Comics, jokes and one living-room rhinoceros that are sure to impress

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comJune 6, 2013 

20050518 Cosby Bill

Bill Cosby


For my parents and the 38 million other baby boomers across the country, their introduction to the comedy record came via Bill Cosby.

Before The Wizard of Cos changed television forever as Papa Huxtable and before his fashionable-for-that-time sweater arsenal became a joke for Jack Black in "High Fidelity" and hipster fodder, he produced several seminal comedy records such as the aptly titled "Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow ... Right!," "I Started Out as a Child" and "For Adults Only."

These records are remarkable not only in how they showcase Cosby's masterful knack for seamlessly weaving jokes into genuinely compelling stories from his childhood and life but for their utter lack of profanity, a striking contrast to the indigo-blue material of similarly brilliant but undeniable vulgar comics like Louis C.K., Dave Attell and Amy Schumer.

But Cosby's records, which I've grown to love in the last few years, weren't my introduction to the art form; that came, as hard as it is to believe now given the turn his career has taken over the past decade, via former "Saturday Night Live" cast member and Billy Madison himself, Adam Sandler.

I remember being in middle school and huddling around a CD player with my friends, listening to "They're All Going to Laugh At You!" and "What the Hell Happened to Me?" We laughed until tears rolled down our cheeks and our sides hurt and, naturally, always had one finger on the pause button in case a parent walked by.

This was not the kind of stuff you wanted your mom hearing.

Sandler's work wasn't the conventional stand-up record that Cosby, Steve Martin or Richard Pryor made so much as little radio plays.

Though many are too filthy to describe at any length here, some of my personal favorites included a sketch about a flatulent hypnotherapist, another about a toll booth collector on the Massachusetts Turnpike and a downright silly sketch, "The Longest Pee," about a man urinating for an unexpectedly long time.

Commedia dell'Arte it was not, but it did inspire me to seek out other comedy albums, a journey that led me to discover the works of George Carlin, Mitch Hedberg, Louis C.K. and yes, even, Dane Cook.

For the record, I stand behind "Harmful If Swallowed" as one of the best comedy albums of the last decade but simply cannot defend anything Cook has produced or appeared in since, save the brilliant cameo he made as himself in an episode of Louis C.K.'s FX comedy, "Louie."

But what impresses me most about these and the countless other comedy albums I've since listened to and enjoyed isn't just their ability to make me laugh but what it says about the performers themselves.

Unable to hide behind a guitar or a song, the professionally funny never cease to amaze me with their creative honesty, vulnerability and, if we're being honest, bravery.

How many times have been described as funny? Now, imagine taking the confidence gained from that compliment and going on stage and trying to make a skeptical group of total strangers laugh.

It's akin to opening a restaurant because someone once liked a side dish you brought to a dinner party. It requires equal parts confidence, courage and insanity.

To be professionally funny takes guts and that's never lost on me when I'm listening to comedy albums.

This week, in honor of comedy albums, some of my favorite bits from some of my favorite comics, both past and present.

For the record, Dane Cook was also really good in the Steve Carell romantic comedy "Dan in Real Life." Wait, when did I become the defender of Dane Cook?

  • Adam Sandler, "The Longest Pee" -- Listened to it just now and it still makes me laugh. Some things never change.

  • Bill Cosby, "My Pet Rhinoceros" -- I like this joke because it speaks to the refusal, by some, to be impressed by anything. Even a rhinoceros in Bill Cosby's living room.

  • Mitch Hedberg, "Business Cards" -- One of the true masters of modern comedy. Gone way too soon.

  • Anthony Jeselnik, "Standards and Practices"-- A disciple of the Hedberg school of comedy and a darn good comedian in his own right. This joke is smart and subversive.

  • Hannibal Burress, "Scatting" -- This bit combines two of my favorite things: Trying to explain something whose origin is just a given (like scatting) and a former "SNL" writer talking about a really silly sketch he wrote that never made it to air.

  • Aziz Ansari, "I Think Too Much" -- South Carolina's own with a joke that is as honest as it is funny.

  • John Mulaney, "Easy Not to Do Things" -- Some jokes are funny because they're true. Not sure a single joke has ever contained more truth than this one.

  • Steven Wright, "This Woman I Met" -- Probably the most influential comic of the last 25 years. Wright is the comic your favorite comic grew up idolizing.

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