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Derek & Clive(Dudley Moore & Peter Cook) - Come Again
best comedy album of all time is tough. i'll have to think about it. for me, the highlights in american comedy are Bruce, Carlin, Pryor, Hicks and Stanhope. on the next tier i'd put Kinison, C.K., Hedberg, Cross, Rock, Murphy, Attell. as far as overseas, i know very little, but i like Izzard and Stewart Lee.
Are we talking comedy music albums, or do standup comedy albums count?
My favorite standup comedians, in the order they happen to cross my mind:
Most of the big legends I haven't heard enough from their prime to judge. One generation's cutting edge rebel is the next generation's 'That guy from the lame sitcom'. If you doubt me, watch clips from the younger years of Tim Allen, Ray Romano, Roseanne Barr, David Letterman.
Also all I know about Lenny Bruce is from a Dellilo novel in which he mostly screams out 'We're all gonna die' and rants about his legal problems.
Comedy is such a subjective thing. What's funny to one person is drivel to another. Don't believe me? Take a look at Dane Cook, Carlos Mencia, Jeff Dunham, or Larry the Cable Guy. They all have (or had) huge followings, but also have a large number of detractors.
On top of that, tastes in comedy can change over time. There was a time when I thought "Weird Al" Yankovic was hilarious, but now I'm not a fan. Conversely, there was a time when I could not stand Brian Regan, but I now like him.
That said, there seems to be certain standup comedians who seem to get carte blanche when it comes to criticism. Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, Sam Kinison, Rodney Dangerfield... (I'm sure I'm forgetting one or two "big" names here) They're all pretty much considered untouchable in the world of comedy.
There are actually a couple of standup comedy albums on the AM list, though they are only "bubbling under": Bob Newhart's "The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart" and Richard Pryor's "Bicentennial Nigger." I haven't really listened to much of the latter album, but the Newhart album is excellent. A bit dated, but excellent.
I own quite a few comedy albums, but the problem with all of them is that they don't really stand up to repeated listens. What was once hilarious is now not. Which is why comedians are constantly updating their act: to avoid staleness. But that said, here's a few that I own that I would recommend...
Lewis Black - THE CARNEGIE HALL CONCERT
Dave Attell - SKANKS FOR THE MEMORIES...
Steve Martin - A WILD AND CRAZY GUY
David Cross - SHUT UP, YOU FUCKING BABY!
Daniel Tosh - HAPPY THOUGHTS
Louis C.K. - HILARIOUS
Bill Hicks - RANT IN E-MINOR
Well said, Matt.
Dave Attell's "Skanks for the Memories" is a lot of immature, profane-heavy, shock-value filth that trowels the lowest moral ground. Jokes about eggnog ("elf cum"), eskimos ("snow mexicans") and legalizing sex with hot first-cousins is juvenile stuff, and in the hands of a lesser comic would not even warrant two minutes of attention. But by virtue of brilliant delivery, clever improvisation and unwillingness to accept any notion of political correctness, Attell delivers the comedy album I've returned to, by far, most often.
Incidentally, on RYM's chart of all-time best stand-up comedy albums, this - #26 - and #19 are the first on the list to earn multiple listens from me. (Then again, I am a diehard Seinfeld fan.)
Although, I think there's a big difference between having a huge following and keeping that huge following.
There's the comedians who manage to strike a particular nerve at a particular time, and there's comedians who have lasting appeal.
To add what Matt was saying, standup comedy doesn't age very well either. All my favorites are from the past 10 years.
Hagen Rether's "Hauptsache, ich werde gehört" (1999) still smooches nicely.. oh, and Volker Pispers.. the "Bis neulich" anthology... classics by the wachstum
1) Such a list would be in fact impossible to make for language reasons. Unless you think every one in the world speaks English ; so maybe you meant Best English speaking comedy albums of all-time ? ethnocentrism...
2) In France, Coluche and Desproges would take the lead, with maybe Raymond Devos and more recent stuff at their heels
That's true, comedy is more keyed to the specific language than music or film are.
For me with Weird Al, when I was a kid I liked everything he did, but now I think most of it is stupid but like his more topical songs. For instance, I think "Perform This Way" and "TMZ" off his new album are good, but the rest is bad. The thing with Weird Al is, sometimes he just takes a popular song and sings about food or just a bunch of random garbage. But, when he has a topic to focus on, he has clever things to say about it.
I don't think comedy has as short a shelf life as you do though. I remember when I was a teenager seeing a Dana Carvey standup routine on comedy central and thinking it was the funniest thing ever. Maybe the Dane Cooks and Carlos Mencias of the world have a short shelf life, but I think the real talents last longer.
Of course I wouldn't call it a comedy album per se, but The Mothers Of Invention's "We're Only In It For The Money" makes me laugh like no other. For example when in "Other People" he says "Do you think that I'm creepy?" in possibly the creepiest voice possible - it gets me every time.