Monday, April 23, 2007

The 5 (six) Most Successful Stand Up Comics

2.5 Chris Rock – One really great stand up, Bring the Pain (1996), one great/very good stand up, Bigger and Blacker (1999) and one stand up that I don’t remember being very good, Never Scared (2004). Unfortunately, Rock hasn’t had a great deal of success outside of his stand up.

Rock’s most notable movie is Lethal Weapon 4, playing second fiddle to Danny Glover and Mel Gibson, and opposite Joe Pesci. However, this SNL and In Living Color alumni has been in other hit movies such as Dogma, Doctor Dolittle, and Madagascar. His resume of Hollywood flops is more extensive: Beverly Hills Ninja, Pootie Tang, Osmosis Jones (which I actually didn't hate), The Longest Yard, and most recently I Think I Love My Wife (written, directed by, and starring Chris Rock).

Rock is responsible for the TV series Everybody Hates Chris. As lame as the title is, an obvious rip off of Everybody Loves Raymond, it’s apparently a pretty successful show, though I’ve never seen it.

As a general rule with Chris Rock, whenever his face is on the screen or he’s involved creatively, it’s going to be a bomb (unless you add a second generation Jew hater, a washed-up and over-the-hill black guy, and a very little Italian man). If he’s providing his voice for a cartoon, it will suck. But if it’s a CG flick, then it’s a hit.

Chris Rock, like Murphy, also had a hit song “No Sex In the Champaign Room”, which was a spoof of Baz Lurhman’s “Sunscreen”. Currently, Rock has Bee-Movie in post-production, Madagascar 2 filming, and 2 other announced projects. He’s a very funny guy, and he gets plenty of work. The main reason he’s on the list is because his stand ups. Lets not forget, this is the guy that mainstreamed the term “salad tossin’”.

2. Jerry Seinfeld – A household name, due to his popular show about nothing. The show was an incredible success for many reasons, in my opinion largely because everybody could relate to it, not just the middle class. The show managed to last 180 episodes (that’s 9 seasons) because of Seinfeld’s ability to take an everyday situation and turn it into something outrageously funny.

The show produced numerous stars, such as Michael Richards (starred in the Weird Al cult classic UHF), Jason Alexander (played opposite Jack Black in Shallow Hal), Wayne Knight (Newman), and Patrick Warburton (Putty) to name just a few. Putty has some great quotes from the show, my favorite being when he got his new 8-ball coat: Elaine - “You’re not going to wear that thing all the time, are you?” Putty - “All signs point to yes!”

Seinfeld has a few stand ups, but the only one I’ve seen, I’m Telling You for the Last Time, debuted on HBO in 1998. There’s nothing that stands out from that stand up, just some great comedy from one of the greatest comics of all time.

Seinfeld has been laying low since the show ended, and has been living off the DVD sales, which slumped during the Michael Richards incident. As of late, Seinfeld has been involved in the sure-to-be smash hit Bee-Movie, putting down a voice for one of the bees as well as writing and producing.

1. Eddie Murphy - The only stand up comic with 2 really great stand up specials, Raw (1987) and Delirious (1983). Ed got his break on SNL doing impressions of Buckwheat, Gumby, and the late great hardest working man in show-business James Brown (too hot in the hot tub!). Many people say that he is the most successful SNL alumnus. Classic bits of his stand up routine include impressions of his drunken Puerto Rican father, Stevie Wonder, Bill Cosby, rants on gays, Michael Jackson, not to mention his incredible and classic “nerdy white guy” impressions.

He made some great non-family movies in the early part of his Hollywood career, such as 48 Hours, Another 48 Hours, the Beverly Hills Cop trilogy, Coming To America, Trading Places, and Vampire In Brooklyn. After Vamp in Brooklyn, he started acting in family oriented movies, such as Mulan, The Nutty Professor, Doctor Dolittle, and numerous Shrek projects.

Recently, Murphy has been doing more Oscar-worthy movies, and has signed on for some Romeo and Juliet film, another family comedy currently named Nowhereland, and Shrek 4 (due in 2010). Something tells me that Ed is preparing for his next divorce, being as he has 5 announced projects over the next 3 years.

