[Hello to people who’ve found this post from Google or somewhere. This is a compiled version of articles first published on our ‘proper’ blog BrokenTV in August and September 2009. For more contemporary telly gubbins, visit there instead. Go on. It’s really good. Well, most of the time it is.]
Well, more accurately, it’s “one hundred comedy albums we could find on Spotify, discounting some really bad ones”. One annoying feature of Spotify is the limited search option. While it’s possible to search by genre (by using “genre:comedy” as the search term), you’re only going to as many results as can be shoved into five lines of text on the results screen. For example:
Oh, just the “173 more”? Don’t want to offer us the chance to see what they are, do you? Not an option, meaning we’ve had to come up with the ruse of typing “genre:comedy –conchords –stanhope –newhart –wright” etc, just to see the other artists tagged as comedy.
It’s all what Sergeant Wilson would call “a terrible fag”, but nevertheless we’ve been rummaging through Spotify to uncover a ton of gems. They’re in no specific order, and to be split up in chunks of twenty-five over several updates.
Shouty, acerbic US stand-up. As seen in (and heard on) Seinfeld, Flight of the Conchords, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. A funny man, and a worthwhile surrogate David Cross, seeing as David Cross isn’t yet on Spotify.
Sample line: “Sometimes, science is fuckin’ wrong, and gives us shit we don’t need. Like, 63-year-old women giving birth. Why not just come out and go ‘hey, we just made cancer airborne and contagious! You’re welcome! Hey, we’re science. We’re all about could’a, not should’a’.”
Not actually from 2007, of course. The listed dates are those displayed on Spotify, presumably the dates of the re-issued content. Anyway, it’s Lou and Bud, who you should already know. This is a compilation from several of their Camel-sponsored radio shows, including the famous routine once famously fluffed by Seymour Skinner.
Sample line: “Last night you were out with two girls!” “Yeah, but I only caught one!”
Not, as it might seem, a compilation of the Groucho-helmed gameshow, but rather an interesting miscellany of Marx Bros offcuts. Includes a nice radio sketch where Harpo ‘speaks’ to Bing Crosby, through his interpreter Gary Cooper, as well as a radio preview show for Duck Soup – part of “The Paramount Movie Parade. “Each week, the most brilliant stars in the galaxy of screen artists, will project their personalities through your loud speaker, and proceed to lavishly entertain with drama, comedy and song”.
“Woss the worst job you ever ‘ad?” Inaugural cuntfuckery from Pete and Dud.
Experimental SF Bay-based sound shenanigans. More than just “The avant-garde Tenacious D”.
Bill Cosby – 200 M.P.H. (1968)
A classic slice of Cosby, spilling his comedic guts on the various members of the family unit, cars, and why he feels that cats are shite. Much of it delivered in his “the kids these days, they’re all a hippin’ and a hoppin’, and a bippin’ and a boppin’, and they don’t understand the jazz”-type drawl lampooned so frequently on Family Guy.
Sample line: “If you want to own a real cat, get a lion. Then you’ll respect him. Then, when some guy breaks in your house at night, he’s going to get a shock.”
A huge compilation of late music-hall era British comedy taking in the likes of Will Hay, Tommy Trindler, Noel Coward, Max Miller, and a further 756 years worth of comedy experience we’re going to unfairly lump together with a curt “etc”. Illustrative track: Jack Warner’s ode to near misses on the pools coupon, If Only I’d Put An X Instead of 1. “Now it’s very, very difficult for workin’ blokes like me, who ain’t been educated at posh schools…”
Assorted offcuts from Spine Millington, taking in sketches, songs, poems, and readings from his books.
Annoying as he might seem now, Robin Williams was a cracking stand-up in his prime. This is him in his prime. Easily Disproved Pet Theory Of The Minute: Robin Williams wasn’t as funny as Kenny Everett, which is why he wasn’t as fondly regarded in the UK as he was in the USA during the 1980s.
Wry piano-based lyrical archery. Includes at least one song about Medeira cake.
Steve Martin – A Wild and Crazy Guy (1978)
While you could reasonably expect just listening to early Martin routines without seeing his physical antics would be as pointless as a Radio 4 adaptation of a Michael Bay film, this is still worth a listen. Especially because it’s free.
Sample line: “Is it okay to shout “movie!” in a crowded fire house?”
Hugely popular 1930s faux-offensive music hall giant. Mostly incomprehensible to 21st century ears, and most notable now for being the inspiration of The Fast Show’s Arthur “Where’s Me Washboard” Atkinson character.
Sample line: ”You want ‘ear me on Luxembourg on Sunday – I’m filthy!” No sign of the urban legendary “I didn't know whether to toss myself off or block her passage” line, though.
“Good evening. We apologise for the previous apology.” It’s on Spotify in two formats – one where each side of the record is a single track of over 25 minutes (the version named “Another Monty Python CD”), and one where each sketch is an individual track, as if being played from a compact disc (the version named “Another Monty Python Record”). This means that if you’re listening to the council version of Spotify (i.e. the version with adverts), listening to the former will mean fewer instances of Zane Lowe telling you to buy a new phone. The link up there is to the latter, which is preferable for sexy executive types like us, who pay for Spotify Premium.
Lewis Black – Anticipation (2008)
The shouty guy with glasses from The Daily Show. One of the best stand-ups on the circuit today, if you’re asking for our opinion. You weren’t? Oh.
Sample line: “I am a golfer. Now, that’s a Scottish word, and it means ‘asshole’.”
Noel Coward – At Las Vegas (1955)
A splendid find. Astonishingly, it actually does include a number he’d recently tossed off in the Caribbean (this is a lie).
It’s The Tap. Not, of course, to be confused with…
Bad News – Bad News (2004)
One of the most surprisingly wonderful finds we’ve made on Spotify – Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson having come up with their own spoof metal band for The Comic Strip Presents… at around the same time as Spinal Tap were making their mark on the other side of the Atlantic. All good fun, with a combination of surprisingly not-bad riffola and All The Little Flowers Are Singing-style studio skits.
