Arts & CultureScene Guide

Emerald Recommends the best stand-up comedy to get you through finals



Finals week doesn’t need to be such a self-serious affair. You don’t have to let your group project kill the mood. Don’t let bombing your international communication exam get you down.

It’s okay. Take a deep breath. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Besides, don’t you realize we’re living in an age of brilliant, inventive comedy?

This week, the Emerald Recommends some of our favorite stand-up comedy specials to get you through finals week.

Here’s a playlist of some of our favorite bits:

Mitch All Together – Mitch Hedberg

“You might have seen this next comedian at the store,” Mitch Hedberg once introduced himself. This stoner-style comedian will make a joke about all the things you need to be high to think are funny, but then he succeeds in making a sober crowed erupt with laughter. The Minnesota native cracks a double-digit number of jokes in a minute about being in the club-sandwich club, asks how hip a hippopotamus really is, and reports on the fact that we can’t get a clear photo of Bigfoot because he’s actually an out-of-focus beast running around the cascades. After winning the Seattle Comedy Competition and appearing on That ‘70s Show, Hedberg went on to record three comedy albums that would make you pee your stoner pants as soon as the needle hit the record, but his sophomore album, Mitch All Together will make you laugh unttil you’re a self-declared “Hed head.” –Braedon Kwiecien

Watch Mitch Hedberg’s final performance on Just For Laughs below.

New In Town – John Mulaney

You might be aware of John Mulaney from his occasional appearances on Saturday Night Live (he wrote most the gags for Bill Hader’s iconic ‘Stefan’ character), recurring role on Kroll Show as an octogenarian pervert with a love of tuna-based pranks, or from his flopped FOX sitcom. But for comedy obsessives, his name is synonymous with New In Town, one of the most easily quotable and beloved sets of the past decade. He is one of this generation’s finest comedy storytellers, delivering tales that are both deeply relatable and absolutely unbelievable. It is also the place to go for the hottest takes on Home Alone 2: Lost In New York, told just a few short decades out of relevance. –Chris Berg

Listen to “The One Thing You Can’t Replace” from New In Town below.

Freezing Hot – Iliza Shlesinger
This is hands down one of the best stand-up specials on Netflix right now. With her absurd jokes about friendships, partying as a 20-something, and the weirdest dating experiences, everything about this 90-minute special is relatable to an almost shameful level and will have you cracking up the entire time. While a lot of her jokes are aimed at women, so much of it is mocking and also targeted toward men. Her humor is definitely a little abstract and made for those who identify as a weirdo, as her skit is complete with strange goat noises, out-there metaphors (party goblin, raptor vag, etc.) and strange scenarios. There is also a drinking game to this one, which is an added plus. –Jordyn Brown
Watch the clip “Pinterest” from Freezing Hot below.

Sleepwalk With Me/My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend/Two Drink Mike – Mike Birbiglia

With a classic sleepwalking anecdote popularized by its recurring plays in NPR’s This American Life, Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk With Me is a terrific, personable ode to the art of a narrative within a stand-up set. Birbiglia starts every set with tepid charisma, much like his predecessor Mitch Hedberg – lethargic, monotonous, self-effacing. His careful handling of visceral and humiliating stories is incredible, whether he’s dealing with sleep apnea, fear of marriage commitments, or his problems with Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” as a seven-minute makeout-anthem. Birbiglia satisfies on all fronts; his stand-up is as comically genius as it is human. –Emerson Malone

Listen to “The Hovering Jackal” from Sleepwalk With Me below.

Impersonal/Laboring Under Delusions – Paul F. Tompkins

Tompkins is a regular staple on Comedy Bang! Bang! (both the podcast and TV show) with his countless impersonations: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cake Boss, Alan Thicke and Santa Claus (among dozens of others). If you listen to his comedy albums, you might recognize him as the ever-peppy voice of Mr. Peanutbutter from Bojack Horseman. But his stand-up specials find a refreshingly original and personal Tompkins. On his 2012 stand-up set Delusions, Tompkins recalls starting stand-up comedy at age 17. “I was a child!” he exclaims. “It was downright Dickensian! I went to The Comedy Store with my sooty face and tattered cap!” Delusions percolates around stories from Tompkins’ lines of work (including a brief stint at a hat store called “Hats In The Belfry”); Impersonal does not boast the same unifying narrative, but still works as Tompkins’ best release. The bits within Impersonal meander around unrelated anecdotes from the filthy amount of money in show business, prank cans of peanut brittle, and his opener “Goth Girl,” when he sees a girl, dressed head-to-toe in black, running down a crosswalk. “You don’t often see goth people run. I guess because it spoils the whole aesthetic,” he says. “You can’t be in a hurry and goth.” –Emerson Malone

To really get a flavor of Tompkins’ style, listen to “Peanut Brittle” from Impersonal below.

Live At The Bowery Ballroom – Rob Delaney

If there’s one line of the mega-vulgar and beautiful stand-up special from Delaney that resonates with how life sometimes feels in Eugene, it comes during his bit about neck tattoos. “Do you remember in the olden days when you walk past someone with a neck tattoo and you go, ‘Welp, my number’s up! I’m about to have my throat cut,’?” he says. “But now if you see someone with a neck tattoo, you know they got it at their local muffin shop. They’re like, ‘Could I read you a poem about my vegan bicycle?’” –Emerson Malone

Watch the clip “Friendly Sanchez” from Live At The Bowery Ballroom below.

Good One – Tig Notaro

Tig Notaro’s monotonous tone stays distant and wryly observational, even while discussing issues as troubling as her breast cancer diagnosis. After a diagnosis in 2012, Notaro began her sets by greeting the audience: “Hello! I have cancer! Hello!” On Good One, Notaro discusses a cousin with a penchant for sleuthing through their family tree. Notaro’s phlegmatic pace of speaking leads to some insane comedic timing when she quotes a cousin’s superfluous email: “Your second cousin…three times removed…on your mother’s side of the family…was the first…female…to ride a two-wheeled bicycle…without…a bonnet on.” –Emerson Malone

Listen to “Family Tree” from Good One below.

Not listed: Werewolves and Lollipops and Feelin’ Kinda Patton – Patton Oswalt; Live at the Purple Onion – Zach Galifianakis; what. – Bo Burnham; Impregnated with Wonder – Pete Holmes; Medium Energy – Todd Barry; Chewed Up – Louis C.K.


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Emerson Malone

Emerson Malone

Podcast producer with The Daily Emerald and student research fellow with the UO-UNESCO Crossings Institute.