Why We Are The Way We Are: The Most Influential Stand-Up Routines Of Our Youth
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Why We Are The Way We Are: The Most Influential Stand-Up Routines Of Our Youth

By The Pajiba Staff | Seriously Random Lists | June 20, 2013 | Comments ()


Although an early love of stand-up comedy is not universal, it's certainly very common among us. Who are we? We are the adults who still take a child's gleeful approach to pop culture. We quote movies, we have an insane recall for actors and their projects, we love fictional characters. Like, love them. We do impressions. We are that guy at the party. We're the girl you call when you need a good movie to watch or a new TV show to get into. It's known. We are pop culture nerds. How did we get this way? Hard to say. Though, for me, this has always been a shockingly accurate depiction of life growing up.

For me, for many of us, early kinship with other people came from quoting the same stand-up routines and giggling over the same jokes. It's definitely not the only way to bond, but it is a potent one. But don't take my word for it, here are some members of the Pajiba Staff and their earliest, most formative stand-up loves. Feel free to share yours in the comments. - JR

Gilda Radner -- "Gilda Live": I don't know how old I was when I discovered Gilda Radner. But I know that Gilda Live was my first exposure to her. And I know that she was my instant hero. I was a comedy fan from a young age, watching MST3K and "Kids in the Hall" on Comedy Central on a daily basis, taping every stand-up and sketch special I could find. But it seemed everything I watched and loved heavily featured men. Which was fine. I guess I didn't know any different. But then I found Gilda, then Madeline Kahn, and Jan Hooks and the other amazingly funny women of the '80s and early '90s that would shape how I see comedy, women in entertainment, and shape me as a person. Watching Gilda Live, seeing this woman with no reservations, nothing holding her back, throwing herself gleefully into walls as the audience roared, singing "fuck you, Mr. Bunny" with a sweet smile, I didn't know comedy could be like that. I didn't know *we* were allowed to do that. And, of course, in this pre-easy internet time, I didn't know my hero had already passed out of this mortal coil by the time I'd discovered her. And finding out someone I already loved was already gone was like losing a friend (reading It's Always Something put me in fetal position on my floor like it was a last letter from a family member). But I'll always have Gilda Live and the legacy of a woman who made me feel like it was okay to be a spazzy, swearing, fall-down meticulous mess of a person. And I'll always love her for it. -- Courtney Enlow

Richard Pryor -- "... Is It Something I Said?": Because my parents had odd views of what was acceptable for children, I first heard Richard Pryor's profanely brilliant "... Is It Something I Said" way before it was appropriate, not to mention well before I even understood most of it. But I knew there was something funny there, whether it was his wickedly funny depiction of his sexual antics while on cocaine ("I want you to go on the roof, I'm gonna run around the house three times, and the third time I want you to jump off on my face"), or the bizarre opening skit featuring him giving a eulogy. Especially enjoyable was his homage to Muhammad Ali in a cut that is only available on the album's commemorative re-release. Pryor was a madman for much of his life, and there's a wistfulness to his bits as he reflects on some of his wilder days. Yes, he often played on the differences between whites and blacks, but it was neither cliched nor cruel in spirit. Instead, his humor was as much self-deprecating as it was blisteringly satirical. Race was a constant in his routines, and nothing was as biting and uncomfortable as the depiction of the Vietnamese as the "new niggers" of America. Particularly twisted was the depiction of the campaigns to save the poor minority children: "they be selling niggers for adoption on the TV... get one of these niggers, please. This big-head one here, he's alright. I'd take him home, but I have a dog." Pryor was a trailblazer, who along with the likes of Foxx, Mooney, and Gregory paved the way for some of the modern great black comedians. But he was also often sweet-natured and disarming in his brutal honesty, while still peppering it with a barrage of profanity and pointed social commentary. -- TK

George Carlin -- "Seven Dirty Words": I couldn't tell you exactly when I first saw Carlin's Seven Dirty Words, but what I do know is that besides making me laugh, it stuck--with me and likely anyone who has ever heard it. It isn't only the dirty words though; what makes this stand up stand out is the combination of Carlin's impeccable delivery, and his brilliant understanding and use of rhythm. In between analyzing the connotations of each word, he sporadically rattles off the list in this cadence or that, ensuring everyone who hears it will be able to walk out and easily recite it to friends. (A nifty little way to ensure more tickets, albums and videos would be sold.) A lot of comedians deadpan, or do that thing where they say a little something and wait for the audience to laugh, then expound on it. George, he would take us on a little journey--tell us a story that flowed and ebbed--and I fucking loved the shit out of that motherfucking cocksucker. -- Cindy Davis

