Stand-up Shows to Watch This Weekend
Stand-up is a genre of comedy where a solo performer addresses the audience directly from the stage, imitating spontaneous dialogue. Stand-up, at least as it is known today, is a relatively recent way to have fun. In the United States, it originated with humorous lecturers such as Mark Twain, who toured the country in the 19th century. Subsequently, witty performance began to appear in vaudeville in the first decades of the 20th century - before that, comedy acts were performed by two actors interacting with each other.
The British-born Bob Hope was the comedian, who truly made stand-up comedy a separate genre. In 1938, the vaudeville host created his own radio program. Bob had to come up with fresh material for his weekly radio monologues and for the military audience he often entertained. Hope hired a team of writers, who wrote him jokes based on the current news of the day, local gossip in cities and military bases, as well as the adventures of the host and his friends in show business. This is how the classic stand-up style was created.
In the 1950s, it was transformed by Mort Sahl. The comedian went on stage, sitting on a stool with a rolled-up newspaper in his hand, and spoke in the "language of ordinary people." The comedian did not recite jokes in the form of "everyday conversational tone" but made caustic comments about "political leaders, popular culture, and the pillars of respectability in conservative 1950s American society."
"Is there any group here that I haven't offended?" he used to exclaim.
Sahl's intelligent, politically charged humor became popular in trendy nightclubs and later spread far beyond them, inspiring a whole new breed of comedians to create first-rate edgy humor.
Bob Newhart and Shelley Berman created monologues of people talking to their psychiatrists in the form of one-sided phone calls. Jonathan Winters ruined the structure of traditional stand-up, unleashing a "wild stream of consciousness" of characters, jokes, and even physical elements on the audience.
African-American comedians, such as Dick Gregory, used stand-up as a tool to influence public sentiment commenting on racial tensions during the civil rights movement. Meanwhile, Woody Allen turned himself into a hero of his own comic confessions: "a neurotic, sexually insecure New York Jewish blockhead."
More than half a century later, stand-up has become an integral element of mass culture and one of the most popular entertainment formats - a territory of freedom, absurdity and exceptional self-irony.
Here are 5 notable stand-up shows that will definitely stimulate your brain to produce a new batch of endorphins.
John Early, Now More Than Ever
This is a fresh and widely discussed solo performance by the American actor and comedian, а frantic mix of sketch, stand-up and a concert of a fake cover band - Now More Than Ever. "It's an ode to millennial exhaustion, which is also an exhaustion of millennial culture," The New York Times writes about the performance. It's a rough, self-centered, harsh performance that enthusiastically mocks sincerity and flawlessly parodies the trend of music and comedy specials. "It's all absurd, and it's almost certain that there's one or perhaps a dozen over-the-top ideas here that are crammed into concert-documentary bombast and then undermined by the cynicism of the entire production," the critics write, adding that the over-the-topness is to be forgiven and considered a misunderstanding, because for the most part, Now More Than Ever is a genuinely witty and upbeat story in which "cynicism has never been so much fun."
Zach Galifianakis, Live at the Purple Onion
This stand-up special by American stand-up comedian Zach Galifianakis directed by Michael Blieden is considered a classic – one of the funniest performances in the history of modern comedy. Galifianakis, being a master of one-liners in an absurd style, offers sharp and resonating humour.
Throughout the program, the emotionless Galifianakis's jokes are accompanied by a light piano piece that he plays as bedtime music. He ends by tearing off pages of a large notebook containing pre-written, mostly self-deprecating jokes, and the Pacific Choir sings "The Greatest Love of All."
Zach Galifianakis appears to be a kind of "comic poet of self-loathing and artistic angst," writes The Guardian. His method is to get on stage, drink, and deliver short lines with long breaks in between. "Getting fat sucks because I'm claustrophobic," Zach says, giving the audience time to realize the depth of this self-ironic drama. The comedian enters into a direct confrontation with the cameramen filming him and improvises brilliantly.
Anton Tymoshenko, Stand-Up Comedy In Wartime Kyiv І Performing Live In A Bomb Shelter
Anton Tymoshenko's stand-up may not be well known to Western audiences, but "if one person represents the resilience of comedy in 2022, it’s him," writes The Telegraph. The full-scale war started by Russia did not hinder his first all-Ukrainian tour. He bravely performed in bunkers and basements, with earshot of falling bombs, recording his travels for a stunning Radio 4 documentary.
Tymoshenko's jokes are an attempt to comprehend and accept a global, unheard-of tragedy through the tools of humor.
Can people laugh when the world, based on the right to live, is collapsing? What is the right thing to make fun of in a country where tens of thousands are dying from a genocidal war?
Anton Tymoshenko accepts the challenge of reality and helps Ukrainians live through some of the most dramatic events in recent history, as do other prominent representatives of Ukrainian stand-up culture, including absurdist comedian Vasyl Baidak, who has dedicated himself to volunteering, Serhii Lipko, who volunteered to join the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and many others.
Leo Reich, Literally: "Who cares?"
Generation Z is conquering stand-up with a humor shaped by social media, disoriented identity, selfie-consciousness, fragility and, most importantly, sophisticated self-irony.
The image of 24-year-old Leo Reich is exactly this "dressed up, narcissistic and fragile". In its review, The Guardian calls his stand-up "a satire of Generation Z's out-of-control ego," generously dusted with clichéd thinking, the horror of not being able to meet high expectations, and the realization that "the world and its prospects are crumbling."
Reich believes that the audience is lucky to have his company: he sings about having sex with people who hate him, laments the burden of adulthood and the inability to remember his own values because he "lost the phone on which he recorded them."
"The rebellious narcissist of Generation Z is breaking out," and this stormy, darkly brilliant comedy is mesmerizing, and it also makes you laugh a lot.
Mo’Nique, My Name Is Mo’Nique
Five years ago, in January 2018, against the backdrop of intensifying social movements for the safety and equality of people who are not white heterosexuals, a Baltimore native accused Netflix of discrimination. Oscar winner Mo'Nique was outraged by a proposal of a one-time payment of $500,000 for a stand-up special she recorded. And that is when Chris Rock received $20 million from Netflix for the special, and Dave Chappelle received $11 million.
The actress and stand-up performer filed a lawsuit. Subsequently, Mo'Nique and Netflix announced the settlement of their legal disputes outside the courtroom.
A year later, the streamer released a special Mo'Nique hit. The performance delves into the performer's personal story to give people the opportunity to understand "how she fought for herself."
"My Name is Mo'Nique" is about "the burden Mo'Nique carries on her back: balancing when to speak and when to keep quiet for her own survival, and defending full-fledged black women in a world that has become entrenched in its violence, undervaluation, and disregard for their rights."
Apart from the undeniable wit and precision of the humor, critics also note the exceptional master class demonstrated by the performer, who clearly showed how to add "comedic relief" to the extremely uncomfortable process of "exposing one's own shortcomings."