Sample lines: Vim Fuego: “I am not an ignorant person.” Den Dennis: “I am.” and later in the same sketch, Den Dennis: “What, have you got an ‘O’ Level in bass playing, then?”
Unlike the Marx Bros album “You Bet Your Life”, which actually features the best of Marx Brothers’ various radio shows, the album “Best of The Radio Shows” contains the best bits of Groucho-helmed gameshow “You Bet Your Life”. All very confusing, but a nice enough listen as Groucho riffs it up with various contestants.
Sample exchange: “How much do you charge for a bucket of live bait on your ship?” “It’s a passenger ship!” “How much do you charge for a bucket of live passengers on your ship?”
Despite the title, this does include a lot of the sketches, including the majestic The End Of The World, along with Dud’s marvellous inability to keep a straight face when Pete is being especially splendid.
Sample line: “You’re speaking too softly for the human ear, which is what I’m equipped with”.
A landmark album. Best bit: No Sex, Rock’s take on the song Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen). “If a homeless person has a funny sign, he hasn’t been homeless that long. A real homeless person is too hungry to be funny”.
If nothing else, it’s a free chance for us to find out what all the fuss about Billy Connolly was during the 1980s. The only thing of his we really liked was when he appeared on the Kenny Everett Show.
Originally from 1964, this live recording sees Bob exploring the cultural mores of early 60s American life in his own inimitable style. Includes looks at TV commercials, amateur show contestants and nudist camps, along with a riff on what it might be like if you happened to be a lookalike of Hitler. It would probably be a bit harsh to claim Richard Herring was sitting in the crowd taking notes for the last of those.
Sample line: “Hey, that’s Hitler sitting next to me. When did he get out?”
Jonathan Katz – Caffeinated (2007)
Probably best known in the UK for being the voice and persona behind wobbly-animated shrink Dr. Katz, Jonathan Katz comes over as a more approachable Larry David. He’s a darned funny guy, to boot.
Sample lines: “Actually, I have a good marriage, and d’you know why? My wife and I don’t take each other for granted, and that’s the truth. Every morning, I ask her how she takes her coffee. [Audience giggles] No, it’s a small thing… but it’s annoying.” and “Lately I think my wife has been fooling around, ‘cos our parrot keeps saying ‘Give it to me hard and fast before my husband Jon Katz comes home’.”
“The whole thing’s not right!” “No, but it’s cheap.” Easy listening comedy utopia, dating largely (as far as we can tell, though admittedly we’re not experts) from the underrated pre-Eddie Braben, ITV era, along with some of the music from their short-lived movie career. This disc sees an Eric and Ern slightly detached from what we’re more used to, with one sketch involving the duo getting drunk and punching each other in the face quite a lot, and a song ending with Ernie admitting a penchant for wearing lipstick. Yata-ta-ta.
Derek & Clive – Come Again (2003)
Track one is called “You Stupid Cunt”. This gave us a little bit of a shock, because it was in our playlist right next to Classic Morecambe & Wise Songs and Sketches, and at first glance it looked like it was actually the final track on Eric and Ern’s long player. They weren’t quite *that* out there before moving back to the Beeb.
Various – Comedy Death Ray (2007)
Home to the only live recording of the mighty David Cross on Spotify (aside from another David Cross, who plays jazz), this dual-disc also takes in snippets of performances from Patton Oswalt, Neil Hamburger, Brian Posehn and the Reno 911 team. A nice primer for up to 18 American stand-up comedians you haven’t heard of before now.
Sample out of context quote: “This movie will scare the cum out of you – I guarantee it!”
A collection so good, we somehow own 1.67 physical copies of it. If you’re not already aware of The Bonzos, go and stand in the corner, and then read this. Luckily, Spotify contains pretty much all of the Bonzos’ output, including the Best Of CD responsible for some of the stupidest censorship on the whole of iTunes, so it’s easily fixed.
Two key facts about the Bonzos. One: US stadium-mope band Death Cab For Cutie are named after one of their songs. Two: in the song Rusty (Champion Thrust) (disc three, track twelve) we have one of those songs that we think is utterly brilliant, and everyone else – even, it seems, some members of the band that recorded it – dislikes. Oh, and three: they’re frigging ace.
Sample lyric: “Say hello to big John Wayne, xylophone And Robert Morley, guitar. Billy Butlin, spoons. And looking very relaxed, Adolf Hitler on vibes. Nice!” – The Intro and the Outro.
The sort of American stand-up to leave the front row of the audience with spittle-flecked faces at the end of a gig. He first popped up on our radar when he fronted one-off Channel Four Comedy Lab programme Doug Stanhope Go Home. Which is here:
The show was a brilliant look at certain British attitudes to immigration, and can be summed up as essentially “get a fucking clue, you bigoted fucks”. Always handy to show to relatives who like to include you on their racist joke bulk email list.
Sample quote: “There’s too many people in this country, But I think if you’re going to focus on keeping people out, you gotta focus on the people who don’t contribute to society. That’s a no-brainer. There’s a specific group of over four million people that come into this country every year, and who don’t contribute a fuckin’ thing, and everyone knows who I’m talkin’ about, but no-one wants to say it, because it’s politically incorrect. But fuck that, you know who I’m talkin’ about. Babies, that’s who I’m talking about! They come into this country, they don’t speak the language, they don’t wanna work, they just take, and they take. Put the border control official at the base of your uterus!”
More work from sonic terrorists Negativland. Oddly, Happy Hero is a song loosely based on the career of Michael Jackson that hasn’t been played much since his death.
Key lyrics: “They'd plug me in a wheelchair and they'd push me down the hall / I'd play a song for dying kids, your eyes would start to tear / That would be the ticket, to bolster my career” – Happy Hero.
The late US absurdist riffs on a number of subjects, including “Tea Ski” and “Canal Smarts”.
