For the last week, The Laugh Button staff has been bringing you its top 50 comedy albums and specials of the year. 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.
We finally made it, the top 10.
Doug Stanhope’s point of view has always been one of the most unique in stand-up comedy. He’s a thoroughly prolific comedian, never taking more than a year or so to release a special on the world. No Place Like Home is the comedian’s first stand-up special for Seeo. He faces bleeding edge topics with a level of clarity that only a man like him could. He also recruits his friend Johnny Depp who produced the special.
Stanhope tackles an abundance of hard-hitting issues, from caring for the mentally-ill, to Vietnam vets, being locked up abroad, and why everyone should kick like they kick. Watch him also take on ISIS, global poverty, TMZ and LGBT related issues. No topic is off the table in this one-of-a-kind stand-up special including Gabrielle Giffords, the Duggar daughters, Caitlyn Jenner, and Robin Williams. Stanhope is a modern Lenny Bruce and Bill Hicks rolled into one. And he managed to add another notch to his already legendary resume.
09. Michael Che – Matters (Netflix)
A few years back it seemed everyone wanted to be in business with Michael Che. He was one of those comedians who, at the moment, was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Most comedians take a decade or so to craft an original voice, and Che got opportunities when his career was about half that. Getting seen too early could be bad for some, but Che’s skills pull him through, giving him a seat in Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update desk and a Netflix special.
Matters is a very of its time comedy special and we mean that in the best way possible. Che tackles homophobia, gentrification, and race. Doing so with a fresh viewpoint that’s both strong and clear. Proving he’s not a flas-in-the-pan, but a bonafide comedy voice.
08. Patton Oswalt – Talking for Clapping (Netflix/AST)
Patton Oswalt returned to his adopted home of San Francisco to tape his Emmy Award winning Netflix special Talking For Clapping. Oswalt covers topics like old people getting drugs, his worst stand-up set, gay proms, and a horrible birthday clown. From politics to parenting to pills, Oswalt brings surgical precision to the proceedings, balancing personal stories with the acidic pop analysis that has become his signature. As a special bonus, Talking For Clapping was released on Vinyl thanks to AST Records.
Maria Bamford made waves this year. Her Netflix series Lady Dynamite was released to great critical acclaim. She followed that up by dropping 20%, which flaunts similar charm and content. The comedian talks about dating before her husband, making it in show business, the pugs, and of course, her Midwestern aging parents. She also reveals her own personal struggles and flaws. Bamford also does an impression of a geriatric dog trainer, Howard, which hangs out at her local dog park.
06. Jim Jefferies – Freedumb (Netflix)
Jim Jefferies’ previous Netflix special Bare managed to put its thumb so greatly on the pulse of American values (see his gun viral control bit) that it surprised and/or angered many Americans that an Australian was able to skewered them so well. With his latest, Freedumb Jefferies pulled even more from that bag of tricks taking aim at the 2016 election, with some great Drumpf material (that hurts a bit after the election). But don’t assume Jefferies is completely taking America to task, he wrangles fatherhood in some of the darkest of ways. If you want a funny look at our society from an outsider’s point of view, your options don’t get much better than Jim Jefferies.
There’s a saying that, “Every musician thinks he’s a comedian. Every comedian think he’s a rockstar.” If that’s the case, then Live at Webster Hall is the manifesto. The first minute is an introduction encapsulated in a blast of metal music. Oakerson immediately identifies his “bizarre fan base,” making note of an Asian guy who will become a bit later in the set. As a master of crowd work, Oakerson creates a special setlist just for the immediate audience that intertwines his prepared material seamlessly. Like any rock’n’roller, Oakerson is an instigator. He asks the audience questions, “Is that your girl right there?” “How old are you, sweetie?” “Do you have kids?” He follows up these questions by imparting the wisdom of someone who’s been around, “Try to make a move. You know her, right?” “Don’t get married to the chick you found when you were 21.” “I did that [had a kid] 13 years ago; it is quite a price…” During the show, Oakerson covers sex, men and women, body parts, relationships, and insecurities. He is verbally laying down his tracks, and it feels intimate.
