Ten best live comedy DVDs

Time Out‘s comedy editor, Tim Arthur, lists the ten live DVDs no comedy collection that takes itself seriously should be without

  • Ten best live comedy DVDs

    Rib tickler: Richard Pryor doing his hilarious standup routine

  • Just the other day my daughter said to me, ‘Father…’ (I like to keep things formal around the house) ‘Father, you’re a well-respected journalist what knows everything about stand-up comedy or so you tell me, ain’t you? So tell me, what is the best live stand-up comedy DVD ever?’ ‘Oh, child of mine,’ I replied in a patronising way. ‘Thou hast much to learn. It would be impossible to name but one such DVD.’ She stared up at me like I was a complete idiot. ‘All right, could you perhaps suggest a top ten of must-have classics? You know, the kind of thing you might see in a magazine.’ ‘Indeed I can.’ I said. ‘Indeed I can…’


    Peter Kay – Live at the Bolton Albert Halls

    Pretty much everyone knows all the routines, whether you’ve seen the DVD or not. Somehow they’ve entered the public subconscious; people have ringtones of Kay saying, ‘Who the hell’s this? Who the hell’s this ringing at this time?’ And thanks to Kay, it’s now common knowledge that Hobnobs are the SAS of the biscuit world.


    Eddie Izzard – Unrepeatable

    Recorded way back in 1994, this is still relatively early Izzard. Not as polished and glamorous as later shows like ‘Dressed to Kill’ or ‘Definite Article’, but there’s something wonderfully disarming and innocent about this rambling and surreal performance covering topics as varied as ‘Star Trek’ and the true nature of cats. Favourite line: ‘Bees make honey – how do they do that? Do earwigs make chutney? Do spiders make gravy?’


    The Complete Denis Leary

    Sad though it is, many people only know Leary from the TV series ‘Rescue Me’ and have little memory of his stand-up career. Bursting out of the infamous Boston comedy scene of the ’80s, he was one of the angriest, most aggressive acts around. Spitting fury and venom with machine-gun rapidity he smoked and drank his way to the top. This double DVD includes two shows, ‘Lock ’n’ Load’ and the wonderful ‘No Cure for Cancer’, which is a breathless example of comedy that takes no prisoners and includes his now legendary, acerbic musical swipe at the average American white suburbanite slob, ‘Asshole’.


    Bill Bailey – Part Troll

    Bailey’s masterwork. The ‘Lord of the Rings’ reject from the West Country perfectly blends his love of gentle abstract whimsy with his musical genius. For the first time he also throws in some political material with his swipes at President Bush in the brilliant ‘Drum and Bush’. The homage to Kraftwerk, ‘Das Hokey Cokey’, is just about the best ending to a comedy show you’ll ever see.


    Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl

    Not strictly speaking a stand-up show, but no DVD collection of live comedy would be complete without it. Filmed in LA in 1982, it includes most of the Pythons’ best-loved sketches. This is one of those DVDs that you could watch with the sound down, playing comedy-oke with sketches like ‘Nudge Nudge’, ‘The Bruces’ Philosophers Song’ and ‘The Ministry of Silly Walks.’


    Chris Rock – Never Scared

    Time magazine called him ‘the funniest man in America’. He certainly has one of the most astute minds in comedy, and here he attacks everything from celebrity culture to President Bush and the Iraq War. ‘If Iraq’s so dangerous how come it only took two fucking weeks to take over the whole country? You couldn’t take over Baltimore in two weeks.’


    Derek and Clive Get the Horn

    This 1979 documentary follows the recording of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s final performance as their sordid alter-egos, Derek and Clive. Rambling improvisations and utterly obscene surreal flights of fancy make this one of the most hysterically shocking pieces of comedy ever caught on film. Cook’s constant blasphemy and misogyny are at once deeply offensive and exquisitely funny. However, under the thin veneer of humour there lies something cruel, disturbing and sad, reflecting the breakdown that was occurring within the duo’s relationship and the bitterness Cook felt towards Moore for his success in Hollywood.


    Eddie Murphy – Delirious

    When this first came out on VHS in the early ’80s it was the film that every teenager wanted to get their grubby little hands on. Strutting around the stage in his tight red leather suit like a dog with two dicks, Murphy was catapulted to international stardom by these routines. Every kid in the playground tried to copy his impression of a gay Mr T or a sad, ageing Elvis, or sing versions of Murphy’s infamous ‘Ice Cream’ song. Back then, he was the balls.


    Totally Bill Hicks

    Probably the comic most beloved by other comedians, Hicks was already a legend before his untimely death in 1994. This DVD includes the documentary ‘It’s Just a Ride’ about his life and times, and his seminal live show ‘Revelations’. Prowling and pissed off, he rants about everything from politics and religion to his own personal struggles with giving up smoking: ‘Every cigarette looks like it was made by God, rolled by Jesus and moistened shut with Claudia Schiffer’s pussy right now.’ A fearless, challenging genius whose no-holds-barred social commentary is sorely missed.


    Richard Pryor – Live! in Concert and Live on the Sunset Strip

    Without Pryor there would have been no Eddie Murphy or Chris Rock. His immaculate storytelling about his experiences with drugs, racism, sex, the police and his neighbourhood dogs have made him the most respected and influential comedian ever. His natural conversational style, impeccable timing, impressive physicality, exquisite voices and ability to discuss his own human failings honestly and with huge vulnerability are what made him what he was, the greatest comic of all time.

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