Sean Hughes’s top ten stand-up comedians

The Perrier Award-winning Irish stand-up reveals his favourite comics

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Irish rascal and former ‘Buzzcocks’ team captain Sean Hughes brings his new stand-up show, ‘Penguins’, to London this week. But who are his big influences? He runs us through his top ten comics.

See more comedians’ favourite comedians

  • Tommy Tiernan

    ‘There are so many comics who deserve to be on this list. Really, number ten should just be “every living, breathing comic with soul”. But I’ll go with Tommy Tiernan. I like his passion, and the fact that he believes in what he’s saying. I’ve lived in England for 20 years, I love English people, and I don’t mean British people, I mean English people, because they’re so stoic and respectful. Whereas Irish people are basically socially inept, and I include myself and Tommy in that completely: we’ll just say things that we shouldn’t really say.’

    Watch a clip of Tommy Tiernan

  • Sarah Silverman

    ‘Sarah says things that a lot of people wouldn’t dare to, and I love her for that. I admire her brain. I fell in love with her a little bit when she did the line “Hey, I’ve just found out that I’m pregnant” and people applauded, and she went: “I’m having it aborted.” I just think stuff like that is really, really funny. She’s not frightened to tackle heavy subjects, and we all know how much trouble you can get into for saying anything these days.’

    Watch a clip of Sarah Silverman

  • Steve Martin

    ‘Steve Martin was a huge influence on me. Proper clowning. When I was a kid I used to listen to his tapes and he blew me away. He’s got funny bones. You think: This guy’s just naturally funny. Weirdly – and I’m so anti this – he was the first stadium comic.’

    Watch a clip of Steve Martin

  • © Jon Shard

    Micky Flanagan

    ‘I love him. I saw him do a warm-up show at the Leicester Square Theatre and there were three bits that had me laughing out loud, and that doesn’t happen to me much. I also admire the fact that he worked so hard and didn’t get the break for a long, long time – he absolutely deserves his success. I can’t stand comics who get jealous of other comedians becoming popular; they’ve become popular for a reason.’

    Watch a clip of Micky Flanagan

  • Billy Connolly

    ‘If you don’t like Billy Connolly, there’s something wrong with you. “An Audience with Billy Connolly” is a standout piece of stand-up comedy. He’s an everyman comic, but an absolute influence on my life.’

    Watch a clip of Billy Connolly

  • Lenny Bruce

    ‘Lenny Bruce is the reason there’s a comedy circuit today. He wasn’t that funny, but he was hugely important: the first comic to hold a mirror to society. When I was 17 I did a séance and  the ouija board  spelled out “Lenny Bruce”. So I said to his “spirit”, “Tell me a joke.” And the ouija board just spelt out the word “heroin”. I don’t believe in any of that shit – either it was my subconscious or the other people at the séance having a proper laugh at my expense – but I’ll never forget it.’

    Watch a clip of Lenny Bruce

  • © Steve Ullathorne

    Stewart Lee

    ‘I don’t want to like Stewart – you never really want to like your contemporaries – but I have to hand it to him on a plate. He’s brilliant, and he just gets better and better. I think Stewart knows more about comedy than anyone else: he’s obsessed with the business of comedy. He’s one of the few people who I’m interested to hear what he has to say, and he talks about important issues. There are so few comics who do that now.’

    Watch a clip of Stewart Lee

  • Sam Kinison

    ‘Bill Hicks wouldn’t have been who he was without Sam Kinison. Kinison was the first comic to be preacher – because he actually was a Pentecostal preacher – and he’s so underrated in the comedy world. The best comics are preachers, not in a bullshitty way, but because they’re so committed to what they’re saying. Kinison was the first to do that, and there haven’t been many since.’

    Watch a clip of Sam Kinison

  • Bill Hicks

    ‘Kinison’s apostle. It says on my Wikipedia page that I was good friends with him. I wasn’t! We were in Australia together, so we hung out most days, and I did get to know him a little bit, which was a real pleasure. I went to see him and he blew my fucking mind. Hicks is one of the reasons I stopped performing comedy for a while. No matter who you are, you want to be the best comedian you can be, and when I saw him I just went: “That’s the best comic I’m going to see in my lifetime, so what’s the point in me doing it?” I gave up for seven years. He was that good.’

    Watch a clip of Bill Hicks

  • Richard Pryor

    ‘Richard Pryor is comedy. I was brought up very Catholic, with my mum and dad talking bullshit all the time. So, when I was 14, and Pryor came on the TV, I just went: “This crack addict – this middle-aged, black crack addict whose mother was a prostitute from Illinois – is the first person ever to speak the truth.” It totally changed my life, and I decided I was going to be a comedian. He’s my biggest hero in all the world.’

    Watch a clip of Richard Pryor

Tommy Tiernan

‘There are so many comics who deserve to be on this list. Really, number ten should just be “every living, breathing comic with soul”. But I’ll go with Tommy Tiernan. I like his passion, and the fact that he believes in what he’s saying. I’ve lived in England for 20 years, I love English people, and I don’t mean British people, I mean English people, because they’re so stoic and respectful. Whereas Irish people are basically socially inept, and I include myself and Tommy in that completely: we’ll just say things that we shouldn’t really say.’

Watch a clip of Tommy Tiernan

See Sean Hughes on tour

A Belter for the Shelter

The clue's in the title for this benefit for Hackney Winter Night Shelter; it features a belter of a line-up. Firstly, they've scored a real coup is nabbing Daniel Kitson to host. Widely considered to be one to the best comedians in the world, Kitson rarely performs on line-up shows these days, so this is a rare chance to catch him in banterous compere mode. He's introducing a bill which includes iconoclast comedian Stewart Lee, smart charmer Nish Kumar, Irish rascal Sean Hughes and more.

  1. Hackney Empire 291 Mare St, E8 1EJ
  2. Thu Oct 30
More info
See Sean Hughes tour dates


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