Bill Cosby -- "Bill Cosby: Himself": You have no idea how hard it is to control a crowd using nothing but your voice. Try it sometime. You will not succeed. But that's exactly what Bill Cosby does in Himself, a 1983 stand-up concert filmed in Ontario. Sure, that's what every comedian has to do, but few -- if any -- have shown the mastery that Cosby does here. He's so in charge, so totally in command of his material and presentation, that he actually sits down for huge portions of the show. He just sits and talks and does his act, yet he never loses the ability to create imagined visual spaces with a wave of his hands or to bring the crowd around again by pausing in just the right place. The crowd is almost never seen, and instead of the typical stand-up concert transitions (crowd shots pasted in to mask edits and fades in laughter), the show moves along almost languidly with just a few lighting changes and camera rotations. The concert's also remarkably tight: Cosby only tells a few longform stories, allowing for tangents and observations within them but always circling back to the larger narrative. It's somewhere between a one-man show and what you probably think of as a stand-up special. But most of all, it's a master class in comedy from one of the best comics to ever pick up a microphone. -- Daniel Carlson

Dana Carvey -- "Critic's Choice": We didn't have HBO or anything close to it in my house growing up. For the most part, our TV consumption was a steady diet of black and white 1930s screwball comedies and reruns of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Hardly something that will win you friends or influence people. But somewhere around 7th grade I discovered the sanitized version of Dana Carvey's stand-up routine on Comedy Central. Carvey was someone I vaguely knew from "SNL" reruns. He was also a local Bay Area boy. And what could be a gentler introduction into the world of stand-up comedy than this khaki-clad dad telling jokes about OJ Simpson and shopping for toys? We taped this special. We watched it ceaselessly. This is when I was first inspired to try my hand at impressions. Even his impressions (Jimmy Stewart, Katherine Hepburn) were ones I instantly recognized and related to. The best part, though, of course, was that once I had these jokes memorized, I could crack them with my fellow middle schoolers. "Frappucino" and "broccoleh" became giggle-inducing buzzwords and, best of all, Carvey served as a gateway into a whole world of stand-up. Darker routines with fouler language and edgier content soon populated my brain. But, well, you never forget your first. -- Joanna Robinson

Howie Mandel: I fell asleep to cassettes of Bill Cosby's "Himself" and "Wonderfulness" every night for about four years, dreaming of thumping chicken hearts and chocolate cake for breakfast. But everyone knows how wonderful Cosby was, so I'm not going to share about him or the other "important" stand-ups that I loved as kid (Robin Williams, Steven Wright, Carlin, Pryor, etc.). Instead, let's talk Howie Mandel. Yes, "Deal or No Deal," crazy OCD, bald and bland Howie Mandel. When I was 13, a special he filmed right near me, at the sadly-now-defunct, theater-in-the-round Valley Forge Music Fair, aired on HBO. I recorded it and watched it ad naseum. Yes, his humor is simple and juvenile, and his routine more jokey than anecdotal. But his energy clung to me, and the insane amounts of ad libbing resonated with me. The single comedy bit that lives in my soul to this day more than any other is a simple gag Howie decided to pull on an audience member (it begins at about the 4 minute mark of the first clip and resolves in the beginning of part 5). It's not brilliant, it's not groundbreaking, it's merely amusing. But the look on the woman's face when everyone gets up, the realization that sets in as to what really just happened ... the notion of giving an audience member a moment like that infected me. I'm pretty sure that everything I did in the years to follow as a writer and performer, and still do to some extent to this day, was little more than an attempt to have that type of momentary impact on someone. Also, those suspenders. -- Seth Freilich

Chris Rock -- "Bring The Pain": My childhood was far from sheltered in many ways, but the topic of race was one that just wasn't part of it. I grew up thinking that I was colorblind to race, without having any clue that that's exactly the privilege being white in America earns you. I knew a few black kids, and had more Indian and East Asian friends than I did white ones, so I certainly didn't feel like I was living in some whitewashed world. And then freshman year of college, Chris Rock kicked me in my teeth. Using words I'd never heard outside of gangsta rap, Rock wasn't just funny, not just shocking, not for this college kid. Rock open my eyes to layers to the world that I hadn't realized were there, that were simply phase-shifted from the world I thought that I lived in. That race was a force in this country, chock full of identity and meaning that would still be present even if simple cut and dry racism ceased to exist. -- Steven Lloyd Wilson

