Laugh Out Loud Funny: The Best Comedy Albums Of All Time
Long live the comedy album. While most comedy bits are absorbed on YouTube or Netflix these days, up through the early 2000s, fans frequently listened to stand-up routines on vinyl, cassette tape, and CDs. Some of these routines have been preserved through cable TV specials, while others are audio-only. That doesn’t make them less entertaining.
None of these comedy albums will surprise you. They all feature famous comics and comedic troupes that have (or had) been entertaining audiences for years.
Robin Williams Covered Hot Topics Of The ’80s In A Night at the Met
Robin Williams was one of comedy’s most beloved stars. In 1986, he released his third official album, A Night at the Met, which was recorded live in New York City at the Metropolitan Opera. The album was so good that Williams won a Grammy award for the project.
During his epic stand-up routine, Williams waxed on about being a parent, sobriety, and pertinent topics of the 1980s, including global politics.
George Carlin’s Class Clown Featured The Comic’s Most Famous Calling Card
George Carlin recorded Class Clown in 1972 in Santa Monica, California. The comedian’s previous material was rather tame in comparison to this album, which turned him into a counter-culture icon. Notably, he took on the Vietnam War and other taboo topics. The album notoriously featured his famous shtick, “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.”
The album kick started Carlin’s use of expletives in his routines and also featured some bits about his childhood. The album was selected by the National Recording Registry for preservation in 2016 due to its “cultural, historic, or artistic significance.”
Eddie Murphy: Comedian Still Holds Up Even If Some Jokes Haven’t Aged Well
Eddie Murphy: Comedian, the actor/comic’s second album, was released in 1983 and won Best Comedy Album at the Grammy Awards. It was later released as a concert performance in the 1983 HBO special called Eddie Murphy Delirious. The album was released after he appeared in the film Trading Places and before he starred in Beverly Hills Cop.
Many of his bits about gay people haven’t aged well, and even Murphy has acknowledged that point, but it’s still one of the greatest comedy albums of all time. Plus, the HBO special shows how suave he looks in a red leather suit.
The Button-Down Mind Of Bob Newhart Still Resonates 60 Years Later
Bob Newhart recorded this 1960 live album in Houston, Texas, at the Tidelands Club. It was his first album, and it won a Grammy for Album of the year (the first comedy album to do so). Newhart also won Best New Artist, and was the only comedian ever to do so. It’s one of the best-selling comedy albums of all time.
Newhart was previously a commercial copywriter, and he seamlessly created the atmosphere of the ad age. While the album was released over 60 years ago, it has aged well due to Newhart’s superior skills with timing and punch lines.
Steve Martin Let’s Get Small Succeeded Even Without The Visuals
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Steve Martin’s 1977 album Let’s Get Small is the comedy bit “Excuse Me,” which turned what today would be known as “viral.” Recorded in San Francisco, California, the album won Best Comedy Album at the 1978 Grammy Awards.
The cover of the album shows Martin wearing Groucho Marx glasses, a fake arrow, bunny ears, and balloon animals on his head, all of which were part of his stage act. Even without the visuals, the audio-only vinyl record was a huge hit with fans.
Rodney Dangerfield’s No Respect Marked The Peak Of His Career
Rodney Dangerfield, born Jack Roy, was an aluminum-siding salesman before he cultivated his stand-up career. The actor/comedian was known for his self-deprecating humor as well as his signature catchphrase, “I don’t get no respect.” He had his breakthrough role in Hollywood in Caddyshack in 1980, the same year that his comedy album was released.
Interestingly, the peak of his career hit when Dangerfield was 60 years old. The album featured 40 minutes of one-liners, which were impeccably delivered. Not surprisingly, it won a Grammy Award.
Chris Rock’s Bigger & Blacker Is A Comedy Assault
Bigger & Blacker was Chris Rock’s third solo HBO special, and he delivered his comedy assault in his signature style. Recorded at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, the comedy special was released on CD in 1999 and featured studio-recorded comic sketches with guests such as Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Biz Markie, Wanda Sykes, and Ice Cube.
Topics such as the Columbine shooting and President Bill Clinton’s infidelity were not off limits, as demonstrated by his remark, “A man is as faithful as his options.”
“Weird Al” Yankovic In 3-D Was Pure ’80s Gold
“Weird Al” Yankovic released “Weird Al” Yankovic in 3-D, his second album, in 1984. The album was a turning point for Weird Al as it catapulted him into the public consciousness and proved he was talented enough to make his songs sound nearly as good as the source material.
His first single, “Eat It” was hugely successful. A parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”, it excelled partially because of the accompanying music video and Weird Al’s interpretation of the former Jackson Five star.
Strategic Grill Locations Is A Classic
Mitch Hedberg was a brilliant comedian who specialized in strange and goofy humor with a terrific deadpan delivery. Sadly, he passed away in 2005 at the young age of 37. Strategic Grill Locations is one of his best works and was also highly regarded by critics.
One famous joke from this album is typical of Hedberg’s style of humor: “I bought a $7 pen because I always lose pens and I got sick of not caring.” As one critic wrote, “the comedy world truly misses having his presence as there’s no telling what kind of great comedy he would be producing if he were still here.”
