Best known for a very short-lived stint on the The Man Show, Stanhope as garnered a reputation for just being a vulgar comedian, which he is, but he is also so much more than that. Stanhope’s comedy can be described simply as defeatist satire. He hates the world almost as much as he hates himself. Lampooning everything from child beauty pageants to misguided American nationalism Stanhope’s stand-up is as dark as his lungs and liver. He is my favorite working comedian and while many people recognize him as that one guy who did a show with Artie Lange, not many have heard his stand-up specials. Keep in mind though, half of his specials are complete bullshit I couldn’t even finish Oslo: Burning the Bridge to Nowhere because it is basically an hour of crowd-work that wears thin after the first 15 minutes. However, is 2007 special No Refunds is my favorite comedy release of the past decade. If you ever get the chance to see Stanhope live, do it; because honestly if he keeps treating his body like an alcohol and narcotic garbage disposal, you might never get the chance.
While Stanhope is great for his biting social commentary, SNL writer John Mulaney is just straight up funny. Mulaney recently released his first hour-long comedy special New In Town and it is absolutely hilarious. With a razor sharp comedic sensibility and the ability to find humor in pretty much anything New in Town had me literally laughing out loud on a city bus. This is Mulaney’s first big step into the limelight and he can also be seen playing bit parts in the Comedy Central sketch series The Kroll Show. The entirety of New in Town is available on youtube but here is just a little taste.
Another up-and-comer Kyle Kinane has gained a reputation within the alternative comedy scene as being the next big thing. Originally from Chicago, Kinane doles our self deprecating comedy with a panache akin to Doug Stanhope and Zach Galifinakis (before he made it big). I can’t say that I have been following his career for a long time but what I have seen is hilarious and really touches the pulse of the slacker generation.
If you have seen Jeselnik before, chances are it was probably at one of the Roasts that Comedy Central churns out once or twice a year. He is great on those but do yourself a favor and check out either of his comedy specials, Shakespeare and Caligula. Like a morbid Mitch Hedberg, Jeselnik relies exclusively on one-liners with a blatant misdirect. He also has this cocky holier-than-though attitude that just slays audiences. Here is a sample of his style
A veteran of Best Week Ever and the I Love the… series, Pete Holmes serves up absurdest comedy focusing on pop culture and the woes of the average Joe in the 21st century. Holmes is not edgy and doesn’t push the envelope, he’s just a funny guy. He performs old school Jerry Seinfeld-esque traditional stand-up, there is no deeper message or reliance on an on-stage persona like you see with some other comics on this list like Jeselnik and Kinane. Holmes reminds of me of Jim Gaffigan in that he writes about the mundane aspects of American life and points out the absurdity. I’ve watched his comedy central presents and I can’t remember any aspects of his comedy that isn’t family friendly. A genuinely funny person that I can see really gaining a following as he gets more exposure.