Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Great (film) Debates vol. 76

It's one thing to be funny. It's another thing entirely to be funny will standing.

What is the funniest standup routine?

Panelist: Tennessee Jed

I couldn't think of any that were part of films other than concert films, so . . . my favorite all time routine is one of the legendary Bob Newhart's routines: The Grace L. Ferguson Airline and Storm Door Company.

Panelist: ScottDS

I'm a big comedy fan but I've never really followed the stand-up scene. Pryor, Carlin, Dangerfield... I have homework to do! Anyway, my favorite comedian working today is Louis C.K. and while I can't quite remember the first time I saw him, his HBO special Shameless is the one from which I can still quote. For instance, this NSWF clip. [smile]

Panelist: T-Rav

I don’t care what anyone thinks of me for this, Ron White’s “They Call Me ‘Tater Salad’” routine on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour cracks me up whenever I think of it. If that makes me slightly redneck, so be it.

Panelist: BevfromNYC

I love, love, love Eddie Izzard and his concerts. How can you not just love a man who can have an audience rolling on the floor as he riffs on the French Revolution or Nietzsche? You don’t really need to know world history to get it, but it just makes his comedy funnier when you do. Videos of his concerts are available on NetFlix and they are worth a peak.

Panelist: AndrewPrice

There are so many that I like: Pryor, Carlin, Izzard, Cosby, and so many I really can't stand: Foxworthy, Gallagher, Dennis Miller. Robin Williams used to be really funny. But the guy whose routines I remember the most are Eddie Murphy. "Half!"

Comments? Thoughts?


tryanmax said...

Carlin's the difference b/w baseball and football.

AndrewPrice said...

That one was genius. I'll tell you what bothered me with Carlin though. Especially as he got older, you never knew what you would get from him. Sometimes it would be funny and clever, the next time it would be a lengthy political rant about homelessness or how bad we all are.

K said...

As Funny as a Screen Door in a Submarine

K said...

Okay okay, just kidding, THIS ONE's much better. :)

Tennessee Jed said...

It was interesting to me since this series is titled "The Great Film Debates"that I was unsure what we were actually looking for here. Stand up comedy has not really been done much in films. I could only think of "Punchline" and "Lenny," when it came to films revolving around stand-up comedy. There is nothing to like about Sally Field, and while Dustin Hoffman is a fantastic actor, and his portrayal of Lenny Bruce no doubt professional, I always got a little tired of liberals proclaiming how "brave" he was. Kind of the borscht belt comic version of Hollywood blacklist from McCarthyism.

Speaking of Borsch Belt comics, I wish Law Hawk were around ,'cause he would appreciate my "shout out" of old belt comedian Shelly Berman. Berman, Stan Freiburg, and Bob Newhart all were very successful with comedy L.P. albums in the late 50's and early 60's (I wonder how many remember vinyl records which went from 78 r.p.m. to 45 r.p.m. to 33 and a third "long play" records?

Dave Olson said...

Carlin's "Class Clown" album was one of the all-timers. I had that thing memorized back in the day. I haven't heard it for years but I'll bet it would still crack me up. Too bad that Carlin, like the recently deceased Roger Ebert, let his politics get in the way of his craft.

The first Blue Collar Comedy Tour may have been the best stand-up movie ever made. Ron White, who was the least-known of the quartet despite opening for Foxworthy for years, stole the show effortlessly with his retelling of getting thrown out of a bar in NYC. I also have Ron's first album "Tater Salad" (originally released as "Busted in Des Moines"). He tells a completely different version of the Tater Salad story, but it may just be that he has gotten himself arrested on more than one occasion. (Gee, ya think?)

Outlaw13 said...

For being "stoner" comedy a lot of Cheech and Chong's stuff was really funny. Earache my eye, is one of the funniest things I have ever heard.

Craig Ferguson is one of my favs right now as well as Jim Gaffigan.


BevfromNYC said...

Bill Cosby. His standup, or more accurately, sit down comedy routines have me in tears no matter how many times I see them. Bob Newhart too. Both Cna use the same routines over and over and they still are as funnyntodaymas they were when they first were used.

Outlaw13 - I second you on Ferguson and Gaffigan.

PDBronco said...

If you are talking about stand-up routines in a movie, you can't beat Abbott and Costello or the Marx Brothers. Classic vaudeville stand-up routines. Can anything really top "Who's on First?" (Abbott and Costello) or "Why a duck?" (Chico and Groucho)?

Tennessee Jed said...

