With 2015 breathing down our necks it’s time to count down the best comedy releases of 2014. It’s something Laughspin has been doing since 2008 and we’re not about to stop—especially since commercially available comedy output has increased exponentially since then. It used to be there were comedy albums and comedy DVDs. Now there’s audio downloads, DRM-free comedy specials, VOD, specials available only on streaming sites and more. It’s made comedy a little more unruly to wrangle each year but fun nonetheless. Below are the 10 comedy releases I found most fun/important/interesting this year. This, by no means, is an exhaustive list of every comedy album, DVD or download from 2014 worth your time. Feel free to voice your opinions in the comments, but don’t be a jerk. Ok? Cool.
10. MARK NORMAND – Still Got It
Inclusion on a “best of” editorial list is nothing new for Mark Normand; in the past the New Orleans native was part of Esquire’s Best New Comedians roundup, was named one of Comedy Central’s Comics to Watch and was lauded as the Best Comedian in New York by the Village Voice in 2013. So it’s no surprise Normand’s debut album Still Got It has found a place on Laughspin’s favorite comedy releases of 2014. Barely in his 30s, Normand’s old-school charm and delivery makes him impossibly likeable. And his ability to take beat-to-death comedy topics and breathe new life (and a staggering number of laughs per minute) into them proves Normand’s Still Got It is only the very beginning of a lasting, fruitful career. BUY STILL GOT IT. Available as an audio download and CD.
9. NICK VATTEROTT — For Amusement Only
Ever since he won the Andy Kaufman Award in 2011 – given to a comedian who embodies the alternative spirit of the late comedian – Nick Vatterott has been honing his craft and gaining the respect of his comedy peers. Thankfully, 2014 saw the release of his first proper album, For Amusement Only, through Comedy Central Records. In typical Vatterott fashion, For Amusement Only finds the New York-based comic deconstructing stand-up comedy by turning tropes into punch lines – in part, by presenting a self-narrated director’s commentary throughout his set – while giving less adventurous audience members what they want— straight-up, smart observational humor. The combination makes for an amazingly rich comedy experience. BUY FOR AMUSEMENT ONLY. Available as an audio download and CD.
8. CAMERON ESPOSITO – Same Sex Symbol
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to catch Cameron Esposito live you already know she’s a force gifted with the ability to hilariously self-dissect, deftly craft stories, sling jokes and, in short, lead you through her own very personal journey from confused kid to self-actualized woman. The Chicago-area native’s sophomore album Same Sex Symbol embodies all of the above and that’s why it has landed firmly on Laughspin’s list of the 10 best stand-up comedy releases of 2014. Having been saddled with crossed eyes as a child, forced to wear a flesh-colored eye patch for eight years – “I looked like Sloth from The Goonies but a little girl,” Esposito announces – and slowly realizing she’s gay (she was 20 when it became absolutely clear), Esposito has crafted a near-perfect hour of stand-up comedy that is equal parts whimsy and introspection. BUY SAME SEX SYMBOL. Available as audio download, CD and on pink vinyl.
7. HANNIBAL BURESS – Live From Chicago
Although his on-screen profile has risen dramatically over the last few years thanks to his role as Lincoln on Comedy Central’s Broad City and his co-hosting duties on Adult Swim’s The Eric Andre Show, Hannibal Buress’ stand-up game has only gotten better since his debut My Name is Hannibal in 2010. Live From Chicago finds Buress back in his hometown fantasizing about murdering penguins, organizing his own parade (listen below) and otherwise allowing true comedy freaks access to his bizarre brain. BUY LIVE FROM CHICAGO. Available as an audio download, DVD and $5 downloadable special through Comedy Central.
6. CHAD DANIELS — Natural Selection
His debut album Busy Being Awesome in 2009 proved he was a comedian with great promise, but in the following years Chad Daniels released You’re The Best and his online comedy special As Is, ultimately providing irrefutable evidence that he’s one of the best comedians working today. This year, the Minnesota-based comic and Minneapolis-based label Stand Up! Records gifted the comedy world with Natural Selection. It’s a perfectly polished, expertly paced 50+ minutes of hilariously twisted explorations of marriage and parenting peppered with the comedian’s philosophies on evolution (hence the title of the album), religion and racism— all filtered through Daniels’ lovable snark. BUY NATURAL SELECTION. Available as an audio download and CD.
