Top comedy on Spotify

Ten albums worth a listen...

It’s time for another one of our very occasional looks at the best comedy available on Spotify. These ten albums come in at just over nine hours – within the maximum ten you get for free without paying the £4.99-a-month subscription for unlimited access. Click here for the full playlist in one place.

1. Harry Hill: Funny Times

Probably everything Harry Hill does could legitimately be described as ‘an oddity’ – and nothing more so than this 2010 musical offering. Stylistically similar to TV Burp, it features eclectic celebrity references and random cameos from the likes of John Craven, Ken Roache and Bruce Forsyth. Not all the gags land, but highlights include a Holly Willoughby song that’s a mild-mannered version of Eminem’s Stan; the Lily Allen-ish I Wanna Baby, and The Disappointment Song – and old-fashioned oompah number whose subheading Sex And The City explains all..

2. Eddie Pepitone: The Big Push

Eddie Pepitone was one of the international visitors who caused a stir at Edinburgh, with his delivery swinging between white-hot rage and miserable self-doubt. His stand-up isn’t available on Spotify, but this 2006 album, based on sketches, contains many of the elements that define his persona. It’s aggressive, but can be very funny.

3. Tim Key: With A String Quartet. On A Boat

Tim Key’s quirkily  unpoetic poems are here set to the melodic tones of a string quartet, interspersed with him chatting tersely to his musicians (including Tom Basden). The shifting ambiance is disconcerting but charming, and the verses witty and droll, though the precision of the quotidian language, when you’re expecting something more epic.

4. Dan Cummins: Crazy With A Capital F

This detached, ironic stand-ups got a very deliberate cadence that’s as effective as it can be annoying, especially his habit of labelling all his punchlines ‘That joke’s called...’. But establishing such an instantly identifiable trademark in delivery seems to be the North American way, and Cummins backs it up with quirky point of view and an agreeably pissed-off sarcasm aimed at targets such as joggers, his ‘know-it-all’ three-year-old and, erm, ants, that makes him worth a listen.

5. Tim Minchin: Ready For This?

You surely don’t need much more information on this - or much persuading to listen to it. Minchin’s 2009 album contains the anti-love song If I Didn’t Have You, the big message epic Canvas Bags, the nine-minute rationalist beat poem Storm, and the ultimate putdown for a bad review, Song For Phil Daoust. All lovely stuff.

6. Pete Holmes: Impregnated With Wonder

Welcome to one of your new favourite comedians. American Pete Holmes is not especially well-known in his home country, let alone here, but this album is a fine showcase of his great sense of infectious fun. Nor is it at the expense of substance: everyday observations on everything from Subway sandwiches to the lot of the stage magician are given a fresh spin. As proof, he has a list of the old ‘jokes’ every one of us uses as conversational grouting, which will embarrass anyone who’s used them, while ensuring he’s remembered as being above such kneejerk asides.

7.Frankie Howerd: At The Establishment And At The BBC

As Peter Cook’s Establishment Club returns to London, here’s a chance to hear what – pre-Spotify – would have been considered a rarity: the variety-hall act of Frankie Howerd performing among the bright young things in the club that was the epitome of Sixties cool. It was an appearance that turned his rollercoaster career around yet again – a reminder that however much fashions change, a distinctive voice will always have a place.

8: Patton Oswalt: Finest Hour

Rightly considered one of the kings of US alternative comedy - whatever that means – Oswalt cements his reputation with this firmly amusing offering. His key technique, as always, is to take an ordinary situation and exaggerate it to preposterous extremes, with the joke varying between his impotent irritation from his own shortcomings. A few bits feel like filler, but there are stand-out routines such as the deconstruction of circus entertainment, Jesus’s ‘superpowers’, and the script he was sent to be the gay best friend in a romantic comedy (which leads to some splendid points about gay marriages). And Oswalt is a man assured enough in his own abilities that even the filler is entertaining.

9. Matt Kirshen: I Guess We'll Never Know

Recorded off the back of his success on the US show Last Comic Standing, this is Kirshen’s 2009 ‘greatest hits’ CD, starting from how young he looks, skewering the usual touchstones such as homeopathy, religious doctrine and creationism; and including his escapades in America. The performance is straightforward, but the routine sharply written, with jokes coming thick and fast.

10: Doug Stanhope: Before Turning The Gun On Himself...

On his latest album, the great American contrarian wonders if his whole career’s been nothing but hot air – a few good ideas that fall on deaf ears. In 20 years of being a comic preacher, the world’s still screwed. That’s as maybe, but Stanhope’s embittered diatribe has thought and passion behind the humour of disappointment and anger. Some of the grand philosophising has gone, but there’s still a message about being responsible for your actions amid the bleak comedy from this unlikely moral leader. There are a few cheap shock laughs, and although it’s not Stanhope’s finest hour, even at 70 per cent he’s better than most comics are full-pelt.

And here is the last Spotify list we compiled, last year.

Published: 10 Sep 2012

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