Last week, Laughspin released our end-of-year list of 2018’s best hourlong stand-up specials (didn’t see who made the list? Go read that first!). Many likely disagreed with parts or all of my assessment. Many also didn’t watch every comedy special of 2018 like I did. To show my work, I am sharing the Google Spreadsheet containing all of my semi-arbitrary ‘scores’ and comments. Yes, you can read what I had to say about every comedy special of 2018. Mad Tom Segura didn’t make the top 20? Read why!
I’ll explain what my score categories mean below, but you can impatiently skip ahead to the spreadsheet by clicking here. Please remember this is a list of the best specials, not the best comedians.
Now, the scores in this spreadsheet are loose guidelines, not how I ranked everything. Scores pointed me in the direction of contenders. From there, I took all specials with a 9.5 or higher (which turned out to be 19 specials, then I added Tex Alexandro’s Senior Class of Eearth), and instinctually categorized them as Top 5, 6-10, 11-15, and Last 5. From there, I did the difficult task of trying to figure out which special ranked where. It was actually a lot harder to rank 8-14 than it was to rank the top five.
As for the scoring categories: I scored specials on laughter, freshness, innovation, and a pre-special sketch if it had one. The laughter was based on my own laughter, the involuntary reaction caused by the release of tension through jokes. I paid attention to how often I laughed out loud and how often I smiled while thinking, “That’s funny.”
Freshness refers to the actual material. The strongest specials consisted of truly original material that no one else has done or they took stale topics, like the supposed differences between men and women, and made the jokes fresh. Low-scoring specials relied on played out concepts, unfunny jokes, or outdated points of view that made me look at my calendar to confirm the year.
Laughter and freshness were scored 1-5. Innovation was weighted at half of that value. Innovation, I believe, strengthens a special and furthers the art form of comedy. In 2018, many comics played with the medium. We saw music, celebrity cameos, visual aids, and unusual locations. Some were innovative by doing straight stand-up on the most generic of topics and making the jokes both personal and brilliant. I didn’t punish a comic for lacking innovation, but it certainly worked as a tiebreaker in certain situations.
Finally, I judged the pre-special sketches on a scale of 1-5 but weighted at quarter value. If someone had a sketch, they got at least an extra half-point for the effort—unless it’s just unfunny, in which case they lost a half-point. Some, like Paul Virzi, used that time to let fans see him and BIll Burr and Pete Davidson mess around backstage. Some like Sam Morril used the sketch as an opportunity to execute a funny joke. Others, like Kevin Smith, humorously gave context for the material. The pre-special sketch can be another chance at a laugh or a way to set the tone for the hour we’re about to watch. Again, no one was punished for not having one but it could have made the difference between top 20 and out of the pack.
Go ahead and see what I thought of your favorite stand-up special by reading through my notes here. Add your comments about my comments in the comments below. Yay comments!