Top 5 Live Comedy Shows

We’re seeing Eugene Mirman’s I’m Sorry (You’re Welcome) show tonight and it got us thinking about other comedy shows we’ve seen. Below are our “top 5” lists (so far):

Alex’s Picks

5. Patton Oswalt at the Wilbur in Boston, 2013

I had seen Patton live before (he’ll be on my list later), but this was an especially strong set. He performed the material from his San Diego special, which aired soon after we saw this. As someone who has followed his career, it has been interesting to watch his transition from cynical and single comic to husband and father. A lot of material from this set was less social commentary and more observation on growing old. Still, he was as crass and sharp-witted as ever. He even turned banter with a heckler into free material, something he is especially adept as doing. This was the set in which he used his now famous “Africa by Toto” joke, and the song itself was played at the end of his set.

4. Louis CK, Newport RI, 2010

Louis CK is probably my favorite stand up comedian outside of another guy (who made number one on my list). One of the only reasons that this was lower on my list was the fact that our seats kind of sucked, and it was an outdoor venue, which hurt the acoustics. These are things that Louis CK had essentially no control over, but I doubt he will ever read this list anyway. This was around the time that his show on FX was taking off, and some of the material he performed did overlap with jokes I had heard on the show. This was a really strong performance (of course), although it did not include many of those “quotable” Louie jokes. However, I am happy that I had a chance to see him in person.

3. Comedians of Comedy Tour, Providence RI, 2006

Comedians of Comedy was a tour featuring Patton Oswalt and Brian Posehn. The tour saw a few incarnations around this time, most famously featuring Maria Bamford and Zach Galifianakis. While I was not lucky enough to see that lineup, I did get the chance to see Oswalt and Posehn with Eugene Mirman. At this point I had no idea who Mirman was, and his set was unlike anything I had ever seen. He included different forms of media, like recorded phone conversations and video skits he had filmed previously. This was followed by Posehn, an underrated stand up comic (most people know him as the weird guy from Just Shoot Me), a more conventional comic who on his own would have been worth the price of admission. Oswalt played two roles, both the host/MC and headliner. I ranked this performance highly because it is rare that one gets the chance to see three top-tier comedians on one stage.

2. An Evening with Bob and David, Boston MA, 2013

This was a hybrid performance that mixed both stand-up and sketch comedy. David Cross (who I had wanted to see in person for years), Brian Posehn (who I was happy to see again), and Bob Odenkirk (one of comedy’s true unsung heroes) all preformed brief sets. While these were all enjoyable, the real highlights were the sketches. Odenkirk and Cross resisted the urge to rehash old material (although they did an updated version of the crime stick routine), and instead presented brand-new Mr. Show material. They closed the night with a question-and-answer session in which Bob Odenkirk was kind of friendly and David Cross came across as kind of a dick, but in the funniest way possible.

1. Dave Chapelle, Providence RI, 2015

Dave Chappelle is easily my favorite stand-up comic of all time. I have never seen a comedian perform social commentary in a way that seems as casual and unpretentious as Chappelle. Not only that, but he is a master at pushing buttons and speaking uncomfortable truths, all while staying comfortably within the realm of sex and masturbation jokes. I had previously seen him perform for the Oddball Comedy Tour in 2013, shortly after he had that now-famous meltdown. While I was happy to see him at the time, his performance was uninspired and it seemed obvious that he did not really want to be there. Most of the written materials were jokes that I had heard him use previously, and the bulk of the set was improv. I was convinced after the set in 2013 that I had seen Chapelle at the tail end of his prime. When I saw him again in 2015, it was almost as if he had been reborn. His material was edgy, current, and inspired. He did a number of drawn-out story telling bits, which he does better than anyone in comedy. His entire set felt well constructed and layered, and throughout the set he continued to make reference to previous jokes. After leaving, I felt as though I had just seen the greatest stand-up comedian of all time performing at the height of his prime.

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Danielle’s Picks

There is definitely some over-lap in Alex and I’s lists (probably because we’ve been to most of these shows together…*spoiler alert*)…but our orders are a bit different and I have a different #4 and #5.

5. Colbert Report Taping, NYC 2012

We were in the right place at the right time and signed up to get free tickets to Colbert’s Comedy Central “The Colbert Show” taping in NYC, and we actually got them. We drove down to NYC and waited in line for a while and then (earlier in the day than we thought) got to see the man himself. This is #5 on my list just because none of the jokes/segments where particularly that memorable (they were good just not as quotable as some others on this list) but to see Colbert doing his thing was extremely memorable. Going into the show, we joked “How cool would it be to just do this for a living”. After the show, our tune changed to “Holy shit, that is a lot of work and I don’t think I could do that”.

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Alex outside of the Colbert Report

4. Aziz Ansari: Modern Romance Comedy Tour, Providence 2014

Aziz is great at crowd-work and integrating his audience feedback into cohesive bits. And, being in his early 30’s, Aziz always has a modern twist to his sets – which I think he does better than a lot of other similarly-aged comics. This tour was right before the release of his book “Modern Romance” and his new Netflix series “Master of None”, both of which draw heavily from the material presented at this show. In general, and definitely at this show, Aziz is able to talk about love/relationships in a way that doesn’t make me want to barf, which is not an easy task.

3. Patton Oswalt at the Wilbur in Boston, 2013

Unlike Alex, I hadn’t seen Patton live before this show, which I think is why this show is higher on my list. While we’re at different stages in life, Patton’s material at this show was extremely relatable and honest, and something I could totally see myself thinking/saying in a handful of years. It gave me hope that someone as cynical as Patton could survive in the seemingly mundane world of “adulthood” with still enjoying himself (from time to time).

2. Dave Chapelle, Providence RI, 2015

This show was current and provocative in a way that only Dave could pull off. Just really, really good.

1. An Evening with Bob and David, Boston MA, 2013

This show combined stand-up and sketch comedy in a very “Mr. Show” kind of way. Loving Mr. Show as much as I do, this show was probably my most “fangirl” moment. Both Bob and David have had (and continue to have) their own successful careers separate from Mr. Show, but there’s just something about them together that is really special and unique.

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