Another year is coming to a close and it’s time for CraveOnline.com’s annual list of comedians we think you should see on stage before next year’s over, or the world ends, depending on whose calendar you go by. So, buckle up and enjoy this list of great comedians as performed the way it should be, on stage.
Naturally this list is inclusive, but not exclusive. This isn’t a list of the ONLY comedians you should be driving miles in the cold to see on stage. In fact we think you should see EVERY comedian you possibly can on stage whenever you get the chance. However, in the fine tradition of “End of the Year Listing” we’ve cut that number down to eleven.
To avoid simply hammering out a list of great comedians, we’ve always chosen to leave out all the really established stand-ups as we consider them “givens.” So, if Seinfeld or Louis CK happens to be in your town, well DUH! Go see them, you fools! A list of comedians that well known would be rather useless so if you don’t see a comedian on this list, and they are famous, well that’s probably why. Or maybe they suck, and you do too for liking them. It’s probably the other thing though.
One last caveat before we start: There may be comedians missing from this list because I (the author) don’t know they exist. If that’s the case, help me, and CraveOnline.com’s dedicated comedy readers out and put us “In the know.” You can leave a comment here on CraveOnline with any comedian you think is worth seeing, or you can tweet me (@SaxCarr) with your amazing undiscovered comedian. Want to go a step futher? Email me a clip of their act and we’ll consider them for a “Worlds Funniest Threesome” article in 2012. That emails is CraveOnlineComedy@gmail.com and thanks!
So without any further delay... here are the 11 comedians to see in ‘12...
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#11. Ian Harvie -
There is always something to be said about comedians that come from a unique perspective, and Ian Harvie probably has one of the most unique perspectives on stage these days. Can something be “most unique” ? No. But you get my point. Ian comes from a place most don’t, and not only finds the funny in his own experiences, but finds a way to meet audiences half way and being them along for the ride.
Harvie, who has been in the game a fair amount of time, and on the comedy circuit across the country would be easily classified as a “queer” comedian. Why? Because Ian Harvie, was born as a woman. (I’ll wait here while you take a few long looks at his image in this story. Back?) Harvie is transgendered (like Chaz Bono, only interesting) and uses this as a vehicle to examine gender roles and identity in a way most comedians would like to, but can't.
You know that old premise “Men are like THIS, but Women are like this!”. Well Harvie has the best of those jokes, because he’s the only comedian who can actually say he has spent time on both sides (Flip Wilson notwithstanding).
Note: I should mention here that when presented with a comedian who comes to stage with any, for lack of a better term, “gimmic,” I worry that it’s not going to be really funny, and instead simply inspirational, or something else other than comedy. I know a lot of other people fear that too. Ian Harvie is funny. I assure you, Ian Harvie is funny.
Ian Harvie’s Website is www.IanHavie.com
He’s currently recording a live special for release next year. Check it out, but more than that, go see the man live. You’ll laugh and think, and THAT is what Comedy is for.
#10. Jay Malone -
There are some people who must be born comedians, as no amount of training can account for their skill at making audiences laugh. Jay Malone is such a man. Born in Canada (as a surprisingly huge amount of good comedians are) Jay has made a name for himself as an actor, and interestingly enough, a cartoonist, and as a comedian. Yes, all THREE things. I dare say Malone might be best at comedy, but only because if he could possibly be better at anything else I have trouble fitting it all in one head. The triple-crown of entertainment is not an easy thing to attain.
Weirdly, I think Malone is the most traditional of the comedians on this list. He has a pretty standard set-up and punch style with about as many act outs and stories as your average comedian, but something about his delivery is really amazing. It might be his voice, or the subtle shifts in the word choices, but he’s really got something great. I recently had a chance to finally see him live, and as I suspected he’s even better when you get feel the connection.
Here’s a clip to give you a taste:
Check out his website for more info on his comedy, or the other thousands of things he apparently does well: www.JayMalone.com I would imagine he designs website and fixes cars and can make those little baskets made out of shellacked bread-dough, too. The guy can do damn near anything.
#9. Greg Proops
When I first moved to Los Angeles I decided to treat myself to a show from one of my favorite comedians of all time, Greg Proops. Looking back I could not have been less prepared for how amazing that show was going to be, and I already LOVED the guy. Proops balances a wonderful combination of incredibly intelligent insight with deep sarcasm and just the right combination of comedic styles from all over the globe. Also in person he’s, like, gigantic. The man is very tall, and somehow reminiscent of the intellect's answer to Sinatra.
If you do get a chance to see Proops live, I would suggest you take it,regardless of the form of the show. If it’s a taping of his podcast. (link here) , go. If its one of his more eclectic live talk shows, go. If its just a plain old stand-up show, well you know how I feel. Proops is not to be missed, especially in these troubled times, as he has a lot more to say.
Here’s a clip.
That clip is from a show called Top Story Weekly <topstoryweekly.com> which goes up every sunday night at LA’s iO West improv theater. I highly recommend that too, as it’s routinely better then its respective week’s SNL.
