The ‘JRZ Airstaff Shares All Their 80’s Favorites

NEW YORK - APRIL 27: (US TABLOIDS OUT) Actor Robin Williams appears onstage during MTV's Total Request Live at the MTV Times Square Studios on April 27, 2006 in New York City. (Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images)

I grew up on comedy albums. Steve Martin’s “King Tut” was the first 45 that I bought, and I got in trouble at recess when I was 11 years old for reciting salty routines I had memorized from Robin Williams and George Carlin albums.

VOTE: 80 Essential Hits From The ’80s

In compiling this list, I decided to not repeat any comics (George Carlin would have dominated it otherwise), and I avoided any musical efforts (sorry, Weird Al). Please enjoy my list of the Top 10 Comedy Albums of the 1980’s, and dig them up and give a listen if you can. Just heads up, most are NSFW!

TOP 10 COMEDY ALBUMS OF THE 1980s

  • 10. Steven Wright - I Have a Pony (1985)

    Has there ever been anyone more dead-panned than Steven Wright? The Boston comedian wasn’t about story-telling, observational humor, or political satire. For Wright it’s set-up/punch-line over and over until you don’t even realize forty minutes has passed and your face hurts from laughing.

  • 9. Joan Rivers - What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most? (1983)

    I appreciate the brilliance of Joan Rivers even more now, but even at the age of 15 I knew this woman was incredible. Joan was fearless, vulgar, and amazing. What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most? was her first album in fourteen years and it earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album.

  • 8. Bob & Doug McKenzie - The Great White North Album (1981)

    Canadian sketch comedy show Second City Television (SCTV) spawned the careers of John Candy, Martin Short, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, and of course Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas as Bob and Doug McKenzie. The Great White North Album came out at the height of the show’s popularity, and it preceded their big screen debut in the film Strange Brew. Filled with original sketches, the album also sparked a hit single with the song “Take Off,” featuring fellow Canadian Geddy Lee of the band Rush.

  • 7. Steve Martin - The Steve Martin Brothers (1981)

    Steve Martin was stand-up comedy hero. I had memorized every word on Let’s Get Small (1977),  A Wild and Crazy Guy (1978), and Comedy Is Not Pretty (1979). The Steve Martin Brothers turned out to be Martin’s final album of stand-up. Actually, it was only half an album of stand-up as side two featured his prolific banjo playing. While not his best album, it did earn him a Grammy nomination in 1983.

  • 6. Monty Python - Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album (1980)

    Monty Python were unmatched when it came to sketch comedy, and they seamlessly transitioned many of their televised sketches to vinyl on albums like Matching Tie and Handkerchief and Monty Python’s Previous Record before turning to movies. As the title would suggest, Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album was just that, fulfilling the troupe’s contract with Charisma Records. While they had recently put out a couple of live albums, this was the first studio album Python had released in seven years, and it earned them a Grammy nomination in 1981.

  • 5. Eddie Murphy - Comedian (1983)

    Inspired by Richard Pryor, Murphy began performing stand-up 15 years old. He quickly made a name for himself and ended up joining the cast of Saturday Night Live at the age of 19. Murphy is often credited with saving the show, which was at a creative and ratings nadir when he signed on in 1980. He rocketed to stardom, but kept his feet in stand-up. Murphy’s 1982 self-titled debut went platinum, but it was the follow-up album, Comedian, that really took off. Comedian was essentially the soundtrack to his concert film Delirious, and it went double-platinum in the US and landed inside the Top 40 of the Billboad album chart – unheard of for a comedy album. It won the Grammy in 1984 for Best Comedy Album.

  • 4. Rodney Dangerfield - No Respect (1980)

    Rodney Dangerfield was the king of the one-liners. With Rodney it was joke after joke after joke, each one funnier than the last. No Respect came out in 1980, a full decade after his last album, and he was riding high that year on the success of his scene-stealing turn as Al Czervik in Caddyshack. His appearances on The Tonight Show were can’t miss television, and Rodney finally got some respect when he won Best Comedy Album at the 1981 Grammy awards

  • 3. Robin Williams - A Night at the Met (1986)

    Manic, creative, hilarious. The energy Robin Williams exuded made everything seem improvised. Already in the midst of transitioning to a film career A Night at the Met was his third stand-up album and it earned him his second of three Grammy’s in the decade.

  • 2. George Carlin - A Place For My Stuff (1981)

    George Carlin was a master. Few comedians could match his originality, attention to language, and later his socio-political commentary. His first album of the ’80s was his first that was not entirely a stand-up performance. The live tacks were interspersed with parodies of radio and TV announcements, PSAs, and commercials. I’ll never forget the opening announcement that the album was being “made possible with grants from The Institute for Yahtzee Theory, The Bank for People on Horseback, The Laser Enema Foundation, and the National Society of Total Peckerheads”

  • 1. Richard Pryor - Live on the Sunset Strip (1982)

    Richard Pryor was the best. Any comedian would tell you that. Jerry Seinfeld called Pryor “the Picasso of our profession.” Bob Newhart dubbed Pryor “the seminal comedian of the last 50 years.” The Live on the Sunset Strip album accompanied the film of the same name, marking Pryor’s return to the stage after nearly killing himself after he caught fire while freebasing cocaine in 1980. He approached the incident head-on in a brutally honest and hilarious way. The album earned Pryor his fifth and final Grammy for Best Comedy Album.