Sample line: “The word ‘Lull’ has too many L’s in it. Goddamn it, lull is almost all L’s. Thank god for that ‘U’ in it, to break all those L’s up.”Jim Gaffigan – Doing My Time (2004)
A comedian we feel compelled to label as “Big Jim Gaffigan”, even though we have no idea how tall he is. If you’re trying to place him, he played Murray’s friend in the “Murray Takes It to the Next Level” episode of Flight Of The Conchords. This is a hugely funny album, though oddly (at least in the case of the version on here) all the curse-words are blanked out, which is a little jarring. Still worth a listen, of course.
Sample line: “Isn’t it strange that when you’re single, all you see are couples, but when you’re part of a couple, all you see are hookers?”
A list of comedy albums without including any Ivor Cutler would be unthinkable. Luckily, Spotify fares well here, with several offerings, though sadly Ludo isn’t there, so there’s no Cockadoodledon’t or The Shapely Balloon. With luck, that’ll be remedied at some point in the future. Here are a few of the Cutler cuts available on Spotify..
An Elpee and Two Epees compiles some of Cutler’s early work, dating from 1959 to 1961. Dandruff is a little light on actual songs, packed more tightly with poems and short (sometimes very short) stories. Your best introduction to Cutler as far as Spotify is concerned is possibly 1976’s Jammy Smears, taking in a number of songs, poems and general meanderings from the Scotch surrealist.
One of the hard-to-find stand-up sets from more recent UK/Irish comedians (if anyone knows of any more, please leave a comment), which is nice. The self-confessed Darlene From Roseanne lookalike treats us to over an hour of his observations on planes, The A-Team, McGyver, and okay, we’ve only had time to listen to one track. It’s a top hundred, cut us some slack here.
Peter Sellers – EMI Comedy (2001)
Does anyone know the collective noun for EMI label comedy retrospectives? Because here come a… slew of them? Slew? Would that be right? Here’s Peter Sellers, and a series of gently wry gems. Sample track – a spoken performance of the Beatles song Can’t Buy Me Love, delivered by Sellers taking on the persona of a gentlemanly cad, and a middle-aged lady.
Laurel & Hardy – EMI Comedy (2001)
“You’re in love. L-U-G-H, love.” It also includes the duos performance of The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine from 1937’s Way Out West, which reached number 2 in the UK pop charts some 39 years after being originally issued. More pertinently, it also troubled the Top 40 again about ten years later, meaning we got to see Stan and Ollie on Top Of The Pops Chart Breakers. which was excellent. On video, not in person, obviously.
Max Miller – EMI Comedy (2006)
More near-incomprehensible meanderings from the self-styled “cheeky chappie”. PARENTAL ADVICE WARNING: Contains references to ‘courting’.
Sample quote: “Of all the forty-eight states, Texas is my favourite three.” Yep, forty-eight. “I left England when I was seven years old. Y’see, in those days, they were exporting ham.” We’re tempted to state how a lot of the material on these albums could almost be Dicky & Dino “hey, I haven’t seen this guy since rehearsal!”-style spoofs, but then Bob Hope was a hugely popular millionaire entertainer, and we’re typing this in a T-shirt bought from TK Maxx.
Jack Benny – EMI Comedy (2002)
As far as we can tell, Benny’s comedy persona was pretty much that of Tony Hancock’s (comedy persona’s) Stateside cousin, though of course his radio shows pre-dated Tony Hancock’s rise to power. Except, as this was American radio, it was all performed at a faster pace, meaning we’re not very good at making illustrative comparisons. This CD also includes a lot of Frank Nelson, the comedian referenced by “The Jerk That Goes ‘Yeeeeeeess’” in late-era Simpsons.
Mel Blanc – EMI Comedy (2006)
Prime cuts from the 20th century’s greatest voicesmith’s eponymous radio show. This album also contains a nice sketch where Mel, in character as Elmer Fudd, makes a complaint to, ahem, Fwank Sinatwa.
More radio recordings from the brothers Marx. Includes a nice sketch where Groucho tries to con Al Jolson. In one of the stupidest moves ever done by human hands, almost all of the recordings of 1930s Marx Bros radio sitcom Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel were destroyed, so you won’t be finding any of them here. Luckily, you can listen to the surviving recordings, along with the 1990s BBC remakes, here.
“Jolson, you’re remarkable. Here you are, old enough to be your father.”
If there were a prize for laziest artwork, this would probably win it, thanks to the strapline “XXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXX ZZZZZZZZZ”. Either that’s a clever reference to the purposefully obtuse penmanship of Spike Milligan, or the designer sent out the artwork too soon. Anyway, here are three episodes of The Go On Show, namely “Tales of Old Dartmoor”, “Dishonoured” and “Tale Of Men’s Shirts”. Of course, if you want more Goon goodness, this streaming radio, erm, stream offers nothing but 24/7 Goon Show.
“Here’s my business card.” “It’s blank!” “Business… is bad.”
If you’re the sort of person who can stand Jerry Lewis putting on an annoying voice for an hour, this this is the sort of album you may well be able to tolerate. We can’t say we’re part of that limited demographic, however. And yet, we think MC Chris is brilliant. Hmm.
Angry, funny, Jewish. His words, not ours, though we can vouch for at least two of those.
“There’s only one way to find out if you’re racist or not. The next time you lose something, that you think has been stolen, see where your head goes. See how many ethnic types you use to cast that short mystery film. How many blacks and latinos do you get through before you finally say, aw fuck, here it is, it was under the seat…”
Hurrah. “The humans are dead (The humans are dead) / The humans are de-ad (They look like they’re dead) / It had to be done (I’ve just confirmed that they’re dead) / So that we could have fu-un (I poked one. It was dead)”.
Todd Barry – From Heaven (2008)
Speaking of the Conchords, here’s “the bongo playing megalomaniac” from the final episode of FotC season one, more commonly known as Todd Barry.
