Samir just did an interesting post. Since it's on laughter, and since everybody laughs, and since the economy is in such a state, and since the news is all doom and gloom every day, I thought I'd ride on his coattails (which are strung behind the A.V. Club's coattails, mind you). This might snowball into a MySpace/Facebook/Twitter-type meme, but so be it.
To start: This is not one of the things that always makes me laugh, but I thought it to be an apt introduction.
Singing in the Rain: "Make 'em Laugh"
1) The Big Lebowski
Both lists that inspired this post focused mainly on comedians and moments in television. But I can't rightfully talk about humor without mentioning the Coen Brothers' crowning comedic achievement, The Big Lebowski. It's the movie that I can quote the most (and that I do quote the most in day-to-day life), and I rarely turn down an opportunity to see it. I've seen it in a movie theater, in a bar (for an event hosted around it), and in countless homes, on countless television sets. I even chatted to David Bazan about it after a concert (he said that he watches it about once a month).
I own it both on DVD and VHS, but have yet to sit through the full edited version for TV (...someday...). So I'll give you a taste of the TBL comedy in a clip from the TV version that, perhaps, makes the movie even funnier.
A Stranger In The Alps
(If you haven't seen it, ask me what the phrase in the movie really is... or better yet, go out and see it!)
2) Calvin & Hobbes
I've been reading these comic strips since about the fourth grade. As I get older, I revisit them often, still laughing out loud maybe once every 20 or so strips. I also tend to notice bigger words that I didn't understand when I was younger. Bill Watterson is a genius: philosopher, cultural critic, cartoonist, comedian.
3) Mitch Hedberg
I had the distinct pleasure of seeing funnyman Mitch Hedberg at Florida State before his premature death. I can't believe it's already been four years. The other night, Jess and I were sitting around at home on a rainy weekend night. We sat blankly at the computer, wondering what funny things we could find. Suddenly it came to me: Mitch! Look up Mitch Hedberg! A quick YouTube search brings up endless entertainment. Here's a pretty good clip:
(I think of Mitch every single time I come across across an escalator. Even when it's working fine.)
4) Jim Gaffigan
I also had the distinct pleasure of seeing Jim Gaffigan live. Again, it was at FSU. His unique quirk is to perfectly mock himself in a higher voice. He'll be rambling on about Waffle House, or manatees, and then he'll cut through with a higher voice: "Hey! That's insensitive! What if there were manatees in the audience!" It's a gimmick, yes, but it works every time, and I haven't seen another comedian do anything like it.
5) Dane Cook
I have yet to see Mr. Cook live, and I loathe the movies he's in. But his Retaliation album is always good for a quick laugh. Vicious Circle, his old stand-up special, also keeps the laughs coming, even after a dozen viewings. I usually stop to watch it when I see it's on TV again.
6) Simon Pegg and Nick Frost
Rather than re-invent the wheel, I'll refer you to Samir's insights on Simon Pegg and Nick Frost together (his #9). What he said.
7) Apatow et al.
And, rounding out my top 7 (leave me alone, I'm getting tired) is the rash of movies inspired by Judd Apatow. Although they may have had lesser known achievements before this, The 40-Year-Old Virgin was like the Wu-Tang Clan's first album. It collected all these comedians and then launched their careers. (Again, you could debate about what all these guys were doing beforehand, but you won't really convince me, because I wasn't hip enough to know about them before this movie.)
I must say that I thought Virgin was going to be a dumb movie from the looks of the trailer. But I went to see it anyway, and I was pleasantly proved wrong. Follow-ups like Superbad, Role Models, and I Love You, Man have given me hope after the string of American Pie-type stuff that I never really got into.