If you put a gun to my head and forced me to name my favourite comedians I'd probably wet myself and call the police.
read moreI think you'd get better results taking me out for a nice meal and casually dropping it into conversation over coffee afterwards, at which point I'd consider for a while, blowing smoke rings with my cigar, before producing the laminated list from my breast pocket that all comedians must carry by law. Mine has three names on it: Woody Allen, Bill Hicks and Spike Milligan.
So, in no particular order:
But isn't he just an artsy film director who got off with his step-daughter? Weeelll, yes and no. In the sixties, his stand-up act rocked and his written comedy prose from the time is constructed like a swiss watch. His moose routine is a master class in following a comical premise to it's illogical conclusion and he's still quoted as a influence by many current acts.
Curiously, Woody himself seems ashamed of his time at the coal front of stand up, distancing himself from his persona of the time, that of "deluded loser with the ladies". Ahem. Well, you did a good job there Woody.
Recommended: Woody Allen: The Nightclub Years. The Complete Prose.
The comedians' comedian that most of the public have never heard of, mainly because he died of cancer just as his star was rising. He was thirty two when he died in 1994 but he'd been gigging since he was fifteen. At his best he was like a fire and brimstone preacher from an alternative religion advocating personal freedom, thinking for yourself, questioning the government and killing manufactured boy bands. All sounds reasonable to me. He's got the best gulf war material ever and again very well constructed gags. I read recently that he stumbled across one of Woody Allen's prose books as a youth...
Recommended: Revelations, Rant in E Minor, Arizona Bay.
Ah Spike! So much of the British comedy scene since the fifties can be traced all the way back to him. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that if someone did a rock family tree type affair for comedy pretty much everything since then would lead back to the grey matter between this man's ears. Pretty much anyone with an ounce of surrealism about them, from Eddie Izzard to Vic and Bob doff their hats to Spike. The TV version of The Goon Show, Q, "inspired" Monty Python (ahem). Not bad for someone with manic depression, although there's an argument to be made that this was part of his genius. No link to Woody Allen or Bill Hicks that I am aware of, but I'd be happy to be proved wrong.
Recommended: The Goon Show, The War Memoirs.
Well, there you have it. Obviously I have many more favourites that I didn't even touch on, but then you did only buy me lunch. Get me drunk and I'll talk about Peter Cook, Chris Morris and Joe Pasquale.