Sample quote: “I saw a guy in the street, with his little boy, like a three-year-old boy. Little boy is wearing a Dead Kennedys T-shirt. I just wanted to walk up to the father and go, “hey, y’know what? Your kid ain’t that cool”. I can just see the father dressing the kid with the mother. “Honey, why you putting that little blue sweater on him? If he wears that, how’s everyone going to know how great my CD collection is?”
Better known as Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis. Two points here. Firstly, this is kind of like a version of Wayne’s World, but pre-dating WW by several years, and with Canada replacing heavy metal. Secondly, it’s not quite as good as Wayne’s World, but still worth a listen. Is it just us, or did Rick Moranis disappear off the radar not long after starring in Eric Idle’s Splitting Heirs (still not available on Region 2 DVD)? And yet, Catherine Zeta-Jones’ career soared after being in the same film. At the time, she wasn’t even famous enough to get her name on the poster! We didn’t think Splitting Heirs was that bad, actually. Boy, does that simple statement invalidate everything we’ve said over the previous twenty-five entries.
Part three: go! To be honest, the whole affair has actually spiralled into “An Indeterminate Number Of Interesting Comedy Albums On Spotify”, because we’re now past the fifty mark, and there are way more than fifty albums worth mentioning. From this point on, think of the title as something akin to how Heinz haven’t actually had just “57 Varieties” since before 1892. We’re still going to get the whole thing wrapped up within four parts though, so we’d better crack on.
Kicking off, another nice collection of songs and skits from Southsea-sired Sellers. Super.
Sample line: “Someone’s nicked the strings on me guitar!” “You’ve got it on back to front.”
A collection of well-known Murphy skits (think Ice Cream Man) and clips from his films, alongside some previously unavailable material (such as “Almost Fucked a Midget”, seemingly taken from a bootleg recording). A nice reminder of why he once deserved to be so successful, and why it’s a shame he ended up churning out films like Dr Doolittle 3: Come Back, There Are Some Animals We Haven’t Done Yet.
Well known in the US for co-penning the snappily titled book “He's Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys”, here Behrendt goes back to his day-job of stand-up, and riffs on life as an over-forty still trying be maintain a shred of coolness.
“Terrorists? Terrible PR. They can’t buy a good headline, these guys.”
A splendid CD cover, too. All round niceness from the host of US VH1’s I Love The Eighties. We suspect this means he’s the stateside version of Simon Amstell, except only 80% as good.
“If I had a slave, I wouldn’t make him sleep on the floor. I’d let him have a mattress, or maybe a futon I’d bought off Craigslist.”
If you look up the phrase “cheeky chappie” in Wikipedia, there’s nothing but a photo of Charlie Drake’s winking face. Unless someone’s edited it back to the proper entry, that is.
“Do you have anything personal against Sonny Liston?”
“No. He’s a nice old man, but he’s got my job!”
Y'know, from Police Acadamies 2+, or more enjoyably, the episode of The Larry Sanders Show where Larry wants to get Goldthwait in as host of the chatshow following his ("I don't know, maybe turn it down to six?" "That was a six"). This is a splendid recording, though we'd imagine a lot of people may be put off by his delivery, what with Goldthwait essentially being Animal from the Muppet Show made flesh.
Sample line: “I don’t mind going bald, but you know what I really hate? Grey pubic hairs. That was a sad fuckin’ day!”
Too many classic lines to list, but that doesn’t mean we can’t quote a few. There are from I Have A Pony.
“I’ve just got out of hospital. I was in a speed reading accident. I hit a bookmark.”
“One time, I went to a drive-in in a cab. Movie cost me $95.”
“If you were in a vehicle travelling at the speed of light, and you turned the lights on, would they do anything?”
By the time you shift forward twelve years, Wright’s voice seems to have lowered by several octaves (so much so it almost hurt your ears, in fact), but the material is still as good as ever.
"I'm addicted to placebos. I'd give them up, but it wouldn't make any difference."
“One of my Grandfathers died when he was a little boy.”
“One time, at the grocery store, I tried to buy the thing that separates your food from the other guys’”
All assuredly brilliant, but we can’t help but notice a marked difference in the crowd reactions between the two recordings. In the first one, while the audience are undeniably on the side of Wright, they’re relatively restrained when compared to the audience in the 2007 recording. In the more recent recording, while it’s still a great piece of work, the audience have a jarring tendency to whoop and applaud loudly after one-liners that quite frankly aren’t that special. It’s as if there’d been a oneupmanship virus released into the auditorium during the warm-up, resulting in audience members thinking “woo, yeah! I get this joke on a number of different levels from everyone else! Wright is such a genius, I just have to stand up and applaud that last line! Woo! I know what a placebo is!”
Like we say, this doesn’t diminish the quality of Wright’s act, it’s just a teeny bit jarring, like watching the whoops of the Hollywood Bowl crowd when Eric Idle utters the lines about all the kids in Los Angeles being on drugs and all the adults being on roller skates.
This disc makes for a nice example of why Kenneth Williams deserves to be remembered for more than just being a troubled diarist, sneaking gay slang onto the wirelesses of 1950s Middle England, perpetual Carry On foil or occasional annoyance for radio Hancock. This disc sees Williams displaying a range of abilities that people may be a little surprised by. A mugger working through a crisis of confidence (“erm, open your hands and give me your money”), nutter in a vet’s waiting room (“I’ve got a viper in this box, y’know. Iss not an asp”), xenophobic holidaymaker (“Do stop putting on that ridiculous regional accent!” “I’m sorry monsieur, but I am French.” “Well, I didn’t come here to listen to your problems”), and many more.
An interesting clip on here is where Williams takes the Peter Cook role in the “One Leg Too Few” sketch. It fares badly when compared to the more familiar Cook/Moore version, after Williams performs the routine in a voice just a bit too outwardly comedic for the thing to work effectively. But hey! It’s Kenneth Williams!
