As someone whose spent the majority of their professional life working in entertainment, I cannot honestly remember the last time I felt like The GRAMMYs knew anything about the world of stand-up comedy. Though interest in the genre has continued to boom in recent years, with more and more comedians becoming theater and arena headliners, the members of The Recording Academy treat the one award they give to comics every year as something of an afterthought. The winner is almost never announced as part of the formal GRAMMYs broadcast, and most outlets don’t bother to post the nominees. In a world where Louis C.K. has one of the most respected shows on television and in a time where Aziz Ansari is basically the most recognizable entertainer on the internet, this makes absolutely no sense. Comedy deserves better, and it always has, but for whatever reason the Recording Academy continues to somewhat disappoint with its nominees for Comedy Album Of The Year.
This year’s comedy album nominees include Louis C.K., Lisa Lampanelli, Wyatt Cenac, Jay Mohr, and Craig Ferguson. None of these performances were bad, and i feel the need to need to make it very clear that all comedians behind them are top tier performers. That said, to act as if the only comedians capable of creating a great hour of material in 2015 are those that are already household names is horribly misguided. One cannot help feel a little sorry for the members of the Recording Academy, if only because their choices lead to believe they haven’t stepped foot in a comedy club or show in a while. The comedians on this list are great and their specials have earned a lot of attention, but one could argue the notoriety comes from the name behind the effort and not the release itself.
I’m someone who spends at least a few hours every week crawling across the web in search of a new comic or special I have yet to experience. While the greats will always have a place in my heart, there is nothing like discovering a great up and coming comic who has the ability to make you laugh as if you’ve been a fan all your life. In my mind, those are the kind of releases that should be highlighted during the GRAMMY nomination process because it’s those releases that make people give a crap about the comedy genre. Craig Ferguson and Jay Mohr, while talented, are not converting nearly as many people to the world of comedy as up-and-coming heavyweights like Iliza Shlesinger or Ari Shaffir. They’re performing material written and intended for an already devoted crowd, which is akin to an artist writing a bunch of songs that sound like the songs everyone knows and loves. It’s still good, but it’s not exactly fresh, and when you forget to look for fresh ideas in any genre the future outlook of that field comes into question.
This is all a very long way of saying that there were many great comedy albums released in 2015 that I feel deserve a shot at the GRAMMY for Best Comedy Album over, or in addition to, the actual nominees. You can find my personal selections below, as well as an explanation for why I feel they deserved inclusion. If you disagree, or if you think there are some points missing, please comment with your own feedback. Comedy, like any other genre, is one largely controlled by its most vocal supporters. Get behind the comedians you admire and push for them to be recognized for the talented minds they are. Then, and only then, will there be some justice in things like The GRAMMYs.
If there is one comedian who can claim 2015 to be their year, it’s Aziz. Starting with the release of Buried Alive in January, Aziz rarely went more than a few weeks without announcing or doing something noteworthy. He released his first book, toured the country, made countless TV appearances, and produced the first season of his Netflix original series, Master Of None, which he also writes for and stars in, all before the month of December even began. It’s all impressive, but none of it would have been possible without Aziz first developing his talent on stage. Buried Alive showcases a still developing comic at the peak of his game, performing in front of a massive sold out crowd at New York’s legendary Madison Square Garden, and given everything that has followed its release a nomination from the Recording Academy feels like it should have been a given. Also, the material is hilarious.
The world has been coming around to the tongue-in-cheek musical hilarity of Garfunkel And Oates for the better part of the last decade. The duo’s career was kicked into high gear last fall when their original television series made its debut on IFC, but earlier this year the network decided the show wouldn’t be receiving a second season. Their loss is our gain however, as the time away from production provided Garfunkel and Oates the perfect opportunity to record and release their fourth full-length album, Secretions. Containing almost twenty tracks whose topics run the gamut from twisted love songs, to sexual identity, self-confidence, sports, ageism, and beyond, Secretions is musical madness at its absolute best. When it plays you want to laugh just as much as you wish to sing a long, often while also dancing to the musical accompaniment. The fact no musical comedy records were nominated at the GRAMMYS this year is a shame in itself, but the fact this specific record was overlooked feels like a crime.
