The Best Stand-Up Comic in America (and Others You Should Check-Out)
by Scott Long
Many readers have asked me in the past to give my opinions on who are my favorite standup comedians. I’ve been a bit reticent to offer up an answer, as judging others in my field didn’t seem like a particularly good business decision. Well, I recently heard a comic’s CD that was so great I wanted others to get hip to its brilliance. The title of the disc is called Good Day to Cross a River. The comic who created this incredible set of comedy is Greg Giraldo.
Giraldo has been around for awhile, best known for his appearances on Comedy Central, especially his regular panel slot on Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn. I’ve always been a fan when I’ve caught him on TV, but Good Day to Cross a River is the best satirical piece of comedy I’ve heard since Chris Rock’s Bring the Pain. Really smart, really funny. Not one false moment in Giraldo's act.
Here’s a little secret. Since I perform comedy pretty much on a weekly basis, I rarely watch much of the comics’ show that I work with. I almost never go see a comic, when I’m off for the night. Hey, I’m around it all the time, what do you expect? Below are some other comics besides Giraldo that I would definitely leave the house to watch in person. One note about my list is that these are all club comcs. They aren’t huge TV stars that only perform in big auditoriums.
Dave Attell- No person has ever made me laugh harder than Attell. His CD, Skanks for the Memories, has more hard laughs than anything I’ve ever heard. His rhythm and timing are amazing, plus his material is completely unique.
Bill Burr- I first became aware of him when listening to the Opie and Anthony radio show. Burr’s 2005 HBO comedy special was the best live stand-up I’ve seen on the network in quite awhile. His bit on going to visit his girlfriend in Harlem during the middle of the night is Pryor-like in its storytelling art.
Todd Barry- Extreme low-key delivery coupled with incredibly acerbic material is Barry’s formula for laughs. He is not for everyone, but I think he has been one of the best for quite awhile.
Christopher Titus- His Fox sitcom was underrated, but it was only a mild version of the power of his live show. What he brings to the stage is a cross between standup and a one-man play. Titus’ dysfunctional family material is like something out of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.
D.L. Hughley- While I was not a big fan when I first caught him hosting BET’s Comic View, he has grown into one of the top political satirists around. He stacks up well with others stand-ups who take on the world like Bill Maher, Chris Rock, Marc Maron, and Lewis Black.
Daniel Tosh- His latest Comedy Central special is remarkable, as Tosh’s ability to be mean-spirited, but charming is an amazing tight-rope he walks. I think the show loses some steam by the end, but the first 35 minutes is pretty amazing.
Jim Gaffigan- As prolific of a writer as any comic I can think of. Gaffigan uses the voice of a disgruntled audience member who constantly is evaluating the material he offers up. This inner voice gives his show a completely unique rhythm. No one breaks down the silliness of everday life better than Gaffigan.
Brian Regan- Regan is someone that it reverentially loved in my business. He has a uniquely goofy charm. I’m not a big fan of really clean comedy, as I think the greatest thing about stand-up comedy is that it is the last place where edgy truths are not being squashed by corporate interests. Regan and Gaffigan are the 2 best comics in not needing adult content to get big laughs and managing to be witty while doing it.
Frank Caliendo- If anyone had any doubts, the Impressionists Week on Late Night with David Lettermen clinched it. What Caliendo does is a whole different art-form than what other impressionists have done in the past. He has the most dynamic show in standup comedy.
Below are 5 other comics that I’ve worked with in my career that I think are among the best in the biz. I highly recommend anyone to check out their websites and find out their tour schedule.
Dan Cummins is a rising star, as his dark, twisted material takes you on a hilarious ride during his show.
Only twice have I worked with comics so funny that they made me dislike my own act by the end of the week. The 2 comics that brought this about are Robert Hawkins and David Crowe. I’m hard-pressed to name 2 more relatively unknown comics who are funnier than these 2 guys.
I worked with him only one time, but was really blown away by the fervent style and material of Auggie Smith. His rapid-fire rants on society I thought were great.
One week when I was performing at the Irvine IMPROV, the MC was a comic who was working on his second appearance on the Tonight Show. His name is Juston McKinney and I have never had to work so hard in following someone in my career.
During my 15 years in the biz, I’ve worked with hundreds of acts. There are many really funny comics out there, but above are the 15 comics I’ve either seen on TV or worked with that I put at the top of my list of who I would recommend you go check out at your local comedy club. These are the type of performers who make me feel inspired and challenge me to be a better comedian.