PDBronco - great calls on those two. It is telling you have to go back that far to find when vaudeville or stand-up comedy was included in film to much of a degree. Interestingly, while I appreciate Bud & Lou as well as Grouch, Bob Hope, and others, it was never a huge area of focus.

Tennessee Jed said...

Bev - it is hard to top Cos. We first became aware of him in Philly as a Temple student. He has displayed a certain class and grace missing from most comics today.

AndrewPrice said...

K, Nice... so you're saying Obama is performance art?

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Sometimes we travel a little beyond films.

I HATE it when actors describe other actors as "brave." Give me a f***ing break. There is nothing brave about acting. That is delusional.

PikeBishop said...

Andrew: agreed on Carlin. He really went to a dark place in the late 90s after his wife had died. he went from being acerbic through bitter to just plain mean.

I remember seeing him in Houston in 99 and, while there were some great moments, I didn't pay a lot of money to hear someone screming "There is NO GOD!" repeatedly.

AndrewPrice said...

Dave, Ron White is hilarious. I love the Tater Salad routine. I also like the bit about the plane crashing and "how far are we going?" "All the way down." LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, I liked Cheech and Chong a lot. And the whole "Dave's not here, man" has become iconic for that part of the culture.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I think Cosby was the first comedian my parents let me listen to. I still think of his "Riiiiiight.... what's an arc?" whenever I think of comedy. Plus, the thing about chocolate cake is great.

AndrewPrice said...

PDBronco, Who's on first is probably the all time classic!

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Do you remember Cosby telling Pryor that he doesn't need to swear to be funny and Pryor responding, "You can tell Cosby to have a coke and a smile and f*** off!"

PikeBishop said...

Foxworthy's original CD "You Might be a Redneck" features some brilliant stuff, that makes me laugh every time I hear it. Some examples: the singles apartment, spicing up your marriage, men and women, road trips.

Cosby and Newhart's original stuff is the Platinum standard by which all standups are judged.

Sad to say but Robin Williams was better while he was on coke. But what a manic stage presence.

Dennis Miller has some of the most erudite stuff. What I always liked about Miller is that you had better have paid attention in college and high school to get some of his "sub-references."

In my view the most overrated standup ever is Eddie Murphy. There were some good moments on his first album ("Delerious?") but he was already starting to rely too much on profanity. Why did every black comedian seem to think he had to try and be Richard Pryor? RAW was abysmal, well should I say the five minutes of RAW that I watched. Flipped over to it one night on HBO and heard the following line: "What u mother fuckers mother fucking laughing about? I ain't mother fucking said no motherfucking funny shit yet."


AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, Agreed. I first ran into this around that time when I was all excited that he had a new special on television. I tuned in expecting to hear his usual brilliance but after a couple jokes he started talking about how we waste resources on golf courses when people are starving and how Bush (I) wanted to let people die. I would say that for the last thirty minutes, he maybe said two funny things and the rest was just a lecture on how bad we are.

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, I don't mind the profanity. I think they over use it, but it doesn't bother me so long as there's more to the act.

Agreed about Robin Williams, sadly. He was a lot better when he was high.

AndrewPrice said...

Does anybody remember Jonathan Winters talking about two Siamese elephants joined at the trunk "and when one would sneeze, the other's eyes would get reeeeeal big"?

I remember him saying that, but I don't recall if that was a standup routine or on some show.

PikeBishop said...

Speaking of politics and stand up, anyone else ever notice how the big "Comic Relief" shows just disappeared in the 90s? They fizzled out due to partisan polictics.

I think the first one was in the mid 80s and Whoopi, Billy and Robin just bashed Reagan and how he single-handedly caused homelessness. It reached its zenith during the Bush I years, but then......hmmmm....what happened?

Clinton gets elected and all of a sudden, there might as well have been a golden muzzle on those comics. "Gee we can't talk about homelessness anymore because it reflects badly on our guy."

The GOP took the Congress in 94 and they tried, but let's be honest, making fun of Congress is pretty universal, almost stale, no matter who holds the gavel.

The events were still held but they became smaller and they were stopped completely during Clinton's second term.

Anyone else notice this?

T-Rav said...

Oh, thank God I wasn't the only one to appreciate the lowbrow stuff.

When I was a kid, my favorite particular routine was Bill Engvall's "So I Took My Wife Deer Hunting." If you haven't heard it, you really should.

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

I might be wrong but I think Jed was referring to people who called Lenny Bruce "brave" for sticking it to the man, and not Dustin Hoffman "brave" for playing him. :-)

No one's mentioned Jerry Seinfeld yet? I saw him live a while back - this was after the show ended and he had new material. I always tell non-Floridians, "Every joke Seinfeld ever made about old people in Florida is 100% true!"

