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List of 8: Living Comedians

In honor of George Carlin, I’ve been thinking about who is left to pick of his mantle as Greatest Living Comedian.  I mean, the competition is stiff for best dead one: Carlin, Hicks, Foxx, Dangerfield, Hedberg, Kinnison, Bruce, Pryor…

And I'm only considering your work as a standup.  nobody gets bonus points for a great sitcom or gets a deduction for starring in a Police Academy movie.  This is nowhere near a Greatest list, just as always, my personal favorites.

8.         BOB NEWHART
He’s not really a comedian anymore and to be honest, he’s sort of a one-album wonder, but it is one of the best selling comedy records of all-time.  Not to mention a fairly brilliant album.  Newhart is the opposite of what you expect a comedian to be: he’s quiet, dry, and has an almost monotone delivery.  He’s also funny as hell and his style is great for his understated humor.  “My motto is ‘That’s close enough’ which is probably why I made such a lousy accountant.”

Like most people my age, my first introduction to Bobcat was through the Police Academy movies.  So, like many great standups, he’s a terrible actor who has been in even worse films (except Shakes the Clown, the greatest movie about an alcoholic clown).  I got into his standup when I was in middle school, and it was probably my first introduction to “underground” comedy.  He’s the first guy I heard who didn’t do the standard set-up, punch-line format.  “That movie looks so bad, I can't believe I wasn't in it.”

6.         DAVID CROSS
Speaking of underground comics.  He’s actually achieved a little bit of fame for Arrested Development, but he’s really at his best as a standup who rants against, well, everything.  Lewis Black may be the more obvious stylistic heir to Carlin, but Cross I think nails the spirit, even if he isn’t as gifted at language.  He was also the victim of the most bizarre heckle when my brother saw him in England: “You don’t understand British humour!”  He also is a champion of indie rock, railing against what passes for alternative: “I’d rather listen to the death rattle of my only child than Puddle of Mudd.”

OK, he was better when he was on cocaine, but he’s still pretty funny and ridiculously manic on the stage.  He’s still a bundle of energy that just can barely be contained.  Or not contained at all.  “you realize you're an alcoholic when you repeat yourself. You realize you're an alcoholic when you repeat yourself. You realize you're an alcoholic...oh, dammit, dammit, DAMMIT!”

4.         BILL COSBY

Way past his prime, but he’s early career still merits a spot.  At his peak, he’s number one.  Easily the greatest family friendly comic, he was perhaps the only comedian who could be funny and not, well, mean.  Because comedy is mean most of the time.  Cosby is the king of friendly comedy.  “What’s a cubit?”

3.         PATTON OSWALT
Just an unbelievably great comedian, given his gnome-like stature and almost complete inability to act.  He got fired from Best Week Ever for being too mean to Paris Hilton, a reason for we can all sympathize with.  And outside of Brian Poesehn, he is king of the dorks.  But they were together on the amazing Comedians of Comedy tour, sort of the counterculture answer to Tourgasm, only funny.  His bit recreating the open mike night performance of Dr. Pepper, the homeless heroin addict, is one of the funniest things ever put onto CD.  “Every time you eat a steak, a hippy's hacky-sack goes in the gutter.”

2.         CHRIS ROCK
It’s hard being the heir apparent to Richard Pryor, but Chris Rock has not only managed, he has thrived.  He’s probably the most quotable comedian out there, as he can reduce complex issues into a single biting one-liner.  I hate to say he takes on everyone, because if you do that it means you stand for nothing, but Rock certainly isn’t afraid of taking on anyone.  “If a kid calls his grandma "Mommy" and his mommy "Pam", he's going to jail.”

1.         EDDIE IZZARD
He’s not a transvestite, he’s an Executive Transvestite.  True story: I saw him in Philadelphia and laughed so hard that I passed out.  I don’t remember the joke, but it was funny.  No one can point out the absurdities of the world better than a British guy in fashionable heels and a dress.  “The British conquered the world with the cunning use of flags.”