Billy Connolly, "Masturbation" -- I grew up in a very permissive home -- perhaps too permissive, as the first movie I ever remember seeing was The Last American Virgin -- but I was very young the first time I saw Billy Connolly's bit on masturbation during, I believe, an HBO comedy special. It is the only time I have ever laughed until I literally soaked my pants. It was as funny to me as it was, no doubt, because Billy Connolly is a masterful stand-up act, but it also hit me harder because I was around the same age as Billy Connolly was in the bit in which he revealed his discovery of the "act," and I felt a keen sense of sympathy for the young Connolly. But the other part was that I was watching it with my father, who no doubt sensed in my uneasy laughter a certain relatability, and I could sense that he could sense my embarrassment which was an acknowledgement in and of itself that my father knew that I had engaged in the "act," and the confluence of the relatability, the awkward acknowledgement, and the humor in the bit itself sent me into something akin to shame laughter spiral: I fell off the couch, rolled under the coffee table as if to hide from my father, and continued laughing so hard that my bladder broke loose, and in the humiliation of that moment, I could only laugh harder, burying my shame and embarrassment beneath roils and roils of my own cackles, which I could barely hear over my father's buckled-over giggles. It was the strangest father/son bonding moment of my life. -- Dustin Rowles

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • selucius

    I'm sure someone has already pointed this out, but the header photo is a quote from Steven Wright, not George Carlin.

  • cabinderada

    I tried to watch that Billy Connolly show with my daughter the other day and she was scandalized. At 13, she still cannot tolerate hearing the word "F*uck", which makes up a good quarter of Billy's first bit. Oh, innocence...

  • DataAngel

    Steven Banks.

    Richard Belzer.

    Rita Rudner.

    Janeane Garofalo.

    Steven Wright.

  • ,

    One of the more amazing things I've ever seen was a Garrison Keillor solo show. He had a microphone, a stool and a bottle of water. He set the bottle of water on the floor, took the mic and proceeded to sing and talk. When he left the stage I would have sworn it was just intermission, it couldn't have been more than an hour. I looked at my watch and he'd been at it for 100 minutes. Pretty magical.

    When I was in college, I was in an air hockey league with some guys who knew Dennis Miller. He dropped in on our games one day and proceeded to riff. I can't remember a joke, but I later saw him at a club in Pittsburgh and when I walked in front of the stage to the restroom he mocked the sweater I had on. More magic.


  • Salieri2

    He's still doing it. Came to my venue a month ago, for the second time doing that same show (dif. material though.) Tad slower, tad older, still mesmerizing. The guy is hypnotic: when he walked in he asked my boss for the most "shameful" story she had about the building, and, going tharn, she told him. [It involves human poop. I walked up halfway through and my jaw literally dropped open to hear her talking about it.]

    We spent his whole set alternately weeping with laughter and paralyzed he'd work the story in somehow. She swore if she'd been able to think clearly she'd've gone with the one involving prostitutes instead, but there's no way she could have demurred entirely. It's a good thing he doesn't use his powers for evil. As far as we know.

  • zeke_the_pig

    Possibly the greatest idea for a post I've ever seen on my beloved Pajiba, and certainly the one closest to my heart.
    For me, unquestionably the most influential standup set was, is, and always will be Jammin' in New York by George Carlin. Completely changed my life, both inner and outer. It crystallised a way of thinking that I was heading towards for some time, and - hell - it made standup a thing I decided would be a good idea to do too. I'll still stand by it as a work of art comparable to the Mona Lisa.

    Just behind that would be Stanhope's Word of Mouth.

    And the coterie of greatness behind that would be Pryor's Live in Concert and Hicks' Relentless.

    Well now...would ya look at this, Pajiba...you may have just reignited a passion...

  • Mrs.P

    John Leguizamo's show Freak is my first comedy-love. My husband and I quote from it on a regular basis. There is an amazing insight and persepective Tinged with remorse which mixed with the funny that got me. I can't say I feel the same about all of his shows(or movies, for that matter), but Freak is amazing.

  • llp

    I watched a lot of Cosby, Williams, Pryor, Goldberg and Mandel routines as a very young child. Thank you, parents, for buying that VERY expensive VCR and letting me watch whatever you were watching. I am sure that is why I am so warped as an adult, and the memory of my father laughing at Cosby until tears came down his face just warms my heart.

  • TheAggroCraig

    That Howie Mandel thing cracked my little kid ass UP. I loved everything about it. The idea, how he makes fun of her, the reaction, it was all perfect.

  • phofascinating

    Janeane Garofalo hands down. I came across her Comedy Central special while I was in high school (and trying to be a 90s docs wearing Daria knockoff with purple hair in 2000). I had some kazaa downloaded mp3 version that I listened to daily for god knows how long. She was such a different version of "the funny woman" than everything else I saw. She was messy and crazy and alt and well below average and political and promiscuous and deathly frightened of commitment. Like me.
    But the scary part is that when I listen to that special today, at 28, I AM her. I don't know, maybe I subconsciously absorbed all of it or something. But when she talks about wanting to punch a guy in the face while he's having sex with her or about buying a truck because there's enough room in the cab to make out but not to have sex, or having a "can you start my orange?" approach to life, I just think "HOW DO YOU KNOW ME?!"