I miss Dennis Miller's HBO show. I used to watch the reruns in the middle of the afternoon when I was in middle school and high school - I'm sure I'd get more of the references today. If I were running HBO, I'd give him the post-Maher slot: "Dennis, you have X amount of money, do what you want!"

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, I've definitely noticed that comedians get "brave" when there are Republicans they can attack and they grow very silent when there are only Democrats.

And speaking of comic relief, all those of relief efforts (like FarmAid) seemed to die once Clinton got into the White House.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, There's nothing wrong with low-brow! :)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Could be, but either way, I hate it when actors call each other brave. Losers.

I don't care for Dennis Miller actually... or for Seinfeld actually. To me Seinfeld is basically ethnic humor and ethnic humor doesn't resonate with me. Miller is like Letterman to me, and too many of his jokes are "I'm suggesting something that sound like there's a joke, but there is no joke, but you will laugh because you think I'm suggesting something funny."

BevfromNYC said...

Jonathan Winters was brilliant. They would put in a room full of stuff and just let him go to town. Robin Williams actually stole this from Winters except Williams added iambic pentameter.

Scott - I loved Dennis Miller's show. I really liked the "round table portion". It was kind of the precursor to what Maher does now, except a lot more intelligently done. I saw Miller's show in Vegas in the early '90's and he was the first comedian I ever heard comment with a conservative political slant. I wasn't quite sure what I was hearing at first.

Anonymous said...

I've got to go with the legend that is 'Bill Cosby's Himself.' Interesting story about this one.

I first saw this back when I was in high school.
You see, my wisdom were coming at the time. Already in a state where I needed mass amounts of oragel, I found my mouth nearly tearing itself to shreds in a state of (to paraphrase something I heard on RLM) horrible euphoria. It kind of gave new meaning to the phrase, 'laugh so hard it's painful.'

And Andrew, while trying to find a Youtube clip that might illustrate your feelings about Gallagher, I found this instead. Just goes to show, some have truly humble origins. (You might need to turn up the volume.)


Anonymous said...

Ah, I meant to say 'wisdom teeth.' Hate it when I forget a word.


Anonymous said...

Andrew -

We may have to agree to disagree - I don't know much about Bruce but I doubt people consider him an "actor" and there was a time when saying certain things on stage as an entertainer could get you into trouble.

Not so much anymore. It reminds me of that classic line:

"What are you rebelling against?"
"Whaddaya got?" :-)

And you probably know this already but when Seinfeld premiered, it was labelled, "Too Jewish." It'd never make it past six episodes today.

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, Wow! I've never seen Joel do his standup routine. I've heard about it, but haven't seen it.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Maybe at the time, who knows, but not today. And I think calling actors "brave" is a recent invention.

I did know that about Seinfeld.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I'm not sure if I ever saw Winters do standup or just appear in shows, but you are right that he could be absolutely brilliant when he did his thing.

BevfromNYC said...

Andrew - You are probably too young to remember Winters' TV show in the late '60's and early 70's. It was incredible. All of these different characters lived inside of him and he could bring them out at any moment. Much of it was ad lib and spontaneous, some scripted.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Yeah, I don't remember that. I remember him working with Tim Conway and I think he showed up on the Carol Burnett show a lot when I was a kid, but the first time I really noticed him was on Mork and Mindy.

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

I'm still thinking of your "ethic" comment about Seinfeld. I mean, to a certain extent you're correct (see my comment about the show)... but his material obviously resonated with a wide variety of people, otherwise he wouldn't be as successful as he is.

It certainly wasn't all Jewish stuff - after all, we can all identify with bad airplane food. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I would say that Seinfeld's humor is "ethnic New Yorker." So it's not quite as narrow as "Jewish" and it appealed to anyone connected to the city or other big cities or who is Jewish. Seinfeld honestly didn't resonate in places like Colorado. Most of the people here I've met don't really believe people like that really exist because they don't here.

In a way, it's the same thing as all the Irish stuff out of Boston. It's like watching a cultural train wreck.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, I was rooting around on the Cinematic Titanic website. (The group Joel now works with. The cast are MST3K alums, and they riff B-movies just like the show.)

According to Joel, almost everyone on the show had background in stand up comedy, which helped in coming up with quick, off-the-wall jokes. He also added that, eventually, each episode of MST3K had about 700 gags- roughly the average number of jokes a stand-up comedian comes up with in a 2-year period.

