Above, from left to right: Richard Pryor (image by Alan Light), Doug Stanhope (image by Atlantabravz), Eddie Murphy (image by lev radin / Shutterstock.com) and Stewart Lee (image by Salim Fadhley)Salim Fadhley
Standup comedy is hard. What if nobody can relate? What if your jokes fall dead? That’s why the best are the best. Here are 10 of some of the greatest performers of the art of standup comedy ever.
The father of what we know as comedy nowadays. Pryor shared his pain and his joy, acknowledged his faults and made them funny. He was raw, honest, powerful and mad; all while maintaining his likability.
The true pioneer of controversy in the comedy world. Lenny took the bullet and was transformed by the repressive system of his time, but he opened the doors for freedom of speech in comedy. Every comic with raw and ballsy material owes Lenny Bruce.
The guy doing dark comedy when no one else was doing it. He was observational, socio-political and borderline prophetic. Perhaps the most durable comic in terms of both, commercial and critical acclaim.
Probably the most consistent, prolific and hardest working comedian of all time. Formerly an absurd comic, Louis transformed into a very personal and confessional guy after he had kids. He also created and starred in one of the greatest TV shows ever, Louie.
Stewart Lee knows he’s not for everyone, and he’s fine with that. A fascinating, smart, witty and confident performer that is very aware that he can do whatever he wants.
No one has ever mastered the art of the deadpan one-liner better than Wright. He stuck to his guns, and he’s still the best at it.
Although maybe a little overrated after his death, Hicks spoke his mind eloquently, creatively and unapologetically. He was a vicious satirist that managed to be both challenging and engaging.
Stanhope picked up where Hicks left, without the preachiness. A degenerate drunk, and very aware of it. Doug is as honest and funny as they come.
Comedians who’ve met him seem to agree he might be the funniest guy they’ve ever met off-stage. While he’s most known for his movies, Eddie was an incredible stand up, even in his early 20s. A ridiculously talented performer.
While he didn’t experience any real success till his podcast became a hit in his late 40s, Marc might be the most open, draining, needy and extremely personal comedian ever. A true genius, and an acquired taste.