Patton Oswalt’s Werewolves And Lollipops Defined His Career
Patton Oswalt recorded his second album, Werewolves and Lollipops, in 2007 in Austin, Texas. Known for playing Spencer Olchin in the sitcom The King of Queens and appearing in several other TV and film roles, the album was critically well received upon its release and is considered a classic comedy album. Pitchfork even called it Oswalt’s magnum opus.
The bits are tight, and you can tell that Oswalt carefully chose every word he used to most effectively diss KFC and Star Wars god George Lucas.
Steven Wright Cemented His Status With I Have a Pony
Stand-up comedian and actor Steven Wright is known for his deadpan humor and his lethargic delivery. Warner Bros. Records released I Have a Pony in 1985, and it was met with critical acclaim. It led to an HBO special, and before long Wright was building a cult-like following.
The only issue with this comedy album is that the listener may feel as if he or she is missing part of the story. But Wright masterfully presents the running joke, leaving people hanging, and issuing one-liners with aplomb.
Another Monty Python Record Dazzled In Its Delivery
The Monty Python group released its second album, Another Monty Python Record, in 1971. Most bits were taken from the BBC’s second series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and include classics such as “The Spanish Inquisition” and “Spam.” The physical album looks like a Beethoven record covered in graffiti.
While the group went on to develop even more famous bits, this album featured some of its most biting satire, much of it targeted at stupid and empty ideas.
Richard Pryor’s Live on the Sunset Strip Was Recorded After He Tried To Take His Own Life
By the time Live on the Sunset Strip came out in 1982, Richard Pryor had already released 17 albums. The album is infamous because Pryor talked openly about his substance abuse problems and nearly dying after trying to take his own life. Yet, somehow, he made it funny.
Pryor, a king of comedy, also joked about relationships, prison, and his trip to Africa. The album won a Grammy award for Best Comedy Recording.
Dennis Miller’s The Off-White Album Is Worth A Listen
Before Dennis Miller became a polarizing figure/commentator post-9/11, the actor, comedian, and future talk show host was a cast member on Saturday Night Live. Miller didn’t shy away from criticizing current events and delivering monologues filled with pop culture references, which he delivered in his classic idiosyncratic style.
His 1988 The Off-White Album is evidence that Miller was a funny guy. It featured metaphor-driven humor and his observational style as well as insight into the political humor he would later concentrate on more heavily.
Albert Brooks’ Comedy Minus One Encouraged Listeners To Get Involved
While Albert Brooks is largely known as an actor and director, earlier in his career he was a stand-up comic. On the 1973 album, he talked about being the opening act for Neil Diamond and Richie Havens and did a bit about writing a new National Anthem. He made the album’s packaging a part of his routine: the cover included a mirror, so listeners too could be part of the act.
At the end of the album, Brooks played one half of a comedy team while the listener performed the other half (there were even built-in pauses).
Eddie Izzard Truly Nailed It in Dress to Kill
British stand-up comedian Eddie Izzard’s 1998 album Dress To Kill featured the star in makeup, high heels, and a kimono, a look that exemplified the album’s title. The routine has been described as part Monty Python, part George Carlin, and part BBC documentary. He started the show with the line, “I grew up in Europe, where the history comes from.”
The show featured one of his most popular routines concerning the Church of England fundamentalism and made the phrase “CAKE OR DEATH?!” one of his most popular catchphrases.
Lily Tomlin Impressed Fans and Grammy Voters With This is a Recording
Actress-comedienne Lily Tomlin released This Is A Recording in 1971. Tomlin played her most famous character, Ernestine, who was a loud, snorting, and aggressive phone operator. She squared off against the likes of J. Edgar Hoover, Gore Vidal, and Joan Crawford.
The album was recorded live at the Ice House in Pasadena, California, and earned Tomlin a Grammy for Best Comedy Recording. She was the first woman to win the award, and the album peaked at number 15 on the Billboard Hot 200 albums, the highest spot ever achieved by a female.
Sam Kinison’s Louder than Hell Showed Off His Pentecostal Roots
Stand-up comedian and actor Sam Kinison was known for his characteristic screaming during his routines. He was formerly a Pentecostal preacher and was very intense when he delivered his jokes. His 1986 album Louder Than Hell didn’t shy away from religious themes, including Jesus’ resurrection.
The comedian went off on criminal mastermind Charles Manson as well as relationships, world hunger, and the devil. Sadly, Kinison died in a car crash in 1992. Following his death, he was posthumously awarded a Grammy for his final comedy album, Live From Hell.
Woody Allen Was Much Looser In Standup Comic Than In His Later Work
While Woody Allen is lauded these days for his directing career, the filmmaker got his start as a comedy writer in the ’50s. He wrote jokes and scripts for TV and started performing stand-up in the early 1960s. That’s when he created a persona that was nebbish, insecure, and intellectual.
Allen’s stand-up was much looser than his later, more self-contained work on the big screen. The difference can be compared to a 20-something hipster versus an anxious 40-year-old.
Jim Gaffigan’s Beyond The Pale Is A Fan Favorite
One critic called Jim Gaffigan’s sixth album his “breakthrough performance. This is where he became the ‘food comedian.'” The comedian, actor, and writer is now a household name and this 2006 album helped establish him as such.
With his now-trademark self-deprecating humor, Gaffigan’s comedy on Beyond the Pale takes listeners on a journey into observational hilarity. Many fans feel that this work should have been nominated for a Grammy award.