Lately stand-up comedians have sort of fallen by the wayside of the entertainment landscape. Fortunately, in the 1970’s and 1980’s there were several stand-up comedians who delivered joke after joke and laugh after laugh. While some took a journey into other entertainment mediums, others changed not just the comedy landscape, but also the entertainment landscape forever. Stand Up Comedy is a difficult entertainment medium, after all there is only one person on stage and usually hundreds if not thousands of people in the audience. There were several groundbreaking performers in the decades known as the 70’s and 80’s. The hard part of narrowing down a top five list is who gets left out, because someone invariably will. The only recourse is to stick to personal favorites at let the good times roll. For that reason, this is my list of the top five stand-up comedians from the 1970’s and 1980’s:
Richard Pryor helped begin a revolution in comedy and entertainment that persists to this day. While he was edgy for his time, he laid the groundwork for future comics to cross over into other ventures. As he may still be known as an actor, Richard Pryor is an invaluable part of comedy history.
“Delirious” and “Raw” are two of the best stand up performances of all time, and they came at a time when Eddie Murphy was on top of the comedy world. His antics however would soften over the years, into the actor everyone knows today, but when he was at his foul-mouthed best on stage Eddie Murphy was just plain funny.
What can anyone say about George Carlin? For the most part the man was simply brilliant. With wit and timing that many comics attempted to emulate after him, the man an the “Seven Words You Can’t Say On TV” will live on forever (though many of them have been said on TV). Just to do what he did for that length of time is impressive enough and lands George Carlin on this list.
While well known as a television star, Bill Cosby was maddeningly funny as a stand up performer. His takes on parenthood and even a visit to the dentist will live in my memories for a long time. In his heyday, Bill Cosby could control a stage and work a crowd like nobody else.
Andrew “Dice” Clay
Nothing says 1980’s like the Diceman. His dirty nursery rhymes will live in infamy for a long time, and while he flamed out at the beginning of the 1990’s, Andrew “Dice” Clay’s legacy is still visible in many comics who alter themselves and their personalities to step onto the stage and into the limelight. Still like him or not, Dice was pretty funny.
But these were not the only comics to make their mark in these decades, honorable mentions can go to: Rodney Dangerfield, Sam Kinison, Steve Martin, Howie Mandel, Steven Wright, Gallagher, and many many more.