It’s that time of year again, The Laugh Button staff sat in a room and slugged it out to determine what were the best comedy albums and specials of 2016. This year was a fantastic year for comedy. With so many different channels producing top notch content for so many great comedians. It was a great year for comedy fans, slightly tougher one if you’re a comedy fan writing for a comedy website where you have to pick favorites. But that’s what we did, the top 50 to be exact, and we’re bringing them to you installments.
Here’s #50 – #41.
Rachel Feinstein has been a stone cold comedy killer. She’s risen through the ranks of New York’s comedy clubs for years amongst the best comedians in the world. This isn’t her first comedy album for Comedy Central, that would be her 2011 album Thug Tears. But this album was the first that her friend Amy Schumer helped he produce in an effort to expose Feinstein to the larger masses. Like her pal Schumer, Feinstein has a no-holds-barred approach to her stand-up comedy. Talking about dirty sexts (literally) or jumping into various characters she effortlessly weaves in and out of. While it might be Amy Schumer who presents Rachel to the crowd, it’s Rachel that keeps their interest.
If you only know him as a series regular on the Netflix show Grace and Frankie you are missing out on what makes Baron Vaughn himself. Blaxistential Crisis is the follow-up to Vaughn’s 2011 debut, Raised by Cable and showcases the comedian’s twisted take on all elements of pop culture. A world he finds himself completely comfortable and able to geek out in. Additionally, Vaughn tackles all things personal to him. Whether it be personal allergic ailments, nerd culture, or everything that comes with being a black man in America. Vaughn is hilarious and insightful, proving he’s more than just what he seems.
If you’re familiar with the phenomenon of Roast Battle, there’s a good chance you know Matthew Broussard. An LA-based comedian who was one of the early participants in the show, making it to the finals of the Roastmaster’s Invitation at Montreal’s Just For Laughs Festival in 2015. Broussard was eventually bested by Jimmy Carr. However, the thing to remember about that is that Jimmy Carr was heavily favored to win that year as he’s a giant in that field. Broussard, on the other hand, was literally in Montreal because he was accepted to the festival that year a New Face. That’s right a New Face taking on Jimmy Effing Carr.
That’s the type of comedian Matthew Broussard is, witty, sharp and fearless. He places all of these elements on Pedantic. Discussing everything from his love of calculus to the struggles of looking like a Howard Hughes villain. Throughout everything, Broussard’s self-effacing charm infuses his most academic observations with an amiable silliness.
Jay Larson expresses his view of the world through one situation at a time on Human Math. He talks directly to the crowd, giving them the instructions of how to proceed through life’s everyday happenings. He has something to say about grocery shopping, babysitters, and dealing dummies. He breaks down the ratio in of tea to lemonade in an Arnold Palmer. The guy is an expert family man. He has the wife and kids, and he has the perspective to see what is going on around him.
Larson is a schemer. He does not settle for the mediocre occurrence. He listens to black women and pressures a rubber ducky into suicide. His roles range from observational and on the sidelines to the instigator. He’s sheepish and funny too. He finds a way to justify his decisions throughout the album only to create a heightening of the joke. One such example is a bit where he attempts to yell at another driver for poor driving. That is his comedy. This East coast man who has been around in a world filled with “Dumb, gullible, annoying people.” He does the Human Math and comes out the winner.
46. Tom Segura – Mostly Stories (Netflix)
Tom Segura is a vet who is just hitting his stride. He’s built a podcasting empire, but stand-up is the man’s sweet spot and he shows all his tricks on Mostly Stories. With a surreal introduction to the special before he dives headfirst into conspiracy theories, men’s bodies, wrapping the entire thing up in a bow about a lie he once told Mike Tyson. Naked man talk, race arguments with dad, and nurse fantasies.
Stop Segura when things get really awkward. The place where he thrives the most.
Josh Gondelman is a writer and comedian who incubated in Boston before moving to New York City, where he currently lives and works as a writer for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Onstage, Gondelman charms audiences using his good-natured storytelling and cracks them up with his sharp, pointy wit. He takes topics from surprise parties to his experience teaching preschool and makes them all equally hilarious. This spring, he made his late night stand-up debut on Conan, and he can also be seen on the first season of Night Train With Wyatt Cenac on Seeso. Gondelman’s newest comedy album Physical Whisper debuted in March at #1 on the iTunes comedy charts (as well as #4 on the Billboard comedy chart).
44. Reggie Watts – Spatial (Netflix)
It’s difficult to even categorize Reggie Watts’ Spatial as just a stand-up comedy special. For those familiar with Watts’ previous work you’d know that its part musical performance, part comedy, and usually pretty absurd. Spatial is as if someone booked a room and production crew and turned to Watts’ to say, “have at it.”
Bombastic rock performances (with Josh Homme of Queens of The Stone Age), dance parties, and improv sketches. All mixed with his effects loop pedal and microphone. Spatial came from some weird corner of Reggie Watts’ brain, and it’s super obvious it could’ve come from his brain and his brain alone. That’s what makes Spatial so special.
The album, Butcher, is a great first impression of Rhea Butcher. The comedian she’s always been a vegetarian even, “in utero.” When she accidentally ate pepperoni for the first time, she describes the taste as, “a spicy belt.” She loves animals so much that she cried while watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit. She is an only child with divorced parents. She enjoys biking and baseball. She is also mistaken often for a boy instead of a 30 something year old woman. The situations are specific to Butcher’s experience, and yet, the observations are funny.
Butcher makes the audience see the jokes, and it works. The audience is laughing throughout. Even when she riffs on them for likely being a bunch of lizard pet owners, a healthy crowd response can be heard. The album is vivid. Listening to the album, you can see the impression being made, and it is delightful.
In his debut album, Almond Badoody, Ahmed Bharoocha talks about his half Irish Catholic half Pakistani Muslim family, explains how his fear of cats has affected his love life and reveals how he’s incapable of turning off ceiling fans. Throughout, Bharoocha even infuses dark subjects like war and religion with lighthearted silliness. This crash of weights swirls into a perfect twist of a debut record by a very promising comedic voice.
Noah Gardenswartz showcases an ability to be a storyteller while mixing in punchlines derived through observations, playing on words, and pop culture references. Commenting on the world around him and shows how he’s not quite a fit. He’s got the point of a view of a white guy living “in the hood.” He definitely uses this to make a funny observation and to take a shot at himself. He makes note of a stereotype where white people who live in the hood often are confused as cops. For fear of being grouped as such, he openly smoked pot in his neighborhood. He riffs about overhearing a neighbor say, “Yo, that cop smokes weed, son.” His tendency is to give a set-up that is contextual and then summing it up with a hard punch, many times using misdirection.
Wordplay for a laugh, jokes about not knowing the appropriate use of the word “whom,” and he tags with it, “But whom cares.” He remarks that the crowd likes grammar jokes, performing the line shows he is willing to take a risk on a joke that could have possibly gone over people’s heads or garnered a groan. His jokes have a fun complexity from the way he is using language. He is a Jewish white guy trying to get by in the hood doing comedy after spending time teaching children in Georgia about slavery. This is where he creates this world that includes a Jewish Dos Equis guy. Blunt proves that Noah Gardenswartz has potential to be the most interesting guy.