When being introduced/introducing yourself to someone new there are a series of questions that I, as a stand-up comedian, get asked; tell us a joke, how do you come up with your jokes? and who is your favourite comedian? Since I've answered the first two with a blog, here's a condensed list of my favourite stand-up comedians!
Whilst I'll start at the bottom of my Top Ten and work my way up let this be a note that I think this first act is absolutely phenomenal in every way. I've been a huge fan of musical comedy for a long time and there's something quite brilliant about Australian comedian Tim Minchin.
I could probably name a hundred comedy songs that are near perfection but Minchin seems to hit the right note almost every time. His quick quips and catchy beats make his songs things to laugh and smile about all day once they're stuck in your head.
Prejudice is probably his most famous song and is well worth a listen but I'm linking Thank You God purely for its brilliance in explaining how odd a complete devotion to the idea that God exists is.
A very, very long time ago I subscribed to the Comedy Central video podcasts and there was one stand-up comedian that had me giggling all night in my bed as a young teenager. Whilst that sentence probably makes him sound creepy there's really nothing creepy about the extremely loveable Gabriel Iglesias.
Hilarious and larger than life 'Fluffy' was a huge inspiration to me when I was attempting to be funny, a long time before I tried it on stage. I would add voices and gestures to make something funnier and Iglesias is a huge testament to the fact that this works wonders.
Our first American in the list also happens to go to a woman. All too often you might come across people who say 'women aren't funny' and how wrong they are. In fact, some of the 'bits' (sections of comedy performances) featured by Sarah Silverman are above and beyond some of the ones by her male counterparts.
There's something about Silverman that draws you into her dark, honest, uncomfortably open stand-up that makes her so addictive. I often find myself watching video after video of her performances. Whether it's cheeky, tongue-in-cheek comments or elaborate scenarios that she creates I can highly recommend Sarah Silverman.
It's a name that most of you know and it's a laugh that most of you hate, but Jimmy Carr has to be on this list. When I was first getting into stand-up I was in awe of this guy. He went where other comedians wouldn't and he did it in such a short, tidy fashion.
Despite his lego haircut Carr has forged a long career that has seen him on TVs across the UK (and further afield) for a significantly long time. To put this into perspective, longevity in comedy is rare. People tire of the same personality/jokes/outlook but with Carr it seems people just can't get enough.
Family friendly and f*cking funny! Peter Kay is one of the biggest names in UK stand-up. At the turn of the century the big Northerner was the name in stand-up. His energetic shows delivered line after line of relatable jokes that had you laughing your head off and then quoting the jokes to your friends for weeks afterwards.
When Peter Kay announced that he will be doing a UK-wide stand-up tour recently every single show sold-out immediately, which is testament to how loved he is in the country, and deservedly so.
A man of the world and also a woman. Eddie Izzard embodies the absurd and gives a voice to the wild and wonderful. John Cleese hailed him as 'the Lost Python' and if you know anything about Monty Python that will tell you everything you need to know about Izzard. His sets were unique in the way that he created on stage characters that added so much to the depth and dimension of a stand-up performance.
Another thing that I really admire about Eddie is that he has performed around the world in several different languages. I love to travel and I always make it a point to pick up a few words where I go in order to make people laugh. Laughter is a universal language that can help build bridges and I'd argue that nobody has done it better than this man, save maybe Mr Bean.
Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Standups of All Time is an impressive list of people that have made the world laugh with their words, actions and beliefs, but right at the top of that list you'll find one man: Richard Pryor. In today's world the comedic antics of Richard Pryor aren't at the forefront of most people's minds, but in the 1970s he was the undisputed king of comedy.
Pryor would give a voice to those who didn't have one and sometimes I mean that literally. HE would make inanimate objects hilarious and give personalities to dogs and even heart attacks that would make him a stand-out stand-up.
The man exuded confidence and swagger, with audience interactions becoming moments of brilliance slid in between a sandwich of hilarity. He talked about his personal experiences as if the audience was invited to experience them along with him as he would take you on a comedy journey that made you feel so many emotions.
From an old-school name to a new age wonder. Bo Burnham made his name on YouTube as a teenager but for me he really came into his own on stage with his recent specials. In amongst a mix of silly jokes and musical interludes Burnham carves out a strangely sombre outlook of life and all of its nuances.
The thing that I love about Bo's performances are that you can zone out and enjoy them, or you can really focus and enjoy them even more. It's a strange thing to explain, but Burnham is a clear example of someone that understands comedy and what makes humans tick.
Understanding comedy is something that every comedian wants to do. None of us truly know what comedy is, because we can go into the same room on different nights and get a completely different reaction, but if there's any one comedian that really gets it it would be Stewart Lee.
Lee might not be a mainstream, 'people's comedian' but he is undoubtedly the 'comedians's comedian'. His understanding of what comedy is on a performance level is second to none. Both in the flow of a joke and in the construction of a piece of art, Lee has captured time and time again the voices and thoughts that we have in our head but struggle to say out loud.
In a list full of thinkers, speakers and storytellers there is, in my opinion, nobody greater than Dave Chappelle. I was first introduced to Chappelle by my comedy mentor Mina whilst living in Dubai. By the time I had found out about Dave he had been an established name in America for years. His sketch show and stand-up performances were loved across the country because they portrayed a man who had the experience of a middle-class upbringing and a life as an African American.
Think of every major comedian you know in the USA. They're either middle-class or they're African American. Chappelle took the two and merged them together in a nuclear reactor of comedy fusion creating what I believe to be some of the funniest stand-up around.
It's so difficult to put into a few paragraphs about why Dave is so funny, but it seems to be a perfect dose of unexpectedness, relatability and pure cockiness that puts Dave Chappelle at the very top of my list.