Scott Davies

Top 5 Stand-Up Comedians of All Time

Stand-up comedy has been a lifelong obsession for me. From learning and repeating jokes from an old, dusty joke book, to spending evenings upon evenings scouring the Internet for the next comedian to watch. I have spent countless hours sat alone in the dark laughing at the opinion of one powerful, exciting, entertaining comedian after another.

The power a stand up comedian holds is astonishing to me. They walk onto a stage in front of a group of people, all of whom have their chair facing directly towards this one person, who then holds everyone’s attention and forces them, en masse, to laugh out loud. I think it is the bravest of all forms of entertainment, and I admire everyone who even attempts it, but especially these five masters of the craft…

Demetri Martin

Demetri Martin’s shows contain a mixture of several forms of media. He isn’t just a stand up comedian, he is an artist, a musician, a storyteller and a comedian combined.

His quirky personality coupled with his unique and often bizarre observations of the world around him have audiences across America rolling in the aisles. Mixing in his flip chart work and his gentle melodic comedy songs alongside his well crafted jokes, often more than one form of media working alongside each another, his stand up comedy becomes something you can’t take your eyes off.

My only criticism is that he never tours the UK, which given his cult following is understandable. Ticket sales are the main reason for touring, and if he and his team don’t have reason to believe his shows would sell out over here then it would be a bad business decision to take that leap.

Mike Birbiglia

Mike Birbiglia is someone I only discovered in the last couple of years, but since then I have watched all of his stand up specials dozens of times. 

He recently finished showing his newest stand up on Broadway, entitled ‘The Old Man And The Pool’.

Mike is a gentle, softly spoken comic whose stories touch on love, life, death, mortality and poor punctuality. All of the serious issues. But the way he speaks makes it feel as if he is in your front room, speaking directly to you.  His comedy is relatable to his target audience and his accessible personality and kind-natured manner make him one of the most enjoyable comedians today.

Louis C.K.

Okay, so Louis C.K. likes to jerk off while people watch. So what? I mean at least he asks and doesn’t just hide in a bush like some kind of pervert.

Regardless of what you might think of his kinks, one thing I think we can agree on is that this guy is absolutely hilarious. He has a gift whereby he can say the most disgusting, degrading, horrific thing and somehow you find yourself laughing until coke spurts out of your nostrils.

His comedy lives on the edge, constantly pushing to find the very limit of what is acceptable without crossing that line. An incredible skill.

What I really adore about Louis is that after he does his show, all that material goes in the bin, never to be seen again. He starts a new show every time from scratch, so you’ll never hear the same joke twice.

Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld is my favourite overall comedian when you also consider his sitcom, ‘Seinfeld’, which appears on my ‘Top 5 Sitcoms of All Time‘ list, plus his incredible series of short interview pieces entitled ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’, which does exactly what it says on the tin (Available on Netflix), and his book which contains all the bits he has written, ever. You can get a copy of that right here

His comedy is child-friendly for the most part, and he never swears, which is incredibly rare for a comedian.

His observations are so intelligent, and bits that he did 30 years ago somehow still stand today, despite the amount the world has changed over the last three decades.

James Acaster

When we’re talking about stand up comedy, as a stand-alone experience, I find James Acaster to be the very best in the world.

Put aside his award winning podcasts, his ridiculously hilarious books, his panel show appearances that almost instantly go viral, and don’t even think about mentioning about how every time James Acaster goes on Sunday Brunch it’s his birthday.

Putting all of that to one side and looking only at his stand up comedy, he has to be the best.

His comedy is at times lethargic, at times energetic, but always absurdly funny.  Each show has a unique character delivering the dialogue, and behind that character is a hint of the real James Acaster, peeking through, popping his head up from time to time.

It’s the absurdity that I mentioned that drives me insane – it is absolute perfection. His stories are believable, but absolutely ridiculous. It is this ridiculousness that makes me absolutely howl with laughter.

With some comedians you can re-watch their stand up and know the lines, but not necessarily laugh out loud on each watch. With James Acaster, this is impossible.

Every time you watch his stand up, you laugh out loud. 

And the barman said, why the long face?