Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Top 5 Funniest People on Earth

I got the idea for this list after (spoiler alerts) seeing Eddie Izzard last Friday, reading a book published by Ricky Gervais yesterday, and starting the new David Sedaris book.

Ryan's Top Five

1. Ricky Gervais - To be fair, he's usually part of a team with Stephen Merchant; this hurts other contestants (like Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, for instance). That said, he's too fucking funny to pass up. Stephen Merchant is legitimately hilarious, but Ricky Gervais brings a matchless comic energy to his roles that verily forces you to laugh. He also invented the David Brent character, and thus inspired the Michael Scott character. The first time I saw episode 4 of The Office UK--specifically, "I think there's been a rape up there!"--I laughed for a solid five minutes. I have never laughed at any TV show, movie, standup, etc. more than that exact moment.

2. David Sedaris - I used to think David Sedaris was good but formulaic, but that was when I thought personal narrative was easy to write. It's not. And he makes it look effortless. And he's brilliant. This is a cliche phrase, but you really do have to see him live at some point in your life; as funny as his essays are in print, you cannot get the full effect without hearing him read it, and hearing his audience in hysterics. Sample lines, from "Six to Eight Black Men": "The six to eight black men [in Holland, Santa's elves] were characterized as personal slaves until the mid-fifties, when the political climate changed and it was decided that instead of being slaves they were just good friends. I think history has proven that something usually comes between slavery and friendship, a period of time marked not by cookies and quiet times beside the fire but by bloodshed and mutual hostility."

3. Stephen Colbert - It's really pretty amazing that Colbert can be that consistently funny that often. Most daily talk-shows, even the good ones (Conan O'Brien), have their ups and downs. There's usually at least one thing in every episode of The Colbert Report that is genuinely hilarious. It always amazes me how Colbert (and Conan) can be funny every night, and SNL gets an entire week to write and comes up with nothing. Finally, Colbert really deserves to be on American currency for this:

4. Eddie Izzard - The only stand-up comic on my list (though David Cross and Demetri Martin come close...and I suppose Gervais does stand-up). It's hard even to relay Izzard's jokes; his delivery and unique story-telling method (almost stream of consciousness) are one-of-a-kind. John Cleese calls him "the lost Python," and you can really see it; he jumps randomly from subject to subject, layers his jokes, then makes jokes about those layers and his own treatment of the layers. Also, not many comedians choose to focus their material on topics like history, philosophy, religion, etc. Here's a sample:
"Britain?" "Wot?" "What's that behind your back?" "It's India and a number of other countries." "Give 'em back." "Oh all right...there's that one, that one...Ah the Falkland Islands, we need the Falkland Islands...for strategic sheep purposes."

5. Simon Pegg - One of the masterminds behind "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz," the two funniest movies this decade ( ... I would now reverse the order of 1-2, though). He and Edgar Wright are working on the third of their "Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy," a movie about the end of the world. Pegg's also making a movie with Nick Frost about the pair road-tripping across America... All is well in the comedy world. Anyway, do yourself a favor and buy both of these movies if you haven't seen them or don't already own them.

Honorable mentions: Demetri Martin, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie (they are too much of a team to single either one out, and this was their downfall), Conan O'Brien, David Cross, Stephen Merchant, John Cleese, Larry David.

Tim's Top 5:
My list will be stand-up comedians. Why? Because that's the kind of guy I am. (Read: the guy with a bunch of comedy CDs).

1. Todd Barry - Hands down, he's my favorite comedian. Every album is worth owning, every joke is at least a little bit funny, and his perpetual semi-fame keeps him from getting any more famous than he'll be as the third conchord.

2. Dave Attell - His HBO special from last year got off to an underwhelming start, but Skanks for the Memories is the best comedy album I'm aware of, and his comedic style really matches the way I converse with friends on a daily basis. His is funnier and perhaps even more offensive, but it's a style I'm comfortable with.

3. Michael Schur - Who? Well, you may know him as Cousin Mose from The Office (the man can handle a raccoon with the best of them), and he's one of the key writers for the series, but he's also the best sports blogger in the business under the guise of Ken Tremendous at It's smart, hilarious, and aside from the shared affection all the writers have for the hated Red Sox, it's invariably worth reading.

4. Michael J. Nelson - Ok, he might not actually be, we don't know how the MST3K writing sessions really worked, but his books (Mind Over Matters and Mike Nelson's Death Rat!) are consistently funny, and everyone associated with Mystery Science Theater 3000 warrants a nobel prize for humor.

5. Lewis Black - He's gotten too famous for his own good, the Carnegie Hall performance was underwhelming, his first book was a huge disappointment, but his comedy is just funny. He generates more material than nearly anyone, because his rage merges well with every news story.

Honorable mention: me, I'm my biggest fan (by height, I suspect the heftier folks are totally into me). Really, since I wasn't in Unaccompanied Minors, I should slot myself in at #5. But oh well. The guy who runs warrants mention here, though he may still be a flash in the pan. David Cross has really grown on me, his last comedy album really turned the corner.

Dan' Top 5:

1. Patton Oswalt - By far my favorite living stand-up comedian, Patton's gift of comedy, I think, is derived from his English major in college. His bits are full of really inventive embellishments.

2. Nick Hornby - High Fidelity being so brilliant is what inspired this website, isn't it? I think that Hornby is one of the masters at pointing out humor in truth.

3. David Sedaris - Probably the most articulate person on the list. The only problem with Sedaris is that in my mind, nothing will ever top his masterpiece, "Six to Eight Black Men"

4. David Cross - Drops a few sots because his standup comedy is a bit too politically-oriented. All his other work, especially Mr. Show and Arrested Development is brilliant

5. Seth Green - Seth sneaks in at my suprise-for-five spot. I'm giving him all of the credit for the hilarious Robot Chicken series. I get the feeling that he's the kind of person who works best behind the scenes.

Honorable Mentions: Stephen Colbert (only excluded due to previous representation... props to his work on Strangers with Candy), Eddie Izzard, Joel Hodgson (MST3K creator)


Vulpes Ryanis said...

For a split second I read "Todd Barry" as "Dave Barry" and was confused.

I am better now.

bathmate said...

I liked it.

jake s said...