My five favorite comedy albums and specials of all time

By | December 30, 2010 at 1:28 pm | 5 comments | News, Opinion | Tags: , , , , ,

You may have noticed the “Ask us your comedy questions” graphic on our pages. It links up to our page on Formspring, wherein you can ask a question and we’ll answer it! You can also ask us a question through our Tumblr page. Some of those sessions will end up here on our daily blog. Today, I’m answering a question from our Formspring page:

What are your top five favorite comedy albums or specials ever. GO!

Obviously, this is difficult to answer.

First, I had to establish the parameters on which to base my decisions. So, being emotional, over-analytical and somewhat sentimental, here’s what I did: I thought of all the comedy albums that still make me laugh and/or think hard—shelf life; staying power, if you will.

To further narrow down my choices, I started thinking about the albums that have meant something to me on an emotional level. What are the albums or specials that really got me interested in comedy or introduced me to a novel approach to stand-up?

Finally, though I didn’t give myself a hard figure, I only thought of releases that had been out in the ether for quite some time. So, here’s what I’ve come up with, in chronological order:

Bill Cosby: Himself (1983) –
I was six years old when this special first aired on HBO. I’m not sure how old I was when I actually saw it. I know I watched it on VHS after my parents had recorded it from our television. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this was my first taste of stand-up comedy. I had no idea that this was an art form— that it was something other performers did. I just knew that I was watching some guy sit on a chair in a darkly-lit theater tell a lot of funny stories. It’s an amazing performance—plain and simple.

A few years ago, I saw Cosby in Montreal. It was all new material. However, he did his famous dentist story from Himself. It immediately brought me back to my living room in New Jersey, watching and laughing the video version with my brother. It was a beautiful experience.

George Carlin: Doin’ It Again / Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics (1990) –
First, let me explain the reason for the double title. Carlin’s seventh HBO special aired as Doin’ it Again and then was released in album form (his 12th) in a slightly different arrangement and named Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics.

This special and album were the things that compelled me to begin following a comedian’s career. It would come to represent the early stage of me becoming a comedy nerd. Friends and I would quote lines from Doin’ It Again in grade school. The phrase “Right, right! I know. Well, what I’m going to do is I’m going to have my testicles laminated!” became an in-joke between a small group in class.

Brian Regan Live! (1997) –
I first saw Brian Regan on his 2000 Comedy Central Presents. He was stunningly funny. It’s the only way I could describe what I saw. I, of course, went out and bought his album. And like most comedy nerds, this release has become a perennial favorite. It is, unofficially, the comedy album by which all others are compared.

Mitch Hedberg: Strategic Grill Locations (1999) –
Long before Comedy Central re-released Mitch Hedberg’s previously self-released first album in 2003, I ordered it from his website. I’m not sure if you could still get the original version, but I feel like I have a true treasure that not many later-day comedy goers have. More importantly, however, Mitch introduced me to an incredibly different approach to stand-up comedy. He was largely a one-liner comic with a delivery more odd and endearing than any other comic I had heard up until then. I never saw him live. I was supposed to see him at Carolines in New York City but couldn’t get out of work in time. He died a few days later. I’ll always regret not leaving work early.

Zach Galifianakis: Comedy Central Presents (2001) –
I almost didn’t put this on the list because, since it aired on Comedy Central, it doesn’t even amount to 30 minutes of comedy. But, Zach gets a lot done in 20-something minutes. I’m pretty sure I’ve read that Zach hates this special, but its pure genius—regardless of what the man thinks now. Utilizing his piano, an all-female a cappella group and his dry wit, ZG gave me the perfect introduction to absurdist stand-up comedy.

Jokes.com
Zach Galifianakis – Massage Chair
comedians.comedycentral.com

Hope that answers your question!

About the Author

Dylan P. Gadino

Dylan is the founder and editor in chief of Laughspin. He launched Punchline Magazine in 2005 (which became Laughspin in the summer of 2011) with childhood friend Bill Bergmann. Dylan lives in northern New Jersey with his wife and two sons. He hopes the Shire is real.

  • http://www.chaseroper.com Chase Roper

    I preferred ZG’s Live at the Purple Onion, but agree with this list. I think I would have to inch out Cosby in favor of Steven Wright’s I Have a Pony. I checked that album (along many others) from the public library when I was in Junior High in the 90′s. I fell in love with it immediately.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/SteveofComedy Steve L

    Good Choices. I think we need a top 10 though. May I suggest a few that had a huge impact on me:

    1. Dave Chappelle – Killin’ Them Softly
    2. Chris Rock – Bigger and Blacker
    3. Richard Pryor – Live in Concert
    4. Eddie Murphy – Raw
    5. Woody Allen – Standup Comic

    Also, I believe in a few years, everything by Louis CK will deserve to be on this list. He is our generation’s Richard Pryor. Chris Rock is our generation’s George Carlin.

  • Jake

    Nobody asked me, but I too, will post my favorite 5 albums/specials:
    1)Woody Allen- Stand Up Comic
    2)Carl Reiner & Mel Brooks- 2000 Year Old Man (any of them)
    3)Bill Cosby- Himself
    4)Lewis Black- Black on Broadway
    5)Steve Martin- Comedy Isn’t Pretty

  • http://youtube.com/Lawsoncomedy Lawson

    I think Steve L got it backwards, Chris Rock is our Pryor and Louis CK our Carlin, I feel. Everyone’s lists are great. But I can’t combine albums and specials, they mean too much to me! I’ll split them up. Also, I’m younger than you guys, and didn’t get into comedy until about 2006, so my lists are more modern.

    Albums
    5. Werewolves and Lollipops, Patton Oswalt
    4. Chewed Up, Louis CK
    3. Skanks For the Memories, Dave Attell
    2. Impersonal, Paul F Tompkins
    1. You Are All Diseased, George Carlin

    Specials
    5. Black on Broadway, Lewis Black
    4. Killing Them Softly, Dave Chappelle
    3. Bring the Pain, Chris Rock
    2. Shameless, Louis CK
    1. Jammin’ in New York, George Carlin

  • http://youtube.com/Lawsoncomedy Lawson

    Fuck, I forgot about Bill Burr’s “Why do I do this?”, that was a biggie for me.