#8. Matt McKenna
Speaking of smart comedy, Matt McKenna is one of those comedians that does things with stand-up that seem closer to magic than anything else. McKenna, who you might have heard as a voice actor (and producer and writer) of “American Dad!” has recently broken into stand-up in a big way with a series of one-man stand-up shows under the name “Enter Spider.” The show, with a decidedly science fiction basis, is an amazing treat.
What sets McKenna apart? Innovation! Everything in “Enter Spider” breaks the walls down around stand-up and brings it to the next level. From the deepest Meta-Comedy to the most outside the box thinking, McKenna comes out swinging and keeps going. McKenna doesn’t just perform in “Enter Spider”, he performs several times, with a new strange twist on the medium each time, and each time you laugh until you can’t see.
Its nearly impossible to describe what McKenna brings to the table, and as he’s furnished the world with no clips of it (in the age of YouTube-- can you believe it?), you’ll have to take my word for it. By way of example, the first time I saw Matt on stage he performed under the pretense that he had learned to travel through alternate dimensions, and gave the audience a taste of comedy as performed in this different universes. If that whets your appetite, I suggest you see Matt McKenna as soon as you can, because you’ll never see another comedian like him.
#7. Fortune Feimster -
Very few people can be said to have raised the bar on comedy as much as Fortune Feimster. There may not be any good words for exactly what she brings to the table that nobody has before, but she’s brought it, and it’s amazing. If anything, Fortune is more comfortable on stage than many I have seen, and she flows in an out of her bits with such seamless transitions that the wall between performance and casual conversation quickly dissipates.
Fortune seems to breathe new life into old topics, as she easily does some of the best jokes about the south, being gay, family, and celebrity culture that I’ve ever seen. Seeing her live is a must as she falls into amazingly funny tangents pretty consistently, and drags herself back to the “A material” just at the last second. Comedians and seasoned fans of comedy will see very quickly that she’s on the road to being one of the absolute greats.
Speaking of quickly, in just a short time Fortune has been a fan favorite on Last Comic Standing and is a full time writer and performed on Chelsey Lately. It’s not a bad resume, and especially good considering her age and time in Hollywood. (Hint: she’s really young)
Here is a clip!
Her website is here: http://www.fortunefeimster.com/
#6. Jon Dore -
Extremely Canadian and master of misdirection Jon Dore has a playful delivery style that contrasts heavily with his dark subject matter. He’s a joy to watch for anyone you happen to sit in front of him, but for the seasoned comedy fan, he’s even more. Why? Because he’s willing, or even perhaps driven, to think outside the box on how comedy is performed.
It’s even deeper than that. Somehow Dore has blended his masterful misdirections with his ability to play with the the art of stand-up and it just becomes something that’s a treat to behold. I think I’ll have to show you some examples. Here are 3 choices, but you’ll have to play till the end (in most cases) to see the real brilliance, so if you can’t handle them all now, just come back.
#5. Marlon Wayans -
I probably don’t need to do any work explaining who Marlon Wayans is. Even if you don’t know him specifically, you know there are a bunch of Wayans brothers and they are all pretty talented. While all the Wayans tend to be pretty competent at nearly everything, let alone stand-up, it’s Marlon who really excels behind a mic.
Strangely I can’t find a single clip of Marlon doing stand-up, which may have something to do with the upcoming marketing for the Richard Pryor biopic in which he stars in the titular role. Still I’ve seen him live myself a few dozen times and let me tell you, it’s really, really amazing.
For a while Marlon was a regular at a club I also frequented, and I had the chance once to play chess with him as we both waited for our time on stage. We were being quiet as we were back stage at the time, but the spark of strategy was behind his eyes and he easily destroyed me in that game. Then he went out on stage and destroyed a room full of people with some jokes like it was as easy as anything anyone has ever done. It’s a good memory to have.
His material is real, honest, personal, and funny. He’s got it all.
The Richard Pryor movie (“Richard Pryor: Was it Something I Said”) is still in development hell, as it was due out sometime this year, but keep an eye out. Not only Pryor, but Marlon deserve the spotlight this movie will afford them.
#4. Jackie Kashian -
On the subject of good memories I’ve had around the comedians on this list, I remember the first time I saw Jackie Kashian live on stage. I was lucky enough to be on that show along side her, but I was dumbfounded that I’d be let on the same stage with someone I held in such regard. Out in the audience I had convinced myself this was not the same woman whose Comedy Central Special I had so enjoyed until she came on stage and hit the crowd with the same unique and wonderful delivery style she’s known for. Good times in the audience for yours truly.
Jackie is probably best described as a comic with a sardonic delivery matched with a geeky interior and surprisingly chill exterior. That’s perhaps the greatest thing about Jackie, her very real, very personal delivery, and very human thoughts on what she’s expounding, coupled with a voice that just barely betrays the fact that she’s just a little smarter then everyone listening.
She’s also the mother of all “geek girl” comedians. There, I said it. She’s first.