  • Three_nineteen

    I think I can still quote large parts of "Himself" from memory. My parents had almost all his albums, which I listened to obsessively. They also had "Class Clown", so that introduced me to Carlin. HBO supplied me with lots of other comics, including Robert Klein, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Stephen Wright, and Larry Miller. I haven't seen a lot of women mentioned, so I want to give a shout-out to Rita Rudner, Paula Poundstone, and Carol Leifer, whose regular routine was banned from TV for a while for grabbing her own breast.

    I saw Larry Miller live in the 1990s, and his brain seized with about 15 minutes left to go and he couldn't remember the rest of his set. So I got to here live his "Five Levels of Drinking" bit, which everyone should see.


  • John W

    Well I wasn't planning on doing anything for awhile.

    Man I miss Emily Litella, Baba Wawa, Roseanne Roseannadanna, Mudbone and the difference between football and baseball....

  • emmalita

    "Never mind" - Emily Litella

  • googergieger

    Damn you mother suckas is old.

  • kildarepaul

    Robin Williams - live at theMet on Cassette. I wore that out at 13. What made the most impact though was one night in early 95 I was house sitting for my uncle who had Uk TV via cable ( at home we had only the TWO Irish state channels!) and Channel 4 had a tribute night to a recently deceased commedian I'd never heard of called Bill Hicks. A documentary called "Just a Ride" followed by his live show Relentless. I was hooked. Then I was angry that there would be no more. His 20th anniversary is next Feburary.

  • Milly

    Eddie Izzard - Definite Article


    Listened to this so much that my speech pattern mimicked his. On occasion it still does.

  • LexieW

    After a 1997 Thanksgiving meal, my whole extended (black) family conspired to get my very conservative, proper, ladylike grandmother to go take a nap so the rest of us could watch Chris Rock's "Bring the Pain".
    She still talks to this day about waking up to the loudest, most uproariest laughter she's ever heard. She was overjoyed at the thought of her children and grandchildren being together and sharing such an obviously good time. She came downstairs just as the bit about "Black folks vs. n*ggers" came on.
    She was shocked silent, but since we were all having such a good time, she managed to put away her smelling salts and recover from the vapors enough to join us.
    I still laugh my ass off at that special. Chris Rock is a smart guy.

  • Salieri2
  • First standup album I ever heard was Steve Martin's ground breaking "Let's Get Small". It had a profound effect on me even though I didn't know it was about drugs until later. i just loved his delivery and he seemed to be having such a good time on stage. If you've never heard it you can find it on CD or MP3, I highly recommend it. Completely surreal comedy.

    Other comedians I would say that have had an affect on me: Eddie Murphy, Sam Kinnison, Chris Rock, Denis Leary, George Carlin, Steven Wright, Eddie Izzard, Brian Regan, Bill Cosby and Janeane Garofalo. I know I'm leaving out the ladies for the most part but if we are just talking about stand up acts I can't think of any that really made me take notice other than Janeane. And man did I have a crush on her.

  • "Were the plumbers coming tonight, or..."

  • emmalita

    My parents introduced me to Richard Pryor, Monty Python, and George Carlin, but Steve Martin was the one I discovered and introduced to them. I had no idea what he was talking about most of the time, but his delivery had me mimicking him for years.

  • ferryman

    Up vote for the only other mention of Sam Kinison so far. I want my records back!

  • ,


  • Bert_McGurt

    I've been a big fan of stand-up for a long time, dating back to the four-channel days growing up in rural Canada. The CBC was particularly dedicated to comedy programming, and The Red Green Show, This Hour has 22 Minutes, and the annual Just for Laughs specials were something that everyone could watch and enjoy, which was a rarity at the time. And out of that came two particular influences.

    The first I've actually never seen do a proper stand-up set. I don't even know if he does them. But his rants came pretty close, and Rick Mercer showed me (years before I'd even HEARD of Jon Stewart) that comedians could have a purpose beyond just making an audience laugh - that they could make them think, and that sometimes the silliest guy in the room is also the sharpest. And he's still doing it.

    The other will come as no surprise to regular Pajibans. I'd first caught him on one of those Just for Laughs specials (where I also was first introduced to Steven Wright, who I have to imagine was one of his influences), but the first time I saw Mitch Hedberg do Mitch All Together I was just floored. He had such a strange way of looking at things, so literal and yet so nonsensical. It was like he'd created the routine just for me. I still wish he hadn't left us so soon.

  • AudioSuede

    One time in 11th grade my parents and I were eating dinner and they kept giving me strange looks when I talked. Finally my mom was like, "Why are you talking like that?" I was so confused. Apparently, I was slurring my words, speaking in weird, rambling cadences, and generally acting like I was totally baked.

