'An incredible display of artistry in stand-up' | Pierre Novellie picks his Perfect Playlist

'An incredible display of artistry in stand-up'

Pierre Novellie picks his Perfect Playlist

Here's my current Perfect Playlist of idols and icons – maybe they'll tarnish with age but for now their metaphorical posters are on my bedroom wall. I compiled this list and wrote the descriptions while running a fever, so apologies if that state of mind infected the prose. So, the heroes of the moment are:

Limmy

Limmy is an unjustifiably hidden gem. He is one of the best comedians of the last decade or two and nowhere near enough people are aware of his work outside Scotland – the BBC bafflingly failing to broadcast his work outside of his home country.

Limmy's stuff can be very dark and sad and heavily influenced by mental illness (his own and in general) but it can also be light, silly, heartening and moral. Additionally, he is an absolute beast on Twitter.

There's tons of his stuff online (it is, after all, where he cut his teeth) but the sketch below is, to my mind, one of the best sketches for decades. It's clever, it's weird, it's fun and it has almost no dialogue so it's a perfect example of the 'show, don't tell"' rule of writing. See for yourself:

Tim and Eric

I find the easiest way of explaining Tim and Eric to people is that they are the American version of Vic and Bob, but that's not an entirely accurate analogy. Their work is fundamentally American and often very Mid-Western in tone, characters and settings.

Many of their sketches seem to be inspired by public access television, late-night infomercials, bad 1990s television, shopping channels and rampant consumerism. They often play around with the idea of excessive food and convenience – bright, surface ideas that are often accompanied by themes of mental illness, taboos, repression.

All of this is made even eerier by the fact that, when Tim and Eric appear, they are almost always dressed in the drab clothing of some kind of Oklahoman furniture salesman – slacks and short-sleeved, button-down shirts, for example.

They are absolutely grotesque and their attention to detail is incredible – they give careful consideration to every element of what they are doing. Here is a good primer starring the excellent Will Forte:

King Of The Hill

Another gem from the genius who is Mike Judge – the man behind Beavis and Butthead, Office Space and Idiocracy. In the animation wars, King Of The Hill never quite got what it deserved. Granted, it ran for many series but it was jerked around by authority in a similar way to Futurama.

It's hard to find a clip that captures just how good King Of The Hill was at empathetic, soulful storylines with well-drawn characters that you grew to know and love. It never found a huge UK audience, possibly because it was just slightly harder to translate culturally than, say, Family Guy.

Then again, the UK has never dealt with US imports properly, chucking Seinfeld on out of sequence at 3am or showing arbitrary seasons of Parks aAnd Recreation out of sequence on different days.

I can only recommend you sit and give King Of The Hill the time it deserves but in the mean time, here is a funny highlight reel of the main character:

Maria Bamford

It is incredibly difficult, as a stand-up, to deliver material about mental illness, social alienation, paranoia and fear and still have it land as beautifully as the most accessible and populist observation. Bamford manages it.

She's also absolutely incredible at voices, characterising each of the hypothetical people talking within her set perfectly – the sort of accurate choice of voice where you go: 'Aha! I've met that person! I could guess what they had for breakfast.' This clip isn't the whole bit I wanted to share with you but I think it gives a good enough idea of what I'm trying to explain:

Bill Burr

Some of the most satisfying stand-up to watch is contrarian. It is a real pleasure to watch a master of the craft set themselves against popular opinion, against their audience, and to win them round with comedic logic or, at the very least, to get them to laugh at something they wouldn't dream of laughing at down at the office.

Bill Burr is that master.

Burr is angry, cynical, contrarian and blue-collar with the sort of natural, brutal intelligence that many people failed by conventional education seem to have. I always thought he was good but I wasn't blown away until his special I'm Sorry You Feel That Way.

It is one of the most incredible displays of artistry in stand-up I have ever seen or will ever see; so much so that I am not going to bother trying to tempt you to watch it by presenting some little bit out of crucial context. Instead, to give you a sense of the man, here he is being very funny on The Tonight Show:

Pierre Novellie is Anxious Peter is on at the Soho Theatre, London, from Thursday to Saturday this week, at 9.30pm

Published: 21 Mar 2016

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