In celebration of comedian Eddie Izzard's recent birthday (February 7), we're here to offer you a highly subjective list of a few of our favorite comedians. Let them tell you a little bit about themselves -- in their own words:
-- Mike Birbiglia
"Growing up, I was discouraged from telling personal stories about insignificant things. Like, I wouldn't make the soccer team, and my father would say, 'Don't tell anyone.' And I would say, 'They're gonna know when they show up to the games and I'm not on the team and I'm crying."
Mike Birbiglia's comedy has appeared several times on NPR, and his Sleepwalk With Me story -- in which he recounts the time he sleepwalked his way out of a two-story hotel window -- went on to become a best-selling book, as well as a film. He also runs an online blog, My Secret Public Journal, where you can read his humor essays and stay up-to-date on upcoming shows.
You can hear his sleepwalking story on NPR's website.
"I wake up at 4:30 am to jump on a plane, which is that part of the morning before the earth even exists. Before they've even programmed the Matrix. You walk out of your apartment and the road isn't even there. You walk out of your house, and there's just a guy with a laptop who yells, 'We need a road, stat!' 'How 'bout a building, Tank!'"
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-- Ellen DeGeneres
"All we have is the here and now. That's why procrastination feels so right. Procrastinate now; don't put it off!"
Before her long-running daytime talk show and acting career, Ellen Degeneres started out as a stand-up comedian. She gained acclaim for her observational humor in the early 80s, appearing on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson in 1986 (Carson reportedly likened her to Bob Newhart). She's hosted the Oscars, the Emmys, the Grammys, won 13 Emmys and 14 People's Choice Awards -- and voiced the forgetful fish Dory in Pixar's classic animated film Finding Nemo.
"Have you ever heard somebody sing some lyrics that you've never sung before, and you realize you've never sung the right words in that song? You hear them, and all of a sudden you say to yourself, 'Life in the Fast Lane?' That's what they're saying right there? You think, Why have I been singing 'wipe in the vaseline?' How many people have heard me sing 'wipe in the vaseline?' I am an idiot."
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-- Eddie Izzard
"It's the cutting edge of politics in a very extraordinarily boring way."
Born in England, Eddie Izzard's comedy incorporates world history, politics, religion, languages, and film study into his comedy (I was first introduced to his stand-up when a college linguistics professor showed us a few clips from Izzard's shows). But when your Henry VIII sounds like Sean Connery and you've got Death Star Stormtroopers sipping tea and waving flags, the resultant show is anything but dry. Izzard's humor effortlessly juxtaposes the everyday with the truly quirky, and the result is wholly unique.
"We stole countries! That's how you build an empire. We stole countries, with the cunning use of flags. Just sail halfway around the world, stick a flag in. 'I claim India for Britain.' And they're going, 'You can't claim us; we live here! There's five hundred million of us!' - 'Do you have a flag?' - 'We don't need a bloody flag, this is our country!' - 'No flag, no country! You can't have one. That's the rules that I've just made up!'"
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-- Louis C.K.
"People on planes are the worst. They get off the plane, they come to your house, and they tell you about their whole flight experience. 'That was the worst day of my life! I had to sit on the runway for forty minutes!' For forty minutes? Oh, my God, really? What happened then?? Did you fly through the air, like a bird, incredibly? Did you soar into the clouds, impossibly? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight, and then land softly on giant tires that you couldn't even conceive how they put air in them?? How dare you! Complaining about flying! 'I had to pay for my sandwich --' YOU'RE FLYING! You're sitting in a chair in the sky! You're like a Greek myth right now!! [You think] air travel is too slow? [It's] New York to California in six hours! That used to take thirty years!"
Combining his self-deprecating humor with his observations on modern society, Louis C.K. manages to make us laugh at our own shortcomings, as well. Releasing his annual stand-up shows on his website, LouisCK.net, he is also the creator, head writer, and star of the hit FX series Louis.
"So then my doctor's like, 'Well, okay. How far into a meal do you typically realize you're full and stop eating?' And I'm like -- 'I don't stop eating when I'm full. The meal isn't over when I'm full. The meal is over when I hate myself.'"
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-- Post by Ms. B