Tony Hancock – It’s Hancock (1965)
Two classic Half Hours, though sadly this represents all the Tony Hancock there is on Spotify. The two episodes on offer here are The Missing Page and The Reunion Party, meaning that the likes of The Radio Ham, The Lift, The Bedsitter or The Blood Donor are sadly absent. Hopefully they’ll turn up before Kevin Bishop re-records them for a modern audience, retitled as ‘The Internet Ham’ and ‘The Sperm Donor’, respectively. “A pint? That’s very nearly a bollockful!", and so on.
As for these recordings – as excellent as might be expected, but we’d sooner they’d chosen episodes with more Bill Kerr.
Jim Gaffigan – King Baby (2009)
“I think you might be addicted to TV when the battery from your remote goes out, and you replace it with the battery from your smoke alarm…”
Before starting this feature, we’d not really been aware of Big Jim Gaffigan’s work outside of a brief appearance in Flight Of The Conchords. After listening to this album in full, alongside 2004’s “Doing My Time”, we’re bloody hooked. This might just be instinctive hyperbole kicking in after listening to the work of someone so enamoured with fast food and procrastination as ourselves, but he exudes an aura of an apolitical Jon Stewart or Bill Hicks for much of this disc. You could possibly argue that he dips into his “appalled audience member reacting to previous punchline” voice too frequently (“the British are our only allies… why would he be so reckless? What if Gordon Brown were sitting in the audience right now?”, after a nice, if inaccurate, gag about vinegar being Britain’s ketchup), but hey. Any comedian able to throw in a five minute routine about the magnificence of bacon – and later toss in about half a dozen back references throughout the rest of the set – is okay with us.
“It’s literally a restriction on entering some religions. ‘Our rules: no killing, no cheating on your wife, no bacon…’ ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa… what was that last one?’ ‘No bacon?’ ‘I’m in the wrong line! Is there a bacon line around here?’”
If you’re looking for a pre-millennial triumvirate of comedic powerhouses, you can’t say fairer than these. First up, a series of Milligan all-round splendidness, including more dips into his war memoirs:
“I’m sorry, er… Milligan, your eyesight isn’t up to what we need for pilots, but there are a number of vacancies for rear gunners with really bad eyesight.”
“Er, no, no Sir. I don’t want to be in the back seat. I want to drive.”
“I’m sorry lad, all we can offer you is almost certain death.”
Followed up by another mix of L&H crackly goodness, comprised of songs and arguments.
Ollie : “Where were you born?”
Stan: “Well… I don’t know.”
Ollie, scoffing: “Fancy not knowing where you were born!”
Stan: “Well, I was too young to remember.”
Rounded off with a further third of the Goon crew. One track on the latter entry sees Sellers team up with Milligan to take on a splendidly deranged version of ‘Unchained Melody’, in the guises of Eccles and Bluebottle.
“a long lonely time / and time goes by so slowly / and time can do so much / are you still mine? / I need your love / I need your love / Godspeed your love to me / a ying tong, ying tong yiddle-I-po / I play my ukulele as *WORDS UNINTELLIGIBLE TO OUR EAR*”
And so on. You need to listen to it to get the full effect, obviously. Instantly preferable to the Robson and Jermone version, and we don’t even care that making disparaging remarks about the musical abilities of Robson and Jerome was declared illegal by the European Court of Human Rights in 1999 when we say that.
Another collection of (possibly out-of-copyright) audio scrapings from the vaults, this time from legendary sourpuss W.C. “Because Fish Fuck In It” Fields. Don’t let the “designer bought a Photoshop manual, but only bothered reading two pages from the chapter Getting Started With Filters” cover fool you, this is a nice series of recordings.
‘s Previous Record
Live at Drury Lane
Matching Tie and Handkerchief
The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of […] and The Holy Grail: Executive Version
The Ultimate Rip Off
Contractual Obligation Album
The Meaning Of Life
The Final Rip-Off
Life of Brian
Now we’ve stopped caring about cramming everything into a hundred places, here are all the Python albums we’ve not mentioned yet (1970’s Monty Python’s Flying Circus itself isn’t yet on Spotify, if you were wondering). Now, we could try to sum up each album, but we’d be better served by linking to SOTCAA’s remarkable webpages on the subject. We will however implore you all not to make the same mistake that we did by putting off listening to the Life Of Brian, Meaning of Life and Holy Grail albums for years. We’d stupidly (and yet, almost reasonably) assumed they’d simply be a recording of the best moments from the films, what with them dating from the pre-home video age (well, aside from Meaning Of Life, granted). Technically, they do, but they also offer so much more. Listen to them, and see why. Erm, hear why.
Tom Rhodes – Live in Paris (2007)
Possibly the smallest crowd of any live recording on the entire list. Not quite at the level of the five slightly amused people pretending to be the crowd in the woeful "’3 Mobile’ sponsor bits on Channel Four, but not too far away. The most popular track on this album (going by the Spotify stat-o-bar) is the track called “Muslim Girlfriend”. To the potential annoyance of of a certain proportion of the speculative audience, that part of Rhodes routine looks at the overall idiocy of organised religion. Yeah, take that, religion. As for the remainder of it, well, not spectacular, but hey, it’s free. Erm, if you’re not paying for Spotify, like we are.
Sample line: “England makes the best potato chips in the world. You ever had these Walkers Sensations? Oh my god, they’re like fuckin’ orgasms in chip form. Roasted chicken with thyme… roasted lamb with mint… Thai chilli prawn… but other than that, English food is not that nice in general. What makes an English breakfast? They pour baked beans all over your eggs. What an inconsiderate way to start your day. With a bunch of ass-fuel. The Germans should have dropped cookbooks on you motherfuckers!”
