Top Five is a column in which we talk to stand up comics who have released their own album about their five favorite comedy albums of all time.
It’s been a while since we here at Rooftop got to welcome Jason Downs back home to San Francisco! We last got a chance to catch up with him when his album, Excessive Talking, was released and he’s been a busy man ever since! Moving and shaking in the City of Angels now, he’s getting his generous share of acting work, from Super Bowl and other NFL commercial spots to performing on NBC’s Last Comic Standing! He continues to keep stand up part of world though, including being featured in our city’s premiere comedy festival, SF SketchFest! His brand of enthusiastic energy circling around real situations he comes across has made him a desired act for any show! You can catch him during SF SketchFest performing with the likes of Mike Lawrence and Dan St. Germain on February 5th and in the lineup to the fantastic Rude City Comedy Show on February 6th! While giving him the warm hello he deserves he shared a list of his favorite comedy albums and specials to our blogger-in-residence that helped shape the state of the modern stand up world.
Every ten years or so an iconic comedy album is released that demands the public’s attention, that’s Roll with the New. After the boom and bust of the comedy golden age of the late 1980’s/early 90’s, stand up was slowly dying, then came this masterpiece. After his brief stint on S.N.L., many considered him a flop and Rock’s career was in trouble. Rock’s HBO special Bring the Pain and this album version, Roll with the New was his comeback. The now classic bits Ni**as Vs. Black People to O.J., I Understand, Rock wrote, rewrote, performed, and honed this act to create the last iconic comedy album of our time.
Bring up the greats of stand up comedy and you will hear names like Kinison, Pryor, and Carlin. But, Jerry Seinfeld’s name is often unjustly left out of the conversation. I’m Telling You for the Last Time is the first attempt by a stand up comedian to walk the tightrope, while at the same time, striping the rope to make the rope thinner and thinner by recording and broadcasting it live on HBO. Seinfeld is an absolute craftsman, master of his domain, and that domain is stand up. There are many masterful jokes on this album, but the Olympics bit is one of the greatest well-finessed bits ever performed. Seinfeld proves that to get laughs you don’t have to be a self-deprecating goofball (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but rather you can be hilarious by using your sheer wit and cleverness.
Maria Bamford does what everybody else simply cannot do. On the Burning Bridges Tour, Bamford uses her remarkable talent for characters and scene development and organically takes us to an abstract, gooey world: a bent reality, all without breaking our suspension of disbelief. Many wonder why Bamford was never cast on S.N.L., the simple answer: she is just too big, too much, too intense for S.N.L.
Doug Stanhope: part philosopher, part prophet, part twisted human being; a modern day Hunter S. Thompson minus the gunshot wound to the head. Stanhope’s talent is taking taboo subjects others can’t seem to mine for gold, walk into the mine empty handed, and walk back out covered head to toe in a gold-plated suit of armor. On Deadbeat Hero, everything is funny, nothing is off limits, and swearing is nothing to shy away from. Stanhope taught me a lesson in comedy I’ll never forget; never trust a comic who doesn’t swear, i.e. Bill Cosby.
George Carlin’s Classic Gold is really three albums, AM:FM, Class Clown, Occupation: Foole, in one, packaged together as a double disc. Classic Gold displays Carlin’s talents not just as a master of stand up comedy, but a master of many different forms of stand up. On the first album, AM:FM, Carlin performs, by today’s standards, an alt comedy set, weaving in and out of one man sketches. With the second and third album, Carlin begins to evolve into the socially conscious comedian we would recognize before his passing. Class Clown’s, Muhammad Ali is one of the best single jokes ever told, full of dense words, rebellion and injustice. Finally, Occupation: Foole features the famous 7 words you can never say on television chunk that would later become the subject of a Supreme Court ruling, making this collection not just funny but part of United States history.