The 10 Best Comedy Albums of 2015

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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…*

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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

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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

5. Bill Hicks, Bill Hicks: The Complete Collection

The release of Bill Hicks: The Complete Collection represents the absolute final word on the subject of the late comic. The 18 disc set, charmingly boxed up to look like a pack of cigarettes, brings together his standup albums, televised specials, and a wealth of bootleg recordings that provides a comprehensive look at his evolution as a comedian. You can see and hear his confidence grow as his material became more pointed, political and brilliant.—RH

4. Ron Funches, The Funches of Us

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Ron Funches has been one of the best stand-up comedians in America for the last few years, as anybody who’s seen him live or on the late-night shows can attest. His first album, The Funches of Us, finally collects much of the material he’s been perfecting over that time, and it’s a silly, fun, occasionally poignant set that seamlessly switches gears between absurdity and storytelling.—GM

3. Mike O’Brien, Tasty Radio

Tasty Radio is defined by the genial absurdity that Mike O’Brien’s SNL videos are known for. Framed as a trip down the radio dial, O’Brien and his collaborators avoid easy jokes even when tackling easy subjects, like obnoxious morning DJs, the intentional brainlessness of sports talk radio and the casual sexism of beer ads. They approach from unexpected angles and reach heights that are often ridiculous but still rooted in the original concept. The absurdity never feels too random or like an easy way out.—GM

2. Eugene Mirman, I’m Sorry (You’re Welcome)

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Yes, this is the record that was released as a bathrobe and a chair. Yes, this is the comedy album that’s spread over nine volumes and seven LPs. He totally cries for 45 minutes and shares almost 200 different orgasms. It’s incredibly gimmicky, but it’s also an incredible gimmick, overwhelming the listener with both material and (if they want to splurge) absurd distribution methods. It’s also mostly great comedy, from the regular stand-up set that kicks it off through the increasingly bizarre conceptual pieces on the later volumes. If it wasn’t funny it’d just be a goofy novelty record, but Mirman built the entire experience around what is perhaps his strongest stand-up set ever. (It overlaps often with his Netflix special, Vegan at the Complain Store, so expect some repetition there.)—GM

1. Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster, The Best of The Best Show

Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster have spent most of the last 15 years building a large comedic world solely through conversation. Newbridge, New Jersey, is right alongside Springfield and Pawnee as a brilliant satire of current American life, one focused primarily on music and pop culture. Numero Group’s comically huge box set of Best Show calls is a must-own for fans of underground comedy and a great (if exhausting) introduction to what is literally the best show on the internet.—GM

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