In Live at Webster Hall, Oakerson executes a no-holds-barred album and special. He shocks and entertains. He starts off with “Getting To Know You,” and near the end, he’s on about “Butt Stuff.” Even as he instigates bewilderment, he remains vulnerable and eloquent. Pushing the limits while keeping everyone on board. Oakerson is the voice, and everyone is laughing. That’s rock’n’roll, man.
After we attended the taping of Nick Turner’s Yelling, we immediately tweeted that it was one of our favorite comedy moments of the year. That’s because Turner catches the attention of the listener and never really lets go, standing out through the use of self deprecation, satire, and hypotheticals. He also creates and onstage storyteller who, not only is his own biggest supporter, but also will be the first to take a shot at himself. Turner plays with the status of stage persona and it is fun. He starts off his set stating, “I deserve this,” while the audience cheering. Already, he is building himself up. He is declaring he is talented and that this applause has been well earned. As he transitions into his first bit, he builds himself up again after identifying bad wine, saying he, “Felt like Frasier.” He reveals at the punch that he was actually drinking balsamic vinegar. It is a rich twist. He built himself up, creates a relatable funniness, and caps with something outrageously dumb.
Yelling is an album filled with playful banter. When Turner tries to change the tone to an angry or upsetting one, he breaks and laughs. It’s a well constructed album. He deserves the applause.
Dan Soder, a child of the 80s and 90s, belongs to the Millennial generation who are characteristically told how special they are. His debut special, Not Special, seemingly separates himself from this notion, while proving his special may actually indeed be special. Recorded at the Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia, Soder creates infectious bursts by taking the audience down one road and then taking a sharp one-eighty without notice. Each bit resonates nicely as it’s own sound bite with its own set-up and clear punch. Though together, Soder builds a flow to create a vivid portrait of a single thirtysomething New Yorker.
Older Millennials and previous generations alike will appreciate the insight. Anyone who was ever told they were special or have something to offer this world world will get it. This is an special that recognizes the changes in society over the last 30 years, and crafts real humor from the sharp observations. Not Special fulfills his purpose and makes us laugh despite what any YouTube commenter may think.
There’s something special and homegrown about Kyle Kinane. It might be his everyman persona or the fact that he’s a diehard fan of punk rock, particularly coming up in the Chicago music scene. He’s self aware of who he is and what his vibe is all about. He once described himself as “uncle BBQ” which, if we had to speculate meant he was the uncle you loved to hang with as a child but your parents tried to limit your time with him because he gave you one too many sips of his Coors Light on Memorial Day.
Kinane is a stage master at this point with 3 hours under his belt. He has his voice and it’s what makes Kyle Kinane, well, Kyle Kinane. Had he not gone into comedy, Kinane might be the guy you find at the end of the local watering hole on a nightly basis talking about conspiracy theories, government, or debating where to get the best hot dog in town. It was Kinane’s destiny rather to hold court in the comedy clubs and not just at the bar where more people can hear his gravelly voice elevate comedy with an ease and effort that makes you wonder if he’s even trying. Kinane is conversational and intelligent yet immensely likeable. It’s as if Kinane takes heady ideas and wraps them in a corn dog to guarantee you’ll eat it.
Over the course of his specials, Kyle Kinane has gone from promising, to powerful, to fully realized, it’s been exciting to watch. The loose from Loose In Chicago may give off the impression that Kinane takes to comedy. But in reality, when a comedian becomes as good as Kinane, he can wield said power however he’d like.
01. Bo Burnham – Make Happy (Netflix)
Bo Burnham is at the top of his game with Make Happy. It’s unbelievable at times to realize he’s but 25 years old. Burnham is one of a kind, mixing traditional stand-up, theater, and music into a batter of awesomeness. He can make the most hot button topics seem so trivial yet turn age old nursery rhymes into the most hot button topics. His tools for this juxtaposition range from sentimental piano based music to hardcore rapping and provocative monologues to simple one liner jokes.
Burnham draws you right in with swift interactive one-offs delivered seamlessly between bits keeping you on your toes at all times. No rest for the wicked here. His self depreciation showcased during Make Happy distracts you just long enough that you don’t even realize he made you use the “N” word or leave you enough time to be offended by the cutest jingle ever written.