Here are's favorite stand-up comedy routines. ''The Aristocrats'' inspired us to plumb the comedy vault for the best stand-up comedy performances
Eddie Murphy, Eddie Murphy Delirious
Credit: Eddie Murphy Delirious: Everett Collection

Here are’s favorite stand-up comedy routines

After watching 100 comics tell variations on the same supremely raunchy joke in The Aristocrats, you may want to catch some of them performing a full routine, and maybe without so many references to incest and bestiality. We’ve compiled some of our favorite stand-up performances of all time, almost all of which are available on CD or DVD. We’ve watched these over and over, and they’re still funny.

George Carlin DVD: George Carlin at Carnegie Hall (1983). The cranky Carlin excels at pointing out the absurdities of language, and how they lead to absurdities in the way we think. HIGHLIGHT: The classic seven-dirty-words bit, expanded here from when Carlin first created it in the 1970s.

Margaret Cho DVD: I’m the One That I Want (2000). The fabulously uninhibited Cho shines, whether she’s dishing about sex or paying offbeat tribute to her mom. HIGHLIGHT: Cho’s notorious explanation of the prejudices and catastrophies that sandbagged her short-lived sitcom, All-American Girl.

Bill Cosby CD: Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow — Right (1963). Before he became a curmudgeon, a pudding pitchman, or a sweater-clad sitcom dad, Cosby made his rep telling vividly recalled tales from the point of view of a child. HIGHLIGHT: The extended routine in which God talks to a skeptical Noah.

Mitch Hedberg CD: Strategic Grill Locations (1999). Hedberg left behind few recorded performances before his death earlier this year, but this CD captures him in his shaggy glory, offering his Zen-like one-liners. HIGHLIGHT: The routine about why Smokey the Bear should be replaced with a frog.

Eddie Izzard DVD: Dress to Kill (1999). Try to keep up as the brilliant British comic launches on a seemingly stream-of-consciousness performance that manages to riff on the entirety of Western civilization. HIGHLIGHT: Izzard’s description of the Church of England will have you saying ”Cake or death?” for weeks.

Steve Martin CD: A Wild and Crazy Guy (1978). Martin was one of the first stand-ups to make comedy about comedy, poking fun at the inanity of his own status as a white-suited, laugh-producing performer. HIGHLIGHT: Martin recalls how hard it was to speak to the locals during a trip to Paris because ”it’s as if those French have a different word for everything.”

Eddie Murphy DVD: Delirious (1983). Murphy’s transition from comedy stud to Daddy Day Care seems a little less like a stretch if you go back to this classic performance, which includes both blue material and Cosby-esque reminiscences of childhood. (The DVD is out of print, but the concert is available onVHS, and most of this material also appears on Murphy’s CD, Comedian.) HIGHLIGHT: Kids display their cruelty when the ice cream truck arrives.

Bob Newhart CD: The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart (1960). It’s hard to imagine today that a stand-up album could win a Grammy as the year’s top record, but that’s how massive a hit Newhart’s debut was. 45 years later, Newhart’s patented one-sided phone conversations are still wryly hilarious. HIGHLIGHT: Abraham Lincoln’s publicist tries to convince the president to make the Gettysburg Address more audience-friendly.

Chris Rock DVD: Bring the Pain (1996). In his breakthrough performance, Rock hones his sharp outrage at public and private follies. HIGHLIGHT: Rock’s still-controversial routine in which he uses the N-word to distinguish between responsible and irresponsible African-Americans.

Richard Pryor DVD: Live in Concert (1979). Even before he set himself on fire — and then joked about it, Richard Pryor was fearlessly funny about probing his own frailties. HIGHLIGHT: Pryor re-enacts his own heart attack.

Robin Williams VHS: An Evening With Robin Williams (1983). Long before he became serious and cuddly, Robin Williams was at his synapse-fast, free-associating best in this performance, which has yet to be released on DVD. HIGHLIGHT: Elmer Fudd sings Bruce Springsteen!

What are your favorite performances of all time?

The Aristocrats
  • Movie
  • 87 minutes