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5 Comedians and their philosophy

5 Comedians and their philosophy

To be, or not to be: what a question! –– E.A. Bucchianeri

On the surface, philosophy and comedy have nothing to with each other. Philosophy, as defined by the dictionary, is a discipline comprising as its core logic, aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology. And comedy is a genre of dramatic literature dealing with the comic or with the serious in a light satirical manner.

A philosopher observes and studies life as an academic discipline, may attempt to provide an answer to life's endless questions. A comedian, on the other hand, observes life and even serious situations in a light or satirical manner. They don't provide an answer or pretend to give an answer,  but they do make the audience think.

Over the last few decades, comedy has moved away from comedians making a funny face towards comedians staging a satirical take on society, politics, and culture. The comedy is bold and often deliberately programmed to be provocative. The available freedom of expression on tap also has something to do with it.

Here's a look at 5 stand-up comedians who have successfully blended philosophy into their comedy routines.

#5 Lenny bruce

Lenny Bruce, born Leonard Alfred Schneider (October 13, 1925 – August 3, 1966), was an American stand-up comedian, social critic, and satirist, active during the 1950s and early '60s. He was known for his open and critical form of comedy touched on politics, religion, and sex. He is often credited for paving the way for outspoken counterculture era comedians.

In 1961, he was arrested for obscenity, for using the word c*cks***er. Although the jury acquitted him, law enforcement agencies began monitoring his appearances, resulting in frequent arrests under charges of obscenity. The trial is now seen as a landmark for freedom of speech in the United States.

Notable quotes

Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.

Take away the right to say "f*ck" and you take away the right to say "f*ck the government."

In the Halls of Justice, the only justice is in the halls.

The liberals can understand everything but people who don't understand them.

The "what should be" never did exist, but people keep trying to live up to it.

Satire is tragedy plus time. You give it enough time, the public, the reviewers will allow you to satirize it. Which is rather ridiculous, when you think about it.

The first great breakthrough—or, rather, breakdown—of society's nudity/lewdity guilt-by-association was the now-famous Marilyn Monroe calendar. Marilyn's respectability when she died was based principally upon her economic status, which is, in the final analysis, the only type our society really respects.

Here is Hick's famous Berkeley concert.

#4 George Carlin

Grammy-winning comedian George Carlin (May 12, 1937 – June 22, 2008) is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential American stand-up comics of all time. He was sort of an heir to Lenny Bruce's bold and counter-culture flavor of comedy. In his long career, from the mid-1950s to mid-2000s, he proved to be one of the most popular, versatile, and durable comedians of his time.

George Carlin

He performed regularly in Las Vegas, but in 2004 his run at the MGM Grand Las Vegas was terminated after an altercation with his audience. His set, filled with his trademark dark comedy, was not well received. Wanting to get out of that hotel and Las Vegas, he said: “People who go to Las Vegas, you've got to question their fucking intellect to start with. Traveling hundreds and thousands of miles to essentially give your money to a large corporation is kind of fucking moronic. That's what I'm always getting here is these kind of fucking people with very limited intellects.”

Notable quotes

The reason I talk to myself is because I'm the only one whose answers I accept.

By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth.

Here's all you have to know about men and women: women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.

Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time!

Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.

That's why they call it the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it.

If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?

I like it when a flower or a little tuft of grass grows through a crack in the concrete. It's so fuckin' heroic.

We're so self-important. So arrogant. Everybody's going to save something now. Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save the snails. And the supreme arrogance? Save the planet! Are these people kidding? Save the planet? We don't even know how to take care of ourselves; we haven't learned how to care for one another. We're gonna save the fuckin' planet? . . . And, by the way, there's nothing wrong with the planet in the first place. The planet is fine. The people are fucked! Compared with the people, the planet is doin' great. It's been here over four billion years . . . The planet isn't goin' anywhere, folks. We are! We're goin' away. Pack your shit, we're goin' away. And we won't leave much of a trace. Thank God for that. Nothing left. Maybe a little Styrofoam. The planet will be here, and we'll be gone. Another failed mutation; another closed-end biological mistake.

Religion is like a pair of shoes.....Find one that fits for you, but don't make me wear your shoes.

He - and if there is a God, I am convinced he is a he because no woman could or would ever fuck things up this badly.

Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.

Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist.

I often warn people: "Somewhere along the way, someone is going to tell you, 'There is no "I" in team.' What you should tell them is, 'Maybe not. But there is an "I" in independence, individuality, and integrity.

# 3. Bill Hicks

Bill Hicks born William Melvin Hicks (December 16, 1961 – February 26, 1994) was an American stand-up comedian known for his dark comedy touching a wide range of social issues including religion, politics, and philosophy.

