Joke overload

Netflix has a lot of specials featuring stand-up comics that usually last an hour or so. Comedies are my favorite form of entertainment but I find that when I watch these specials, I get restless after about 15 minutes or so. It seems like I reach some kind of joke saturation and then need some time to detox. This is true even for comedians that I find really funny, like Eddie Izzard whose riffs can go off in unexpected directions so that you do not quite know what to expect. This is why I usually tend to watch and enjoy short clips of comedians dealing with one particular topic or just a few.

Comedy films and TV shows spread the funny bits out more over time and this works better for me.

I know that these specials are popular and the comedians draw large live audiences as well to their performances, so clearly many people do not get tired they way that I do.

I was just curious if there are many others who are like me in this regard.


  1. blf says

    I also probably am, certainly similar. Non-stop laugh-a-trons aren’t (with the rare exception, which is so rare I can’t think of one), albeit on the handful of occasions (Ok, actually fingerful (er, one finger’s full?)) time I went to a standup comedy show it was fine. (I was also sitting next to the stage and got an opportunity to tie the comedian’s shoelaces together, which was not part of his planned act — he handled it gracefully — and that’s the only bit of the evening I now can recall.)

  2. sonofrojblake says

    Joke fatigue is a well recognised problem among standup comics. Those putting together an hour, usually for Edinburgh, are well aware there needs to be a lift or change of scenery about forty minutes in, usually. It’s practically a rule. Even the keenest paying live audiences just don’t seem to keep their energy up for much more than half an hour, no matter how well its gone until that point.

  3. mastmaker says

    Only two comedians have held my attention for more than 15 minutes: George Carlin and Dara O’briain. I don’t think it is a coincidence that both seem to be Skeptics first and comedians second.
    OK. Sometimes, Robin Williams.

  4. says

    @mastmaker, No. 4
    Yeah. I’m just old enough to have both Carlin and Williams on vinyl and at 20 minutes a side, the 40-minute albums are just right.
    I wonder if that has any relation to sonofrojblake’s comment (No. 3) about a 40-minute rule? Kind of like the 45 record setting the three-minute limit on music to be played on the radio.

  5. says

    I’ve seen Seinfeld live twice. The first time was almost painful I was laughing so much. It had to be an hour+. Another top notch comedian who had me in tears was Lewis Black. Not as good as the first Seinfeld, but better than the second time I saw Seinfeld. The downside was that has warm-up was not very good. There were funny bits but also a lot of gratuitous swearing. It only detracted and didn’t add. It wasn’t edgy, it was just irritating.

    I’ve seen both Seinfeld and Black on hour-long TV specials. Good, but no comparison to live. I don’t really know what it is, maybe it’s just that being surrounded by laughter is contagious.

    I was always a huge fan of Carlin. Recently, I watched a couple of his specials that I had never seen before (1990s perhaps). They were not good. I could not get through the entire set of either of them. I never thought that would happen.

  6. John Morales says

    Alas, my experience with NetFlix is that Sturgeon’s law is a vast understatement.

    I’ve given up trying to watch “stand-up” on that platform — the few comedians that actually make me laugh ain’t there, the ones I essayed were, at the very best, most mediocre.

    I might check out some of the ones herein recommended (if they’re even there), but my expectations are sufficiently low that I know I shan’t be disappointed.

  7. publicola says

    The funniest show I ever saw was an HBO special sometime in the 80’s. It was hosted by David Brenner and featured many well-known comics from the 50’s and 60’s like Shecky Green, Corbet Monica, etc. The funniest part, though, came when they would break away from the comic on stage and go backstage to where the rest of the comics were gathered, waiting to do their bits. Henny Youngman was in rare form as he told funny anecdotes about other comics like Milton Berle, Bob Hope and others, some of whom were sitting there with him. His fellow comics were in stitches, as was I. Henny stole the show. If you can find it somewhere, watch it. You won’t be disappointed.

  8. Steve Cameron says

    Late to the game here, but I am a *BIG* stand-up comedy fan and I completely agree with you, Mano. It’s a rare stand-up special that keeps me interested past the first 10 or 15 minutes, and I make a point to (try to) watch a lot of them. There are a lot of comedians and specials I enjoy enough to barrel through, but my tastes are only mine, so I wouldn’t think to recommend too many to you….

    George Carlin is a master, but he’s got, what? 20 specials or something? You Are All Diseased is a particularly good one from later in his career, but your mileage may vary, as they say. My favorite works by him are his earlier albums, especially Class Clown, Occupation: Foole (where you can hear him win the Emmy for Class Clown!), and AM/FM. They are also shorter than an hour and easier to get through since you can do other things while listening. I generally enjoy albums more because of that.

    Jerry Seinfeld’s Netflix special from a couple years ago, Jerry Before Seinfeld, might interest you because a) it’s his best early material, and b) it cuts away from the act to documentary-style inserts that follow Jerry around as he talks about his early days and his process.

    Beyond that, Paul F. Tompkins’ Laboring Under Delusions, John Mulaney’s New In Town (his first and best 1 hour special), Dmitri Martin’s The Overthinker, and Kristen Schaal’s Live at the Filmore are all great specials from the past decade. The first two are masters at keeping you interested and the last two are very cool “experimental” specials.

    And Jim Gaffigan, of course, is worth dipping your toe into, perhaps starting with his defining 2005 special, Beyond the Pale, or his 2012 special, Mr. Universe. He’s probably the biggest comedian who’s considered “clean” these days, but again, your mileage may vary.

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