Denis Leary – Lock ‘N Load (2007)
A combination of comedy songs and live clippings from the bête noir of the late William Melvin "Bill" Hicks. As is par for the Leary course, it makes for a mixture of relative highs (“I can’t bring up my kids based on a belief system based purely on the size of fuckin’ hats, okay? That’s apparently how the Catholic Church is run”) and box-ticking “fuck you” lows (“When I’m President, things are gonna change. My foreign policy? Fuuuuck you!”) We can’t help but wonder how Leary’s core US audience would react if they saw his slightly surprising (and, to be fair, entertaining) appearance on Fantasy Football League. “What the fuck? He likes soccer? The fuckin’ fag!”
“Ha ha! Drugs! Drugs is funny! The fact I’m able to telegraph the fact I understand the references made in this record help to make up for the lack of my actual personality! Yay! I’m edgy! Take that, The Man! And I saw someone doing a cocaine once, too.”
Us being holier-than-you-bastards annoying twats aside, this album includes the majestic track Basketball Jones. Not only is that a brilliant song in its own right, but it reminds us of the ace scene with Chauncey Gardiner in the limo near the beginning of Being There. Reason enough for inclusion, if you’re asking.
Another offering from NY funnyman Lewis Black. If Leslie Halliwell had decided to concentrate wholly on the art of comedy as opposed to cinema, and if he’d decided to stay alive until at least 2005, his guide to comedy would surely have included a reference to this album. And in this comedy guide, the snapshot review of this album would only have required a wordcount of two: piss funny. And that’s all you really need to know.
Sample line, on the subject of Janet Jackson’s ‘wardrobe misfunction’ at the Superbowl Half-Time Show: “It’s more disturbing for a child to hear adults talking about seeing a tit as being disturbing, and disgusting, and indecent, and shocking than it is for a child to see one. There is no child that, when a breast is exposed to them accidentally that has suffered a mild epileptic seizure. When I was nine, my entire life was devoted to… seeing a tit. I was Captain Ahab. Sad, but fuckin’ true.”
Mort Sahl – Mort Sahl Live (2006)
Though going by the badly scanned LP artwork, routine about a then-ongoing Watergate scandal at the beginning, and fact the tracks are called “LP Side A” and “LP Side B”, this was recorded some time before 2006. 1973, in fact.
Sample quote: “Eugene McCarthy once said that Nixon was a man who, if he saw you drowning thirty feet from shore, would then throw you a twenty foot rope. Then Kissinger would go on television and say that ‘the President has met you more than half-way’.”
“I didn’t realise how good I was with computers until I met my parents. My parents are like what would happen if you gave a monkey a computer.
Marc Maron – Not Sold Out (2006)
Marc Maron’s 2006 offering sees us falling squarely into an old comedy trap. Listen to a dozen comedy albums from American stand-ups, and you’ll encounter at least three of them spending five minutes going on about how New York is simultaneously great and shit. We think this might be something written into the constitution.
Sample line: “Hey, remember before 9/11, when Rudy Giuliani used to be a fuckin’ asshole?”
Kyle Cease – One Dimple (2006)
Aw, kinda looks like Ant from PJ & Duncan, doesn't he?
Sample line: “How much did it suck to be Player Two in Super Mario Bros? Holy ass-fuck, you’d have to wait like four days for your fuckin’ turn.”
Russell Peters – Outsourced (2006)
That's the US Russell Peters, not the British one who constantly appears on Mock The Week. We can't help but speculate that should Russell Peters (the British one) make it big in the USA, he'll have to rebrand himself in much the same way that bands like Suede and The Charlatans did over there. "Hello, Anaheim Performing Arts Center, my name is The Bristol Russell Peters."
No, wait. It’s Russell Howard we’re thinking of. Damn.
One of the nicest finds on here.
“I find at most theme parks, the theme is: ‘wait in line, fatty’.”
“Every fight is a food fight, if you’re a cannibal.”
“A musical is the same as a burlap sack. I wouldn’t want to be in either.”
“I think vests are all about protection. A life vest protects you from drowning. A bullet-proof vest protects you from getting shot. A sweater vest protects you from pretty girls.”
It’s the deft verbal steering that really warms us to Demetri Martin’s act. On that last joke, 99.99% of American stand-ups would have said “gettin’ laid”, “pussy” or something similar. Martin goes with ‘pretty girls’, which is that extra bit funnier. Sure, it might not hit home as well with the drunk frat boy in a comedy club on a Saturday night demographic, but it’s better in every way. It shows he has thought about every last word in his act, instead of merely coming up with the idea for a joke, then getting there as quickly as possible so he can move onto the next one. A happy blend of Stephen Wright-type economy, and Jack Handley-esque absurdity. Marvellous. One more? One more.
“Swimming’s an odd sport. Sometimes you do it for fun, but sometimes you do it to not die. When I’m swimming, I sometimes forget which one it is. I have to check my outfit. Pants – uh oh. Bathing suit – okay. Naked – we’ll see.”
A collection of musical musings from the saving grace of Doctor Who: The Catherine Tate Era. There’s nothing too challenging, but everything here is jolly enough to hold your attention for a while, even if it’s only to play “identify the dodgiest double entendre”. If nothing else, check out “Right Said Fred”, the Telegoon singalong that inspired the name of a certain set of hairless 90s pop irritants.
While this may not technically fit into the cubby-hole marked “comedy albums”, former Bonzo Dog Innes was a surrogate member of Monty Python, and an integral part of The Rutles, so we’re saying that’s reason enough. This is basically a fleshed out version of Innes’ 1973 solo debut album “How Sweet to Be an Idiot”, and that’s not even remotely a bad thing. Entertainingly, Michael Palin guests on the title track, and (as you might expect) it includes the majestic How Sweet To Be An Idiot. Indeed, an ‘idiot’ you would be to not give this download a spin.
Speaking of former Bonzos, here’s Viv Stanshall cataloguing the goings on at Rawlinson End. Now, we’re probably going to get a three-week ban from the internet for saying this, but despite repeated attempts, we’ve never really ‘got’ this album. Sorry. Nonetheless, if you’re better at liking comedy than us, this is for you.
