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I just love listening to stand up comedy. There is quite a bit of really good stand up going on right now, and yes, there is some bad stand up....but you gotta know what to look for. It's no secret to anyone who has ever read this blog before, that I am a big fan of Bill Hicks. You can read what I have to say about him, if you just click the link to an earlier blog post.
Bill Hicks: A Man Ahead Of His Time
Discovering Hicks led me backwards a bit. I learned some tid bits about Lenny Bruce, which led me back to George Carlin, which led me to Richard Pryor. Those three broke down barriers. They said things, in public, that used to be taboo.....even illegal. Imagine that. Telling a joke in a club, using certain language could get you arrested in the not too distant past. You can watch their acts and get the feeling that they were just saying those things for shock value. Or, you could think about it from the other side and know that they were really trying to free us from ourselves. They were all about freedom of speech and expression. Carlin, in particular, loved to show that a word is just a word. It's the intent behind the word and the mind of the person hearing it, that gives it power. Take a word like "fuck" for instance. The word itself has no power. It's our judgement of the word that gives it power. I happen to use that word quite often. Why? Because I like it and it carries no more meaning to me than if I were to say "fudge" instead....or "darn"....or "shoot". Just words and "fuck" is a strong word and can pull emotion and attention out of people who hear it. Carlin, Bruce, and Pryor were pioneers and I don't feel like they get their due from the average American. Just like there may not have been a wide open rock n roll scene without Chuck Berry, Elvis, Fats Domino, and the Beatles, there may not have been Eddie Murphy or Robin Williams without the greats before them.
Anyhow, back to the topic. There are some great comedians out there today who are following in the footsteps of the greats. Bill Hicks deserves to be among the "Holy Trinity" of early stand up. Although he died in 1994, his influence is felt more today than ever. He is more popular now than ever. Before his death, he was a major star in the U.K., but in America, he was just too far ahead. He was talking about world politics, war, the poor, and social taboos in the 90's, and some of those things people are still not that comfortable with today. The fear and the barriers created by fear are broken down by edgy comedians. Not just for shock value. But to give us the ability to see the absurdity of the culture under the protection of comedy. The comics that are taking Hicks mantle and running with it are what I call "Rock N Roll" comics. These guys are not scared to address issues of the day. They are not scared to break away from routine and riff on current events and they really are not scared of the "sacred cows".
The best comedians working today are the guys who are real. The guys who don't care about who may have their sensibility offended. Jokes are jokes and almost anything.......maybe EVERYTHING.....can be funny. Doug Stanhope, Bill Burr and Joe Rogan stick out like sore thumbs against the average comedian. They don't do a "shtick" like Larry The Cable Guy or Frank Caliendo. These guys address real issues and the most private parts of our lives, and they make it funny. They show us the absurdity of life and how it's OK to take that life and absurdity head on.
Bill Burr may be the most open and overwhelmingly funny comedian working. His bits on relationships, pets, growing old, and the emergence of "do it yourself" consumerism are pure comedy gold. I dare anyone to get relaxed and watch a Bill Burr special and not have to hit pause 15 times because you are afraid you are going to miss something while you are crying with laughter. The man is a great.
Bill Burr: Let It Go NETFLIX <<<< Click Here For Bill Burr On Netflix
Doug Stanhope is another great comedian. He flies just below the radar. Mainstream audiences don't know him that well, but people who follow comedy very much, realize that this guy is a fantastic stand up. He gives off the impression that he is doing everything off the cuff (yeah, most great comics do that, but he FEELS like he's actually making the shit up as he goes) and isn't afraid at all to take a swipe at himself, as well as our society and even his own audience. If you are in the building to be entertained and Doug Stanhope is who you are going to see......you will get your money's worth! He tackles drug use and alcoholism with no restraint and when he lectures on societal ills, it's hard to determine whether the guy should be president or you should just laugh.
Stanhope has a reputation for really not caring what he says. If it's funny, the man will lay it on ya. I'm linking up to an archive page from his website called "Bobbie Barnett & Baseball". He has a bit he does on "Bobbie Barnett" a girl he had sex with years ago. He tells the story of her losing a bet on a Twins/Red Sox game and having to sleep with him. It's a part of his act. Then, years later, she emails him and asks him to stop telling the story. And he posts the email and his reply. It's just a good ol' time! Oh, and if you get the chance, look for his stand up video on Netflix or Amazon or wherever called "No Refunds". Hysterical.
Bobbie Barnett & Baseball: CLICK ME FOR AMUSEMENT!
The last but certainly not the least, is Joe Rogan. Rogan is mostly known for being a commentator on UFC matches and for hosting "Fear Factor", a show he said he didn't think would last past the first episode. Well, it did and Rogan seemed to learn a lot about humanity from hosting that terribly great "game" show. Rogan, like Burr and Stanhope, doesn't seem to be much of a bullshit artist. What you see is what you get. He even opens up the mic at the end of his shows to take questions from the audience. He loves to interact with people and there is a certain humanity to him that is really lacking in many celebrity types today. Rogan is not scared of the truth and if you hang with him long enough, his stories always pay off. And hell, if you are not careful, you might learn something.
CLICK ME: Netflix Link To Joe Rogan Live!
Don't get me wrong, there are other great comics out there. I just happen to think that these three guys are carrying the torch that they picked up when Bill Hicks dropped it. They are realists and they are funny. They push the boundaries of what is funny and for the most part, I've found that anything they feel like talking about is funny. So, if you really dig laughing your ass off on a consistent basis, I highly recommend you checking out stand up acts from these guys. They are also included (along with Bill Hicks) in CoEdMagazine.com's, 24 Most Underrated Comedians.
24 Most Underrated Comics: CLICK ME!!
By the way: I am deeply apologetic to Louis C.K. for not including him. He is another great comedian and in no way did I mean to disparage his greatness by not putting him in this blog. Now I have!! Louie, you rock, my man!