Banish 2014's Woes With Our Stand-Up Comedy Picks

Dec 31, 2014
Originally published on December 31, 2014 11:49 am

What were the best jokes of 2014? With professional comedians using multiple platforms to tell jokes in every format, we certainly don't have enough space for a comprehensive list — but I asked three comedy insiders to at least name one or two.

Rod Man, winner of this year's Last Comic Standing, was a fan favorite from the beginning, says the show's co-executive producer, Page Hurwitz. The Georgia native's joke about self checkout lines was a huge hit. "It was so funny because he was able to take something seemingly mundane and trivial and just blow it up into the most hilarious story and hilarious joke," she says.

In past seasons of Last Comic Standing, Hurwitz says, comedians have mined the same material for jokes. "For a while there were a zillion jokes about ADD and online dating." Not this year. "We saw that there was really a variety of material and styles," she says. One of Hurwitz's favorites: A wickedly funny "perversion of history" joke by comedian Tracey Ashley that mashes up Oprah Winfrey and the Underground Railroad.

Caroline Hirsch is the owner of the club Caroline's On Broadway and founder of the New York Comedy Festival; she singles out a joke called "Women Don't Dress for Other Women" from Whitney Cummings' Comedy Central special.

Hirsch says Cummings' beauty and unsparing wit are an explosive combination. "She looks like a Vogue model on stage, and she's just so smart and bright, and when you put that beautiful face together with what comes out of her mouth, I think it's even funnier," says Hirsch.

As a booker for Conan O'Brien, J.P. Buck is knee deep in who's got the best jokes on any given day. Buck figures, on average, he watches about 50 stand-up performances per week, and he's unequivocal about his favorite this year: "Bill Burr is the best working stand-up comedian today," he says. Burr's joke about old people getting in trouble is spot on, Buck says. "When a tidal wave of social and media outrage builds, Bill is the one voice that speaks up and says 'Hey, wait a second. Let's look at all the facts and have an educated discussion here.' "

In his Netflix special I'm Sorry You Feel That Way, Burr has one long, scathing joke about the outrage over controversial remarks by chef Paula Deen, Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson and former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Burr says, "They're old. What did you think they thought?"

Leave it to the professional fool to make the most sense.

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Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A news reporter, her editor and a duck walk into a bar. The bartender says, what are you drinking? The duck says, give me a Grey Goose. I've been telling these journalists some of the best jokes of 2014. Here's NPR's Elizabeth Blair.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: First, my favorite joke this year. It's by a real charmer from Villa Rica, Georgia, named Rod Man. It's about his confusion over the checkout line.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROD MAN: I don't know who started this little program of you check yourself out, but...

(LAUGHTER)

MAN: ...That is not what I'm trying to do. I'm a shopper. I came in as a shopper. I want to leave as a shopper - but yeah, 'cause they trick you to be an employee and get on the clock that day. You don't really have...

(LAUGHTER)

MAN: Yeah, you're not ready to be a worker at a grocery store. You don't - yeah, you don't have no kind of qualifications at all, but the lady tricked me. She's like, there's no waiting over here, sir. And, you know, I go over there, and she just walked the hell away. And I was like whoa.

BLAIR: Rod Man won this year's "Last Comic Standing" on NBC. Co-executive producer Page Hurwitz says his checkout line joke killed.

PAGE HURWITZ: It was so funny because he was able to take something seemingly mundane and trivial and just blow it up into the most hilarious story and hilarious joke.

BLAIR: Hurwitz says in past seasons of "Last Comic Standing," comedians have mined the same material for jokes.

HURWITZ: For a while, there were a zillion jokes about ADD, and, you know, there were a zillion jokes about, you know, online dating. And this season, we didn't see that. We saw that there was really quite a variety of material and styles.

BLAIR: Hurwitz says one of her favorites this year was a wicked-funny perversion of history by comedian Tracey Ashley.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRACEY ASHLEY: Could you imagine Oprah Winfrey in the Underground Railroad? (Imitating Oprah Winfrey) If you look under your chairs...

(LAUGHTER)

ASHLEY: ...Freedom.

(LAUGHTER)

ASHLEY: (Imitating Oprah Winfrey) You get a map. You get a map. You get a map.

BLAIR: Another female comedian made it to the top of Caroline Hirsch's list this year. Hirsch owns the comedy club Caroline's on Broadway. She singles out this year's Comedy Central special by Whitney Cummings.

CAROLINE HIRSCH: She looks like a Vogue model on stage, and she's just so smart and bright. And when you put that beautiful face together with what comes out of her mouth, I think it's even - it's even funnier.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WHITNEY CUMMINGS: It's not even weird, though, that guys think about sex. Like, we've accepted it so much as a society now. You know, it's so institutionalized. We've embraced it, you know? Like, there's just a restaurant called Hooters. That's just a restaurant.

(LAUGHTER)

CUMMINGS: Whereas there would never be a restaurant like that for women, you know, called, like, Dong's.

BLAIR: As a booker for "Conan," J.P. Buck is deep into who's got the best jokes on any given day. Buck figures, on average, he watches about 50 stand-up performances per week. So when he says...

J.P. BUCK: Bill Burr is the best working stand-up comedian today.

BLAIR: Comedy lovers listen up. Bill Burr is a storyteller. This is from a long joke he did for his Netflix special about old people getting in trouble.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BILL BURR: What did you think they thought? I mean...

(LAUGHTER)

BURR: And I got to be honest with you, too. People went too hard on that Clippers guy, man, I'm telling you. For an 80-year-old white guy, that wasn't that bad.

(LAUGHTER)

BURR: All right, dude, he didn't drop the N-word once. That's unbelievable for an 80-year-old white guy. The N-word should've been carpet bombed through that whole tape. He never said it once.

BLAIR: Leave it to the professional fool to make the most sense. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.