Looking for sarcastic stand-up comedians
July 30, 2008 7:46 AM   Subscribe

I need recommendations to find deeply sarcastic and satirical stand-up comedians.

I am looking for stand-up comedians who excel at sarcastic and satirical comedy; even better if it's delivered in a deadpan manner. I would also prefer people who stay away from the tired "black/white", "men/women" material.

The second part of my question is for some research I'm doing into how to become a good stand-up comedian. (I'm from a country where stand-up comedy tends to be the loud slapstick "ha-ha" variety; something I'm not very fond of.)

So what I want to know is: do stand-up comedians usually tend to be very funny in real life off the stage? Or are there also people who are not always "on" and just work hard on their material, turning into comedians on stage? Essentially, does being a good stand-up comedian mean that you can make just about anyone laugh anywhere?
posted by madman to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (42 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I don't like him but Jack Dee suits your request perfectly, his whole career has been built on deadpan humour.
posted by twistedonion at 7:56 AM on July 30, 2008

Bill Hicks is a god.
posted by Ponderance at 7:59 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Patton Oswalt!
posted by jenfu at 7:59 AM on July 30, 2008

Lewis Black. He fits your sarcasm search well, though I wouldn't call him deadpan and he sometimes seems as if he will have an aneurysm on stage.
posted by wg at 8:00 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Try Lewis Black. He does satirical, sarcastic, and angry.

I heard an interview where he said he was an underemployed playwright for years before he became successful as a stand-up comic.
posted by ebellicosa at 8:00 AM on July 30, 2008

Jack Dee, Jimmy Carr.
posted by salmacis at 8:04 AM on July 30, 2008

Dylan Moran. Irish. I nearly choked the first time I heard him. Eddie Izzard is definitely sarcastic, but in a pretty sly, smart kind of way. It takes a certain kind of geek to really love Eddie.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:04 AM on July 30, 2008

Maria Bamford does very sarcastic impersonations.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:05 AM on July 30, 2008

Stewart Lee. There's quite a few good bits on YouTube.
posted by tomcooke at 8:07 AM on July 30, 2008

Seconding both Bill Hicks and Patton Oswalt.
posted by LolaGeek at 8:11 AM on July 30, 2008

Oh dear Lord, Bill Hicks.
posted by greenie2600 at 8:23 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Of the younger herd, some college-aged friends of mine in Boston have been chatting up this Clint Osterholz character to me lately, but YMMV.
posted by mykescipark at 8:24 AM on July 30, 2008

Rejoice dear Madman, meet Brother Dave Gardner
posted by timsteil at 8:25 AM on July 30, 2008

do stand-up comedians usually tend to be very funny in real life off the stage?

I've met a few and most were not "on" at all in person, but that's purely anecdotal. Eddie Izzard, however, was very funny and charming.
posted by JaredSeth at 8:25 AM on July 30, 2008

My boyfriend's a former standup comedian, and I've met several other comedians and comedy writers. My bf is definitely very funny on a regular basis, but he's also most definitely not "on" all the time (if that distinction makes sense) -- he's just... reliably hilarious. The other comedians and comedy writers I've known tend to be the same way; the ones who are always doing their shtick (i.e., treating the people around them as audience members rather than, you know, other people who also like to be a part of the conversation once in awhile) are A) less common, at least in my experience, and B) completely unbearable.
posted by scody at 8:35 AM on July 30, 2008

The aforementioned Jack Dee is exactly what you are looking for.
posted by fire&wings at 8:36 AM on July 30, 2008

Well, Andrew Dice Clay is somewhat close to this orbit though his material probably doesn't fit the standards you're looking for.
posted by tinkertown at 8:39 AM on July 30, 2008

Seconding Stewart Lee.
posted by minifigs at 8:39 AM on July 30, 2008

Todd Barry
posted by porn in the woods at 8:44 AM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, and also, to answer your other question about the relationship between being funny a lot and being a good standup comedian -- I would say it's (obviously) a lot more complicated than that. My boyfriend talked a lot about the struggle he had in finding his voice onstage, about finding both the subject matter and style that would transcend just getting up there and telling jokes. (It's why he wound up moving on into sketch comedy and short films, which he does with two writing partners). It's hard, really hard; it takes years and years of practice working at the craft to be a good comedian or writer, in a way that's fairly far removed from having the innate wit to make the perfect quip at the perfect moment.

