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.
Everyone has a friend like Mike Brody. He’s the buddy that manages to stay cool under pressure, despite a clumsy manner and instinctive sense of humor that keeps everyone around him in stitches. They may not always be around when you need them most, but like all great humorist they’re always right on time. Mike has spent his entire stand up career aiming to perfect the art of comedic timing, so when he lists his top 5 comedy albums it’s sure to have a few comics so good you could set a watch by them. So without further delay here’s Mike Brody with his Top 5 Comedy Albums Of All Time and remember, you’re on the clock. Go!
I started comedy in the early 2000s in Iowa, and I remember thinking that most of the comics that came through my home club were super antiquated and hacky. So whenever I had a small one-nighter gig, you’d hear club/bar owners talking about how Hedberg had been there years before and bombed the hardest anybody has ever bombed. But always, without exception, they’d say “But I knew he’d be famous!” Sure you did! All the dive-bar owners in Brainerd had the eye for talent! That’s what I love about Mitch. He did it his way until people couldn’t deny him anymore. Before Hedberg, comedy had kind of lost it’s goofiness. It was a bit stale.”Is this all there is?” I thought. It was pre-Youtube. Then I saw Hedberg’s Comedy Central special and my mind was blown. Yogurt jokes! Koala bears! WHAT?! I must have played Strategic Grill Locations 100,000 times. Then I actually got to be in the audience for the recording of Mitch All Together. Play those two albums back to back…you can actually hear the difference between the effects of marijuana and cocaine when you do it. I still get sad that he’s dead. We need him.
Can I count this as an album? It’s a VHS, but I think it’s up on Youtube. This was my first exposure to Hicks. People have copied and watered him down so much now that newer comics can’t grasp how different he was. So many “edgy” comics have aped his style that if you watch it now, it seems kind of ordinary. BUT THIS WAS 1989! Think about what was happening comedically in 1989. There were geniuses, but there were also a lot of airplane peanuts. Now consider that Hicks was doing flag-burning jokes in front of mulletheads in Texas. He was ahead of his time and (for better or worse) changed the tone of comedy forever. Plus, those weird psychedelic screens and pauses in the video tripped me out.
Hey, he’s alive! I was admittedly late to the game with Bill Burr. Everybody kept raving about how funny he was and I just never got around to listening to him. Then one day I got the CD/DVD of Let It Go. I was driving home from a road gig, so I put the CD on and loved it. And yet I couldn’t figure out something about him. He was hilarious, but how was he getting these people to like him so much? The jokes were so wonderfully evil. Then I got home and put the DVD in. OH, I GET IT! He smiles! He’s charming! He shrugs his shoulders! Bill Burr is a master at being the winking asshole. Not literally, of course. That would be weird. I mean that he’s the asshole that we all respect and want to be. Also, his podcast is magnificent. Bill Burr equally brings me joy and sadness. Joy because he’s at the peak of his genius right now and sadness because GODDAMNIT I wish I was that good. He gets my vote for best in the business right now.
Holy shit, I don’t know if there’s a better storyteller today than Mike Birbiglia. Joey Bag-o-Donuts, the story about the cancer benefit, the Roger Clemens story! They’re all gold. The dude’s a master at being so likeable. He could tell a story about helping Jerry Sandusky break out of prison and he’d win us over. We’d be like “Go! Go Mike! Set him free!” Telling a great story isn’t about just droning on and then having a big punch line at the end. It’s like kicking a ball up a hill. You got to keep tapping it the whole way or else it’s going to roll backwards. Birbiglia has that on lock-down. His stories are hilarious from beginning to end, and he still manages to have the endings have a big payoff. Really, I’m in awe of this guy. And if you haven’t seen his movie “Sleepwalk With Me”, you need to yesterday.
I don’t want to sound jaded, but after you do comedy awhile you kind of stop wanting to hear comedy every day. It’s not that you don’t still love it, but it’s like The Matrix. You see “the code”; you appreciate it, and even enjoy it. But you don’t laugh out loud anymore. At best, you think in your head “Oh wow, that’s really funny” with a stoneface. Joe Derosa’s “The Depression Auction” had me laughing my ass off. I literally LOLed. There’s just something about east coast comics. They have a swagger that you have to be raised with. The one about how he’s politically stupid but easily lead, the one about doing comedy at an Insane Clown Posse concert, the one about how nobody wants to go to your wedding: brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. He’s a loser and a winner. He’s a dick, but he’s vulnerable. Aren’t we all?