The Dozen: 12 Number-Inspired Comedic Moments From Legendary Stand-Up Comics

The Dozen: 12 Number-Inspired Comedic Moments From Legendary Stand-Up Comics

We’ll follow the famous “3 B’s” formula that Charles Barkley cited at the top of his eulogy at Moses Malone’s funeral last year for this intro: “Be Brief, Brother

There’s a lot below to plow thru here anytime you feel like you could use the laugh.

12 Legendary Comics…
A Dozen Inspired Bits…
Numbers The Only Unifying Thread Thru It…
Enjoy Watching Each Destroy...

Rodney Dangerfield “Graduation Speech”
A few great comedians can turn a seemingly average line into something hilariously sublime. Rodney was one of those guys, quite possibly the GOAT when it comes to that rather unique skill, as evidenced by this brief peek from the concluding scene of the classic 1986 comedy Back to School.

George Carlin “7 Words You Can’t Say On TV”

This bit was recorded at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in 1972 for George Carlin’s classic Class Clown album, the same year that David Bowie brought Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars there, spawning the classic Santa Monica ’72 live bootleg-and-eventual-album. 44 years later, both its authors now gone but the work each recorded in that building on those two '72 evenings remains timeless.

Chris Rock “One Rib” 

If you’ve never seen Keenan Ivory Wayans’ hilarious 1989 send-up of Blaxploitation films I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, it’s well worth a look, even for those not fully familiar with the genre of films being parodied in it. In this clip Chris Rock, pre-Pookie from New Jack City days, makes a quick getaway with the bag, the scene and the movie.

Richard Pryor “$1.50 of Cocaine”

Technically this bit was called "Leon Spinks" about the gap-toothed former world champion boxer on Richard Pryor's 1978 Wanted double-LP comedy album recorded in Long Beach, CA but it's since become known on Sirius and on YouTube as "$1.50 of Cocaine". Find out why and find further evidence of why Richard Pryor is still The GOAT when it comes to stand-up. Even his casual asides, like here when he says "I mean he may not articulate the language, but it ain't his anyway" hit you flush like a right hook from a world-class heavyweight prizefighter. 

Louis CK “Turning 40”

The ultimate “comedian’s comedian” shares his thoughts on aging based on his recent visit to the doctor, hilarity ensues.

Eddie Murphy “Half”

I know this bit isn’t actually called “Half” and that half only halfway counts as a number but sue me, I was gonna crowbar Eddie into this thing if it killed me. 

You also can’t tell me you:
a) didn’t know exactly what routine I was talking about when you read the title
b) he doesn’t break down some digits in detail in hilarious fashion here.

As a child raised in the 80’s, I grew up on Eddie Murphy like Generation X in the 70’s grew up on Carlin and Pryor or the millennials of today grew up on some considerably weaker sauce like say, Dane Cook.

Pretty much every peer in my demo that I’ve met over the years, from countless considerably different walks of life, can collaborate with me to recite virtually any part of Delirious or Raw. I don’t think we fully appreciate just how amazing that actually is.

Two stand-up specials/films…two classics that any casual comedy fan that’s 35 and up or so knows verbatim 30-35 years later.

This is why people have been clamoring for him to come back to the stage ever since, while conversely why Eddie might feel so reticent to do it knowing what he’s up against.

He retired with the highest batting average of any stand-up comedian that’s ever lived. Nearly half the content of those two specials would no longer be socially acceptable even by a stand-up comedian. The natural aging process, complacency that sets in with tremendous wealth, unnatural bubble you exist inside being incredibly famous since age 19…Couple those things with our theory that stand-up comedy (like rapping) is a skill so dependent on timing that it’s something you either need to either continue doing or you lose it to varying degrees.

Name me a great stand-up or a great MC who took half a decade off from working that muscle in a live element and returned to produce material that holds up against their best work. “Don’t Worry, I’ll Wait”©Katt Williams.

Bottom line is we know Eddie’s still funny. Whether he’s motivated to really give it to us raw like he once did is another story and although we’d probably camp out to buy a ticket just to watch a new Eddie Murphy special on someone else’s iPhone, we fully understand why he will continue to more than likely leave it alone.

Katt Williams “Wrong Number”

Sure Katt Williams’ career since The Pimp Chronicles special first aired has been uh, rocky, both literally and figuratively. Sure his discussing making a call from jail, or his “white people are friendly” theory in our current political climate, both feel more than a little ironic. But this bit is still funny. So is/was Katt when on top of his game.

Lewis Black “Talking About Why America ISN’T #1”

The King of Rage is really on one in this one.

One of the first rules of comedy is that the best of it is usually rooted in some truth.

Patrice O’Neal “40 YO/20 YO”

Patrice O’Neal left us way too soon. Patrice had been on the grind and in Beast Mode both onstage or as a frequent guest obliterating the room with his brilliance as a frequent guest on Colin Quinn’s Tough Crowd or The Opie & Anthony Show for a decade, but seemed to truly be hitting his stride at the time he died, only a year or so after this Elephant In The Room special aired and just a few short weeks after killing on the Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen.

Apologies for the unimaginatively crude title chosen by the person who uploaded this clip on YouTube. It’s an antiquated term of vulgarity that Patrice never actually uses at any point in this routine but while Patrice’s spiel is far smarter, it’s at least as filthy if not filthier in its contents. Part of Patrice’s charm is that he can say things that would be considered offensive by almost any objective measurement of most people’s sensibilities, yet you still end up being charmed by him by the time he’s done.

RIP Patrice…We Miss You Now More Than Ever.

Brian Regan “UPS”

Since we now know Bill Cosby kept all his dirty business for when he got offstage in a number of increasingly bizarre and horrifying ways, Brian Regan might be the best example of a truly funny stand-up comic who actually “works clean”. He pulls this off mostly due to the underrated use of physicality in bringing home what could in less skillful hands be a slightly more whimsical take on your average “airplane peanuts” observational/absurdist comedian. Examples like this about a phone call to order a UPS pick-up are a big part of why Brian Regan is beloved by legends like Chris Rock and out here quietly, politely, hilariously doing “NUMBERS!” for a number of years.

Mitch Hedberg “5 Minutes Special”

Another good one gone too soon.

Heroin Kills, Kids.

But rather than get judgy about a man we never met, why not be thankful Mitch left us with great stuff like this?

Thanks For The Laughs To The Man Behind The Rose-Tinted Glass.

God Speed, Dosapede.

Dave Chappelle “How Old Is Fifteen Really?”

Without even including him presiding over the greatest sketch comedy show ever bearing his name, which he famously bolted as if fleeing the scene of an accident back in 2003, Dave Chappelle is still one of the greatest comedians of all-time.

And this particular selection, from his special filmed live onstage in San Francisco sometime shortly before that much-discussed departure, is probably my personal favorite on this list because of the degree of difficulty involved. You can hear the crowd audibly gasp and grumble, then come back laughing every time, while Dave traverses and leaps over the long line of virtual land mines he sets for himself including fame, the legal system, statutory rape, kidnapping and race.

Well Played, Dave.

We Benefit When Great Comics Get Brave.

Thanks to him and all those above who helped crunch the numbers for us.

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