Standup is also a fairly narrow form of comedic performance; there are people who are truly brilliant comedy writers who couldn't get onstage and make you laugh for a million dollars, or fantastic sketch or improv comedians who have nothing to say when it's just them standing in front of a microphone; plenty of humor/writing/style/delivery etc. just doesn't translate from one mode into the other. (I found this out to my regret when I saw my all-time favorite sketch comedian bomb onstage doing standup. Twice.)
posted by scody at 8:50 AM on July 30, 2008

I looked at your profile and I see that you're from India. I don't know how much access you have to lame American TV, but Last Comic Standing is on right now, and this dude Papa CJ from India just got kicked off. A word of advice from watching him: don't let all your jokes be about being Indian. That got old real fast.

And yeah, Bill Hicks.
posted by phunniemee at 8:50 AM on July 30, 2008

Mitch Hedberg. His material was totally deadpan, except when he laughed at his own jokes. He is a great example of how important delivery is.
posted by LiveToEat at 9:04 AM on July 30, 2008

While Mitch Hedberg is deadpan, he's not exactly sarcastic. Bill Hicks, tho, definitely fits the bill.
posted by fiercekitten at 9:06 AM on July 30, 2008

British: put Jack Dee and Jimmy Carr on one side, and possibly include Ricky Gervais's standup (less so his sitcom roles). On the other side, Stew Lee and Charlie Brooker -- the latter doesn't really do standup, but 'Screen Wipe' is chopped and served up on YouTube. Throw in Alexei Sayle ('Stuff') too. American? Hicks, yeah obviously. Also Greg Proops, who sort of spans the pond because of his British work.
posted by holgate at 9:07 AM on July 30, 2008

Jimmy Pardo. Subscribe to his Never Not Funny podcast. There's also a good amount of inside comedy talk and he has a different guest comic every week.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:09 AM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

George Carlin. Not deadpan, but very sarcastic, and not very much black/white men/women stuff.
posted by equalpants at 9:16 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

David Cross.
posted by palindromic at 9:19 AM on July 30, 2008

or rather David Cross.
posted by palindromic at 9:20 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding David Cross. By far.

Also, you owe it to yourself to get a hold of Marc Maron's CD 'Tickets Still Available' Its available on iTunes and I consider it the pinnacle of sarcastic comedy. Here's a clip of him.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:28 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Andrew Dice Clay? Are you kidding? His act is schticky, not clever, and obnoxious in every way.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:45 AM on July 30, 2008

The radio show Opie & Anthony regularly has a cast of stand ups in studio that are hilarious. Jim Norton is the third member of the show, very funny comedian (although I actually prefer him on the radio to his stand up). Patrice O'neal, Bill Burr, Robert Kelly, Louis CK (fantastic), Colin Quinn, Rich Voss, and many others are constantly on the show. They often talk about their stand up experiences, other comedians they find funny, joke construction (and deconstruction, and take constant sarcastic shots at each other. The radio show is on XM Satellite Radio from 6 am - 12 pm, with about the last two hours of the show being exclusively on XM - which means lots of cursing, but it also means the comedians really let loose and be themselves. I highly recommend listening to the show for a while, it takes some time to get into the feel of the show, but you will learn about stand up comedy.
posted by shinynewnick at 10:02 AM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

Definitely seconding Todd Barry.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:23 AM on July 30, 2008

Jeremy Hotz.
posted by twiki at 10:30 AM on July 30, 2008

I haven't known any standup comedians personally, but I've known quite a few improvisational comedians and writers, and I can tell you that these people are naturally hilarious, even though they're not "on" all the time (which would be exhausting for everyone involved).

Or are there also people who are not always "on" and just work hard on their material, turning into comedians on stage? Essentially, does being a good stand-up comedian mean that you can make just about anyone laugh anywhere?

I believe so. Being funny is a natural talent; you either have it or you don't. Things like timing and delivery, and a taste for the subversive, just have to come naturally. I don't imagine a comedian who isn't naturally funny, but works super hard to make his act funny, would succeed at all. It would always feel forced and overworked.
posted by Koko at 11:15 AM on July 30, 2008

Definitely David Cross.
posted by emd3737 at 12:04 PM on July 30, 2008

Response by poster: Oh god, Papa CJ is incredibly lame. His delivery is terrible, his jokes are barely funny, and he reuses the same crap constantly.

And yes, I watch Last Comic Standing and various other American shows thanks to teh interwebs.

Thanks to everyone for helping. Will check these people out.
posted by madman at 12:27 PM on July 30, 2008

And you are absolutely right about Papa CJ. Last Comic Standing is painful to watch (but I still do), they went more for casting the right "characters" than picking the funniest comedians. Fortunately, Papa CJ and Esther Ku are already out. Ku had a couple of funny lines, but Papa CJ was atrocious in every set they showed. I shudder to think of listening to him for more than the four minutes they showed on TV.

