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My Top 5 Favorite Stand-Up Comedians Of All Time

Updated on October 6, 2015
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George Carlin

I am sure everyone who is into stand-up comedy is familiar with George Carlin. This man is a legend. In fact, the next four comedians that I will write about have all cited George Carlin as a major inluence and you can actually see how they are influenced when you see their routines.

I first heard about him from the most unlikely source at the most unlikely time. I was listening to my jazz podcast (I was going through a jazz phase at that time, thinking that drinking coffee while listening to jazz was cool and was something I should do. Then I got sick of it), and the latest one that I downloaded on my ipod (this was around 2008, fans of George Carlin can probably guess where this is going from the year it self) was paying a tribute to him, since he has recently passed away. This made my curious as to who the man was. I also became in awe of him when I heard some of the routines he did that the podcast made us listen to. Here is one of them, this routine is title I am a modern man:

Now, before you get all excited to go on youtube and watch his other routines, I have to warn you, they are not exactly, how should I say this, "Hub-friendly" but George Carlin does not cuss without a purpose and all his bits contains gems of truth about society, the world and this darn life.

Judging from the routine that I posted of his up there, you can tell that George Carlin is a man who loves the english language, that is something that even he has admitted. He is well spoken, on stage and in real life.

Another one of his famous routines is called "seven words you can never say on tv." He did this bit on television, back in the days when those words were real taboos and were certainly not openly used on public television as they are now. In fact, some of the words are still considered to be taboo even now. Needless to say he got into a little bit of trouble, but when you see that routine, you will realize just how well-spoken he is, not because of how many bad words he knows, but how he described them. Oh hell, just watch the video on youtube at your own discretion.

What makes George Carlin stand out from many of his peers is that he is a pure stand-up comedian, his whole career has been as a stand-up comedian. Many stand-up comics who makes it big, traditionally goes hollywood, makes movies or tv shows, except for maybe The George Carlin show which lasted for 2 seasons and got cancelled. Since then, George stuck with his trade till his last breath. Never ventured to Hollywood. Also he created the term Brain-Droppings. Genius.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much. We have multiplied our possessions but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We've learned how to make a living but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years.

— George Carlin (1937-2008)
Louis CK is one of Time's 100 most influential People. Why not?
Louis CK is one of Time's 100 most influential People. Why not? | Source

Louis CK

Louis CK is widely regarded by many to be the best contemporary stand-up comedian right now. Also, since George Carlin's demise, many regard him to be the rightful torch bearer. Unlike, George Carlin however Louis CK is quite a different animal all together. His routines are much more mellow and he has a rather defeatist appearance and outlook.

If you see his stature, he looks like a person who spends way too much time being a couch potato, watching tv, munching on Cheetos. But do not be fooled by that facade. That is just what makes him all the more special. You will never guess what a genius this man is by his appearance.

He has followed George Carlin in the sense that, he will never use the same routine twice. Every time he makes a special he, like his mentor, will never use the same routine twice. His routines are also long, well thought out and acted and properly tailored. But I don't think he will be able to pull off or make another "I am a modern man" bit like George did. I do not think he is THAT well spoken.

His thoughts on marriage and raising kids are edgy and it is a topic which he always discuss during his stand up specials, being a divorced and how it is to raise two daughters.

Another thing that puts Louis CK on this list is his famous show titled Louie, which is loosely based on his life as a stand up comedian in New York. It is probably the most unique TV show I have ever seen, based on how it is written, shot and the dialogues, the way the story uncovers. The fact that he changes the cast playing as his ex wife all the time is just so out there. In one episode his wife is a Caucasian, in another it is played by an African-American. If you ask Louis CK why, he will simply ask you back "why not?"

Here's a bit where he talks about Cellphones and Flying, the language is a little bit NSFW, but his really makes a good point about being grateful:

Here is one my favourite scenes from Louie

Bill Burr

If there is one way to describe this comic genius it has to be unique. The way he thinks about current issues, is really unique. He offers an alternate perspective on things that not many people have thought of. The beauty of it? he does it while giving the impression that he is a shallow guy with no IQ.