Hicks began performing when he was 16. He was a part of the Texas Outlaw Comics group developed at the Comedy Workshop in Houston in the 1980s. He died young, of pancreatic cancer at the age of 32, but left a legacy and inspired many comedians for years to come. He developed a substantial cult-like following posthumously.

Hicks was full of anger, disgust, and apathy towards mainstream society, religion, politics, and consumerism but he was able to express it to his audience in a casual and personal manner. He once opened a bit with "I don't mean to sound bitter, cold, or cruel, but I am, so that's how it comes out."

He was addicted to nicotine and smoked on stage. His love of smoking and occasional attempts to quit became a recurring theme in his act throughout his later years.

In 2017, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him No. 13 on its list of the 50 best stand-up comics of all time.

Notable quotes

I believe that there is an equality to all humanity. We all suck.

If you want to understand a society, take a good look at the drugs it uses. And what can this tell you about American culture? Well, look at the drugs we use. Except for pharmaceutical poison, there are essentially only two drugs that Western civilization tolerates: Caffeine from Monday to Friday to energize you enough to make you a productive member of society, and alcohol from Friday to Monday to keep you too stupid to figure out the prison that you are living in.

I'm tired of this back-slappin' "isn't humanity neat" bullshit. We're a virus with shoes.

Watching television is like taking black spray paint to your third eye.

Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves. Heres Tom with the Weather.

The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it's very brightly colored, and it's very loud, and it's fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, "Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?"

We all pay for life with death, so everything in between should be free.

Bill Hicks' 1991 stand-up - HBO One Night Stand

# 2. Louis C.K.

Louis C.K. (born September 12, 1967) is a multiple-award-winning comedian known for his humorous take on the oddities of the life, particularly his life as a middle-aged divorced man.

Louis C.K. and Philosophy: Mark Ralkowski

C.K. was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Mexico until he was seven. When the family moved back to the States, in suburban Boston, C.K. learned English and expressed interest in becoming a writer and comedian. He was influenced by Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, and George Carlin.

He made his debut on stage in 1985 at an open mic night at a comedy club in Boston, Massachusetts. He was so discouraged by the experience that he did not perform again for two years. C.K. eventually did score some initial wins as Boston's comedy scene grew. He even got the chance to perform alongside noted comedians at the time such as Denis Leary and Lenny Clarke.

In 1989, he moved to New York City to further his career in comedy. Initially, he wrote for leading New York-based comedians including David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, Dana Carvey, and Chris Rock.

In 2001, C.K. released his debut comedy album, Live in Houston, directly through his website and became among the first performers to offer direct-to-fan sales of tickets to his stand-up shows and DRM-free video concert downloads via his website. The album went viral, turning C.K. into a star.

He was ranked fourth on Rolling Stone's 50 best stand-up comics of all time list in 2017.

Notable quotes

You'll be fine. You're 25. Feeling [unsure] and lost is part of your path. Don't avoid it. See what those feelings are showing you and use it. Take a breath. You'll be okay. Even if you don't feel okay all the time.

F*ck it... That's really the attitude that keeps a family together, it's not "we love each other", it's just "f*ck it, man."

The only time you look in your neighbor's bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don't look in your neighbor's bowl to see if you have as much as them.

Self-love is a good thing but self-awareness is more important. You need to once in a while go 'Uh, I'm kind of an asshole.

As humans, we waste the shit out of our words. It's sad. We use words like "awesome" and "wonderful" like they're candy. It was awesome? Really? It inspired awe? It was wonderful? Are you serious? It was full of wonder? You use the word "amazing" to describe a goddamn sandwich at Wendy's. What's going to happen on your wedding day, or when your first child is born? How will you describe it? You already wasted "amazing" on a fucking sandwich.

What happens after you die?" "Lots of things happen after you die - they just don't involve you.

I don't think women are better than men, but I do think that men are worse than women.

I've learned from experience that if you work harder at it, and apply more energy and time to it, and more consistency, you get a better result. It comes from the work.

I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping as we all should. I dunno. You don't live that long. It doesn't matter.

You know the only thing happier than a three-legged dog? A four-legged dog.

# 1. Dave Chappelle

Easily one of the best stand-up comedians today, Dave Chappelle was born on August 24, 1973, in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland. He has won two Emmies, three Grammies Awards, and a Mark Twain Prize, as well.

The comic genius perhaps rose to fame with his satirical sketch comedy series Chappelle's Show (2003–2006).

Chappelle was a funny child growing up. Singer Johnny Hartman, a family friend, predicted that he would one day become a comedian. Chapelle grew up in a politically active family, so mixing politics and humor came naturally to him. He cites Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor as his early inspirations.