5. TED ALEXANDRO – I Did It
It’s been more than 10 long, agonizing years since Ted Alexandro released a commercially available hour of stand-up. And while As Much As You Want is a stellar example of Alexandro’s utility, I Did It finds the Queens, NY native an absolute master of the artform. With the rare ability to weave seemingly common matters (grocery shopping, celebrities, porn) with weightier topics (the definition of real love, religion and politics) Alexandro’s set on I Did It feels like a lesson in life as much as it does a lesson on how to write and deliver a perfect hour of comedy. BUY I DID IT. Available as an audio download, CD and a pay-what-you-want digital special.
4. BILL BURR – I’m Sorry You Feel That Way
Having steadily clawed his way to the top of the comedy world ever since the release of his 2003 debut album Emotionally Unavailable, Bill Burr is now at the point in his career where he’d have to consciously write material that’s less than brilliant. A trio of increasingly powerful specials – Why Do I Do This? (2008), Let It Go (2010), You People Are All The Same (2012) – has served as the perfect lead-in to Burr’s latest release I’m Sorry You Feel That Way, yet another hour of the Boston native’s honest, against-the-grain observations. Burr defends those with seemingly no defense (Donald Sterling, Paula Deen), picks apart religion, revels in a murder fantasy and so much more. WATCH YOU PEOPLE ARE ALL THE SAME ON NETFLIX. Currently exclusively available on Netflix.
3. PATTON OSWALT – Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time
No comedian in the history of stand-up has turned feelings of self-loathing and despair into powerful comedy as well as Patton Oswalt— and his latest release Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time continues the veteran comic’s fine tradition. Arguably his most personal hour yet, Oswalt delivers pristinely crafted stories about, among other things, his awkward experience with a hooker in Atlanta, a suicidal fantasy set in the frozen food aisle and the struggles and triumphs that come with parenting his young daughter. Like the rest of Oswalt’s stand-up comedy catalogue, Tragedy is a must-listen for anyone who believes his or her own self-hatred is well founded. BUY TRAGEDY PLUS COMEDY EQUALS TIME. Available as an audio download and CD/DVD combo.
2. TODD BARRY – The Crowd Work Tour
Todd Barry’s expert ability to dip into his audience has been well documented on all of his previous stand-up albums. So it made sense the veteran comedian began performing all-crowd work sets and ultimately taking those sets on tour. This year, with the help of Louis C.K. and director Lance Bangs, Barry’s seven-city Crowd Work Tour from September of 2013 was captured and released as a stand-up comedy documentary film. Further proving Barry’s mastery of improvised stand-up, The Crowd Work Tour also provided a respite from typical comedy album releases and shined a light on the comedic process of one the best stand-up comedians working today. BUY THE CROWD WORK TOUR. Available as a downloadable special.
1. SARAH SILVERMAN – We Are Miracles
Since it had been eight years since the release of Jesus is Magic, Sarah Silverman’s HBO special and subsequent audio album and DVD We Are Miracles (released this past September) was arguably the most anticipated stand-up project of the year. Well worth the wait, indeed, Miracles finds Silverman at her most personal, most incisive and funniest. Explicating organized religion, the concept of rape jokes and her personal insecurities, Silverman is the dark comedic proxy for civilians who want to – but can’t – fully express, themselves because of pesky social constructs. “People don’t like people as much as they like dogs—because they don’t see what they hate in themselves looking back in a dog’s eyes,” Silverman says at one point in her set. “If Africa was just all Labradoodles dying of AIDS, we would take care of it in one day.” Try expressing that sentiment at your next family dinner or in the break room and see what happens.
Recorded in front of just 39 people at the Largo in Los Angeles, Silverman bucks the trend of releasing a glossy, overblown special filmed at a packed theater in an effort to convince at-home audiences that what they’re watching is worth their time. We Are Miracles is undoubtedly worth your time— in fact, most worthy of your time of all comedy releases of 2014. BUY WE ARE MIRACLES. Available as an audio download, CD, DVD and VOD.