Top Five with Matt Knudsen
Top Five is a column in which we talk to stand up comics who have just released their own album about their five favorite comedy albums of all time.
In celebration of Matt Knudsen’s latest album release American we decided to dig deep into the comedic actor/stand-up comedian’s brain, to find out what triggers his funny eardrums. Check out Matt Knudsen’s list of his favorite comedians currently making the rounds, and his top 5 comedy albums of all time. Take it away, Matt…
Before I get to my 5 favorite albums of all time (Household names at this point), it’s worth mentioning some of my favorite people that are currently out there killing it. For your enjoyment and in no particular order, check out:
Kyle Kinane, Myq Kaplan, Zach Sherwin, Henry Phillips, Rory Scovel, Sean Patton, T.J. Miller, Kumail Nanjiani, Nate Bargatze, Jarrod Harris, Rawle Lewis, Jackie Kashian, Eddie Pepitone, Howard Kremer, Reggie Watts, Matt Braunger, Andy Wood, Beth Stelling, Kate Berlant, Paul Danke, Cornell Reid, Aparna Nancherla, Emily Maya Mills, Doug “DJ Dougpound” Lussenhop, Johnny Pemberton, Brody Stevens and The Grawlix boys. Great. Great!
I’m not sure if this technically counts as an album, since it was an HBO special that was released on iTunes, but Jerry Seinfeld is the master of word economy. I heard shim say in an interview that he’ll spend all day trying to turn 8 words in to 5. Seinfeld knows better than anyone that the quicker you get to the funny part, the better. This is the special where he retired the act that made him famous before starting over from scratch and as such, Telling You, is chock full of the Seinfeld classics. Cab Drivers – “Yes officer, his name was Amal and then the symbol for boron.”
I love George Carlin so it was difficult to pick a fave but A Place for My Stuff was really memorable for me. In addition to straight stand up, he also has these great sketch pieces recorded in a studio. Even at the top there’s an announcement, “This album has been made possible through grants from the following organizations…” and goes on to list hilarious/non-existent entities. After that he goes to live stand up with the opening joke, “Hey, have you noticed that you never seem to get laid much on Thanksgiving? I think it’s because all the coats are on the bed.”
There are only 2 things that all comedians have in common; a microphone and a stage. That’s it. Stand up comedy really just requires those 2 things. So when a guy decides to don a white suit, put an arrow through his head and play the banjo that comedy exists on a completely different stratosphere. Steve Martin played the clown prince better than anyone and Let’s Get Small is full of classic bits that I still quote all the time. “I am so mad at my mother. She’s 102 years; she called me up the other day and wanted to borrow 10 dollars for some food.” This album is also the birthplace of the national catchphrase, “Well Excuuuse Meeeee.”
Buttoned Down mind was released in 1960 during an era of comedy where a lot of comedians were performing the same jokes. Not writing their own jokes and then performing them night after night, literally telling the same jokes other comedians told all over the country. Bob Newhart was working as a full time accountant and Warner Brothers had to set up shows for him because he had never performed stand up at a club. 2 weeks after his first time on stage, he recorded this seminal album. It went on to knock Elvis Presley off the #1 spot on the billboard charts, is the 20th best selling album (not just comedy) of all time and is currently archived in The Library of Congress. The patient pauses, the controlled stammering and letting an audience use their imagination to fill in the picture were groundbreaking. Newhart made the crowd come to him instead of vice versa and this album has the classics, “Driving Instructor,” “Marketing the Wright Brothers,” and “Nobody Will Ever Play Baseball.”
All hail the king. I really don’t know what else I can say about Cosby that hasn’t been said a million times before but there is a reason that every comedian from every walk of life name him as their favorite, myself included. I had Bill Cosby’s cassettes that I used to listen to on my yellow Sony Walkman and would be beside myself with laughter. Let’s face it; we all know Junior Barnes is a gunky. But with “Himself”, it was the first time I ever saw Cosby performing the things he was saying and it made me enjoy it even more. Sitting in a chair. A chair. Owning it. This album is also a very clear template for The Cosby Show. “The reason we have 5 children is because we do not want 6.” I mean come on. Also, a lot of people don’t know this but Cosby and his wife produced everything (Jemmin Inc.) so he always maintained the rights to all of his material. Even on the business side of show business he was years ahead of his time. If you’d like to see how comedians regard Cosby, watch him spending time with Jerry Seinfeld in the documentary Comedian. That pretty much sums it up. I had the privilege of seeing Bill Cosby perform live about 6 months ago. He did almost two hours. He still sat in a chair. He still owned it. “Dad is great. He gave us chocolate cake.”