    I had just watched Mitch Hedberg for the first time the night before. To this day, every time I see or hear Mitch Hedberg, I talk like him for days afterward.

  • tmoney

    Dana Carvey's pronunciation of broccoli is something that has stuck with me for a very long time. I'm pretty sure that video and 90's Comedy Central standup are why I have the most peculiar sense of humor. Well, that and watching Monty Python when I was 11.

  • annie

    The first time I really got standup was Eddie Izzard's Dressed to Kill, maybe five years after it came out. I'm going to enjoy coming back to this post when I have a chance to digest every video on here.

  • Another one on rotation (along with all things Izzard) in my house. The boys quote it all the time.

  • JoannaRobinson

    Dress To Kill was a VERY close second for me. It's certainly the routine I've watched the most.

  • AudioSuede

    "Definite Article" was such a landmark for me in understanding storytelling and improvisation in stand-up. Eddie Izzard is a genius.

  • emmalita

    Jesus and the dinosaurs kills me every time!

    eta: Sorry, that's in Circle, not Dress to Kill.

  • Torgotronic

    Saw Cosby in 1968 (!) live and remember it to this day as an absolute scream; plus, he was and is proof that your routine can be clean as a whistle and still kill. "Himself" needs to go in a time capsule. I think of the bit about his wife giving birth ("I want morphine!") and chuckle to myself at least once a month.

  • Idle Primate

    I grew up in the 70s with cosby records loved dearly. I always wonder why he seems like the only comedian who can get through a routine without sex drugs or cursing.

  • baboocole

    One of my first memories as a little girl of about three, around 1986, is peeking around the corner after I was put to bed, watching Eddie Murphy Delirious from around the side of the couch. My parents had a copy, probably on Betamax, and would watch it over and over. I eventually got busted out when I started singing the "I got some ice cream" song and they asked me where I had heard it. Eddie Murphy was my first crush...as a three year old white toddler.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Delirious, as completely non-PC as it is (I just think of the Mr. T "start fuuuucking" bit) was probably the first stand up set that I watched over and over. We got the tape on spring break of my freshman year and quoted it for the rest of college.

    "Ah, my shoe!"

  • LexieW

    I discovered Delirious when I was 20, and it became a staple of my college dorm. "MA! Throw me some money!"

  • apsutter

    I came to really love stand-up when I was 18 or 19 and I first fell in love with Patton. I was so bummed he only had an album or two out but then I found his seemingly forgotten "222" album and I listened to that thing so many damned times. Then I went out and fell in love with Carlin, Rock, Chappelle, Hicks, Louis, Gaffigan, and now Aziz and Donald Glover are doing some great things too.

  • AudioSuede

    My parents and I (I'm an only child, obvs) loved comedy and stand up when I was a kid. But because most of my childhood was so frustrating, I've blocked a lot of those days out. I know that I used to go to shows occasionally with my parents when we could afford them and they were clean enough, but the only ones that I still remember from being really young featured a novelty song comedian you might know named Heywood Banks.

    Heywood Banks is a silly, silly man, whose family-friendly material never got much racier than songs about dead cats. But probably his most famous routine, and the one my parents and I used to quote most often, is "Toast" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?.... For those who don't know, that song is just him drumming on a toaster with forks and then screaming about toast. It's as lame and basic as it gets, but breakfast in our house was almost impossible to get through without someone at least muttering, or more often screaming, "YEAH TOAST!"

    It's telling to me that when my wife and I were in our first year of dating, she made a "Toast" reference, and she was the first person outside my parents that I knew who'd ever referenced that fucking song, and it blew my mind.

    There were other comedians who held my attention back then, like Weird Al and Monty Python, and in high school I discovered Stella and Patton Oswalt and Brian Posehn and I started to realize that anybody could do standup if they wanted to, and in college I started doing it myself, but so much of my humor as a kid could be summed up by one goofy song about breakfast by a weird-looking white nerd named Heywood Banks.

  • We have many Heywood Banks songs/routines on our computer, and my kid loves them. So, naturally, when it comes to Sunday breakfast, there is a chorus of Yeah, TOAST!

  • tmoney

    Oh my god, that's his name! My brother and I heard the toast song when we were young, and to this day, I have never even brought it up with anyone, thinking I was a total wierdo. Thank you for the funny memory. YEAH TOAST!

  • e jerry powell

    I always forget how awesome Billy Connolly is, because we just don't see him often enough.

  • Carlin of course. I think it was the "Back in NY" special that I saw first, but I'm not sure.

    Cosby's "Himself" was unavoidable, not that you'd want to.

