Yesterday, The Wrap confirmed earlier reports that standup Aziz Ansari is set to headline at New York’s Madison Square Garden as part of his new tour Modern Romance, which also includes stops in Dallas, Houston, D.C., Philadelphia, and Las Vegas, not to mention a book slated for a September 2015 release. “There is something very insane and amazing about starting standup in New York City at the lowest rung — open-mic spots — and then many years later going to the other utmost, utmost extreme of playing Madison Square Garden,” Ansari told Billboard last month. “I felt a sense of that when I did Carnegie Hall, but Madison Square Garden is another level.”
Only a handful of comedians have had the honor of performing at the New York City landmark, and only six have performed to sold-out crowds at the large arena space, or in the case of Eddie Murphy, its smaller venue Felt Forum. In anticipation of Ansari’s MSG performance on October 9th (and tickets for the event going on sale to the general public tomorrow at noon), here’s a closer look at the six comedians who have proven themselves MSG-worthy successes.
Eddie Murphy (Eddie Murphy Raw, 1987)
Eddie Murphy’s legendary album Raw was not only the first time a comedian sold out Madison Square Garden’s more intimate venue Felt Forum (wearing a tight purple suit and black leather gloves, no less), but it’s also his last major recorded standup performance. Murphy was only 26 years old at the time.
Andrew Dice Clay (Dice Rules, 1990)
Back in 1990, Andrew Dice Clay became the very first comic to sell out Madison Square Garden two nights in a row, though the resulting special didn’t do as well. While chugging on a cigarette on Tom Green Live, Clay said: “It was exciting, it was overwhelming, but yet I felt that was what I always wanted to do and I just owned up to it and enjoyed doing it.” Dice’s MSG performance was included in the 1991 album Dice Rules as well as a film version the same year, which tanked with critics and earned Clay three Razzie noms for Worst Picture, Worst Actor, and Worst Screenplay.
Dane Cook (Rough Around the Edges, 2007)
Fresh off the success of several standup specials and two SNL hosting stints, Dane Cook became the second comedian to sell out Madison Square Garden’s arena in November 2007, selling out two shows in one night that were recorded for his special Rough Around the Edges, which was released Thanksgiving weekend and sold 90,000 copies during its first week.
Chris Rock (No Apologies, 2007)
On December 31, 2007, Chris Rock kicked off his international No Apologies tour by performing at Madison Square Garden on New Year’s Eve to a crowd of 20,000 people. As was the case with the rest of the tour, the MSG stop sold out quickly, and Rock ended up adding five additional dates to the venue to meet the overwhelming demand.
Russell Peters (Red, White and Brown, 2008)
Canadian comic Russell Peters recorded a special at Madison Square Garden’s WaMu Theater in February 2008 called Red, White and Brown that aired on Showtime and Comedy Central and was released as an album in the US the following year. In 2012, Peters also earned the honor of being the very first comedian to perform at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
Kevin Hart (Let Me Explain, 2013)
Kevin Hart became the sixth comic to sell out Madison Square Garden last year when he recorded a special as part of his Let Me Explain tour. The film’s theatrical release over the 4th of July weekend broke records as the second best opening for a standup movie ever, grossing over $10.1 million and almost beating out 2000’s The Original Kings of Comedy, which made $11 million in theaters.