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Aziz Ansari, Anthony Jeselnik named amongst AV Club's "Best Comedy Albums and Specials of 2013"


AV Club December 3, 2013
The best comedy albums and specials of 2013
by Kyle Ryan, Josh Modell, David Brusie, Marah Eakin, Steve Heisler, Steven Moore, Christian Williams, Kevin McFarland & Will Harris

As much as the post-Internet era has harmed the music and film industries, it has benefitted stand-up comedy in unpredictable ways. The debut of the iPod fomented the creation of podcasts, which have been indispensible distributors of comedy and comedians; and the rise of streaming services like Netflix (and until recently, Chill) gave comedians a way to release specials without a TV network—or they could just skip the middle man altogether and self-release their material. Comedians have never had more possibilities available to them, which is perhaps why 2013 was such a good, prolific year for comedy. It seemed to come from everywhere: the old guard (HBO, Comedy Central), upstarts (Netflix), indie labels (ASpecialThing), and the comedians themselves. There was so much of it that The A.V. Club could scarcely keep up—and so much of it looked good.

This year, we changed things a bit to allow specials, not just albums, to be eligible for voting. We also changed our voting process. Instead of giving our writers a certain number of points to work with, we asked for a simple list of five of their favorites. The top entry received five points, the second one four points, and so on. We added them together and disqualified anything that only received a single vote. That left us with eight top albums out of the roughly 20 that our reviewers selected. See everyone’s individual ballots below for more thoughts on releases that didn’t make our best-of list.

8. Anthony Jeselnik, Caligula (seven points, two votes)
Twitter has helped resuscitate the one-liner, and no one wields brevity more skillfully than Anthony Jeselnik. His second album, Caligula, recorded in Chicago, is another stellar set of quick jokes constructed from ordinary setups that veer in dark directions. Jeselnik is chiefly an audacious comedian, never afraid to take on any topic—the album begins with a track called “Rape” and escalates to a series of deliberately button-pushing bits. That offends a lot of people, but Jeselnik likes to test the limits of comedy and find something to laugh at even the darkest places. Plus, his jokes aren’t at the expense victim; they’re about the idiocy of a way of thinking. Comedy Central may have canceled The Jeselnik Offensive too soon, but Jeselnik still has one of the best albums of the year.

7. Eugene Mirman, An Evening Of Comedy In A Fake Underground Laboratory (seven points, three votes)

6. Pete Holmes, Nice Try, The Devil (seven points, four votes)

5. (tie) Kurt Braunohler, How Do I Land? (eight points, three votes)

5. (tie) Aziz Ansari, Buried Alive (eight points, three votes)
As his long, surprisingly personal interview with us from last February showed, Aziz Ansari has a lot on his mind these days, and that heavily informed his special for Netflix, Buried Alive. As Ansari neared 30, other signifiers of adulthood started to hit him harder—friends marrying, having kids, and generally settling down. These are some of his same goofball friends who, as Ansari says at one point, still wear chain wallets. Ansari honed the material over the course of a 75-city tour and filmed the special in Philadelphia. It’s always a bold move to incorporate crowd work into a televised special, but Ansari’s questions for an engaged couple near the stage pay dividends that he clearly didn’t expect, to his delight. Buried Alive feels like Ansari’s first special as a grown-up, and it bodes well for what comes next.

4. Amy Schumer, Mostly Sex Stuff (13 points, three votes)

3. Maria Bamford, Ask Me About My New God! (13 points, four votes)

2. Kumail Nanjiani, Beta Male (21 points, six votes)

1. Louis C.K., Oh My God (28 points, eight votes)