Looking at things is all well and good, but you can laugh just as hard when you’re only using your ears. The comedy album is a throwback to the pre-TV era, when you had to twist the radio dial or wind up the Victrola to get some good laughs. 2015 was another great year for the form, especially if you’re into conceptual pranks or career-spanning retrospectives. If you haven’t yet, also check out our list of the best stand-up specials of the year.
10. Brooks Wheelan, This is Cool, Right?
Brooks Wheelan’s first stand-up album, This is Cool, Right?, is a strong debut, with the Iowa-bred comedian sharing hilarious tales about his dad, his childhood, old jobs and that time he did ecstasy while watching Skrillex at Bonnaroo. He’s a smooth comedian and a natural storyteller, and proves he’s far more than just a guy that got fired from some TV show.—Garrett Martin
9. Jon Benjamin, Jazz Daredevil: Well, I Should Have…*
Yeah, this is basically the jazz version of those “shreds” videos on YouTube. A legit jazz band proficiently runs through a few standards and originals whose titles are all variations on not being able to play the piano, while Jon Benjamin, who is not able to play the piano, incompetently plays along. Somehow the joke doesn’t really get old, but just in case Benjamin throws in a couple of sketches to keep things moving, featuring guest spots from Aziz Ansari and Kristen Schaal, and then wraps it up with a filthy jazz-funk ode to anal sex. It’s short and a bit one-note (well, except for Benjamin’s piano playing, which hits every note at the perfectly wrong time), but it’s also hilarious for jazz fans and jazz haters alike.—GM
8. Wayne Federman, The Chronicles of Federman
Wayne Federman has spent the last three decades cultivating a multi-faceted career that includes a nonfiction book about former NBA star Pete Maravich and picking up acting work in commercials, TV series and films. Through it all, though, Federman’s bread and butter has always been stand-up. His sharp wit and self-deprecating style is one that has translated well over the years as he graduated from the brick backdrop clubs of the ‘80s into the alternative venues of today like Largo and UCB. That is, in part, how Federman is able to release a 3 CD set of stand-up as his first album. Culled from various recordings captured over the last 30 years, The Chronicles of Federman tracks his career from the early days, when he would close sets by performing rock anthems on a ukulele, all the way through his current material, where he talks about making imperceptible and hilarious tweaks to the Wikipedia pages of famous people and his experiences performing in Israel.—Robert Ham
7. Ian Karmel, 9.2 on Pitchfork
Karmel has great material, as well (I particularly loved his extended bit in support of the folks working the graveyard shift at 7-11, and his love of monkeys dressed like cowboys that ride dogs around like horses is beyond reproach), but so much of it is in the delivery. He’s one of the few recent stand-ups that know how to use silence and repetition to elevate the material. The cowboy monkeys bit is a perfect example. At first, Karmel slowly reveals the source of his great joy (“monkeys….dressed like cowboys…riding around dogs…as though these dogs were horses”), then he builds and builds upon this image to a huge crescendo. He could move on, but instead, he circles back around to the beginning, quietly pushing the audience inch by inch closer to the image of a little primate sitting on the back of a canine. It’s masterful work.—RH
6. Emily Heller, Good For Her
Good For Her is a comedy album through and through, and one that elicits more knowing and surprising laughs than most of the stand-up fare I’ve watched and listened to this year. Now it’s just time to sit back and wait patiently while the rest of the world catches up with Emily Heller’s genius.—RH