Here’s something more up our street, a shouty American who yells expletives frequently while pretending to get angry about stuff.
“The only people who buy penis enlargement pills must be so dumb, they’re feeding them to their penis.”
“Do you think that was homophobic? I think that it was, ‘cos I hear that a lot. “Dave,” “What?” “You’re talking about being gay. You probably secretly are gay.” And I’m like, “listen, Voice In My Head, I’m not!””
Another of our favourite Spoti-finds (clever wording, we know). This disc sees highlights of the duo’s One Night Stand live show, of which a different recording was available on VHS in the mid 1990s. Sadly, one of the best jokes from the live VHS is missing (“well, can you describe him?” “He’s a cunt!”), but that doesn’t mean the material making the compilation album is tame:
[In a sketch where Griff is worried that he’s contracted VD.]
Griff: “I’ve got this unsightly lump on the end of my cock.”
[Pause while the audience giggling dies down.]
Mel: “Well, that’s your body, isn’t it?”
[Huge reaction from audience.]
Mel: “Look, don’t worry about it. Just go down to the clinic, and… let them have a look at your ‘old man’.”
Griff [alarmed]: “I’m not takin’ ‘im with me! I wanna go on my own!”
Look, it’s all in the performance, okay? Meanwhile, as for that long-deleted live VHS show, YouTube shall provide. (Actually, that’ll make an excellent ‘holding update’ while we finish writing this, so you’ll have probably seen it by now. As a special bonus, you can measure the time between whenever it was we posted a link to the Smith & Jones Live video and now. That amount of time is how long it takes us to get things like this done! We’re rubbish!
File under ‘quietly splendid’. Bob Newhart puts himself into the notional shoes of people in a number of different situations, giving each monologue that special Newhart spin, along with more traditional riffs on subjects such as ‘the difficulty people who happen to look like Adolf Hitler in using commercial airlines’. While much of the humour getting the live crowd going in these recordings is mainly down to 1960s-era shock value (i.e. mentioning toilets or making oblique references to sex), the remainder still has plenty to be said about the human condition.
“Look Johnny, sometimes daddies get ‘weekend colds’.” – Daddy Of All Hangovers.
A more contemporary slice of excellence now, from the pen of Harry “Derek Smalls Monty Burns Ned Flanders Etc Etc” Shearer (and mouth, along with that of wife Judith Owen). This recording compiles his recordings from NPR’s Le Show, purporting to be a series of songs performed by members of the Bush administration. Great stuff.
Example lyrics: “gym buds, the pres and me, / no gifts or taxes / could buy a gal such access / gym buds / but how soon I learned / mornings to me he'd respond / but by noon, he'd been neoconned”, from Gym Buds, a plaintive yet techno-tinged ditty from the perspective of Condoleezza Rice. Lyrics are contained on Shearer’s own website, coincidentally.
See also the Harry Shearer’s other collection of songs from Le Show (this time taking on a broader range of topics), Songs Pointed And Pointless (2007).
Now, you might well argue that this doesn’t belong in a list of comedy albums. For starters, it’s a techno album, rather than something with jokes on it, and for pudding, you don’t get the full impact of the album without the graphics-and-video-packed CD-ROM issued with the original (ah, remember when CD-ROMs were the big thing? It was what computer magazines in the mid-90s decided were going to be The Future, not jumped-up BBS The Inter-Net). Well, we’re saying the mesmerising fusion of cut-up samples from US news networks, movies, TV shows, thumping beats and deft lyricism are worthy of inclusion here, especially as BrokenTV is meant to be about telly. So there.
If you do get a chance to see the videos from this (they’re all on YouTube. Look, here’s one), do so. If nothing else, they help to highlight how shit-scary it must have been for tiny children to tune into tests of the Emergency Broadcast System itself in the 1970s and 1980s. The eerie lo-fi graphics and chilling tone would have scared the living bejesus out of us, even more so if it was after the time we’d watched Threads at the foolishly young age of 11.
Yeah, yeah. So what if most people thought Tenacious D were brilliant for a month in 2001 before filing them at the back of their minds, until they saw the adverts for Pick Of Destiny, which they then didn’t watch because it was pish? After giving it a rest of several years, this album is still enjoyable even now. Plus, lest we forget, the ace video for Fuck Her Gently was directed by John Kricfalusi, so there’s another plus point.
Ah, that seldom-used segue from “Fuck Her Gently” to “Arthur Askey”. It’s one of the hardest links in the world of competitive blogging, and it’s safe to say we haven’t quite pulled it off. Still, at least we haven’t tried to mine the limited comedy potential of Askey’s song about a young girl begging soldiers to bring her a banana back from the continent during wartime. It’s called “I Want A Banana”. ANYWAY, here's Arthur Askey. We can't help but wonder what the listening figures for this are, given the limited correlation between the "those who embrace bleeding-edge online technology" and "people who like Arthur Askey" demographics. A bit like the way Last Of The Summer Wine is recorded and broadcast in HD, even though most of its fanbase haven't even got around to buying a widescreen telly yet.
Perennial target of mean-spirited shitbag stand-ups, Rolf Harris is, of course, utterly splendid. If you’re going to claim Rolf is crap, can you honestly say that (a) you didn’t love Rolf’s Cartoon Club, or that (b) if he was your uncle, you wouldn’t think he was absolutely fantastic bloody fun? This album includes Rolf’s cover version of Stairway To Heaven, which we’re saying is immeasurably superior to the original, by way of not even infuriatingly po-faced. It made the top ten singles chart in 1993, for flip’s sake, and not everyone who bought it was an achingly ironic student, surely?
A lady comedian, and not just a lady comedian we’ve included as last-ditch attempt to avoid being called misogynistic. Hey, it’s not our fault Sarah Silverman isn’t on Spotify yet. Best known to us as Alarming Home Shopping Presenter from Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Maria Bamford hasn’t really popped up on our comedy radar in her capacity as a stand-up comedian until now, but she seems rather good. We’ll check out her work more thoroughly when we’ve finished Trying To Listen To About 200 Comedy Albums Within A Few Weeks To Work Out Which Ones Are The Best. Honestly, it could’ve been the thirteenth task of Hercules. Yes, we do want a sodding medal, actually.
