I’ve always rejected the idea that standup comedy is useful as merely a stepping stone to other things (movies, a sitcom, writing gigs). In my opinion, it’s as noble a final destination as any other. That’s what made Seinfeld documentary Comedian so refreshing to watch — a legendary, insanely-wealthy comic heading enthusiastically back into the standup fray, while a virtual no-name claws and screams as he tries to escape it.
That’s not to say that a successful standup shouldn’t venture out into other areas. Obviously, comedians should explore the creative impulse in any direction they feel drawn. But while doing this, many comedians lose their way. And, when that happens, standup seems to be exactly what’s needed to help them escape a growing catalog of mediocre work and reconnect with what made them funny in the first place.
Here are a few comedians that are overdue for a return to the stage:
His recent return to SNL was a tease — offering an all-too-brief glimpse back inside the mind of a comic genius that has for the most part been wasted for a decade. Again, I’m all in favor of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But, did we really need Fun with Dick & Jane or Yes Man?
Maybe he’s lost his spastic comic edge. But, the hilarity of his late night talk show appearances indicate otherwise – consistently demonstrating the mischievous, high-energy release that he once displayed with great flare in his stand-up act.
A lot of people probably don’t remember him from his days in standup. But his stage persona in Funny People was essentially him reconnecting with that part of his comedic life. And it was funny. Maybe he doesn’t have any desire to do standup anymore (After all, what would he have Rob Schneider do?), but he should really consider it. If not, I fear he may go from making fun of hacky man-baby movies in Funny People to actually making them in real life.
To put it simply: Imagine That, Norbit, The Haunted Mansion, Daddy Day Care, Pluto Nash and countless other horrible cash grabs have completely destroyed Murphy’s once-great comedy cred. But it’s never too late for him to break out the leather suit and show an entire generation of comedy fans that really only remember him as an irritating jackass (in Shrek and otherwise) that he can still get Raw.
We all know what happened the last time he took the stage in a comedy club. But, enough time has passed since his Laugh Factory debacle that he might finally be able to squeeze some laughter from the situation. Providing, of course, that it was done in a very carefully-constructed and heavily self-deprecating manner.
Doing this well could write an exciting new chapter in his comedy history — which offers a dramatic drop-off in comedic contributions after Seinfeld (The Bow Tie Killer in Problem Child, anyone?)
He isn’t going to go down in history with Pryor or Carlin, but Drew Carey was at one point a very solid standup comedian. That was before he was distracted by a sitcom. Then an improv show. Then, ummm, Plinko???
Despite claiming otherwise, as a comedian it must be killing him to have the most creative and humorous thing in his workplace be the wacky shirts that his blue-haired contestants wear. That job has got to provide him with a wealth of material. Let’s hear it, Drew.
He gave the world Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm; Larry David owes us nothing. But, if he can find the time, I personally would really appreciate more of this:
Colin Perkins is an author and comedian who has written for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,
McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, CollegeHumor, Cracked and mental_floss.