Anyway, that clip is probably about 31 years old (since Joel says he's 22). I'm guessing- by the stage- that it may be an HBO special, but I'm not sure. (But I guess we know where the Invention Exchange came from!) Anyway, according to Wiki, he did stand-up for a few years before burnout took over. He then taught comedy classes, worked on an HBO special with the afore-mentioned Jerry Seinfeld, and even built toys (including robots)- skills that soon served him well.

Here's some of his latest work.


Anonymous said...


I have to side with Andrew on the whole Seinfeld thing. It's not that his comedy is "Jewish", (though, honestly, I can't tell the difference between Jewish and non-Jewish humor to save my life), it's "New York."

I remember watching an episode of his show years ago with a cousin who lived in NYC. She was howling, saying 'that's just how it is in New York! Garbagemen really do wait that long' or something like that. I just sat there with a confused look across my Midwestern face. 'Huh?'

To me, Jerry Seinfeld's hit and miss. You really either get him 'cause you understand the East Coast, or you don't.


Floyd R. Turbo said...

From films... "Who's on First?" is the all-time best. Hands down.

Any iteration of the "Niagara Falls" classic gets me too.

In Roxanne (1980s Steve Martin re-imagining of Cyrano de Bergerac -- a great movie), Steve Martin's "20 better putdowns" bar scene has tinges of his old 1970s stand-up.

Sam Kinison on "World Hunger". Not always my cup of tea, but this is genius.

I second Ferguson and Gaffigan and I'll add Brian Regan... clean AND hilarious... his piece on storytelling at parties and the trump card that an astronaut would have is great.

BevfromNYC said...

What about comediennes? Any or is this for another Sunday?

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, French comedians?

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, I've seen the same thing. People from the Northeast laugh and say "that's so true" and people from the Midwest say, "I would hope not."

I wondered what happened to Joel after he left the show. I heard at the time that he wanted to go back to standup, but I never heard from him again. I know the others continued and then did Riftrax, but I never another word about Joel.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, Kinison was hilarious at times and really got my nerves at others. I didn't like the screaming bit.

T-Rav said...

I knew Seinfeld was Jewish, but I never got a "Jewish" vibe from his comedy. It just seemed like "city humor" to me.

Backthrow said...

Agreed on Carlin, Winters, Kinison, Eddie Murphy, Cosby, Pryor, Newhart, Shelley Berman, Ron White...

Robin Williams made me laugh as a kid, when he was young and hungry and snorting lots of powder, but even then wore out his welcome with me, fast. His ubiquity (even penning the forward in animator Chuck Jones' biography... it's like Williams had to have his finger in every pie, ala Tom Hanks) became annoying to me. As was the fact he was always "on" (coke?).

I liked Steve Martin's stand-up back in the '70s and clips of Flip Wilson from back in the old days of ED SULLIVAN and his own '70s variety show. Steven Wright was great in the '80s, the stand-up equivalent of THE FAR SIDE strip in the newspaper funny pages at that same time. Dana Gould can be funny, though I haven't seen his stand-up for probably 20 years. Ditto the comedy magician The Amazing Jonathan. Kevin Pollack had a sharp and funny impressionist/stand-up act back then, too.

Jerry Seinfeld has his moments, but I can take him or leave him, for the most part; I'm one of the few who have never watched his popular sitcom, though. Same with Dennis Miller.

Women stand-ups almost always seem to be trying too hard, but I did like Phyllis Diller in her early days (TV clips from the 1960s) and Margaret Smith in the '80s/early '90s.

One now-forgotten comic I always liked was Tommy Sledge, back in the '80s:

I've missed most modern stand-up, since the demise of basic-cable/network venues like AN EVENING AT THE IMPROV and COMIC STRIP LIVE. The precious little stand-up I *have* seen in the last several years, apart from Ron White, I've found sorely lacking.

Anonymous said...

Eddie Murphy was the first one to spring to mind as I saw it when I was about 12 and I loved it.

I'll agree with Floyd R. Turbo and that Sam Kinison, love the world hunger bit.

Also some Australian comediennes Rodney Rude and Kevin Bloody Wilson who were very low brown and downright offensive. But they sold out heaps of show and CDs over the years.

Rodney did mostly stand up with some songs and Kevin did mostly songs and most of both of their works are rated R.

This is one of the clear songs...


AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, I've tried to watch recent comics, but they just aren't funny. I tried, for example, to watch last comic standing and while there were a couple moments, few of them were funny.

Most of what I see on HBO these days are washed-up comics trying to relive their glory or ethnic humor... lots of ethnic humor... always the same joke told about a different ethnic mother. "Now ___ mothers, they're different..."

