Friday, 14 August 2009

The Top 100 Comedy Albums on Spotify: Part Three

Part three: go! To be honest, the whole affair has actually spiralled into “An Indeterminate Number Of Interesting Comedy Albums On Spotify”, because we’re now past the fifty mark, and there are way more than fifty albums worth mentioning. From this point on, think of the title as something akin to how Heinz haven’t actually had just “57 Varieties” since before 1892. We’re still going to get the whole thing wrapped up within four parts though, so we’d better crack on.

x10sctmp4Peter Sellers – Greatest Comedy Cuts (2004)

Kicking off, another nice collection of songs and skits from Southsea-sired Sellers. Super.

Sample line: “Someone’s nicked the strings on me guitar!” “You’ve got it on back to front.”

x10sctmp5Eddie Murphy – Greatest Comedy Hits (1997)

A collection of well-known Murphy skits (think Ice Cream Man) and clips from his films, alongside some previously unavailable material (such as “Almost Fucked a Midget”, seemingly taken from a bootleg recording). A nice reminder of why he once deserved to be so successful, and why it’s a shame he ended up churning out films like Dr Doolittle 3: Come Back, There Are Some Animals We Haven’t Done Yet.


Greg Behrendt - Greg Behrendt is Uncool (2005)

Well known in the US for co-penning the snappily titled book “He's Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys”, here Behrendt goes back to his day-job of stand-up, and riffs on life as an over-forty still trying be maintain a shred of coolness.


Michael Ian Black – I Am A Wonderful Man (2007)

“Terrorists? Terrible PR. They can’t buy a good headline, these guys.”

A splendid CD cover, too. All round niceness from the host of US VH1’s I Love The Eighties. We suspect this means he’s the stateside version of Simon Amstell, except only 80% as good.

“If I had a slave, I wouldn’t make him sleep on the floor. I’d let him have a mattress, or maybe a futon I’d bought off Craigslist.”


Charlie Drake – Hello My Darlings! (2004)

If you look up the phrase “cheeky chappie” in Wikipedia, there’s nothing but a photo of Charlie Drake’s winking face. Unless someone’s edited it back to the proper entry, that is.



Cassius Clay – I Am the Greatest! (1963)

“Do you have anything personal against Sonny Liston?”

“No. He’s a nice old man, but he’s got my job!”


Bobcat Goldthwait – I Don’t Mean To Insult You But You Look Like Bobcat Goldthwait (2003)

Y'know, from Police Acadamies 2+, or more enjoyably, the episode of The Larry Sanders Show where Larry wants to get Goldthwait in as host of the chatshow following his ("I don't know, maybe turn it down to six?" "That was a six"). This is a splendid recording, though we'd imagine a lot of people may be put off by his delivery, what with Goldthwait essentially being Animal from the Muppet Show made flesh.

Sample line: “I don’t mind going bald, but you know what I really hate? Grey pubic hairs. That was a sad fuckin’ day!”

x10sctmp3x10sctmp4Steven Wright – I Have A Pony (1985)
Steven Wright – I Still Have A Pony (2007)

Too many classic lines to list, but that doesn’t mean we can’t quote a few. There are from I Have A Pony.

“I’ve just got out of hospital. I was in a speed reading accident. I hit a bookmark.”

“One time, I went to a drive-in in a cab. Movie cost me $95.”

“If you were in a vehicle travelling at the speed of light, and you turned the lights on, would they do anything?”

By the time you shift forward twelve years, Wright’s voice seems to have lowered by several octaves (so much so it almost hurt your ears, in fact), but the material is still as good as ever.

"I'm addicted to placebos. I'd give them up, but it wouldn't make any difference."

“One of my Grandfathers died when he was a little boy.”

“One time, at the grocery store, I tried to buy the thing that separates your food from the other guys’”

All assuredly brilliant, but we can’t help but notice a marked difference in the crowd reactions between the two recordings. In the first one, while the audience are undeniably on the side of Wright, they’re relatively restrained when compared to the audience in the 2007 recording. In the more recent recording, while it’s still a great piece of work, the audience have a jarring tendency to whoop and applaud loudly after one-liners that quite frankly aren’t that special. It’s as if there’d been a oneupmanship virus released into the auditorium during the warm-up, resulting in audience members thinking “woo, yeah! I get this joke on a number of different levels from everyone else! Wright is such a genius, I just have to stand up and applaud that last line! Woo! I know what a placebo is!”

