Ranking things is a fun, imperfect, exercise that forces us to think deeper about what we value and why. Understanding that the ultimate goal here is impossible – you are unlikely to find any two people who will agree 100 percent on a “Top 50” ranking of anything — I will be unveiling some lists over the coming weeks and months here at Pop Culture Spin: My Top 50 stand-up comedians and my Top 35 live-action comic book/graphic novel adaptations.
We will start with two comedians at a time, until we get to the Top Ten, and one comic book or graphic novel adaptation at a time on alternating days.
Both of these ideas arose after happening upon other lists with (more or less) identical parameters that I found lacking. Having extensive but not encyclopedic knowledge of these subjects, I decided to try it myself which lead to some fun conversation on social media. Hopefully, these articles continue to generate conversation – that is the point in all of this.
To participate, tweet to @DrewCreasman, @PopCultureSpin, or @CrossOverBMF and listen to see if we read your tweets on the Cross/Over podcast.
As such, please remember that I am but one incredibly flawed human being and there are bound to be gaps in my knowledge. Let’s keep this fun!
Let’s begin with some caveats for the comedian list:
- Ranking is based on ⅔ my own assessment of quality and ⅓ legacy
- I can only judge stuff I’ve seen. Apologies to: Bill Hicks, Sam Kinison, and a lot of great older stuff like Red Skelton
- Late-night hosts are excluded unless they put out regular stand-up specials
- I will talk about other contributions to comedy (movies, TV etc.) but am only counting stand-up for the rankings
- These lists are more like “Power Rankings” people can move up and down. Hopefully, we can return to them in the future as new material arises and my experience grows. (Hint: Recommend stuff to me!)
So, without further ado …
No. 50: Pablo Francisco
Some purest don’t like it, but I am a sucker for funny voices and sound effects. And the master of sound effects is Pablo Francisco. If he hadn’t made it as a comedian, he could have easily been a successful beat-boxer.
He isn’t just the effects, though. There is plenty of observational humor and societal satire in what Pablo does and I never felt that he was a one-trick pony like … say … Frank Caliendo.
I’m not naive enough to think Pablo would show up on a more objective historical list, but he is absolutely among the 50 comedians I would most recommend to my friends and so I put him on this list as both a personal favorite and a way to kick Daniel Tosh out of the Top 50:
No. 49: Flight of the Conchords
Another thing often frowned upon by purists is musical comedy, but few would deny that these New Zealanders break the mold. Their HBO show was tragically short lived and if I was allowing myself to consider music videos they would rise up this list. The show, however, does give me license to link this video even though it doesn’t count in the ranking … but it does have a cameo from a future entrant on this list:
When taking to the stage, though, their act shines brightest. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough footage of just the two of them with their guitars on a stage or they’d be higher in the rankings. The first time I saw this act, I laughed until I cried, having never seen anything like it before or since.
Sidenote: Both Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie are exceptionally skilled musicians and some of their songs are far more challenging than one might assume of something whose primary goal isn’t quality music but quality laughs. They provide both.