Here is clip of him sharing his thoughts on Oprah's Lance Armstrong interview when Lance Armstrong was found guilty of consuming steroids:

Bill Burr is the one stand-up comedian that makes me always go "hmm, interesting, I have never thought of it that way." And I know I am not the only one who does this. How do I know? well, many a times during his stand ups, the audience falls into a hush silence after he does his bit, because they are all, like me, going "hmmm, I have never thought of it that way." And then Bill Burr will need to say something like "was that too weird?" and they will all laugh in unison.

The thing about his routine is that his jokes are as powerful and as mind blowing as the truth and perspective that it contains, in that we do not know whether to laugh or to just sit there and think over what we have been led to believe by the majority and the media. Similar, like the two comedians I mentioned previously, he is a protege of Mr. Carlin. Always with the lengthy, mind blowing routine, the once in a life time bit, never to be repeated. An HBO Special..is well..special.

Bill Burr stands out because of the alternate perspective that he gives to the audience and his listeners. Yes listeners. Bill Burr also has a weekly podcast for people who cannot get enough of him, and trust me, there is a lot of people who cannot get enough him. If any, we need more of him! Bill Burr for president!!

Jim Jeffries

This person should definitely be on this list. I have a personal nickname for Jim Jeffries-Drunken Master. The reason, as you have probably guessed, is because he always gets on stage wasted. Save for his latest special titled Fully Functional, which he did after he stopped drinking. Thankfully, it did not do any harm to his comedic talent.

The reason why I love Jefferies have to be because of how outrageous his routine can be, thanks to his drunken approach towards it, but if you don't mind the outrageous way he puts things together, what you will witness and listen to is pure gold.

I also love the way he delivers his routine, very conversational like and the way he moves on from one bit to the next is very smooth. I don't know if I can put any of his videos here, since I can't find even one that is even remotely Hub-friendly. So I suggest that you view it at your own discretion on youtube.

Todd Barry
Todd Barry | Source

Todd Barry

There is one reason, and one reason only why Todd Barry makes it on this list and my god what a reason it is. That reason is none other than his brilliant masterpiece called "crowd work tour" unlike the traditional stand up setup, where the comic performs his routine on stage and the crowd is told to keep quiet and listen. Crowd work relies only on improvising. In it, Todd Barry, chats up the crowd. It is totally unrehearsed and Todd Barry has to think on his feet.

Another trademark Todd Barry is his ultra smooth delivery. This guy delivers his bit as smooth as a model advertising beer with a smooth jazz music playing in the background. That kind of smooth. Very smooth and slow. He delivers his bit at his own pace. And that pace is sloth like.

What makes this crowd work tour so special is two things, improvising and thinking on one's feet. And Todd Barry is a master of both. Here is a clip from Crowd Work:

Some other Brilliant Stand-Ups

There are some other brilliant stand ups that are worth taking note but I did not decide to put here, because I don't find them to be very consistent, they are sometimes funny sometimes disappointing. Or may be it is just my taste I guess.

Some other comedians are Bill Cosby who is active until now. He made a comedy special title Far From Finished in 2013 which tells us that he is far from finished indeed. I do find him entertaining, but I don't find him edgy and thought provoking, unlike the rest of the stand up acts up there.

Another comic that I do find very good is Jerry Seinfeld, however, he has not been very active today and is rather reclusive, which is sad given that he has so much talent and so much more specials inside of him. I guess he has chosen the path of resting on his laurels from all the money he made and is still making from the legendary sitcom that bears his name. Another bonus when it comes to Seinfeld is that he is clean. Very Hub-friendly.

As you may have guess if you bothered seeing all the videos I posted up there, you will notice that I have a taste for a certain type of a comedian. I am very choosy. I consider Carlin, CK and Burr to be the holy trinity of stand comedy right now. They are truly the best at what they do and master of their arts.

I sometimes wonder what would George Carlin say if he saw that Donald Trump wants to run for president. My god the jokes he could have made on that alone would be worth the money.

