I’ve always loved standup comedy, probably stemming from the first time I ever heard a Bill Cosby record. I remember when I was 4 and I got my tonsils out, my parents got me one of his records that had a long bit about tonsillectomies. I used to laugh my little butt off, even if I didn’t quite get all the jokes. I still have fond memories of all those old, old Cosby routines… Fat Albert, playing football against Hofstra, Kindergarten, seeing scary movies, the Chicken Heart, Noah and God, and the Great Go-Kart race down Dead Man’s Hill. Classics all.
As cable TV grew and developed, and the premium channels like HBO and Showtime became the new home for standup comedy, standup began to permeate the medium. Most of the time, I was too poor to be able to afford HBO, so my dad used to be the gatekeeper. He’d monitor the comedy specials and record anything that looked promising. Then he’d either show it to us when we visited or he’d dub off copies to distribute to his impoverished children.
Aside from the George Carlin specials, that we all knew were going to be golden, he always kept an eye out for new talent. HBO’s Young Comedian series was always good for that, plus the Rodney Dangerfield specials.
One of his biggest finds was Sam Kinison, from 9th Young Comedians special. Sam was a game changer. There was so much anticipation surrounding his first album and then his first solo HBO special. We must have watched and listened to those a zillion times. And as you may remember, I got to tell Sam that myself when he did an in-store appearance at one of our record stores.
Sam led to Andrew “Dice” Clay, who had a much shorter shelf life. I mentioned the late Robert Schimmel, back when he died last month, but he was another find. The late Richard Jeni was also hilarious.
One of my favorite Dad “finds” was the Scottish comedian Billy Connolly. He was a huge star in Europe but completely unknown here. Whoopee Goldberg did an HBO special where she did the first half hour and then “presented” Connolly to do the last half.
Honest to God, we still quote lines from that special when we get together. I know a lot of comics do this, but he did a bit on flying that to me is the gold standard. Part of it is in this clip below:
I swear, I watered my eyes laughing playing this clip just now. Trust me… play it. You won’t be sorry. (Unless you’re at work, in which case it could get you fired. If you like this bit, you can dig up the rest of the act on YouTube; just look for Billy Connolly 1990, in 4 parts.)
For a short time, I was able to afford Showtime, so I could also be on the lookout for new acts. Showtime was trying to compete with HBO so they, too, had “new comedian” specials. Bobby Slayton, the “Pitbull of Comedy” was one good find. Another was Tim Allen, who unveiled his “Men are Pigs” shtick that eventually landed him his sitcom “Home Improvement.”
My biggest “find” was probably Denis Leary. I had never heard of him, but my boss (when I worked for the home office of my music store company) got this promotional video of Denis doing these 30-second promo bits for MTV. Picture a half dozen guys crowned around a 19-inch TV in a glass-walled office, screaming with laughter, and that was us. Most of the bits from that promo reel were included in Leary’s breakout work, the concert movie “No Cure for Cancer.” I couldn’t wait to get a copy of that to Dad.
Denis Leary on “Drugs and NyQuil”
“The box says ‘may cause drowsiness.’ It should say don’t make any fuckin’ plans…”
OK, I know I’m taking the long way around, but I’m now approaching my main point.
Comedy is meant to be shared. It’s one thing to laugh your head off alone, but to me it just doesn’t count until you can get someone else in on the joke. We need people to laugh with us, to get the full effect.
I’ve been reading a particular blog for a while and it is hands down, the most consistently funny blog I’ve ever read. Each new post leaves my cheeks wet and my stomach hurting because it’s that funny. You may already read it, you may already have it on your blogroll like I do, hell, you may have been the one that led me to it. I don’t know the writer and she doesn’t need me to promote her blog. She gets more comments on one post than I do in an entire year. But laughing alone is no fun; laughter needs to be shared.
I’m talking about Hyperbole and a Half, written by Allie Brosh.
For the most part, Allie tells stories from her childhood using her own computer illustrations. It’s like “The Wonder Years” on peyote. While she clearly has the ability to make very good, detailed pictures, her style is intentionally primitive… kind of like when South Park first started. The primitiveness is part of the charm. This is how she draws her young self:
It’s kind of like a thumb in a pink turtleneck dress, googly eyes and a blond shark-fin for a ponytail.
She posted yesterday about how she was a cake-eating sugar fiend when she was 4.
The prior post was about trying to convince her mom to let her go to a friend’s birthday party, immediately after major dental surgery. She figured if she could run across the park, she’d be fit to go. Sadly, with all the Novocain, she couldn’t get her mom to understand what she wanted to go the park.
Both of these posts had me laughing out loud. Between the drawings that are so expressive, and the understated prose, and the unbelievable stories, it’s simply comedy at its most pure. And I have to make sure that everyone I know has a chance to get a couple of bellylaughs out of it.
If you like these two posts, check out her “Best of” posts on the right side of her page. Her story about “How a Fish Almost Destroyed my Childhood,” is one of my favorites.
Lastly, because I’m now a full-fledged Twitterer, I saw a tweet from Allie, saying that she made a video. It was also hilarious. It’s nothing like the blog stories. In fact, it’s just her on camera, alone with a coat. (The “Cautionary Interludes” are brilliant!)
So, not only does she write and draw, she’s a master at physical comedy.
Ladies and gentlemen, please take the time to discover the beautiful genius of Allie Brosh and “Hyperbole and a Half.”