And let's not forget his hit song of 1986 "Party All The Time" (#7 out of 100 on the Billboard Charts for the year).

Honorable Mention (in no particular order): Andrew “Dice” Clay (anything he's done, even his new show), Artie Lange (Beer League, It's The Whiskey Talkin, every day he's on the Stern Show), Dane Cook (I don't care how many people "don't get" his comedy), Sarah Silverman (Jesus is Magic), Dave Letterman, Sam Kinison, Jim Breuer, Mitch Hedberg, Dave Attell, Lisa Lampanelli, George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Jim Carrey, Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, Joan Rivers, Adam Sandler, Lewis Black, Kathy Griffin, Jeff Foxworthy, Howie Mandel, Norm MacDonald, Drew Carey, Dana Carvey, Louis C.K., Gallagher, Janeane Garofalo, Colin Quinn, Denis Leary, Gilbert Gottfried, Tim Allen, Bill Maher, Andy Kaufman, and Reverend Bob Levy.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The 5 Most Successful Stand Up Comics

Criteria for being on this list; at least one classic stand up, and a successful career of any kind (be it stand up, movies, etc.)

5. Dave Chappelle – Still a relatively young comedian and actor, Chappelle had an insanely funny stand up, Killin’ Them Softly (2000), and a very successful TV show. Though he went legally insane for a while and moved to Africa (some say to kick some kind of addiction), he’s got a great mind for comedy.

Dave got his big break in Half Baked (which he also wrote), but sadly hasn’t done a single movie with a great deal of success since then. He does, however, have an “in-development” deal, which means it will be a couple years until we see something new from Dave, be it movie or TV series.

Killin’ Them Softly is wall-to-wall laughter, with subject matter that includes coming to grips with being famous, Bill Clinton’s blowjob scandal, the corruption of police and the government, and how bad ghettos have gotten. His wildly successful TV series had a great mix of music, stand up, and comedy bits (the most famous being the Rick James segments), not to mention the support of a very important demographic, high school and college students.

Chappelle has one other stand up, which I haven’t seen, For What It’s Worth (2004).

4. David Spade – One of the funniest stand up specials of all time, Take the Hit (1998). Although Take the Hit is the only stand up that’s been released by Spade, coupled with his very successful Hollywood career, it’s enough to land Spade a spot in my top 5.

This former SNL star has been on 2 great TV shows (excluding SNL), The Showbiz Show and Just Shoot Me. At first, I thought that he was nothing more than a Chris Farley sidekick, but shortly before Farley's death Spade decided to spread his wings, and eventually landed a spot on Just Shoot Me (playing the effeminate yet mouthy secretary for a popular fashion magazine). Spade has starred in some very funny movies such as Dickie Roberts, Black Sheep, Tommy Boy, PCU, and (written and starred in) Joe Dirt.

Take the Hit is a bit more topical than other stand ups, but I would say it still stands the test of time. JonBenet Ramsey, episiotomy operations, growing up in Arizona, teenage dating, and “…things that never happened, people I’ve never met” are some of the great Spade bits of this classic stand up. Plus, he has dated (is dating?) Heather Locklear.

3. Richard Pryor – This isn’t just the man that paved the way for “dirty” comics, he revolutionized stand up comedy. His stand up was the beginning of political in-correctness. He was able to inject humor into normally unfunny and racially tense situations, pointing out the absurdity of racism. The only super funny Pryor material I remember (from the 2 stand ups I’ve seen) would be the difference between a black guy and a white guy getting away from a snake.

Pryor had his own TV show for a short while, and did a few bad movies. His downfall was trying to get away from his roots of cursing and controversial material. Superman 3, The Muppet Movie, and Car Wash are a few of his more famous movies (and apparently, he was involved in writing Blazing Saddles). His more well known stand ups are Live in Concert (1979) and Live and Smokin’ (1971). Richard Pryor died in December 2005 of a heart attack in Los Angeles.

Coming Soon...the top 2 stand up comics, and runners up!