Our kids are going to see Louis C.K. in Wilkes-Barre in a few weeks. There was some half-hearted talk, early in the process, about me going with them. But, that’s not going to happen. I was picking up a faint “oh god, please no” vibe from them, so I backed out. There was little to no protest about my decision. Yes, I remember when they were young, and they’d get all excited when I came home from work…
In any case, it got me to thinking about the stand-up comedians I’ve had the pleasure of seeing during my life. It’s not many, but there were some good ones. Today I thought I’d give you guys a quick rundown, and ask you to do the same in the comments. Sound good? Let’s do it.
Steve Martin This was the first “concert” I ever attended. It was at the Huntington Civic Center, when I was in Jr. High School. Martin was at the height of his white suit, arrow-through-the-head, SNL, wild ‘n’ crazy guy fame. The place was pandemonium, and filled to the rafters. I later saw Billy Joel there, and Foreigner (w/Wet Willie and Nantucket!), The Doobie Bros., etc. Steve Martin rocked the joint harder than all of them.
Jay Leno I don’t know how this ever happened, but Leno performed two shows at a small restaurant in Charleston, WV called Michael B’s Deli, sometime in the early 1980s. This was before The Tonight Show, when he was still going on Letterman once a month, sharing his latest “beefs.” People don’t believe me, but Jay Leno was, back then, one of the best stand-ups working.
I went to the early show with my friends Bill and Vincent, and it was bizarre. It was a restaurant, with booths: not exactly an ideal set-up for comedy. But Leno did his set, probably on auto-pilot, and was very funny. I remember him talking about a recent “religious argument” that Charles Manson had gotten into in prison, resulting in somebody being set on fire. “There’s a couple of major theologians, eh?” he said. “Wonder what part of the scriptures they were arguing about when one of them threw gasoline in the other ones face?”
After the first show, as the staff was trying to clear the place, I saw Leno sitting at a table by himself, drinking a bottle of water. He looked sad. I walked over, and attempted to strike up a conversation. But he wasn’t having it. I wouldn’t say he was rude, exactly, he just made it clear he didn’t want to talk to a Jiffy-Pop haired shitkicker during the middle of the booking disaster to top all booking disasters.
Indeed, the next time Leno appeared on Letterman he talked about the experience. He said something about believing the pilot had made a mistake when they landed in Charleston, because it looked like the parking lot of a Denny’s. Then he talked about the booths, and how people were forced to turn around backwards, and look over the tops of their seats.
A lot of the locals were pissed at Leno, saying he mocked West Virginia. But I don’t remember it that way. Unless my memory is faulty, I believe he mostly just talked about the terrible club set-up, and the awkward situation he’d been plunged into. Whatever.
Sam Kinison This was another giant arena show (like Steve Martin), at Greensboro Coliseum. I got free tickets through the record store where I worked, and don’t remember much about it. I always liked Kinison, but this was near the end, I believe, after the drugs had taken their toll. I don’t remember being disappointed, and don’t remember busting a gut, either. He did ‘Wild Thing’ at the end, with some local rock band (I guess). That part was horrible.
Jeff Foxworthy When I worked for WEA there was always a national convention during the summer, in some random city somewhere. Bands would play every night, but the final night was a big deal. They would bring in a big name act, and attempt to keep it secret. Rumors would be flying, and anticipation would build.
Some of the final night acts I saw: Rod Stewart, Prince, Iggy Pop(!), Dwight Yoakam.
But when the convention was held in Atlanta (a ripoff, since I already lived there), it was Jeff Foxworthy. He was riding high at the time, the most popular comedian in the world. And it’s not something I would’ve paid to see, but I have to admit… he won me over. It was a fun show. The dude’s a seasoned professional.
Robert Schimmel This was also at a WEA convention, but wasn’t on the main stage. It was a show at a small bar inside the hotel, late at night. I think it was in Anaheim, California. And I’m not kidding, I’ve never laughed so hard in my life. The man was a force of nature, completely fearless and absolutely filthy. He had that room roaring. It was one of the most memorable things I’ve ever seen.
Schimmel, for the record, was diagnosed with cancer sometime after that show, beat it, and promptly died in a car crash. Apparently it was his time? It’s a shame. He wasn’t well known, but he was great. Really great.