In the early nineties, to pursue a career as a comedian, Chappelle moved to New York City, where he got to perform at Harlem's famed Apollo Theater in front of the "Amateur Night" audience. Unfortunately, he got booed off the stage, but he took the experience as the source of courage to continue his show business aspirations.

In 1992, he won critical and popular acclaim for his television appearance in Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam on HBO. The performance opened many doors for him, allowing him to become a regular guest on late-night television shows such as The Late Show With David Letterman, The Howard Stern Show, Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, and Late Night With Conan O'Brien.

In 1998, he and Neal Brennan co-wrote the 1998 cult stoner film Half Baked. Two years later, he made his debut on HBO with his hour-long special titled Killin' Them Softly. And three years later, he produced his most famous work, Chappelle's show, with co-writer Neal Brennan. The show parodied many aspects of American culture, including racial stereotypes, politics, and pop culture.

The show ran successfully for the first two seasons, however, during the filming of the third season, Chappelle abruptly flew to South Africa on April 28 to stay in an undisclosed psychiatric facility, as reported by New York Times. The third season was rebranded as the "Lost Episodes" and was stitched up together using unaired sketches, blooper reels, and deleted scenes. The three episodes were cohosted by regular cast members Charlie Murphy and Donnell Rawlings. The third and final episode aired on July 23, 2006.

Notable quotes

You know you must be doing something right if old people like you.

I was doing sketches that were funny but socially irresponsible. I felt I was deliberately being encouraged and I was overwhelmed

Just cuz I eat Chicken and Watermelon they think that something's wrong with me. Let me tell you something if you don't like chicken and watermelon, something is wrong with you, there is something wrong with you! Where are all these people who don't like Chicken and Watermelon? I'm sick of hearing about how bad it is, it's great! I'm waiting for Chicken to approach me to do a commercial, I'll do it for free Chicken! It's the least I can do.

You can't get un-famous. You can get infamous, but you can't get un-famous.

The worst thing to call somebody is "crazy". It's dismissive. I don't understand this person, so they're crazy. That's bullshit! People are not crazy. They are strong people...Maybe the environment is a little sick.

The mark of greatness is when everything before you is obsolete, and everything after you bears your mark.

I turned on Sesame Street. And I was, like: "Oh, good. Sesame Street. This is much better cause now he'll learn how to count and spell." But now I'm watching it as an adult and I realize that Sesame Street teaches kids other things. It teaches kids how to judge people. And label people. That's right. They got this one character named Oscar. They treat this guy like shit the entire show. They judge him right to his face. "Oscar, you are so mean. Isn't he, kids?" "Yeah. Oscar, you're a grouch!" He's, like, "Bitch, I live in a fucking trash can! I'm the poorest motherfucker on Sesame Street. Nobody's help in' me." Now you wonder why your kids grow up and step over homeless people, "Get it together, grouch. Get a job, grouch." So don't even tell me how to get to Sesame Street, that is a terrible place. I wouldn't go there if I knew the way.

Whether it means having a show, or a movie, or just being on a stage, I need an avenue to say what I have to say.

I'm cool with failing so long as I know that there are people around me that love me unconditionally.

The world can't tell you who you are. You've just got to figure out who you are and be there, for better or worse.

I'm famous today. People like me today. Might not like me tomorrow. You can't count on it.

The hardest thing to do is to be true to yourself, especially when everybody is watching.

No matter how old you are, if a little kid hands you a toy phone… you answer it.

You've got to say 'yes' to your destiny. Life's happening right now, look around you. There goes some life. Come on, Mamma, live!

I support anyone's right to be who they want to be. My question is: to what extent do I have to participate in your self-image?

The only way you can know where the line is if you cross it.

Fame for me is like a place, a country I'm taking a tour through

Video: Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories: Rick James & Prince - Chappelle’s Show

References
FBI vault on Lenny Bruce
https://vault.fbi.gov/Lenny%20Bruce
Seven dirty words : the life and crimes of George Carlin
https://archive.org/details/sevendirtywordsl00sull
bestcomedyonline
https://web.archive.org/web/20110420144449/http://www.bestcomedyonline.net/comedian-biographies/bill-hicks-personal-life-career
rollingstone
https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-lists/50-best-stand-up-comics-of-all-time-126359/
Louis C.K. interview (pbs)
https://web.archive.org/web/20110311075212/http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/archive/200909/20090925_ck.html
Heaven Hell Dave Chappelle (esquire)
https://web.archive.org/web/20200413160603/https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/movies/a1122/esq0506chappelle-92/
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