Like we say, this doesn’t diminish the quality of Wright’s act, it’s just a teeny bit jarring, like watching the whoops of the Hollywood Bowl crowd when Eric Idle utters the lines about all the kids in Los Angeles being on drugs and all the adults being on roller skates.

x10sctmp5Kenneth Williams – Interesting Facts: The Decca Recordings 1960-1961 (2007)

This disc makes for a nice example of why Kenneth Williams deserves to be remembered for more than just being a troubled diarist, sneaking gay slang onto the wirelesses of 1950s Middle England, perpetual Carry On foil or occasional annoyance for radio Hancock. This disc sees Williams displaying a range of abilities that people may be a little surprised by. A mugger working through a crisis of confidence (“erm, open your hands and give me your money”), nutter in a vet’s waiting room (“I’ve got a viper in this box, y’know. Iss not an asp”), xenophobic holidaymaker (“Do stop putting on that ridiculous regional accent!” “I’m sorry monsieur, but I am French.” “Well, I didn’t come here to listen to your problems”), and many more.

An interesting clip on here is where Williams takes the Peter Cook role in the “One Leg Too Few” sketch. It fares badly when compared to the more familiar Cook/Moore version, after Williams performs the routine in a voice just a bit too outwardly comedic for the thing to work effectively. But hey! It’s Kenneth Williams!

x10sctmp6Tony Hancock – It’s Hancock (1965)

Two classic Half Hours, though sadly this represents all the Tony Hancock there is on Spotify. The two episodes on offer here are The Missing Page and The Reunion Party, meaning that the likes of The Radio Ham, The Lift, The Bedsitter or The Blood Donor are sadly absent. Hopefully they’ll turn up before Kevin Bishop re-records them for a modern audience, retitled as ‘The Internet Ham’ and ‘The Sperm Donor’, respectively. “A pint? That’s very nearly a bollockful!", and so on.

As for these recordings – as excellent as might be expected, but we’d sooner they’d chosen episodes with more Bill Kerr.

Jim Gaffigan – King Baby (2009)

“I think you might be addicted to TV when the battery from your remote goes out, and you replace it with the battery from your smoke alarm…”

Before starting this feature, we’d not really been aware of Big Jim Gaffigan’s work outside of a brief appearance in Flight Of The Conchords. After listening to this album in full, alongside 2004’s “Doing My Time”, we’re bloody hooked. This might just be instinctive hyperbole kicking in after listening to the work of someone so enamoured with fast food and procrastination as ourselves, but he exudes an aura of an apolitical Jon Stewart or Bill Hicks for much of this disc. You could possibly argue that he dips into his “appalled audience member reacting to previous punchline” voice too frequently (“the British are our only allies… why would he be so reckless? What if Gordon Brown were sitting in the audience right now?”, after a nice, if inaccurate, gag about vinegar being Britain’s ketchup), but hey. Any comedian able to throw in a five minute routine about the magnificence of bacon – and later toss in about half a dozen back references throughout the rest of the set – is okay with us.

“It’s literally a restriction on entering some religions. ‘Our rules: no killing, no cheating on your wife, no bacon…’ ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa… what was that last one?’ ‘No bacon?’ ‘I’m in the wrong line! Is there a bacon line around here?’”

x10sctmp8x10sctmp9x10sctmp10Spike Milligan – Legends of the 20th Century (1999)
Laurel & Hardy - Legends of the 20th Century (1999)
Peter Sellers - Legends of the 20th Century (1999)

If you’re looking for a pre-millennial triumvirate of comedic powerhouses, you can’t say fairer than these. First up, a series of Milligan all-round splendidness, including more dips into his war memoirs:

“I’m sorry, er… Milligan, your eyesight isn’t up to what we need for pilots, but there are a number of vacancies for rear gunners with really bad eyesight.”