And that’s what I’ve got. Please use the comments section to tell us about the comedians you’ve seen.
Oh yeah, I also visited a couple of comedy clubs in Atlanta a million years ago, but can’t remember who was performing there. Hell, it could’ve been Louis C.K.? I just don’t remember. Also, I met Chris Rock at WEA Atlanta, once. He wasn’t doing stand-up, he was just walking down the hall. He signed an 8×10 photo for me, and I have no idea what happened to it.
Have a great day, my friends.
I’ll see you again soon.
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Lee Harvey Ramone says
I saw Steve Martin performing his bluegrass stuff with the Steep Canyon Rangers a couple of summers ago. He was quite funny with his between-song banter, as I recall. The music was great as well.
Heather B says
I saw Howie Mandel many years ago. A friend won tickets. He was okay, it was in a huge arena setting which was a little strange.
I’ve also seen Brian regan three or four times, all in smaller venues. He puts on a great show.
Jeff Dunham (twice!) in Roanoke, VA. Hilarious – no repeats either time and both shows ran well over 2 hours long. He did lots of improve with some of the folks sitting in the front row and had the place rolling both times.
I saw George Lopez in Albuquerque, NM about 7 years ago. Right as his TV show was getting cancelled. The first 30 minutes were funny as hell, but then he started kinda getting preachy to all the other Hispanics in the room (it’s New Mexico – I felt like the token White Guy) and then spent nearly 30 minutes ranting about Erik Estrada being a jerk. I gave it a solid “meh”.
As a student in London I saw so much stand up, some acts at my University, others in theatres around town. I’m a big fan of stand up. My favorite “famous” act would have been Bill Hicks, my favorite local act a musical duo called the The Rubber Bishops, one of whom got a bit famous later as Bill Bailey (Spaced, Black Books).
I saw Rodney Dangerfield in Springfield, Ma. In the early 80s. He was a at the top of his game then. Very funny show.
I’ve never seen any stand-up stuff other than on TV. I like this book though: I’m Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Standup Comedy’s Golden Era.
I never really watch such things any more – but I do find Gabriel Iglesias and Kevin Hart funny as hell.
Eugene Sims says
George Carlin (one of my faves) many times in Greensboro. It was one of the testing grounds for new material for his HBO shows. It was always interesting to see what got dropped.
Bill Hicks at the old Comedy Zone in Greensboro. He was very bitter and cleaned out half of the room. He led off with his bits on Christianity and the Bible Belt crowd turned on him. He was relentless. It wasn’t too long after that show when I found out about his cancer.
Ron White with a girl that I was dating. She wanted to go and I could score freebies. I believe that I’ve laughed more at a funeral. He’s definitely not my taste.
Hey Eugene, Wanted to let you know we have moved to the beach in SC. Come see us. I’m on Facebook.
Eugene Sims says
Hit me up on Facebook, that’ll be easier.
Bill Hicks played London a lot in the early 1990’s, around the time of Gulf War V1.0, I remember him riffing on how unpopular his “for the war but against the troops” stance made him at home. I can imagine he was none too popular in the Bible Belt 🙂
Bill Cosby before the world discovered that he was a perv. also Dana Carvey when he was popular. Neither one was particularly funny live.
I honestly can only remember seeing carrot top 20 years ago. I saw Richard Lewis sitting at a bar once.
I’ve seen a bunch, just gonna throw them out there.
Jerry Seindfeld in the 80’s in Nashville and ’04(?) in Vegas. Laughed so hard I peed on myself both times.
Smothers Brothers same trip to Vegas. I was heartbroken when the show was over because they were still firing on all cylinders.
Eddie Murphy, George Carlen (about fell asleep), Gallagher (got to interview him after show what a wonderful man.) Sinbad, Carrot Top (dont care what you say the guy is funny as hell.) George Wallace was great warm up for Seindfeld but on his own he was AWFUL. Dont know if he is still headlining in Vegas but stay away at all costs. I know I’m forgetting some, I love me some live comedy.
Red Skelton, George Carlin, Louie Anderson, Jon Reep, Harvey Korman & Tim Conway, Drew Carey, Rita Rutner, Paula Poundstone, Bill Cosby
Brian Regan is the best, you laugh just looking at him, but he’s also insightful and tells a great story. I saw Carlin at the early part of his transition from topical observer to scathing social commentarian. He was a master, but pissed-off a lot of the crowd. Jon Stewart was surprisingly good, and different from his TV persona. It was mostly storytelling, and very little politics.
