From Robin Williams to Joan Rivers, RollingStone has ranked the 50 best stand-up comics of all time. From old-school nightclub veterans to alt-comedy legends, Patton Oswalt to Richard Pryor are their picks for the greatest to ever grab a mic. These comedians simultaneously wake us up to the weird, wonderful possibilities of the world around us and make us howl like blithering idiots.
“That heartache where your heart be hurting and you can’t even listen to music. Like Rudolph the red-nosed rein deer, you say “That reminds me of my lady,” jokes Richard Pryor.” Pryor went through an evolution in his life and work: He survived a disturbing childhood whose scary and colorful personalities shaped the basis of his early act; worked through a clean-cut Cosby phase; found cocaine and eventually burst out of a staid Vegas lounge act, fleeing to San Francisco and becoming the outspoken, unfettered spirit that turned stand-up on its ear. At his peak, which was caught on tape in specials including Live in Concert and Live on the Sunset Strip, Pryor was untouchable.
“I’m also here for charity because at this age you want to give back because you’re also closer to god,” quips Joan Rivers in the clip. Stand-up comedy grew out of minstrelsy and then vaudeville, which only makes it about a century old, tops. Some of the best practitioners of the form are still alive … or at the very least, haven’t been in the ground all that long.
Check out the RollingStone video clip below:
These 50 stand-ups best embody what we have come to expect of our modern-day comedians: Someone who can wake us up to the weird, wonderful possibilities of the world around us, impel us to think differently about our own lives – and most of all, make us howl like blithering idiots.
“America’s like a terrible girlfriend to the rest of the world,” exclaims Louis CK, “Cause when somebody hurts America she remembers it forever. But if she does anything bad it’s like…What I didn’t do anything.” George Carlin considered the brain and conscience of comedy, number one ranked comic Richard Pryor is its guts and heart, and it’s unlikely the man referred to as the “Picasso of our profession” – by no less than Jerry Seinfeld – will ever be topped.
Good list but Rodney Dangerfield, Eddie Murphy and Don Rickles should be at least top 20. Humm, and no Andrew Dice Clay?
What do you think?
Source: Instagram, RollingStone.com