorite stand-up comedians, plus a few honorable mentions!
6. Louis C.K.
What is there to say about Louis C.K. that a million better people haven’t said already? The man is a genius. A comedic genius. I like Louis because he’s gross but honest. He’s not a gross-out comic, he’s simply honest about how ugly, sticky and gross the real world is around us. Louis was semi-famous back in the day, but then starting with Chewed Up in 2008, and some of his earlier releases, Louis has been cranking out new material every year, and all of it is great. His TV show, Louie, is just as good, taking a blunt look at our dumb world. Personally, I think most of his best bits are about his kids and being a dad.
5. Patton Oswalt
Geeky and chubby, Patton Oswalt is my kind of stand-up comic. He doesn’t let his celebrity go to his head, instead focusing on making fun of movies and telling fascinating and hilarious stories from his life — though his celebrity is pretty awesome. I love seeing Patton show up on my favorite genre shows, the guy is just that good. My favorite album is Finest Hour from 2011, with great riffs on Jesus’ super-powers, the magic of sweatpants and the possibility that the CIA bugs his car. There’s also a great bit on his 2014 album, Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time, where he tells the story of a casino show that taught him the meaning of ‘selling out’. Definitely worth a listen.
4. Aziz Ansari
Probably like a lot of people, I first met Aziz Ansari on Parks and Recreation, a great TV show. I didn’t even know he was a stand-up comic. But I snatched up a copy of 2010’s Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Aziz has a vivid personality. He’s very excitable, but always on point. Some of my favorite bits include Walking with Dinosaurs and every time he teases his cousin Harris, which has become a running gag in his albums. I don’t love hip hop artists like Kanye West or Jay-Z as much as Aziz, but he has some great stories about them.
3. Gary Gulman
I’ve been a fan of Gulman since I was introduced to him on the second season of Last Comic Standing all the way back in 2004. His bit about cookies won me over immediately. This guy does the best cookie jokes — when he’s not picking on his own Jewishness. Gulman’s best bits are often about pop culture or consumerism, from cookies to Pepsi to the ridiculousness of the grapefruit. He takes the seemingly mundane foibles of everyday life — like how The Karate Kid doesn’t hold up today — and teases them apart.
2. John Mulaney
I knew John Mulaney’s TV show was going to fail from the first commercial. I think it was a clip of Martin Short’s character being unable to pronounce ‘Mulaney’. I’m not sure why anybody was supposed to find that funny. It’s a simple word. But somebody somewhere convinced John Mulaney to make a classic, 90s-esque, sitcom, and it predictably tanked. Thankfully, Mulaney himself is hilarious. He’s got two albums so far, The Top Part in 2009 and New In Town in 2012. Both feature Mulaney riffing on a variety of topics, like drag queens to the TV show Law & Order to that time he and a buddy played What’s New Pussycat 21 times on a restaurant juke box.
1. Kyle Kinane
Kyle Kinane is a self-proclaimed “hipster janitor”. I discovered Kinane almost by chance a few years ago, and with three amazing albums under his belt, he’s my clear favorite. The man is hilarious, from his style, his friendliness, his self-degredation, and most important, his hopeful curiosity towards life. Here is a man who finds joy in even the weirdest bits of the world, like when he burned his laundry on his latest album, I Liked His Old Stuff Better, or his famous bit about watching a man eat pancakes on an airplane from 2012’s Whiskey Icarus. Bit after bit, story after story, weirdness after weirdness, Kinane is the man.
Honorable Mentions: Hannibal Buress, Maria Bamford, Tig Notaro, Todd Barry, Amy Schumer, Natasha Leggero, Nate Bargatze, Mike Birbiglia and more.