Jeff is correct that Leno was one of the great stand-ups. Not at all like his lazy, broad, lowbrow Tonight Show stuff.
Joe T says
Rodney Dangerfield at the height of his popularity in the early ’80’s at the Scranton CYC. He walked out onto the stage set up in the middle of the arena to incredible applause. He circled around the stage, looking up at the crowd, twitching his head and grabbing the knot of his tie, brought the mic up to speak and said, “So this is the Scranton CYC. What the fuck am I doing here!”. Place went bananas.
Jay Leno – Reynolds Coliseum, Raleigh (late 80s)
Before he was a late show host but after he outgrew clubs he played Reynolds Coliseum (a basketball court in the old-school vein…not arena-sized) where NCSU played before they built the hockey arena they play in now. I don’t remember anything about his act at all other than we were all excited to see him and he drove onto the stage on a large motorcycle. Does that say anything?
Jerry Seinfeld – Charlie Goodnight’s, Raleigh (early to mid 90s)
Saw him the same summer that Seinfeld went on the air as a summer replacement show I believe. No one knew it was going to make it and there was a bit of tension in his voice when he talked about it. After his set, he did a Q&A with the audience and someone asked “When are you coming back?” He responded, “I’m here now. If I come back…it will be a lot like this.”
Rich Jeni – Charlie Goodnight’s, Raleigh (late 90s)
Did like a 3+ hour show. It was funny but after a bit when he kept going on and on, the managers kept looking at their watches and frowning. Eventually he just petered out. The opposite of going out on a high note.
Mitch Hedberg – Charlie Goodnight’s, Raleigh (early 2000s)
Absolutely hysterical. Funniest thing I remember ever seeing at a comedy club. RIP, dude. You killed it.
There are a bunch others but those are the ones that stand out to me.
I’ve seen a few, mostly in college.
I took a date to see The Amazing Jonathan at a local club. It was OK. Patton Oswald has a really great bit about a comedy magician he saw when he was just starting out that’s worth hearing.
I blundered into a Sinbad show once and caught the last 15 minutes or so. I also saw a prop comic who was a little like the pre-steroid Carrot Top. I can’t recall his name but I saw him doing the same bits on TV a few years later.
I also saw Bill Cosby. I went to a medium sized state school in the middle of nowhere but somehow they managed to book Cliff Huxtable. Apparently the receipts weren’t enough to cover costs and the story that went around was that Cosby actually played the place for free. I don’t know whether he got laid while he was in town or not.
And finally, I saw Pauly Shore. That’s right, The Pauly Shore. This was back when he was at the height of his MTV fame. I remember going but honestly I don’t remember a single minute of that show. And I attended stone cold sober.
I saw Richard Jeni and enjoyed the hell out of his show just a couple of years before he killed himself. He had a couple of bits that I really enjoyed.
Comics that I’d like to see or that I’m enjoying on Pandora- Tom Segura (really funny), John Mullaney, John Heffron, Gabriel Iglesias, Bill Engval, Aziz Ansari, Patton Oswald and the late John Pinette.
Not Oprah says
I saw Howie Mandell in Vancouver – he was good but his opening act was awful – the kind of person you would run away from at a party.
I love Russell Peters – always watch him on youtube and hope to see him live. I also spend forever on there watching Karl Pilkington ( not standup but so darn hilarious) and Ricky Gervais. ‘Learn English with Ricky Gervais’ is a good way to start – it really picks up about half way through at the spa.
Intend to get to some comedy festivals – Just for Laughs in Montreal will be a good place to start – won’t be this year though.
For all the comedy I’ve got on my iPod, I’ve only ever seen two comedians live and one of those two twice. I’ve seen John Pinette at the DC Improv twice about 5 years apart. Guy was a riot but his material didn’t change much in 5 years. Was going to see him at the Warner two years ago (thinkin’ about it anyway) when he suddenly died. One of the few comedians I could bring to my dad (on DVD) and not worry about the material being too ‘blue’.
Saw Frank Caliendo in 2013. His voice impressions are amazing but he doesn’t much update his act either (which he freely admits). He’s probably hoping Hillary gets elected so he can keep doing his Bill Clinton for another 10 years.