“I was in a lot of plays. We had a weird drama teacher in that he was incredibly enthusiastic about a high school drama program and would talk to all the kids for hours. He ended up marrying one of the kids, but that's neither here nor there.”
“I could’ve been a judge, but I never ‘ad the Latin.” And so on, in this three disc monster. Rigorous, but hugely worthwhile.
“Withhold your two-octave conk punch, while I unfold the tale of a certain story.”
From as far back as 1954, here’s another three splendid episodes of The Go On Show.
Red Bladder: “OK, and don't forget to put the cat out, he's a British spy.”
Bluebottle: “You rotten swine, you give me away now. My disguise was perfect until you said that.”
Notable mention: Unchained Melodies – The Complete Recordings 1955-1978, a collection of songs by The Goons.
Taking in the likes of George Burns, Gracie Allen, The Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Lucille Ball, Red Skelton, this huge two-disc compilation is your one-stop low-quality radio recording destination for enjoyable elderly American comedy.
A handy guide to one of the most important comedians of the 20th century, even if he wasn’t necessarily that funny to our ears. To be fair, if it wasn’t for Lenny Bruce, Lord Bob Monkhouse wouldn’t have used the word ‘cunt’ in the first chapter of his “Over The Limit” autobiography, which certainly surprised us. He also mentions Mortal Kombat later on in the same book. Bob Monkhouse was brilliant, but as his work sadly isn’t on Spotify, this is probably the only excuse we’ll get to mention him.
”I don’t get why frustrated drunk guys in bars would want to beat up a gay guy. If you’re having trouble getting laid, take on the enemy – beat up a good looking straight guy.”
Oh dear. We won’t be able to get through the synopsis of this compilation (of prime cuts from Brand’s BBC Radio shows) without mentioning a certain cast member of Dead Ernest. We’d better restrict ourselves to saying how it’s a shame that this seems to be the only BBC Radio show compilation currently on Spotify, which will be because Brand’s show was produced by his own production company, who’ll have given permission for it to be on Spotify. Fingers crossed for the BBC Radio Collection appearing soon, mainly so we can hear staggeringly great The Mark Radcliffe Show (Graveyard Shift Years) ‘Best Of’ on there. Seriously, that’s the sort of thing which should really be on BBC7.
Another chance to enjoy the work of Marc Maron, as mentioned a couple of times before now. Ignore the badly drawn cover picture (this is where someone posts a comment saying it was scribbled by a quadriplegic war hero, making us feel like twats), and dip into the above-par meanderings within.
“You ever hated yourself so much, you had to take a nap?”
“I love the internet, because now we have rappers that used to be gangsters and thugs telling us not to download music, because it’s stealing.”
“I used to work in an office which had a condom machine in the bathroom. Now, let me tell you, I’ve had some pretty good days at work, but not so good I’ve had to call on Trojan Man at the end of the day. That’s got to be one impressive Excel spreadsheet you’ve put together, for there to be pussy at the end of that rainbow. “Your choice of font gets me so hot. Was that Helvetica Bold?” Come on, nerds, where are you going to hear a better font joke than that? San-serif, motherfuckers!”
Jokes about Microsoft Excel and Helvetica Bold? Brilliant!
We’ll round things off with US comedy colossus Tom Lehrer. Hey, this disc is from 1960, so it’s all going to be then-topical riffs on bubblegum and malt bars, isn’t it? Well: no. While Lehrer was a respected Harvard mathematics professor with a penchant for performing wry ditties whilst sat at a piano, the subject matter of his songs could rival Stephen “Baby Bird” Jones at his darkest (yes, Baby Bird, listen to the lo-fi albums, tsk). For example, “I Hold Your Hand In Mine” is a love song, performed by a man kissing the severed hand of his long-dead lover. “The Irish Ballad” is about a young girl from the Emerald Isle who murders the other members of her family. Meanwhile, the song “Oedipus Rex” is about… well, you guess.
He didn’t just perform material that could just as easily be the result of Richard Stilgoe teaming up with Cannibal Corpse, he later became pianist-in-residence for the short-lived NBC version of That Was The Week That Was (and indeed, was featured in the great Billy Crystal-fronted PBS/TLC/BBC Wales documentary Make ‘Em Laugh on this history of US comedy, performing a brilliant wordplay-heavy song defending the use of smut in comedy), but his material makes for a refreshingly acerbic antidote to the clean-cut fare from many other comics of his age. He also pops up in compilation Hey Mr Producer!: The Musical World of Cameron Mackintosh, singing a lovely tune called “Poisoning Pigeons In The Park”.
And, with talk of Harvard tunesmiths pumping pigeons full of toxins on municipal land, that’s it. The end of the list. A quick count reveals that our Top 100 has actually linked to a total of 114 comedy albums, so if you dislike fewer than fourteen of them, the original boast is still accurate. Here’s a Spotify playlist link to the whole lot of them, with the link also including a couple of dozen other albums we’ve not mentioned, either because we’d felt we’d already covered the artist in question, they didn’t quite fit in with what we’re doing here, or that they were a bit rubbish.
Finally, a quick word of oh-they’ll-probably-never-read-this-anyway thanks to both Graham Linehan and Spotify itself, for both mentioning our list in their Twitter feeds, which made The BrokenTV Gang feel like they were running a proper website for a bit. Hopefully, if the iPhone app and eventual North America launch make Spotify even more popular, we’ll see more comedy acts added to their roster (fingers crossed for the BBC Radio Collection), we’ll be able to compile a Top 100 Comedy Albums On Spotify That We Haven’t Mentioned Yet at some point in the future. Until then, stay classy Spotiverse.