This is a great time for stand-up comedians and their fans. With more and more comedy specials arriving in the Netflix library by the boatload, as well as the legendary HBO comedy specials, comics have more opportunities to expose more fans to their wares and, thus, entice them to buy tickets to their live shows, which will always be the best way to see stand-up comedy.
When I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, our only way to hear about comedians was from Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show or in the early days of cable with Caroline’s Comedy Hour and An Evening at the Improv on A&E. From there, we’d learn about our favorites and buy their comedy albums on vinyl or cassette. I had tapes from Eddie Murphy, Sam Kinison, Dennis Miller (when he was still funny), Sandra Bernhard, Joan Rivers, early Comic Relief specials and many more. That was how it worked. It was all about the comedy album.
As much as I love a comedy special on Netflix or HBO, it’s good to get an audio-only comedy fix when you can’t watch, like when you’re driving, cutting the lawn, working out or whatever. (Although it can be tricky listening to comedy at the gym. I have actually dropped dumbbells mid-curl from laughing so hard.) Without the benefit of SiriusXM, I’ve found great comedy resources from the TuneIn Comedy channel and the Brick Wall Comedy channel on TuneIn internet radio. They’re great mixes of excerpts, both recent and old, from Amy Schumer, Chris Rock or Louis C.K. to Richard Pryor, Bob Newhart or George Carlin. One minute, you’re listening to the searing bite of Lewis Black; the next minute, you’re hearing a corny classic from Henny Youngman. Fabulous.
Brick Wall Comedy (explicit)
Since listening to comedy on TuneIn, I’ve been exposed to comics I’d never heard before and comics I hadn’t heard in a long time. After hearing a great clip, I’ll go into Spotify and save some of the comedy albums for listening later. As great as Netflix is for comedy, the overall library of comedy on Spotify is exponentially larger, since it includes all those stand-up gigs that were only audio recorded.
Recent favorites include Maria Bamford, Jen Kirkman, Jim Gaffigan, Greg Proops (my new higher power), Louis C.K., Lenny Bruce, Dave Attell, Tig Notaro, Lewis Black… just to name a few I’ve been really enjoying lately.
Stand-up comics are truth-tellers who have an ability to look at us (and themselves) in a uniquely hilarious way, bringing out the ridiculous. Joan Rivers, one of the best, was fond of paraphrasing Winston Churchill by saying “When you make someone laugh, you give them a mini vacation.” Between internet radio and Spotify, how lucky we are to have a virtual candy store of great stand-up comedy, which is essential in a time when we need as much laughter as possible.