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Top 10 Angry Comedians
The follow list is of ten comedians who used anger as their main source of humor. Often they sacrificed a promising mainstream career to say what they felt was right. Everyone one of these comedians could have had much more success than they did.
1. Chris Morris [Wikipedia]
Chris Morris is currently Britain’s most controversial comedian. He started his career as a radio DJ where he perpetrated his infamous incident at Radio GLC when he released helium into a news studio. He continued on the radio with the deeply satirical On the Hour and the very dark Blue Jam series. During this period he became a DJ on Britain’s biggest radio station, BBC radio one, but was fired after a mid-afternoon Boxing Day special laden with swearing.
Chris then moved to television. After the highly successful The Day Today, which included a young Steve Coogan, he made Jam, a comedy that joked about taboo subjects like rape and incest.
While Jam caused a ripple of controversy, it was his next TV project Brass Eye that singled him out. Every episode was satirical, combining the dark humor of the Jam with the spoof newsroom atmosphere of the Day Today.
The Brass Eye Pedophile Special in 2001 caused uproar. With Chris Morris luring in celebrities to ‘warn’ parents about a computerized dog that a pedophile could use to watch children, and the special gloves a pedophile could use to feel the child when it pressed itself against a computer screen. The British media labeled him as sick, with politicians queuing up to agree. But of course Brass Eye was all about media sensationalism and the more heated they became, the more successful the show became.
His next project is a satire on terrorism…
2. Peter Cook [Wikipedia]
In 2005, his fellow comics named Peter Cook as the comedian’s comedian for his dedication to the art. Unlike his comedy partner Dudley Moore, he was never comfortable with the lure of Hollywood. Instead, he concentrated on pushing his comedy to greater extremes, the improvisational Derek and Clive his most famous example.
Detractors say Derek and Clive was just an excuse for a couple of middle-aged men to act extremely badly, and in reality, Dudley Moore, with one eye on his career, was worried about Peter Cook’s increasingly angry material. Yet, not only is it funny, but Cook’s anger feels so real that you don’t quite know if he’s in character.
Clips such as mother, the horseracing commentary and Derek and Clive are all available on the internet.
3. Lenny Bruce [Wikipedia]
Lenny Bruce’s influence goes far beyond that of just humor. He paved the way for just about every left-minded comedian in the world. Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Peter Cook did not really start on alternative comedy until after Lenny Bruce had died of a heroin overdose.
He was a martyr of free speech. He constantly mocked the establishment who claimed the US was a free country while showing their hypocrisy by arresting him for incorporating the word ‘cock sucker’ into his adult show. No doubt about it Lenny Bruce had balls. Any Jewish man who begins his act at a club in New York with “are there any niggers here tonight?” and then wins them over with a tract on how the meaning of such words should and could be negated deserves to be remembered.
4. W.C Fields [Wikipedia]
During and immediately after prohibition in the USA, W.C Fields constructed a comedy persona based on a self, woman, and child-hating drunkard. And in reality, he was a serious alcoholic. Only a very funny man could get away with that and there is no doubt Fields had something special.
Individualistic and honest to a fault, his comedy had a depth that none of his contemporaries matched. For example in the Man on the Flying Trapeze, he conveys his relationship with his daughter with incredibly real feeling. From the generation that spawned Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd, it is W.C Fields who still feels relevant today.
Google videos has all his best films. The short Fatal Glass of Beer is particularly worth checking out.
5. Bill Hicks [Wikipedia]
This may be controversial, but Bill Hicks was rather overrated. He presented himself as a pseudo-prophet for the younger generation, but it was already too ingrained in Lenny Bruce and sixties culture to really work. He could be interesting though and there is no doubting his anger.
6. Michael Richards [Wikipedia]
WARNING: The video clip above is the infamous racist outburst that Richards is now famous for.
Richards became famous as Kramer on the hit Television series Seinfeld, but he will be most likely remembered for his racist remarks towards a couple of African American hecklers during a live stand up performance. It is a shame because he was rather a good comedian.
He is on this list because that rant is one of the most unguarded and angry moments in comedy. Responding to black and Mexican hecklers, he shocked the audience by launching into a tirade that was essentially nothing but racial abuse. Nevertheless, it was also a fascinating example of someone losing their cool in an extraordinary way.
Michael Richards retired in July 2007, and has gone on a pilgrimage to Cambodia.
7. Russell Brand [Wikipedia]
Russell Brand is the only young artist to get on this list. Brand has had many problems over the years and he incorporates these into his performances. Yet, Russell Brand seems to have a psychotic need to be funny and popular. Watching him rant and rave, really gives you the impression that if he were not performing, he would be self-destructing in a gutter.
To see what a natural comedian he is watch the above interview he did on the Jonathan Ross show.
8. Richard Pryor [Wikipedia]
More than any other comedian on this list, Richard Pryor was a great actor who never really did justice to his ability. Nevertheless, in his live performances, Pryor’s gift for mimicry and energetic presence, could draw you in.
Pryor did not start out as a controversial comic. He based his early performances on the family orientated stand up of his idol Bill Cosby, yet in reality, he was just finding his voice.
By the end of the sixties, he had moved to California and was hanging out with Black Panther leader Huey P. Newton. With his encouragement, and after some study, Pryor’s stand up became increasingly political, focusing a lot more on race relations and the language associated with the counter culture. It says a lot for Pryor that during this period in the seventies he was more popular than at any other time in his career. People, it seems, were finally willing to hear what the black community in the USA had to say, and Richard Pryor was their spokesman.
Richard Pryor was a major influence on many black comedians that followed. Including Whoopi Goldberg, Eddie Murphy, and Chris Rock.
9. Bernard Manning [Wikipedia]
Many people accused Bernard Manning of racism, and when he died earlier this year, there was a general feeling of relief. Manning, despite his denials, was possibly a bigot, but then there are suggestions that John Lennon and W.C Fields were anti-Semitic. Jewish comedian Lenny Bruce once said in reference to W.C Fields, that on a personal level, he disliked his comedy for its anti-Semitism, but on a professional level, and as someone who loves to be entertained, he thought Fields was a genius.
People thought Manning had a simple humor that only appealed to nationalists, but he had strong Irish Catholic and Jewish roots, two of the biggest sources of his humor.
10. George Carlin [Wikipedia]
Carlin is yet another comedian who has had difficulties with the law. In 1978, the government took him to court to ban his famous seven dirty words routine. Tame by today’s standards it strangely included words that comedians like Richard Pryor and even Lenny Bruce had been using for years. However, when broadcast on the Pacifica radio station, Carlin’s outburst offended many people.
Still a controversial stand up and showing few signs of mellowing, Carlin was voted America’s second best stand up ever, behind Richard Pryor.
Contributor: Simon Arms