    Eddie Murphy's "Delirious" and "Raw" were quoted CONSTANTLY in my house. I think I taped "RAW" off of the TV by holding a boom box up to the speaker.

    My freshman year brought on Dice (this would be 1990) but at the same time I was discovering Brian Regan (an absolute genius who I cannot believe wasn't given a major TV show when they were handing them out to EVERYONE in the 90s) and one of my personal favorite albums, Stephen Wright's "I Have A Pony".

    EDIT: I just remembered that my step-dad and I wore out tapes of Tim Allen's "Men Are Pigs" and Robin Harris' One Night Stand.

  • luvtheshoes

    George Carlin will always have a special place in my heart. I was also one of those "movie quote" people. Probably only one of the few 2nd graders in the world who had Stripes taped onto a cassette to listen back to the audio when it wasn't on tv. (What the heck was my mother thinking letting a 2nd grader watch Stripes?) I was introduced to George Carlin, though, by my beloved grandmother when I was 12 years old. Talk about blowing the doors off your mind. My humor and worldview comes from those standups of Carlin. And every time I hear his voice, I'm transported not only to times laughing my butt off with my grandmother but I also feel like she's still here, saying "uh uh" and "amen" to his screeds and reminding me to thumb my nose at the fakes and the phonies and the sheep in the herd.

  • wojtek

    I've loved stand-up for quite some time, but I think I only saw my first truly resonant (I think it's too late for "formative") set this year. It was Simon Amstell's "Do Nothing", and within the first 5 minutes he said this:

    "We're running, and everyone else I think is one with the moment, one with joy, one with the universe, and I'm there, as we're running, thinking 'Well, this will probably make a good memory...' Which is living in the future, discussing the past with someone who if they asked you 'Oh what did it feel like?' [you'd go] 'I don't know, I was thinking of what I'd say to you.'"

    We bonded very deeply over the course of that set.

  • rio

    I love LOOOOVE Simon Amstell, since Never Mind The Buzzcocks and even more now. He just keeps growing as a comedian and as a human being and it's amazing to watch and pee-inducing.

  • TK

    Simon Amstell is one of the brilliant, underrated (at least in the US) comics of this generation. His bit on living alone consistently destroys me.

    "I am now watching... the least ethical porn... I used to say to people that I can watch pornography as long as the people were clearly smiling and enjoying what they are doing and that is not the case anymore."

    Good call.

  • BWeaves

    My parents bought me two George Carlin LPs back in the early 1970s. I just about wore them out. When Carlin was the very first host of SNL, I stayed up late to watch it. What I liked was that he didn't tell jokes. He observed life and just talked about it. It was my introduction to stream of consciousness type comedy.

    I got to see him live at my university, and the audience were a bunch of dickweeds, and he pretty much did his show and left. I was a bit disappointed, but I didn't blame him one bit. I wouldn't have put up with the shit my fellow students were giving him, either.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    I am SO glad I got to see George Carlin live. What an awesome dude.

  • PerpetualIntern

    "Dead dog lyin in a ditch, cigarette smoker's got an itch"

    My sister and I would randomly walk around the house singing that. Kind of creepy out of context.

  • jerseyginger

    I ushered a Bill Cosby show over the weekend. Basically did an updated, grumpier "Himself" but it was still great.

  • Yossarian

    Well, I remember a cassette tape of Andrew Dice Clay that got passed around the bus stop in 6th grade and I remember when everyone listened to those Adam Sander albums but neither of those were very formative.

    I also remember discovering Lenny Bruce in high school, by way of Dustin Hoffman in the Bob Fosse film Lenny. That film was a revelation. I remember buying it on VHS (off this new web site called eBay) and then going on to seek out the actual comedy albums and live performances of Lenny Bruce. I even read his book "How to Talk Dirty and Influence People".

    The humor was very dated and his manic delivery with heavy use of hip '50s slang took effort to decode but I wore those tapes out. I used to listen to them while I stayed up late writing term papers in high school and would sometimes try to work words, phrases, or references to Lenny Bruce bits into my papers (I did this with Bad Religion vocabulary words, too) not that anyone but me would get them, but just because it was fun.

    You know, now that you mention it this really does explain a lot...

  • $32857398

    The only reason I'm not having the entire first paragraph tattooed on my back is that I have epilepsy so tattoos are off-limits to me.

  • Salieri2

    Really? Whyfor? (I mean, I could Google it, but I like a good story.)

  • $32857398

    Well, for some people the tattoo *might* induce seizures, especially if the epilepsy is stress-induced, like mine. I really want to get one thought, but I want to clear with my doctor first.

  • Salieri2

    "Might"? Damn, can they narrow that down at all? That sucks, amandafg, I'm sorry. What if you knocked back some kava tea first?

