Something positive, for once.

17 Jul

Okay, since receiving more than one comment about how some of my blog posts so far have been kind of rant-y and negative, I’ve decided it’s time to talk about things I like.

To open a bigger window into the creation of a comedian’s mindset, I will use this post to list comedians that I enjoy and consider to be influences on my own comedy. Often-times when I think up a joke, I will often hear it in a particular comedian’s voice, representing my mind’s conception of that joke’s ideal delivery. Here are the comedians who talk inside my head, listed in no particular order other than the ones who come to my mind first:

1) Jeff Dunham

Gotcha! Just kidding. The real list is after the jump.

1) Louis C.K.

Not to sound like a comedy hipster here, but I liked Louis C.K. for a while before he got his new sitcom on FX. I think I started getting really into him a little while before “Chewed Up” came out. I think what I identify with most about Louis C.K. is he strikes me as somebody who really wants to be happy with the world and himself, and seems perfectly capable of doing so, but he is so dumbfounded by the people around him who make that difficult or find it difficult for themselves. Take this bit for example:

It’s this odd combination of optimism and cynicism that really resonates with me. He realizes he’s living in a crazy world, but doesn’t seem angry about it, just fascinated.

2) Patton Oswalt

I’m a big fan of Patton Oswalt for most of the same reasons I’m a fan of Louis C.K, but I especially admire Oswalt’s ability to just phrase things in just the right way. His comedy is really a textbook example of how important word choice is to humor. Take, for example, one of his more famous bits:

Notice how some of his biggest laughs in that bit are in his clever turns of phrase like “lunch gun” and “failure pile in a sadness bowl.” He just squeezes every word for its humor value on TOP of this whole sensibility of being an amused outsider looking in. It also helps that he makes a lot of nerdy references I enjoy to things like comic books and Star Trek.

3) Todd Barry

The thing you always notice first about Todd Barry is his delivery. He is very low key, low energy, but his material doesn’t need the energy. His tone of voice just amplifies the generally bemused attitude that informs his jokes. The fact that Todd Barry is so funny makes me even more upset that Dane Cook is so successful, because it proves you don’t need wild gesticulations and yelling to create something funny.

The funny thing is if anything, I tend to mimic his delivery most often, either because I’m often tired when I get on stage, or to keep myself from seeming like I’m trying too hard, letting what’s funny speak for itself.

4) Steven Wright
So yeah, aside from longer, rant-ier comedy styles, I appreciate a good one-liner. I also love people who are surrealist and probably certifiably bonkers. Steven Wright is all of those. His stuff is clear evidence of a wholly different manner of thinking about everything he sees. He also has a way of giving a linking narrative to series of jokes that would otherwise be completely unrelated one-liners.

If any of you think he’s just playing a character acting like that, he’s not. I once saw him live in Lebanon, NH, and waited long after the show to see if he’s come out and sign a copy of his album “I still have a pony” for me. He came out and was just like that, just as awkward and spacey, like you don’t know how he’s going to react to anything. He might cry as soon as he’s laugh. He signed my album twice. Then I went to a pizza restaurant where someone was belting out a raspy karaoke rendition of “Hang on, Sloopy.” It was a night to remember.

5) Emo Phillips

This guy’s another weirdo. Noticing a trend? He is the master of what some call the “garden path” joke, where he sets you up so well to think he’s going to go one way, then go completely the other way, all with this unsettling man-child vibe. He’s basically what would happen if, instead of just directing his movie, Tim Burton had CREATED the Peewee Herman character.

Again, he’s a classic example of how this kind of subdued method of delivery is best couple with comedy you have to think a few seconds before fully appreciating it.

6) Mitch Hedberg

Who DOESN’T like Mitch? He was a talent who unfortunately lost his life to his heroin addiction, but people still appreciate him and his unique comedic presence. He was kind of like Steven Wright in that he had a one-liner kind of style, except instead of being this unsettling Jim Ignatowski-like burnout, he was more of the chill stoner friend you had in college.

He was just so damn LIKABLE.

7) Dave Attel

Attel is more back along the lines of Louis C.K. and Patton Oswalt, but instead of just being an amused observer, he sees the mad carousel of life spinning before him, and decides to hop along on the ride. He’s an interesting blend of Oswalt and Wright as he has this kind of surrealist way of dealing with words, coining really messed up turns of phrase.

I actually consciously modeled one of my recent jokes on his style a little bit. he always sounds like he’s having a lot of fun with his stuff on stage and I hope I get to the point where I’m doing stuff and having so much fun the audience can’t help but have fun with me.

So yeah, next time you see me on stage and don’t like me, blame these seven fucks.

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