Before Catching Patton Oswalt's New Special, Catch Up on the Best Free Standup of 2013
On January 17th, Patton Oswalt’s new comedy special “Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time” premieres on Epix. As his last two albums were nominated for Grammys, it stands to reason this will be another must see. Oswalt decided to stop touring this year, and those of us in Los Angeles were treated to watching this set evolve from a 45-minute rant on the state of Florida into the finished product, which includes tales of parenting gone wrong and a humorless tour through Germany.
Big standup releases like this are becoming a rarity as the delivery systems and expectations of comedians have changed. In a world where so many talented people are putting out new material weekly or even daily via free podcasts and online video, the competition is no longer for money, but rather the time and attention of an engaged audience.
So for those of you looking for some great comedy to tide you over until the 17th, or just broadening your horizons, you’re in luck. Here’s a collection of some of 2013’s best comedy, and it’s all free.
Bo Burnham — what.
Following his cancelled TV show, the 23 year-old songwriter/YouTube star/wunderkind has made his new album free on YouTube and streaming on Netflix. It’s an hour combining social commentary, poetry, standup, backdrops, and madness. Again, 23.
The Grawlix — Best Of (Link)
Denver’s The Grawlix (named for the characters used to replace profanity in comic books) are a trio of top notch comedians who put on one of the best monthly shows in the country. You may know them from their Amazon pilot for “Those Who Can’t” but this free download features them and some of their favorite guests.
Sofiya Alexandra and Courtney Kocak — Voicemails To Self (Link)
Arriving in short daily bursts, Voicemails To Self are the fictional recordings of two best friends and the people from their extended networks. It explores the power of short-form narrative over seasonal arcs in a way few podcasts have dared. Season 2 starts on the 13th, so now is a great time to catch up.
Joe Starr — Heroic Effort (Link)
This is, hands down, my most played comedy album of the year. Starr’s debut album is a rough little recording from the back of a comic book store in Ventura, but his storytelling and mastery of timing has made this incredibly rewarding upon multiple listens. It opens with a stoned interpretation of Downton Abbey, ends on his decision to leave his faith because Kevin Costner was allowed to make back-to-back apocalyptic blockbusters, and somewhere in the middle he imagines a Kennedy legacy replacing the shooters with masturbating Furies. Par for the course from the comedian who runs LA’s only Game of Thrones themed show.
This Is Not Happening (Link)
Ari Shaffir hosts this online video series for Comedy Central, where performers take to the stage at a strip club to share tales of captial-w Woe. Highlights include Sean Patton getting gay-bashed and actor TJ Miller’s emergency brain surgery.
Melissa Villasenor’s “Happy Loner” Standup Special
Recorded to an audience of just her cat, Villasenor (Family Guy) takes the new trend of intimate shows to its logical, and heartbreaking, conclusion.
This male quartet brings a standup’s approach to sketch comedy, which is to say that most of the bits end in brutal murder. One of the most consistently funny outputs on YouTube, and now they’re touring.
Put Your Hands Together (Link)
Hosted by Cameron Esposito, this combination live UCB show and interview show is a rotating showcase of some of the finest comics working today, and it just celebrated a one-year anniversary.
Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction (Link)
Bryan Cook hosts an evening of crowd-sourced, improvised nightmares spanning the entirety of popular, and unpopular, culture. Thankfully, The Nerdist has started releasing the shows in segments. Don’t worry: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are the only thing officially banned. (I wound up performing a debaucherous take on what happens between the brothers and sisters of The Boxcar Children. I know. The worst.)
LESS FREE BONUS ITEM
HOLY FUCK (Link)
$8 gets you a double album from the long-running alternative comedy juggernaut, featuring a who’s-who of comedic voices on the rise. You’re guaranteed to find a new favorite or two here.
Brock Wilbur is a stand-up comedian, writer, director, and actor who you might recognize as the guy in Guitar Center’s national ad campaign. You can check out his website for a listing of all his work, check YouTube for stand-up acts, or follow him on Twitter.