“Er, no, no Sir. I don’t want to be in the back seat. I want to drive.”

“I’m sorry lad, all we can offer you is almost certain death.”

Followed up by another mix of L&H crackly goodness, comprised of songs and arguments.

Ollie : “Where were you born?”

Stan: “Well… I don’t know.”

Ollie, scoffing: “Fancy not knowing where you were born!”

Stan: “Well, I was too young to remember.”

Rounded off with a further third of the Goon crew. One track on the latter entry sees Sellers team up with Milligan to take on a splendidly deranged version of ‘Unchained Melody’, in the guises of Eccles and Bluebottle.

“a long lonely time / and time goes by so slowly / and time can do so much / are you still mine? / I need your love / I need your love / Godspeed your love to me / a ying tong, ying tong yiddle-I-po / I play my ukulele as *WORDS UNINTELLIGIBLE TO OUR EAR*”

And so on. You need to listen to it to get the full effect, obviously. Instantly preferable to the Robson and Jermone version, and we don’t even care that making disparaging remarks about the musical abilities of Robson and Jerome was declared illegal by the European Court of Human Rights in 1999 when we say that.

x10sctmp11W.C. Fields – Lies, Lies and More Lies (2007)

Another collection of (possibly out-of-copyright) audio scrapings from the vaults, this time from legendary sourpuss W.C. “Because Fish Fuck In It” Fields. Don’t let the “designer bought a Photoshop manual, but only bothered reading two pages from the chapter Getting Started With Filters” cover fool you, this is a nice series of recordings.

x10sctmp12 x10sctmp13 x10sctmp14 
x10sctmp15x10sctmp16 x10sctmp17 x10sctmp18 x10sctmp19x10sctmp20 x10sctmp21

Monty Python
‘s Previous Record
Live at Drury Lane
Matching Tie and Handkerchief 
The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of […] and The Holy Grail: Executive Version
The Ultimate Rip Off 
Contractual Obligation Album 
The Meaning Of Life 
The Final Rip-Off
Life of Brian 

Now we’ve stopped caring about cramming everything into a hundred places, here are all the Python albums we’ve not mentioned yet (1970’s Monty Python’s Flying Circus itself isn’t yet on Spotify, if you were wondering). Now, we could try to sum up each album, but we’d be better served by linking to SOTCAA’s remarkable webpages on the subject. We will however implore you all not to make the same mistake that we did by putting off listening to the Life Of Brian, Meaning of Life and Holy Grail albums for years. We’d stupidly (and yet, almost reasonably) assumed they’d simply be a recording of the best moments from the films, what with them dating from the pre-home video age (well, aside from Meaning Of Life, granted). Technically, they do, but they also offer so much more. Listen to them, and see why. Erm, hear why.



Tom Rhodes – Live in Paris (2007)

Possibly the smallest crowd of any live recording on the entire list. Not quite at the level of the five slightly amused people pretending to be the crowd in the woeful "’3 Mobile’ sponsor bits on Channel Four, but not too far away. The most popular track on this album (going by the Spotify stat-o-bar) is the track called “Muslim Girlfriend”. To the potential annoyance of of a certain proportion of the speculative audience, that part of Rhodes routine looks at the overall idiocy of organised religion. Yeah, take that, religion. As for the remainder of it, well, not spectacular, but hey, it’s free. Erm, if you’re not paying for Spotify, like we are.

Sample line: “England makes the best potato chips in the world. You ever had these Walkers Sensations? Oh my god, they’re like fuckin’ orgasms in chip form. Roasted chicken with thyme… roasted lamb with mint… Thai chilli prawn… but other than that, English food is not that nice in general. What makes an English breakfast? They pour baked beans all over your eggs. What an inconsiderate way to start your day. With a bunch of ass-fuel. The Germans should have dropped cookbooks on you motherfuckers!”