I shall end this hub by showing you a video of Seinfeld receiving an award, and showing the crowd how different is a comedian from other famous people and how their way of thinking is vastly different from the rest of us, enjoy:

New Up and Coming Stand-Up Comedians That You Should Check Out

Aside from those big names that I have mentioned above, there are also the new ones promising to be the next big thing, ensuring us that the tradition of stand ups will live on for the next generations to come. Here are some of them:

The first Is Daniel Sloss, who hails from Scotland, he is just 25 years old and he is already making a name for himself. He is a child-prodigy in this sense. The next Craig Ferguson? Probably. Here are some of his videos, enjoy!

Another up and coming comedian that I am really rooting for, is a person by the name of Jerrod Carmichael. This guy could be the next Dave Chappelle, he has that laid back style. I just hope that, unlike Dave, he just doesn't disappear into thin air like Dave did. That is why I did not put Dave on my list-because he quit. Not cool Dave, not cool. Jerrod has his own show now, so I guess he is doing all the right things and if you see his videos, you know he is definitely making all the right moves.

Last but not least, Ron Funches, He is an upcoming comedic genius and he is....adorable, you just wish to hug him for the teddy bear that he is. The mellow teddy bear that he is. This guy is very very mellow. If you think Todd Barry was a sloth, then Ron Funches is a sloth high on weed. Yes he has spoken on his consuming weed from time to time he also has a son who is autistic which makes you feel more for the guy and makes you go "yea I think he needs to smoke a weed or two every now and then." Anyway, here is the comic genius in action:

Well, I guess that will be all for now. I might update have to update this hub again, as I love watching stand ups and I am sure I am bound to bump into another hidden talent somewhere on the internet. Till then this will have to do.

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    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks for sharing these great comedic minds Suraj. You introduced me to Jim Jeffries in another of your hubs. I watched his take on American's and Gun Control..hillarious and lots of rather strong language but he makes very good points. I have always been a George Carlin fan too. One other Australian comedian you may like to check on You Tube is Carl Barron, probably our most popular stand up comedian. He is much different to most of these as he has a quieter humour, is very laid back, and relies a lot on facial expressions etc. Cheers.

    • suraj punjabi profile image
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      suraj punjabi 2 years ago from jakarta

      drbj thank you for the thoughtful comment. Robin Williams is great, the reason why I did not put him on my list was because I can never catch up with him, he is too fast, that I cannot understand what he is saying. I do love his movies though, Dead Poet Society is one of my favorite movies. I love how versatile he is, he is good in a humorous role as well as serious roles.

      Paula Yes, now I am thinking why wait till my next life, all I need is someone in America who is willing to sponsor my visa and I can go there the very next day. Interested in being my sponsor? haha. Thank you for reading and leaving me a thoughtful comment. Take care.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      suraj.......Besides our 5 vital senses that play a major role in our humanness, I have always believed two others most important to our very life are "common sense" & a "sense of HUMOR."

      Comedy, humor and lots of laughter are part of my daily life. I am quite sure I would not have become the person I am without it.

      I am a huge fan of all the genius comedians you mention here. Especially Carlin (may he rest in laughter) and Bill Burr....OMG, is he not the funniest stand-up on the planet? I can watch his videos non-stop, marathon style and never tire of him. I do wear myself out in fits of hysterical laughter. He is outrageously hilarious. What is most impressive is that he writes his own routines.....

      I thoroughly enjoyed this hub. Yes, suraj.....you know what? you're absolutely right. We Americans have an amazing culture. Hope to see you in an Anerican comedy club in your next life!! Peace, Paula

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 2 years ago from south Florida

      Happy I found this excellent comedic summary, suraj. George and Jerry are two of my favorite comedians as well. And I would add Robin Williams to the top spot. Never saw nor heard a comic as quick-witted nor topical as Robin. Thanks for the fun.

    • suraj punjabi profile image
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      suraj punjabi 2 years ago from jakarta

      Bill, yes he definitely was. His daughter recently wrote a book about his father from her point of view, offering a glimpse behind the curtain if you will. It has become a bestseller. I think you should check it out. You guys in America have such an amazing culture. Stand up comics, literature, movies, music. I hope I will be an American in my next life.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I've seen all of these and I agree with you...Carlin may have been the best I've ever seen. The man was not only funny but he was brilliant...great combination.