  • Fredo

    Don Rickles, George Carlin, Eddie Murphy, Bill Hicks, Chris Rock, Louis CK.

  • apsutter

    Oh man...Bill Hicks

  • seth

    Bill Hicks not on list? List invalid.

  • gunnertec

    gagree - no hicks. no good.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Why don't you regale us with the Hicks bit that meant the most to you and ADD to the list instead of invalidating it?

  • Guest

    It's influential routines of THEIR youth. Jesus.

  • Louise

    Robert Klein: Mind Over Matter


  • Gigi

    I was just talking about Bill Cosby and the whole making chocolate cake for the kids for breakfast routine. I probably will never forget how funny that was ever.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    My father loved to quote this bit.

  • My husband and sons do it, too. That is a timeless story.

  • Maguita NYC

    Chocolate cake for breakfast! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

  • DarthCorleone

    For whatever reason, I never got into stand-up. I could happen upon it and enjoy it from time to time - usually at the end of Tonight Show or Late Night back in the Carson/Letterman days - but it's never been something I went out of my way to watch.

    I will say this. If you need the self-help book, presumably you're not able to help yourself yet. In this case, if you found the book yourself, you wouldn't need it anymore.

  • kirbyjay

    George Carlin, George Carlin, George Carlin. I can listen to him anytime, anywhere, anyhow. I first heard him around 1971. We played the shit out of Toledo Window Box and the hippy dippy weatherman. He didn't tell jokes, he made observations about our fucked up world and I hung on every word. Still miss him.

    Cheech and Chong were big then too and I can still quote just about every line from Big Bambu. I still get the warm and fuzzies when I see Tommy Chong on That 70s Show.

  • NateMan

    I had the great pleasure to meet Bill Cosby a couple years ago, shake the man's hand, and have an actual conversation with him. He was just... Well, he was pretty great. Warm, kind to a peon he was probably never going to see again, and just... Nice. It's a longer story for another time, but I'll never forget shaking his hand.

  • SottoVoce

    I'd be happy to read about it now, if you're inclined to share.

  • Maguita NYC

    This could be a great suggestion for Mrs. Julien's Comment Diversion: Our brush with famous people, and how they impacted our views... or something.

    You should totally submit it. Because I'd like to hear the story about your meeting Mr. Cosby. Which btw, was also very kind and funny towards my brother.

  • NateMan

    Well, I can tell it now that I'm home and my kid's in bed and I have a few minutes, since you and Sotto were kind enough to ask... :)

    So, I've mentioned before I work at a major University here in MA. (Hint: It starts with a U and ends with a Mass and is often referred to as a Zoo.) About 4 years ago I worked with their Physical Plant, and outside of my regular job I was a driver for bigwigs on campus. When the Chancellor or Provost or VC needed to get to or from the airport, or had an event to go to, they'd often have someone drive them. Sometimes it made sense, other times it seemed a waste of funds. But hey, I was earning OT so I didn't mind. It was early spring, sugaring season to be precise, and the Provost - whose name I cannot for the life of me remember - was going to dinner at the Cosby residence and wanted a driver. So, being youngish and charming I got picked to do it.

    Now, Mr. & Mrs. Cosby have had a house in Shelburne Falls for years. The town is very artsy and gets a good crowd of hippies, artists, and farmers, and is a pretty cool place. It's where RDJ is filming The Judge, actually. It also happens to be right across the river (on one of the prettiest bridges you ever did see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B... ) from the town where I grew up. So, cool. I'd drop her off, go visit my folks, and get paid good money to do it. And then pick her up and drive her home after.

    A lot of people I know have worked for Mr. Cosby on one job or another. My uncle repainted the interior of his house a few years back. A contractor I know did a ton of work for him and even took him for a ride on his Harley back a couple decades ago. But I'd never met the man, though I'd driven by his place plenty of times. And let me tell you, it's something to see. He owns a buttload of land, and at least 5 acres surrounding his house could be a golf course, the grounds are so immaculate. It's also got a beautiful stone fence around it with a sign at the gate that reads: "If you aren't invited, don't come in." Not something I can blame him for, though the locals don't need to be told. We believe in privacy up here.

    To make a long story slightly less long, I dropped off the Provost and went to visit my folks, and returned a couple hours later. I was waiting in the car, reading whatever the latest Jim Butcher book at the time was, when there was a knock on the window. It was Mr. Cosby's assistant. He said, "Mr. Cosby would like to invite you inside."

    I was a little uncomfortable at the idea of meeting him - I'd always been a fan of his, but I didn't want to disturb the man at home. He was a person to me, not a celebrity, probably because I'd grown up not 15 minutes away from his house. But I didn't see a polite way to refuse, so I said thank you and went inside.