I can't think of any women stand-ups that I've liked.

Speaking of the 1980s, I also should add Andrew Dice Clay, who was really funny for a very brief time.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Murphy was huge when I was growing up too and I still remember most of his routines.

I don't know any Australians. I do know a couple British stand ups, but I think those are the only foreign ones I know. I suspect standup is hard to translate because it's so dependent on culture and things like slang.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Having spent time in several big cities (and in Florida), I definitely got a "New York ethnic" vibe from Seinfeld.

T-Rav said...


You know what's also funny? Jim Gaffigan's routine. "Hot Pockets!"

Mycroft said...

The Siamese elephants routine was done by Tim Conway on the Carol Burnett Show.
Ron White is genius. Tater Salad and Taking the dog to the vet always bring tears to my eyes.
For musical comedy, have you seen Axis Of Awesome? Either 4-chord Song
or How to Write a Love Song

Dave Olson said...

I don't think anyone has mentioned Denis Leary, and the allegations of character / routine theft from Bill Hicks. Agree, disagree, or meh?

AndrewPrice said...

Mycroft, Was it Tim Conway? I just remember the routine and I thought it was Winters, but I don't remember it enough to say for sure, so I will assume you are correct. :)

Ron White is really funny.

AndrewPrice said...

Dave, I actually didn't know anything about that until I read your comment and looked it up. In the end, I guess "meh".

shawn said...

Emo Phillips- "EMO", "Live at the Hasty Pudding Theater" and "E-Mo2". Some of the best comedy albums you will ever listen to.

Bob Newhart "The button down mind of Bob Newhart".

Woody Allen- "The Nightclub Years '64-68".

Steven Wright- "I have a Pony" and "I still have a Pony".

Anthony said...

I started off listening to records of Bill Cosby's stand-up and I will never forget those (funny and warm, which aren't words one often uses to describe comedy routines), but Eddie Murphy Raw was amazing.

If I had more permissive parents, perhaps I'd name Richard Pryor (who laid the groundwork for Eddie), but Eddie was on the scene before I was deemed old enough to listen to Pryor.

BIG MO said...

Pretty late to the party her. First off, that definitely was Tim Conway with the Siamese elephants bit. It was during a “Mama’s Family” skit on the great Carol Burnet show. Conway went off script about this wild tale of two circus elephants, and Carol, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner desperately try to stay in character. The whole outtake is hilarious, but Vicki Lawrence ends it beautifully:

If you don’t laugh hysterically at that, then check your blood pressure.

My favorites have been named:

Bill Cosby’s “Himself,” which was hilarious when I was growing up but became prophetic when I had my own kids.

Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s on First?”

Jeff Dunham’s opening monologue for “Spark of Insanity” (that one and his first Comedy Central special, “Arguing with Myself,” had me roaring the whole time)

Brad Stine (a Christian comedian), “Wussification” from 2007. His earlier stuff is a little manic like early Dennis Leahry, but this is golden.

Andy Griffith – of course he’s most famous for Sherriff Andy and Matlock, but his standup bit called “They called it football” is comic genius of the gentle kind.

The endings for “Blue Collar Comedy Tour” and “Rides Again” are fantastic, especially one ad-lip part from Larry (I forget which one this is in, though): They’re about to start the bit when a woman calls out “I love you Larry!” and without missing a beat, Larry replies “I told you to wait in the truck.”

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, I thought that Stephen Wright was hilarious. He doesn't seem funny at all in his delivery and then his jokes just blow you away. :)

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, I thought Raw was fantastic as well. And you're right about Cosby, you don't often find comics who are warm and happy. He's one of the few whose comedy never tore anybody down.

AndrewPrice said...

Big MO, "I told you to wait in the truck" LOL! Nice! I'd missed that.

Thanks for the link. I'd remembered the bit, I just didn't remember who did it. LINK.

rlaWTX said...

The Carol Burnett Show was awesome. Tim Conway and co - amazing. I don't remember Newhart except from his TV show, except for a clip from MadTV where he's a Psychologist (look up "stop it" or "bury you alive in box" - hysterical!!!!!!)
Some college friends got hold of Cosby recordings and we used to listen to "my name is Jeffrey" and chocolate cake for breakfast and "obe-kaybe" (going to the dentist) and laugh. I had a friend whose delivery of the "Jeffrey" lines was even better than Cosby's (of course he was a 6ftplus red head, which seemed to help)

Modern - Foxworthy and the Blue Collar guys and Jeff Dunham make me laugh! Dunham gets away with some pretty un-PC stuff, and I tend to forget that he's speaking for both of them...

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