The most incredible piece of comedy performance I have ever seen

John Robins' favourite moments

Woody Allen

Everyone, and I mean everyone, sees Woody Allen's stand-up as perfect. His routines from the early 1960's were a huge inspiration to me when I started. They're so lean, a perfect example of comedy with no filler or flab or waffle. And then he stopped doing it to make a couple of films.

To my knowledge he never returned to it. However, this clip of his speech at the Oscars in 2002 is a wonderful reminder of how good he was. Woody Allen famously never attended an Oscars ceremony before this, nor has he since. It was following 9/11 and he is presenting a video tribute to New York in film. A young up and coming comic said to me at the start of the festival: 'I might be the next Woody Allen.' No you wont...


Bottom is a phenomenal sitcom. The subject matter is incessant, infantile humour, the structure and concept is pure Beckett. Each episode begins with two guys who have nothing to do, imagine pitching it: 'It's like Waiting For Godot but they keep shitting themselves.'

Incredible. As a kid it was the loudest I ever laughed. As an adult...the same. My mum works from home as a counsellor. The only time she has ever had to interrupt a session was when me and my sister were laughing too loud. I was about eight or nine and we were watching this.

Armando Iannucci

The Armando Iannucci shows were sorely under-watched and remain shockingly underknown. The man has been responsible for over half of all the best comedy of the last twenty years, and idiots moaned at him for accepting an OBE. I would guess that 90 per cent more people read his tweet to Piers Morgan about the OBE than watched this show.

Anthony Griffith

I have no idea who Anthony Griffith is. I had never heard of him before I saw this clip. To this day I have never seen his stand up. However, this clip remains the most incredible piece of comedy performance I have ever seen. It's his pain laid bare. The balance of humour and tragedy is pitch-perfect. This clip made me laugh and cry in a way I didn't think was possible. Breathtaking

Alan Partridge

I think Alan Partridge has been my biggest influence in comedy. It's bewildering to think he's been around in some form for twenty years. Recently, with the help of an autobiography and some money from Sky he's had something of a re-birth.

The way in which Steve Coogan has fleshed out Partridge's world is a lesson in character creation, and the audiobook of I, Partridge is the favourite travelling listen of every comic I know.  It's so lean. What I loved about I'm Alan Partridge was that every line is a set up to a punchline or a punchline. You couldn't fit a Rizla between the gags.

For me, the key phrase with Partridge is 'dead air is a crime'. He's a perfect representation of a man who can't stop talking and who treats every conversation like a radio broadcast, always saying too much, giving too much information, for fear there will be silence. I think the final instalment of Mid Morning Matters is amongst the best bits of Partridge.

Phil Kay / Daniel Kitson

These two dudes are the stand-up comedians I most admire. They do things that are simply beyond me and most other mortals. I was talking to Adam Bloom about them and he said Phil Kay performed three of the best five sets he had seen, Kitson and Sean Lock the others. That's mighty impressive but anyone who's ever seen Phil Kay on top form will know why.

Unfortunately there are no videos of them on YouTube, and even if there were I wouldn't link to them. Not all magic has been filmed, or should be. Remember that. Comedy at its best is a collection of moments that disappear as soon as they've happened. So turn your camera phone off, chuck your DVD in a river, and go see something mind-blowing.

Published: 21 Aug 2012

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