Denis Leary – Lock ‘N Load (2007)

A combination of comedy songs and live clippings from the bête noir of the late William Melvin "Bill" Hicks. As is par for the Leary course, it makes for a mixture of relative highs (“I can’t bring up my kids based on a belief system based purely on the size of fuckin’ hats, okay? That’s apparently how the Catholic Church is run”) and box-ticking “fuck you” lows (“When I’m President, things are gonna change. My foreign policy? Fuuuuck you!”) We can’t help but wonder how Leary’s core US audience would react if they saw his slightly surprising (and, to be fair, entertaining) appearance on Fantasy Football League. “What the fuck? He likes soccer? The fuckin’ fag!”


Cheech & Chong – Los Cochinos (1973)

“Ha ha! Drugs! Drugs is funny! The fact I’m able to telegraph the fact I understand the references made in this record help to make up for the lack of my actual personality! Yay! I’m edgy! Take that, The Man! And I saw someone doing a cocaine once, too.”

Us being holier-than-you-bastards annoying twats aside, this album includes the majestic track Basketball Jones. Not only is that a brilliant song in its own right, but it reminds us of the ace scene with Chauncey Gardiner in the limo near the beginning of Being There. Reason enough for inclusion, if you’re asking.


Lewis Black – Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center Blues (2005)

Another offering from NY funnyman Lewis Black. If Leslie Halliwell had decided to concentrate wholly on the art of comedy as opposed to cinema, and if he’d decided to stay alive until at least 2005, his guide to comedy would surely have included a reference to this album. And in this comedy guide, the snapshot review of this album would only have required a wordcount of two: piss funny. And that’s all you really need to know.

Sample line, on the subject of Janet Jackson’s ‘wardrobe misfunction’ at the Superbowl Half-Time Show: “It’s more disturbing for a child to hear adults talking about seeing a tit as being disturbing, and disgusting, and indecent, and shocking than it is for a child to see one. There is no child that, when a breast is exposed to them accidentally that has suffered a mild epileptic seizure. When I was nine, my entire life was devoted to… seeing a tit. I was Captain Ahab. Sad, but fuckin’ true.”

x10sctmp26Mort Sahl – Mort Sahl Live (2006)

Though going by the badly scanned LP artwork, routine about a then-ongoing Watergate scandal at the beginning, and fact the tracks are called “LP Side A” and “LP Side B”, this was recorded some time before 2006. 1973, in fact.

Sample quote: “Eugene McCarthy once said that Nixon was a man who, if he saw you drowning thirty feet from shore, would then throw you a twenty foot rope. Then Kissinger would go on television and say that ‘the President has met you more than half-way’.”

x10sctmp27Mike Birbiglia – My Secret Public Journal Live (2007)

“I didn’t realise how good I was with computers until I met my parents. My parents are like what would happen if you gave a monkey a computer.


Marc Maron – Not Sold Out (2006)

Marc Maron’s 2006 offering sees us falling squarely into an old comedy trap. Listen to a dozen comedy albums from American stand-ups, and you’ll encounter at least three of them spending five minutes going on about how New York is simultaneously great and shit. We think this might be something written into the constitution.

Sample line: “Hey, remember before 9/11, when Rudy Giuliani used to be a fuckin’ asshole?”

x10sctmp29Kyle Cease – One Dimple (2006)

Aw, kinda looks like Ant from PJ & Duncan, doesn't he?

Sample line: “How much did it suck to be Player Two in Super Mario Bros? Holy ass-fuck, you’d have to wait like four days for your fuckin’ turn.”


Russell Peters – Outsourced (2006)

That's the US Russell Peters, not the British one who constantly appears on Mock The Week. We can't help but speculate that should Russell Peters (the British one) make it big in the USA, he'll have to rebrand himself in much the same way that bands like Suede and The Charlatans did over there. "Hello, Anaheim Performing Arts Center, my name is The Bristol Russell Peters."

No, wait. It’s Russell Howard we’re thinking of. Damn.

So, with another 36 albums down (which partly explains why it took so long to get to part three), we’re nearing the end of the list. Part four is coming soon, where we’ll probably wrap things up. Or not, if we uncover another rich seam of Spotify comedy. The forthcoming days will tell.


1 .:

Applemask said...

The Python pages are like the one worthwhile thing SOTCAA ever did.

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