Monday, May 25, 2009

Comedy Kill or Die

I've kinda talked about this before but I found myself re-examining the topic, as Digg is reviewing the topic. Again. This never seems to die. People are always wanting to make top ten lists and bottom ten lists and it's annoying because there is no such thing. There are personal lists and even they change the second you get them down on paper. So by the time anyone publishes a bottom ten or top ten it's already out of date and obsolete. So why bother? So people like you and me can bitch about them and then make our own lists so we can flip off the other guy with it.

First off, I can't stand web "articles" that consist of ten pictures and brief descriptions passed off as lists. It's blatant they just want us to activate ten times as many banner ads that we don't look at so they can wring money out of obtuse advertising agencies. Here we have the ten worst comedians ever and it's a bullshit list. Let's take them on one at a time.

Sinbad is too bland to be on either a best or worst list. He's the most 'below average' comedian. There are many comedians worse than him, and many more better. He doesn't even deserve an honorable mention in the worst category. He's meh. I would say he's vanilla, but people might accuse me of being racist. There's just no way to say that joke without the accusation.

Larry the Cable Guy is not a comedian. He's a character actor performing a monologue in an accent. Therefore he doesn't even qualify to be on this list. More talented than he lets on, Daniel "Lawrence" Whitney found a niche and milked it for all it was worth. Good for him. I hope he saved up some money for the rest of his life because his career ended about six months before he noticed.

Jay Leno does nothing for me, but objectively speaking the guy's ratings have been consistently better than David Letterman's for over a decade. He appeals to a younger crowd. I'm happy for him. Did he sell out? Of course! All these bozos sold out. I'd sell out too if people would buy me. Leno's not the best but he's not the worst. Like Sinbad, he's mediocre at best, and inoffensive at his worst.

Andrew Dice Clay... yeah. Okay. I can't defend this guy and I've tried. He's bad. He's bad if he's playing a role and only pretending to be racist, and he's bad if he actually is racist. He's bad no matter what. He doesn't make me laugh. He makes me wince. If I were making a bottom ten I'd probably include this guy, but it wouldn't be with any malice or venom. I find him rather sad, actually.

Gallagher is, was, and always shall be among the greatest prop comics ever in the history of comedy. The combination of prop slapstick with intelligent wit set the bar for all others who dare venture into a genre of comedy often considered only slightly more professional than bad puns and dirty limericks. While not the best comedian ever, he's definitely in my Top Hundred. Probably around the late sixites and early seventies, which is somehow appropriate.

Carrot Top... In a previous post I cited Scott Thompson as not the worst or best but as the absolute middle of the line. All other comedians ever in the history of anything should be measured as whether or not they are better or worse than Mr. Thompson. Sinbad is slightly better. Jay Leno is slightly worse. See how this works? Thompson does make me laugh, just not very often. Most of his punchlines are either obvious or forced. From an objective standpoint and a critical eye, his act still needed work at the height of his popularity. Fame came prematurely for him, and he never truly recovered. I haven't seen him work recently. I can only hope he got his delivery and timing down, because he often leaned on the visual of his prop for the joke, but rarely coincided well with his patter. I can only hope Las Vegas treats him well, but I fear on his tombstone will be the words, "needs improvement."

Dane Cook has been accused of stealing material, and the evidence is pretty impressive, but not wholly convincing. For me it's more about how a joke is told as opposed to who is telling it. Cook is, like Carrot Top, someone who was still learning the ropes when he suddenly found international stardom. Sounds to me what's really going on is Dane Cook's made some enemies on the way up and they're more than happy to beat him up on his way down. The guy who wrote this list wanted to diss Dane Cook (and Carlos Mencia who I'll get to in a minute), and the best way to do that is make a worst list and then throw in eight random other names to which most people might agree. They just want to sully the name of Dane Cook so people who don't know him will automatically assume him bad before they even hear him. It's called media manipulation. It's called propaganda. It's called sour grapes. On his own merits, Cook is below Thompson but above Sinbad because Sinbad's safe while Cook is not. Cook's got a good delivery. His timing's alright. Admittedly though, if he's stealing material, you'd think he'd steal better material.

Gilbert Gottfried being on this list is totally unacceptable. The man's ahead of his time. He has left audiences in stitches. He can roast fellow comedians like no other Jew I've ever seen. His original material is surreal and intelligent. His delivery, while acidic and at times chalkboard-scratch annoying, is totally spot-on accurate. He knows exactly what his voice and mannerisms are doing to his audience and he loves it. His impersonation of Andrew Dice Clay is gut splitting hilarious. If you've never seen it, it's really a treat. He can improvise and he can throw down prepared material. He's a consummate master and a professional at the craft. Again, definitely in my top hundred, though not in my top ten. Despite that, I respect this artist highly for his craft and admire him greatly. Anyone who says he's one of the worst comedians ever has no idea what comedy is, and has no right making such a list, then passing it off as authentic.

Dennis Miller was, at his height, a comedic genius. His tragic flaw has been his insistence on insulting his audience by not paying attention to it - or perhaps by paying too much. He'd purposefully inject into his routine obscure references that he knew most if not all of his audience would fail to get. This is like an artist painting in ultraviolet and being surprised when only bugs admire the work. If he was unaware that his audience hadn't read, seen, heard, or done all the things to which Dennis Miller referred, then he was ignorant to his audience and this is often the Kiss of Death for lesser mortals when on stage. You're supposed to tell jokes that your listeners will get - so they think you're funny and they laugh and that's what makes you a comedian. If he was aware, then he's always been an arrogant prick and the hell with him. Still, that doesn't make him one of the worst comedians ever in the history of anything.

Carlos Mencia may be a comedic thief. He may be racist. He may be horrible. He may beat his wife and yell at his kids. Maybe he screws donkeys and participates in lethal injections at Death Row. Maybe he pees on the homeless. Maybe he's got Satan on speed dial. Maybe he skullfucks orphans. I don't know. For me, when looking at a list like this, there's only one Cardinal Sin that makes you qualify for this list: not being funny. I can't recall Carlos Mencia ever making me laugh. At least Dane Cook has, on rare occasion, made me literally laugh out loud. Carlos Mencia reminds me of a crazy person on a street corner half dressed complaining that someone overcharged him on dry cleaning. How does one respond to such people? You turn away and walk briskly and Don't. Look. Back.

So what is my bottom ten list? Or my top ten? I don't have one. I try to make such lists for myself now and then, and I reserve the right to try again in the future, but it's a fruitless endeavor. It's silly. It can't be done. So I hope someday efforts like this on digg will get buried.

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