So go see Jackie. Here’s a clip from the Comedy Central Special I so enjoyed before we met:
|Jackie Kashian - Video Games|
Who picks the backdrops of these things?
Here’s a link to Jackie’s amazing podcast: http://tdf.libsyn.com/ <-- The Dork Forest
#3. The Beards of Comedy -
OK, now I’m kinda cheating, as the Beards are not just one amazing comedian, but four of them, that snap together like Voltron into a much funnier whole. Well not literally that, but that would be way better. No, these four hirsuteguys have been traveling the country this year and blowing up stages with amazing funny all the way.
What sets The Beards apart? (Besides their collective inability to get a job at Disneyland!) The perfection with which they have tuned their foursome. Don’t get me wrong, these guys are all funny on their own, but much like a gourmet meal or a daringly prepared piece of sushi the pieces make the whole meal exceptional.
You have to see it to understand. Here’s a little clip:
Their website is http://beardsofcomedy.com/
We also have an EXCLUSIVE interview with The Beards Of Comedy right here:
#2. Ian Bagg -
There are few comedians for whom this list was made than Ian Bagg. This is literally THE guy you can’t appreciate on tape. This is mostly because Bagg is more improvisational than any comedian since Jonathan Winters. Any one show from Ian Bagg is different than all the others and it’s brilliant. The laughs are increased exponentially by Bagg’s pretty unique Canadian accent and delivery style, with a mix of staccato delivery and long worded act outs.
I’ve seen Ian dozens of times and I’ve grown to love when he comes on stage and then lays back waiting for something to riff on. If you see Ian, see him three times. The first time is for watching Ian, the second time is to prove to yourself he really is making that much good comedy that fast, and the third time is to watch audiences that are new to him ride the same roller coaster you did just 2 shows earlier.
I think some comedy audiences are afraid to interact, mostly because some comedians handle it so badly, and some hosts frown on it so much. So sometimes (and these are secretly the best times) audiences aren’t ready to play with Bagg for the first few minutes. Its these squirming emotionally re-adjusting times that Ian lives in like it’s his own personal playground. It’s truly a delight.
Ian Bagg Pro Tip: Watch Ian interacting with the audience. He never forgets anything that’s said to him or he’s said. Sometimes he’ll say something that doesn’t seem funny, but its a reference to something 45 minutes ago that happened so quickly you forgot.
Here are two quick clips that I think illustrate the Ian Bagg style as best as can be captured on film. You’ll have to watch it all to get the magic. :
Ian’s Website is HERE: http://www.ianbagg.com/
#1. Doug Stanhope -
Yes, he made it to the top of this list, too. What we are trying to say here at CraveOnline.com is that Doug Stanhope is worth your time, live or on tape, and right away. Why? Well, it might partly be because with Stanhope’s lifestyle he may not be around forever for you to go and see.
It might be, but its not. Stanhope is one of the few living greats that still perform today, and he’s doing it almost entirely off the radar, at least as far as the main stream media is concerned. That’s why you should go see Doug Stanhope. Because he’s that good, and he doesn’t care if Comedy Central, or anyone else mentions it. (However, he is frequently on the comedy stations on satellite radio, the Bob & Tom Show and zillions of others.)
Stanhope mixes conceptual-ism and punchline at a rate that most comedians think is impossible. It’s powerful stuff, and if you aren’t just going to see Doug for his comedy, go to see the fans. Go to a Stanhope show to see people moved in ways you haven’t seen since Carlin or Pryor. Doug is one of the last of the great stand-up philosophers and you should seem him just to SAYyou did, because it’s just that worth it.
We’ve said a lot about Stanhope here on Crave this year, and in lieu of rehashing it, here are the links to our review of Doug’s most recent album, and an exclusive clip:
But there’s more. We have an EXCLUSIVE interview with the man himself right here on CraveOnline.com, it’s uncut and should hopefully give you some iinsight into the man’s genius (or madness). We tease a bit of his new Album in the interview, so listen for hints of what’s going down.
The Final Word
As I said at the top of the list, these are just some of the comedians you should see this year. Comedy, at its best, is one of the greatest experiences you will ever have as part of an audience, and I think these 11 folks are well worth the risk of your comedy dollar. In the next few days I'll be putting up some MORE comedians to see this year... because, why not? Consider it further reading. I’ll re-list the top 11 here too, in case you want to see them all in one place. For more information on Stand-Up please consult your local comedy club, or pretty much any coffee shop after the sun goes down.
Oh, and remember ,if you have suggestions for other comedians to see , you can send clips to CraveOnlineComedy@Gmail.com. We’d love to show them here on CraveOnline.com (provided we agree, which... lets face it, may be a toss up).
#11. Ian Harvie
#10. Jay Malone
#9. Greg Proops
#8. Matt McKenna
#7. Fortune Feimster
#6. Jon Dore
#5. Marlon Wayans
#4. Jackie Kashian
#3. The Beards of Comedy
#2. Ian Bagg
#1. Doug Stanhope