For both comedians you were mostly hearing the stuff off their CD’s and I’m always hoping for a little more than that. I KNOW those jokes – tell me some new ones.
Comics that have worn thin on me: Christopher Titus, Carlos Mencia, Joe Rogan.
Schimmel’s death was a true tragedy. One of the two daughters he talked about in his act was driving the car when they had the accident that ultimately killed him. Read “Cancer on $5 a Day” if you get the chance.
I’ve only ever seen two comics live. It was a double bill with Sinbad, followed by David Spade. I guess it must have been 2012 or so. This was at a trade show for audiovisual industry dorks (Infocomm); the show was hosted by Crestron, a pretty big player in that business.
Both of these guys surprised the hell out of me. Sinbad surprised, because I honestly wasn’t expecting much; I had only ever seen him before as host of some pretty awful TV specials. But for this show, he had researched his audience. He had a seemingly endless supply of AV insider jokes, including stories about his former life as a cable TV installer. Bottom line: he was funny as hell, and I would now pay to see him.
David Spade surprised by being absolutely terrible. He was, as they say, about as funny as a submarine with a screen door. He sucked so hard, it was a little surprising that the theatre didn’t implode into him.
I take that back. I’ve seen one other stand-up show. It was Steven Wright at the Warner in DC in maybe 2006 or so. He was absolutely hysterically funny. Great show.
George Carlin at least 8 times. I wish he was still alive. Kevin Nealon. Dickhead but I was dating his friend. Rodney Dangerfield and got to shake his hand. Don rickles because I just had to. Lewis black. Met the 1986 cast of snl with the aforementioned friend of Kevin Nealon. I think that’s about it.
If I hadn’t checked this quarter’s update imwould not have learned of the untimely demise of Richard Jeni and Bob Schimmel. Those were some funny dudes. That makes me sad.
Saw Jim Gaffigan working out some material before it made it to his act at a work function. Our company brought him in to work up the groundlings before they gave us a new widget to whore ourselves out for.
Next time we had a pump it up comedy meeting we got tomsee Paul Mercurio at Carolines in NYC forma private show.
Saw Jim Norton and Rich Vos on separate occasions in the shittiest comedy club in a Shop Rite plaza.
Just saw Steve Martin and Martin Short at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. It was a fun show in a fantastic venue.
Skippy in WV says
I saw the original Blue Collar Comedy Tour, and it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my life. Mike Birbiglia by far is the funniest comic currently on the circuit.
Carrot top at college, before he roided up 1995ish
Jeff foxworty little rock
Larry the cable guy little rock
Justin Wilson. Down in Monroe,la
Jerry can dyke. He wonder a burger joint locally. He’d stop by the tables and cut it up with the diners.
George Carlin, Bill Engvall, Larry the Cable Guy, Pauley Shore (w/Bobby Lee from MadTV), Sean Morey, Dave Atell, Dave Chapelle, Tim Wilson, Rodney Carrington 3 or 4 times. The funniest of these, in my opinion, are Rodney Carrington and Tim Wilson. There’s more I’ve seen, but I can’t remember them right now.
At Tim Wilson’s show the stage was about 4X4 and I had my feet propped on the front left corner, so we were close enough to get lots of attention. I won’t do that again! I want to watch the comedy, not be part of it. Tim was hilarious, though, so it was worth it, just that one time.
My mom was the one who wanted to see Pauley Shore. One of her friends came by cab and while I was doing the meet ‘n greet, she drove him home. I was standing out on the curb waiting for her when I felt a bump on my back and I whipped around (this was in Wichita…the scary big city) It was Pauley. I remember he was carrying a loaf of wheat bread. He talked to me for about 10 minutes (mostly about Encino Man), then the bus was ready to go and he asked me if I wanted him to hang out until my ride came, but I saw my mom’s car coming, so I said no. It was nice of him to offer, though.
The truth is bro, life’s about greasing the ‘do back, buddy, and wheezin’ on the buff-fest, man.
I saw Jim Breuer on a whim a couple of summers ago at the Improv Comedy Club in Schaumberg. During his show I laughed so hard, for so long, that a few times I wished he would stop talking for I minute so I could collect myself and catch my breath. It was unexpectedly a completely fantastic show.