The comedians on the radio often talk about the difference between people who are generally funny and translate that to the stage versus people who are good at putting together a stand up routine and doing that well. That's not to say the second group isn't good at what they do, but the comedians tend to gravitate to the first group - a bunch of people who can sit around and hold their own in an often harsh comedic environment. There is also a wide variety of how comedians write their material - all in advance, down to the letter, such as the late great George Carlin, or comedians who will have a general outline of the set and follow it loosely, such as Jeanine Garofalo (not so great for my tastes).

Another great look into the minds of comedy is a series of shows called "Unmasked" on XM, hosted by Ron Bennington, who also has a show on XM (Ron & Fez, noon to three). On Unmasked they spend 30 minutes to an hour just talking with a single comedian about their craft and experiences. Very enlightening, and very entertaining. Brian Regan (one of the best Unmasked episodes) is a rare example of a hilarious comedian that doesn't do any "dirty" material. He knows how to write good jokes, and his delivery is great. Definitely a comedian's comedian.

If you want to get a sample of Opie & Anthony, Ron & Fez, or Unmasked, drop me a MeFi mail and I'll set you up.
posted by shinynewnick at 1:36 PM on July 30, 2008

2nding George Carlin - not deadpan, but heavily sarcastic.
posted by cnc at 1:59 PM on July 30, 2008

do stand-up comedians usually tend to be very funny in real life off the stage?

Full disclosure: my bf has been doing stand-up for 6 years and I hang out with his comedian friends on a regular basis. I'd say it's a mix of both. Most comedians I have met typically will try to out-wit one another when in a social setting, but it's not a constant battle for hilarity, and I think one of the main reasons they do it is because they being a good comedians means you're consistently pushing your brain to look at things in weird, different ways. They're also looking for new material and you never know when an off-the-cuff remark will turn into a great idea/concept for a joke.

Or are there also people who are not always "on" and just work hard on their material, turning into comedians on stage?

These are rarer individuals to find but they exist, I've met a few comedians who are actually quite shy in social situations but for some reason a stand-up stage gives them no trouble. Go figure.

Essentially, does being a good stand-up comedian mean that you can make just about anyone laugh anywhere?

My bf can usually make anyone laugh, but there are definitely people he rubs the wrong way (or who just don't think he's funny). Comedy is like any other art form -- it can be quite subjective, and for very different reasons (sense of humour, cultural differences, etc.). But I don't think that all comedians are born funny, I don't think it's a talent you are just given, I think that comedians share two rare traits: they are really keen on observing funny comedians and learning the craft through trial and error and b) they don't give up when they fall flat on their face. Failed comedy is a social disgrace in human nature, and it leaves most people in a position where they never want to experiment again. Not comedians. They'll bomb, try to learn from the mistake, and keep going.

Don't get me wrong, though -- it's fucking tough.

Working as a server in a comedy club and seeing how many horrible comics are out there doing their thang and getting paid for it was the sole motivation for one of my good friends.
posted by Menomena at 2:20 PM on July 30, 2008

Louis C.K.

Comedians who are always trying out their material on you are not fun to be around.
posted by paperzach at 5:20 PM on July 30, 2008

I think Bill Hicks is vastly superior to anybody else mentioned here.
posted by matteo at 6:31 PM on July 30, 2008

"do stand-up comedians usually tend to be very funny in real life off the stage? Bill Hicks is not anything in real life anymore, what with being dead and all, but he and Lewis Black may not be like that at all in real life. I'm just sayin'.

Dana Gould has a superficially upbeat act, but is actually quite dark.

If you can get ahold of a copy of Brass Eye, that's is some black humor. Not sure what, if anything, Chris Morris is doing now. Louis CK and Colin Quinn are also fairly dark, and insightful. Jim Norton seems to have written an honest book about his damnasshell struggles or something which is somewhat off-putting, but anyone who can say "Go die in a fire!" the way he can is worth some attention. And he is the youngest comic I can spell the name of right now...

As a general rule, good comis are very smart. Merl Kessler/Ian Shoales is a freakin' genius, so try and find his books if you can. Is Will Durst still alive? Dom Irrera is.

Mitch Hedberg, who is as dead as Bill Hicks, was not particularly sarcastic and satirical but he was really really funny. And as long as you're looking at dead guys, Peter Cook was as likely to be wildly absurd as anything. Best version of Faust, ever.

With You Tube, they live forever. Knock yourself out.

There are actually a number of very funny, under 30, working comic in the US today, but their names escape me, at the moment. And, personally, I know some dry, acerbic South Asians, so you are probably in good company.

This isn't stand up - painfully accurate satire.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:13 PM on July 31, 2008

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