Chris Gethard, a comedian, author, television personality, and all-around Internet hero, releases his first stand-up comedy album today. My Comedy Album is 45 minutes of laughter, punctuated with awkward moments and a little bit of public crying. It’s available on iTunes (and was also released on vinyl by Don Giovanni), and I can’t recommend it enough. Because My Comedy Album is sure to become one of your favorite comedy albums, we talked to Chris Gethard about his favorites.
Chris Gethard: Look, I’m not going to tell you that you need to own anything. That’s not really my style. I’m not sure what the “essential” anything is, and anytime I see something that definitive it just makes me nervous. So while it’s really nice of Flavorwire to ask me to do this, I’m too squeamish and neurotic on a personal level to tell anyone what to do. But that being said, I am about to put out my first comedy album, so it makes sense I’d be asked to reflect on comedy albums right now. So what I’m saying is, these are things I enjoy. My guess is that you’ll enjoy them as well.
Coyle and Sharpe are a fascinating duo that deserve way more notoriety than they have. They conducted man-on-the-street audio interviews in the early ’60s and were beyond masterful at getting unsuspecting people to agree to absurd premises. From convincing a druggist they’re about to perform home surgery to convincing a human being that they should sign up to be a human sugar bowl. Simply put, this is the best, and if you don’t find it funny my gut is that we wouldn’t be friends. The only flaw in this massive box set is that it doesn’t involve the track “Maniacs in a Living Hell,” where they get a man to agree to a job where he lives in a fire pit alongside four maniacs, and the only food provided is live bats he has to catch out of the sky with his hands.
Nichols and May are the coolest, smoothest comedy duo of all time. Two of the people who literally wrote the rules about how improv should work, they had a Broadway review back in the day and went on to direct a million good (and some panned) films. On this album, you can hear a) two people who in the ’60s were doing stuff that would still be the funniest thing happening today and b) how Nichols and May were at the roots of things like today’s alternative comedy and slow comedy and comedy rooted not in absurdity or pandering but in honesty and everyday moments. Elaine May is a powerhouse. Every time I listen to this I develop a crush on her, and her performance on this album is proof that the “women aren’t funny” bullshit that comes up every few years was idiotic in the early ’60s, let alone today.
John Mulaney is one of the best comedians in the game, and you would be well served to consume everything he has to offer. I remember when John came to New York. I’d been working at comedy for a few years, and he was this dude who showed up and was on day one funnier than all of us. But he was so nice and so undeniable that you couldn’t even be mad about it. John’s more recent album is fantastic as well, but his Salt and Pepper Diner story on this particular CD is one of my favorite things I’ve ever heard, so I’ll shout it out here.
I tell stories. Long, meaty stories. And I can’t tell you how jealous I am of people who can write jokes. Setups. Punchlines. None of the emo expository bullshit I put my audiences through. Who was better at writing jokes than Mitch Hedberg? Who told them in a funnier way? Jokes are a great thing. Mitch Hedberg was insanely talented at jokes.
Mike Birbiglia is great and we are lucky to have him. I’ve known him for a decade and as I’ve made the transition from improv and sketch to being a solo performer he’s really looked out for me and I am insanely lucky to be able to say that. (Full disclosure: Mike gave me notes on the album I’m putting out and in the bonus materials for the album some of those notes can be heard.) Mike is an amazing storyteller. When he really hit his stride at that style, I remember being completely blown away at how he can balance an actual linear story with actual punchlines that are as satisfying as comedy. Because let’s face it — there are eight million storytelling shows in New York City these days, and not every story told at a comedic storytelling night is funny. Usually they’re humorous, but they don’t always have the relentless, take-you-by-the-throat ability to just force you to laugh that stand-up has, and Mike sets the bar on how to have both: integrity and laughs. They’re not mutually exclusive. I first saw Mike do this set at the Montreal Comedy Festival and I thought about it every day for a year.
Stop being an idiot asshole and go buy a bunch of Bill Cosby’s albums.