    The house is stunning. A mix of Colonial and Victorian, basically, a large sprawling farmhouse with lots of stonework. The kitchen is insane, and one I'd sell my soul to own. Lots of copper and stone, thick butcher block counter tops if I remember correctly, the biggest stove/oven you've ever seen. Beautiful, but very simple too, which I appreciated.

    I was standing in there when in walked Mr. Cosby with the Provost. He was dressed in traditional African garb, long flowing robes (and forgive me, because I can't remember the proper name for them either). The first thing that struck me was how old and tired he looked. It was about 10PM, and he had clearly had a long day.He was in his early 70s at that point, remember, and he hadn't been much on TV lately so I was still picturing him from the Cosby Show. One eye points off in entirely the wrong direction now, and he looked a bit, well, frail. But he walked right up to me, introduced himself, and shook my hand. His hand was dry and his grip firm, practiced but also very friendly. I fully admit to being a little starstruck, though I'm pleased to say I didn't stutter when I said hello and introduced myself. We talked for a few minutes as the Provost got ready to go and he was light and joking the whole time. It was very clear that every one of his faculties was still fully intact. He asked if I was hungry and wanted something to eat for the road, and I told him no thank you, that I had eaten with my parents.

    Mr. Cosby is apparently unwilling to hear the word "No," and so the next thing I know he's pressing a piece of homemade corn bread into my hands, and then a plate with a piece of lemon meringue pie. And I looked at him, and at the plate, and then back at him, and I swear to every God you can think of I had to bite the inside of my cheeks to stop from exploding into howls of laughter. Because, while growing up, my mother had always made lemon meringue pie out of Jello pudding mix. So here was Bill Cosby straight out of Jello commercial, wearing what looked an awful lot like a night-dress and forcing me to take a piece of pie. It was like the night crystallized into this perfect moment of dry, absurdist humor, and I will never, ever forget it. It took something mundane on many levels and just made it... Well, memorable. And I think he could tell I was trying not to laugh, because he had a certain gleam in his eye that told me he knew what I was thinking.

    I drove the Provost home soon after and then went home to my then-fiance and now wife. She asked me how the night went, and I looked at her, and dissolved into the laughter that I'd been holding back for the last several hours. I laughed until my sides hurt and between bouts of uncontrollable giggling I told her what had happened, and why I was holding a piece of pie, covered over with tin foil.

    It was damn good pie, too. That man knows how to hire a cook.

    So, that's my story, and I promise every word of it is true. It was absurd and spectacular, and a little sad to see him so old, but then just plain funny and warm as soon as he spoke. It really made me cognizant, in some ways, of how some celebrities, the good ones anyway, really are just plain ol' people too. Mr. Cosby has been involved in controversies in the past, and he has his flaws the same as the rest of us. But he was nice to a 28yr old redneck with a shaved head and bushy beard, a guy he didn't even have to say hello to, and went out of his way to make me feel welcome. That showed class and grace, two things I will always respect.He took himself from almost nothing to a King of Comedy, and hasn't forgotten himself along the way. I will always, always appreciate that opportunity. I might not have gotten his autograph but I got a damn fine piece of pie and one hell of a memory, and that's good enough for me.

  • denesteak

    this is amazing. Thanks for being so detailed with it. Amazing.

    Also, I second that comment diversion... though, haven't we done it before? I sort of recall it, but maybe it's just from reading so many comment threads and these stories do pop up every now and then.

  • Maguita NYC

    Dude! I did not know you were this frigging awesome story teller! I read every word and loved it.

    The fact that you describe the kitchen and the feel of it so eloquently just made my day. I now want to see Bill Cosby's gynormous oven. Thank you for this lovely story!

  • NateMan

    Thank you for the compliment. :) It's an incredibly vivid memory, so it's an easy one to tell!

  • Mrs. Julien

    I was raised on Bill Cosby, specifically, To Russell, My Brother Whom I Slept With, but also Why Is There Air, Wonderfulness, Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow, Right? and I Started Out as a Child. I have a clear memory of watching Himself on the new miracle of PayTV. My sister and I were crippled with laughter.

    Cosby is engrained in me, my siblings, and my parents. I used to play the "To Russell" routine for my advanced ESL students.

  • Salieri2

    Street football:

    "Cosby, you go down to Third Street, catch the J bus. Have him open´╗┐ the doors at 19th street. I'll fake it to you."

  • kirbyjay

    Mr. Kirbyjay was a Cosby aficionado as well and can quote and mimic every line from To Russell..... wasn't that the one where he talked about Sheldon Leonard? and the great swan dive?

  • "For me, for many of us, early kinship with other people came from quoting the same stand-up routines and giggling over the same jokes."

    This is absolutely true. Some of my best friends from college were made over Simpsons quotes and references to SNL parody commercials.

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