A lot of the best standup comedy is observational, and works because the audience relates to what the comic is saying. Telling stories in standup is a different challenge, one that not all comics can master. But the best anecdotal comics are mesmerising, and can have you hanging onto every word. Here are five times international comedians told brilliant, hilarious stories.
1. Wanda Sykes: Waxed
You might know Wanda Sykes if you’re a Curb Your Enthusiasm fan, where she had a recurring role. Here the Emmy-award winner recounts the tale of when she decided to get a bikini wax. What happened next will make you think very, very hard before you decide to sign up for one. This bit also continues the unforgettable line, “I pictured my asshole running across the Serengeti.”
2. Dave Chappelle: 3 am in the Ghetto
One of the best storytellers in the game, Dave Chappelle recalls his encounter with a baby on the streets at 3 am in this clip from his special, Killing Them Softly, shot in his hometown of Washington, DC.
3. John Mulaney: Prostate Exam
In this bit, the former SNL writer goes back to a particularly memorable encounter he had with a doctor he was trying to get Xanax from, to help him sleep. The line “I’m soooorry” became an instant classic that’s often dropped in conversations by pop culture nerds.
4. Norm MacDonald: Scrabble
Norm MacDonald’s delivery is a slow, lazy drawl, but he still manages to tell riveting stories. There’s a brilliant simplicity to many of his stories, including this one, told to David Letterman, where Macdonald recounts the time he played scrabble at a bed and breakfast with “old Harold Delaney”.
5. Hannah Gadsby: Nanette
Unless you’ve been in an unfortunate time warp, you’ve probably heard the news. Gadsby has shifted, expanded and broken through the boundaries of standup with her blistering special, Nanette, which instantly became a comedy landmark. Gadbsy’s inclusion in this list is meta considering she addresses the constraints of telling a story in standup only to kick open these constraints to tell the story she wants to tell. Nanette is available to stream on Netflix.