I saw an article today from a series of articles Splitsider called “The Great Bits.” It’s about about Paul F. Tompkins’s Peanut Brittle bit from his album Impersonal. In the first paragraph comedian John Roy describes the circumstances by which he would share this with his friends. While the precise details under which I would do the same thing might differ, the spirit is the same. “You have got to hear this.” There are bits that I’ll paraphrase but when I really like something, I need to let the person experience it the same way I did when I first heard it.
In that vein, for those of you who haven’t heard it, here is Paul F. Tompkins’s Peanut Brittle bit from Impersonal.
This got me thinking about what my “Great Bits” list would be. I’ve been obsessively listening to stand-up comedy since I was ten years old but only a few bits stand out as being worthy of being in the “You’ve got to hear this” category. Here are a few.
Patton Oswalt, “Black Angus”
John Roy and I must share a similar sensibility because this is the other article in the “Great Bits” category. There are laughs that I distinctly remember in my life: the first time I saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the episode of Ren and Stimpy where a fat lady’s butt starts burning up upon reentry to the earth’s atmosphere, and hearing Patton Oswalt say “served in a deep fried pumpkin filled with buttered scallops” at Irving Plaza in New York City. There are many other Patton Oswalt tracks that I have come to love – perhaps even more – but this is a classic.
Gary Gulman, “State Abbreviations”
This is a new addition to my bit hall of fame but it’s a deserving one. It didn’t really grab me at first but each with each subsequent listen, it’s impressed me more and more. This may be some of the most perfectly timed comedy I’ve ever heard. The omelette station detour lasts just long enough to make his return to the original premise hit perfectly. Plus, “how Dotty is this?” and “sky comma.” Not a word is wasted here on a subject that seems about as fertile for comedy as, well, state abbreviations.
David Spade, “Brad Pitt”
I’ve already expressed my love for Take The Hit. All justifications for this can be found in my my article about that special. But there are times when I’ve laughed out loud just walking down the street when this bit pops in my head. The personification of his grandmother kills me every time. “D’you call your buddy for me?”
Kyle Kinane, “The House Is Rockin'”
Everyone has a shit story but not everyone can make that story about the triumph of the human spirit. “The world’s alright, the world’s an alright place.”
Maria Bamford, “Voicemail Non Sequiturs”
This is another bit that I’ve played, memorized, reenacted in my head when I’ve been bored… It’s Bamford’s characterization of her mother with the truly randomly detailed stories that just floor me every time.
Bill Burr, “The Philadelphia Incident”
So, this isn’t technically a bit. This is literally Bill Burr cursing out a huge audience in Philadelphia as hard as he possibly can, refusing to leave the stage, and counting down the minutes until his set is finished. But it’s transcendent. As someone who has taken the stage to do comedy countless times in front of far fewer people, afraid that the audience might hate me and boo me off the stage, hearing Burr fearlessly confront that very scenario with as much authority as he does is amazing. He feels an impulse, lets it out, and follows it, riffing like it’s jazz hate, for almost thirteen minutes. By the end, because he was honest about the situation and never relented, he earns the crowd back. Masterful.