Saw Bob Nelson at Rascal’s in New Jersey. Side-splittingly hilarious. Didn’t see them live, but Bob Schimmel and Bill Hicks would have been great…
I was lucky enough that ‘the pub’ (what they called it) booked comics regularily for entertainment during the mid to late 80’s, mostly up and coming Canadian Comics, but a lot of U.S. comics that where doing the college tour. Wish I could remember their names. Its been a few decades since I actively watched stand up. Now I settle for hearing it on the radio and I’ll occasional get a ‘hey, I saw him/her’ before they made it big.
The only big namea I can remember right now is Carrot Top, his act was already so scripted I was calling out the next bit to the table mates. Still made us laugh though. And the guy with the puppets. Jeff Dunham.
George Carlin at a small place in Decatur Illinois. It was like he was sitting with us having a conversation. Great evening, lots of laughs.
Stuart in Oz says
As I’m in Oz some of these will mean nothing!
Billy Connelly (in his banana boots phase)
Plus a few doing MC jobs at various corporate dinners etc
Thanks to Cable TV I’ve seen a lot of the guys mentioned above on various Comedy Festivals.
On a side note I heard that when Rodney Dangerfield was filming Caddy Shack he thought he was bombing because no-one was laughing – they had to explain to him later that they couldn’t because it would have ruined the take!
Mary Ellen Hooper, Mike Birbiglia and Brian Regan are the ones that stand out for me. I really enjoy the random new talent you see at regional competitions. I’ve really gotten tired of Joe Rogan, Aziz Azaria,.
Jim Workman says
I saw Eddie Murphy mid-80s at the Charleston Civic Center. The leather suit era. Warm up act was The Weather Girls, singing duo.
Murphy recognized Sugar Ray Leonard who was in town, on the front row with his pal Archie Talley, local basketball legend.
If you saw the video Raw, you basically saw the concert.
I didn’t go to the Leno show that you talked about, but I definitely remember that it happened.
Alice in WV says
I was visiting a friend in New Orleans and we happened upon a comedy show at a corner bar, The Matador. It was hosted by Vince Vaughn. I can’t remember the two opening acts, but the headliner was Dane Cook. I know he has the rep of being a douche but, that night, he was funny as hell. Audience was scream-laughing! I was exhausted. Vince was funny in between acts, too. This set up eventually evolved to his Wild West Comedy Show.
Joe T. says
I’m surprised no one said Rickles. Saw him twice, once from the front row. Luckily there was a black guy, an Indian couple, and a Mexican sitting closer to center stage.
I did. Saw him a few years ago. Really funny!
Cheech & Chong ca. 1972-73 at Springfield Symphony Hall in Massachusetts. Not standup but memorable, only because I paid a lot for the ticket and their show clocked in at just over 40 minutes. And they only did their album stuff, up to Los Cochinos or the Wedding Album. No new material. The band that opened the show was on stage longer. Kind of a ripoff.
Larry Reeb is/was great Chicago comedian – saw him once in Old Town, can’t remember the club. He was funny.
Saw Steve Sweeny (the cop in the bathroom in There’s Something About Mary, I think) at a comedy club in Boston. Mostly local Boston-jokes but still funny.
George Carlin ca. 1996 at Carmichael Arena (UNC–Chapel Hill). He killed everyone, and was kind enough to show up earlier in the day to judge a contest of three UNC students doing standup – three of whom got to open the show. The middle act was a guy with a guitar who sang funny parody songs, but his name escapes me. Not like weird Al, more poking fun at rock n roll cliches.
Best ever was Steven Wright at the now-demolished Mill Run Theatre in Niles, IL, a town outside Chicago I lived in for 3 years in the ’80s. It was a theatre in the round, and Harry Anderson was originally billed to open, but because he does magic in his act he couldn’t do a theatre in the round, so Rich Hall, former SNLer, subbed for him. Both were great – Wright was at the top of his game.
I remember a guy carping with the management about how he wanted his money back because he came to see Harry Anderson and got Rich Hall instead. They told him, in no uncertain Chicago terms, to fuck himself.
Schimmel was fantastic – you can find some stuff he did at Rodney Dangerfield’s club on Youtube or DVD. Saddest of all is that his daughter was driving the car when he died.