Joey Diaz – Savage Dad
There may not be a ballsier, more consistently funny comedian working today than Joey “Coco” Diaz. The host of The Church Of What’s Happening Now podcast and actor found in films like The Longest Yard and Grudge Match has spent over two decade developing one of the most devoted followings in the world of modern comedy, if not all of entertainment. He calls them savages, and in a way he’s not far from right, as his audiences tend to thrive on the discussion of topics most other comics wouldn’t approach with a ten foot pole. On his latest, Savage Dad, Joey takes aim at his own shortcomings as a man, as well as our culture’s fleeting obsession with Caitlyn Jenner, the fallout of peeing the bed as an adult, marriage, fatherhood, and cheating as only he can. Joey is a comic’s comic, through and through, but with this release he makes a hard argument for being the people’s comic as well. There is no one more brutally honest with their observations on life and love than Joey working in comedy today, and that alone is deserving of a nomination.
Born into a world as the result of a chaotic romance between an alcoholic, womanizing father and a schizophrenic, suicidal mother there were only two potential ways Christopher Titus could survive in this world: Serial Killer or Comedian. Lucky for us, he chose the latter. Through his storytelling and personal confessions, Titus has developed an on stage persona unlike anyone else in comedy today. He goes on stage every single night and lays his demons down, making every wrong turn and mistake made fully visible to anyone in viewing distance, and then uses the lessons learned to offer humor-riddled guidance on life moving forward. Every year for as long as anyone can remember Titus has been traveling the country, as well as several parts of the world, to share his unique perspective on life, politics, and art. Angry Pursuit Of Happiness, the sixth release of his comedy career, finds Titus being as topical as ever, and that is something that has become increasingly rare in the world of comedy specials. Most comics choose to only share their best, least time sensitive material on special, but Titus chooses to share exactly what he has been performing, offering up to the minute insight into his live shows and the thoughts rolling around in his mind. Where most comics concern themselves with solely focusing on everything happening in their own lives, Titus makes it a point to also highlight the absurdity of the world around him, and through doing so forges a connection with the listener few comics can achieve.
This is, by far, the longest comedy release of 2015. The digital version of I’m Sorry (You’re Welcome) features 540 individual tracks, which equates to literally hours of material. While some of it is decidedly hit-and-miss, the vast majority of Eugene Mirman’s latest offering is hilarious, cry until you fall on the floor laughing and fighting for breath level comedy. Mirman has a way with words and phrasing that hooks the audience on even the most bizarre setups and scenarios, which is evident on the stand-up material found in this release, but it’s actually the obscure skits and bits that make up most the content that will keep listeners coming back again and again. The sheer size of this project should have earned it a nomination, as it’s the biggest single release undertaking of any comedian in the last year, but what makes it a real contender is the quality of the material. Most comics struggle to put together a complete hour of worthwhile content, but here Mirman gives us more material than some comedians release in their entire career, and the quality is consistently great.
We have all seen the troubling videos of Katt Williams storming off stage in what appears to be a drug-induced stupor without telling a single joke, and we’ve also seen clips of the comedian losing his proverbial shit in a Target store during the fall of 2012. Those incidents lead many to believe that Williams’ time atop the comedy hierarchy was over, but Priceless is a reminder of how great Williams can be when he puts the junk down and focuses on his craft. Over the course of one hour, Williams touches on everything we’ve heard about him in the news, adds color and details to situations we thought we understood, and accepts the fact that he is often his own worst enemy. It’s the first time since all that controversy began that Williams has made any real formal comment on his actions, and it’s delivered with the kind of biting wit on Katt can provide. Priceless may not be the best release in Katt’s catalog, but it does reaffirm him as one of the great comedians of our time, and it gives comedy fans hope for many more hours of funny from Williams in the future.