'Is there a more perfect living stand-up?'

Shappi Khorsandi chooses her comedy favourites

Charlie Chaplin: The Great Dictator

Chaplin was a cinematic and comedy genius and I hope anyone who disagrees slips on a banana skin and gets chased around a lamppost by a fat policeman.  Over the years I’ve heard a few sad, unthinking souls say ‘but Chaplin wasn’t funny’ I ask them ‘which Chaplin film have you seen?’ None is nearly always the reply.

The little Tramp is a champion of the underdog. Chaplin always punches up and gets the better of goons in authority. He was unashamedly romantic and sentimental. A satirist who could make his audience think, feel and laugh in the same moment.

The Great Dictator was his first full ‘talkie’ and with this film he went gunning for Hitler before America even entered World War II. I watched this film when I was twelve, soon after I had read Anne Frank’s diary. This end speech made sense to me the way nothing ever had before and had a huge impact in how I greet the world.

Laurel and Hardy: The Piano Delivery

These two are the ultimate clowns. The day I decided my son was old enough to appreciate them was a joyous one for me. They have stood the test of time (my boy was rolling on the floor with laughter, ROFL as the kids would say) In my own childhood, that familiar tune ‘dara, dara, dara dara dadada dadada started a golden Saturday mornings for my brother and me.  

Often they are compared to Chaplin, almost always coming off as funnier, but although they were peers, for me, they worked in a different field of comedy. Their work was purely to make you clutch your belly and laugh like a loon.

Eddie Murphy: Mum’s McDonald’s

Yes yes I know. I KNOW! Much of Eddie Murphy’s material was horribly sexist and homophobic. I KNOW! But that doesn’t make his other stuff any less funny. I’m all for forgiving people when they say dumb stuff when they are young and I think Eddie is around 22 here.

He didn’t do stand-up after this, he went straight into films so it’s kind of impossible to know if he still feels the same about gay people and women. I shall give him benefit of the doubt because I’ve enjoyed Trading Places approximately 104 times.

Eddie Murphy’s was the first full length stand up show I watched and this bit was my very own childhood. Captures beautifully how we don’t appreciate the awesomeness of our mother’s until we are adults. This is straight from the heart and funny as hell.

George Carlin: Religion Is Bullshit

Long before Ricky Gervais started  arguing with religious people on Twitter in his spare time, before the worship of Dawkins (whose work I have never and will never read because watching Laurel and Hardy DVDs is way more fun) and before comedians got together to celebrate atheism, there was George Carlin.

Louis CK: Being White

Is there a more perfect living stand-up? (the most perfect stand-up EVER was of course Richard Pryor. I am not including him in this list as the only way I can describe my feelings about his work is by chanting and beating my breast) The stand-ups  I love the most are the ones who make  honesty look effortless when, dammit, it’s a hard thing to do.

Louis CK does the best ‘parenthood’ material I’ve ever heard.  He speaks his truth with intelligence and integrity. There is no preaching or sneering here. There is no desire to be compared to Bill Hicks. This clip about racism is pitched so beautifully. This charming acknowledgement that being a white male is the ‘best’ is offence-proof and agenda free. Go cracker!

The Office

The Office makes me happy. The theme tune is like balm to my troubled soul. Before The Office, nothing compared to Fawlty Towers. The Office does. The characters are like avatars of the nice people and  monsters we have all worked with who have been tapped by Gervais and Merchant’s funny-wand. There isn’t a word or a look out of place.  And it’s full of pathos. We really care about these characters.

The episode I’ve chosen is the one where Brent cannot bear not being centre of attention in workshop. Yes, it’s the ‘THERE’S BEEN A RAPE UP THERE!’ one.

 On paper David Brent is a monster but through each episode all we see is a man in desperate need of a hug. The Office is one of the few sitcoms where the Christmas special didn’t seem like they’d just stuck a bow on it. Brent got his hug.

  • Shappi Khorsandi: Dirty Looks and Hopscotch is at the Brighton Comedy Festival tomorrow, then at the Soho Theatre, London, from October 16 to November 3.

Published: 10 Oct 2012

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