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He epitomises a true artist...

Drennon Davis picks his comedy favourites

Steve Martin - A Wild and Crazy Guy

There have been a lot of comedy albums and specials thathave influenced me throughout the years: Eddie Murphy’s Delirious,  Dana Carvey’s Critic’s Choice  and Monty Python’s Live at the Hollywood Bowl,  to name a few. I could’ve easily chosen any of those and been happy with it but I think Steve Martin’s A Wild and Crazy Guy  wins due to this recent discovery of a ridiculous advertisement Steve made for it -

I remember hanging out with a bunch gutter punks in high school who liked to break vinyl records over their heads for laughs. Usually it was something that we’d find at the thrift store like the Grease  soundtrack or some old Bee Gees album. We preferred it to listening to them. It was all fun and games until they did it with Steve’s classic. Something in my head triggered when I saw the record smash on the guy’s mohawk and I remember thinking: ‘These guys are fucking idiots.’  I never hung out with them again. True story.

The Office

The American version.

Kidding! Ha, you should’ve seen the look on your face just then!

Of course the UK version, I may be American but I’m not THAT stupid. Honestly, it took me years to even watch the US version because I loved the original series so much. Though I do like the American version and I'd probably be smarter to take it on a desert island due to the number of episodes alone, the loyal nerd in me couldn’t possibly do that.

Let’s face it without Ricky Gervais or Stephen Merchant, there is no Office. In my opinion everything those two write together is comedy gold. Sure, it’s not for everyone, I get that. A lot of people in the States can’t handle how uncomfortable it makes them but I live for that stuff. That’s the exact reason why I love it so much. The real, awkward moments and characters in life that don’t deserve a laugh track are much funnier to me than anything that actually has one.

The Original Stella Shorts

Notice that I said the ORIGINAL Stella shorts. I’ll get to that later.

For those who don’t know Stella, they were three of the short-lasting, cult-followed 11-member sketch group, The Stat, consisting of David Wain, Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black. After The State, the giant group split up and went on to have great careers writing, starring and creating successful TV shows and films. None, in my opinion, were as funny as the Stella Shorts.

Stella started in as a live show in NY where the three would fuck around on stage and show these amateur video shorts that they’d shoot on their low-grade video camera which would later be known as the Stella Shorts. They were at times stupid and sophomoric, yet somehow revered by their peers, enabling them to get some of the biggest names in the business (Sam Rockwell, Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifinakis) to be in sketches that always ended with everyone in an orgy.

In college, I received a copied VHS tape of them and immediately fell in love. Later Comedy Central would give Stella their own show that quickly failed due to the obvious limitations of being on TV.

David's Cousin from TheState on Vimeo.

Don Hertzfeldt’s Rejected

Being somewhat of a shitty animator myself, I appreciate it when I see one person doing a better job at getting laughs than an animated show with millions of dollars and hundreds of staff behind each episode. Unlike Family Guy, the Simpsons or South Park, Hertzfeldt didn't get bogged down by comedy killers like storylines, character development or the dreaded TV censors. The cartoons are just a straight dose of raw absurdity.

I first saw his short film at Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Animation Festival, back before the days of youtube. The animation was rudimentary and it was sometimes gross but to this day I have found very few things that make me laugh harder.

He was one of the first animators along with Mike Judge’s shorts on Liquid Television that made me realize that you don’t need anything more than a warped sense of humor and a level of illustration past the 5th grade to make something awesome.

Calvin & Hobbes

As a child of the 80s, I grew up with the two funniest comic strips in the newspaper; Gary Larson’s The Far Side  and Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes.  I’m not sure if everybody in the UK got these strips in the paper, but I hope so. In my opinion nothing has compared since.

Though The Far Side was equally hilarious, I like Calvin and Hobbes more only because, unlike its single panel sibling, the readers were able to follow and really connect with the two characters throughout the week. The narcissistic, loud-mouthed, lazy but imaginative seven-year-old boy and his stuffed tiger playing his calmer, playboy super ego were the ultimate comedy duo. They were insightful, immature, philosophical, playful, touching, beautifully drawn and always hilarious. Bill Watterson, to me epitomises a true artist, which is the other reason I chose this strip.

As big as the strip got, he never once tried to capitalize with T-shirts, plush toys or any of that bullshit that would’ve cheapened his work. When he thought the strip was done, he just stopped doing it and never looked back. It’s refreshing to see that among so many artists who overkill their successes that started from a truly passionate place.

Borat

Sacha Baron Cohen is a personal hero of mine. Lots of comedians are fantastic at making people laugh and that in itself is impressive. Some comics however have something more to say than a story about their toddler. For instance Bill Hicks, George Carlin and Doug Stanhope all have been known to bring up more serious issues successfully but usually with a good deal of anger behind their statements.

It’s commendable to use one’s power as a public figure to bring up political and social issues but sometimes the fun of watching comedy is lost in doing so. What I love about Sacha is he’s not only one of funniest and smartest character actors I’ve ever seen but he puts them in real environments where he’s able to put a mirror on society. All the while never doing it with an angry or condescending attitude that usually only preaches to the choir.

Personally, I love that Sacha allows an audience to take what they want from his sketches and interviews. Whether it’s social commentary on how racist people still are in America or just laughing at an over the top story about jerking off a horse.

Posted: 24 Aug 2012

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