Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Six Comedians We Wish Would Return to Standup

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:

Jim Carrey

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.

Adam Sandler

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.

Eddie Murphy

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.

Michael Richards

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?)

Drew Carey

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.

Larry David

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.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kamau-Jamal-Vaughn/1190070643 Kamau Jamal Vaughn

    Where's Dave Chappele in this list?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Darren-Miller/5312674 Darren Miller

      I was just about to ask the same thing.

    • TS Idiot

      He's been doing stand up again. He did a slew of shows this summer.

  • Colin Perkins

    Dave Chappelle still does stand-up. He did a series of sold-out shows at The New Parish in San Francisco earlier this month:


  • JoshUng

    It'd be nice to hear most of them back on stage, but I don't see it happening. Not because they don't think they can do it, or they don't like, but because I imagine most or all of them have "F- You" money. Hell, Richards, David, and Carey probably still have a bunch of syndication money rolling in, and the other three were/are some of the highest paid actors out there.

  • http://www.shawncomedy.com Shawn Miller

    Great list, it would be amazing to see some of these guys on stage again. I would add Steve Martin to the list. Would love to see him do stand-up again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Adam/52600369 Paul Adam

    If Travis Bickle went into stand up, it would have been a lot like Sandler there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Taylor-Smith/100000545977445 Taylor Smith

    Murphy's stand up was horrid! No funny stories or jokes, just him talking in black voice, doing horrible impersonations. He will not do it anymore because Chappelle destroys him. Dare I Say Chappelle is the best stand up ever!!

  • http://www.twitter.com/becca_oneal Rebecca O'Neal

    Definitely some interesting picks! I wouldn't mind seeing any of these guys return to the stage. I'm the least famiilar with Michael Richards' pre-freakout standup, so I could really take it or leave it with him.

    The others though? I'm all for it!

    Eddie Murphy's stand up was pretty great, imo, but some of his more recent career choices have been questionable AT BEST – as you mentioned. Sub-question: is it in fact unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins? Is it better to burn out or fade away?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Darin-Bulai/100001269810793 Darin Bulai

    david spade and (i know it's too soon) zach galifianakis spring to mind

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Darin-Bulai/100001269810793 Darin Bulai

      but i am terrified we will not get any more zach standup now that he is a superstar(ish)

  • Rezpect

    Oh man, Eddie Murphy's Raw was as good as it gets. If only he were brave enough to go back to that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Seck/1383864268 Steve Seck

    Richard's role in Problem Child wan't post-Seinfeld – it was released in 1990.

  • Colin Perkins

    @ Steve:
    I'm not saying that that movie was made after Seinfeld. I'm saying that after Seinfeld, there is a dramatic dropoff in his comedic accomplishments.

  • http://www.standupguys.biz Atlanta Junk Removal

    If it was comedians that we wish would LEAVE stand up Dane Cook would top the list, but why in the world isn't Dave Chappelle on here Junk Removal Atlanta

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Hall/1605914261 Daniel Hall

    @Taylor Eddie Murphy's act being horrid is a matter of opinion. There's a reason he was one of the biggest stars in America by the time he was 22, and that's because he did have a funny act and he told funny stories. His not wanting to do standup has nothing to do with Chappell. He hasn't been on a stage in over 24 years. You don't just jump back into that without starting out from the bottom again doing five minutes at clubs and working out material to fill a touring show. Besides that it has more to with not being able to live up to Pryor's legacy than having anything to do with Dave Chappell, meaning he can't face the heat from an audience and honestly break down his missteps in life the same way Pryor did after his incidents.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ben-Hudson/506866830 Ben Hudson

    Please do an article on Brian Reagan. I want to know more about the funniest stand-up to never have a sitcom, film, Sprite commercial or otherwise.


    • Jeff Manning@facebook

      @Ben Hudson I second that… except it's Regan…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dislex-Fx/749632123 Dislex Fx

    This list is worthless without Mitch Hedberg. RIP!

  • Colin Perkins

    @Dislex Fx:
    It seems pretty unlikely that Mitch Hedburg is going to return to stand-up anytime soon. Or, barring serious advances in science, ever.

    The article is designed to be a list of people that conceivable could return to stand-up. Otherwise the list would include Hedburg – as well as Pryor, Carlin, Dangerfield, etc.

  • Caitlin Coley@facebook

    @Colin Perkins – Don't forget Giraldo. Greg was amazing. we've lost some fantastic comedians over the years…. i wish we could trade some shitty comics (if you could even call them that) for our old faves.

  • Rajesh Kannan@facebook

    Thanks for giving such a nice info….


  • Sarah Asher@twitter

    Woody Allen – Listen to Woody Allen: The Nightclub Years and you'll forget he was ever an Ingmar Bergman/Roman Polanski wannabe.

  • Mark Bernhard@facebook

    What about Steve Martin???

    • David Martin Latchaw@facebook

      @Mark Bernhard@facebook
      Yep. Robin Williams, too.

    • TS Idiot

      There is no doubt Steve Martin is one of the greatest stand ups ever, a straight up genius… Unfortunately he's so damn good at so many damn things, and it would be a shame to take him away from those (perhaps) more intellectually edifying endeavors. But every time he's on a talk show he usually does a fairly hilarious routine so he still kind of does it.

  • D.S.@twitter

    Who the fucks want anything to do with Jim Carey on or off the stage?

  • Colin Perkins

    @ D.S.
    Millions of people.

  • Han Rasmussen@facebook

    Add Denis Leary to this list, please!

  • That Dude

    C'mon now, how could you leave Dave Chappelle out of this list?!?

  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.e.mitchell Alex Mitchell

    Drew Carey does stand up every Monday night in Hollywood!

  • cole

    dave chappelle

  • Alex Fala2n

    How is Dave Chappelle not at the top of this list?

    • TS Idiot

      Chappelle is doing comedy again.

  • ben

    Drew Carey tours. He often has Brendon Walsh opening for him.

    I'd love for Scott Aukerman to get back into standup.

  • Mark Bernhard@facebook

    How about Patrice O'Neal?