Picture a beloved stand-up comedian, as they draw deep breaths in the wings of Madison Square Garden to the roar of 18,000 salivating fans.
Now picture them drawing similar breaths from the edge of an uneven pub stool to a room packed with 4-5 barely interested patrons who golf clap the comedian onto a makeshift stage.
Every comedic giant has an origin story. They all started out somewhere and that somewhere is usually a dank open-mic night at a small bar. Or, if they’re lucky, an actual comedy club.
Keep that in mind when tuning into this years Raw Comedy Roadshow as a group of fledgling comedy upstarts try with all their might to fondle your funny bone - whether you laugh or ready a rotten tomato.
In all their cuteness, here are some of the earliest recorded appearances from the industry’s top stand-up comedians.
Bill Burr with all his hair
Known mostly as Patrick Kuby from Breaking Bad, Burr’s been a piece of furniture in the stand up scene for a few decades now, and as his point-of-view matured, his live specials grew more impressive. He’s now able to perform to sell-out crowds at Madison Square Garden.
Though Burr has shrugged off comparisons to Louis CK as only existing because they’re both redheads, it’s undeniable that the more we hear Burr’s comedic voice, the better it is for everyone.
Dave Chappelle on Star Search
When a teenage Dave Chappelle braved amateur night at Harlem’s Amateur Theatre, he was booed off-stage. A few years later, at age 19, Chappelle grabbed a featured role in Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood Men in Tights and was a (losing) contestant on Star Search.
Early hurdles aside, we don’t have to tell you who laughed last.
Louis CK in 1988
We’re 100% certain this isn’t a computer generated CK. We checked. If during a first watch you can actually calibrate to a skinny Louis CK enough to concentrate on the material, good for you.
For the rest of you, get a sense of pre-enlightened Louis CK. Funny enough, but quite obviously over-rehearsed and therefore disconnected from the audience. Then consider that he’s now one of the most sought over creative forces in more than one medium.
Proving that 90s fashion never goes out of style, Silverman appears here in her early-twenties and shows massive potential—solid writing and decent delivery, but her act never quite entirely gels.
Obviously this was merely a teething process. 24 years later, Silverman’s routine’s are as tight as [insert crass, Silverman-esque metaphor], and she’s added the somewhat acclaimed The Sarah Silverman Show (2007-2010) to television’s premium back-catalogue.
Success came easy to Jerry Seinfeld. He admitted on HBO’s Talking Funny that after a comparatively brief period of hitting the comedy clubs, his star began to rise.
From his appearance on Carson, Seinfeld went from strength to strength, co-creating one of the most syndicated shows of all time, an animated movie about a bee, and the classic (in the minds of the stand-up community) documentary Comedian.
Today he drives around in overpriced cars with overpaid celebrities in the overrated Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler
The blockbuster film careers of Carrey and Sandler are far cries from their early forays as stand-up comedians, but both spent their early years braving the comedy circuits—Carey starting out in the late-seventies and debuting on the tonight show in 1983, and Sandler starting out in that same year until his SNL fame in 1990.
While Carrey is better suited to carrying both comedic and tragic feature films, we can’t help but think Sandler could have benefited from keeping up with the stand-up, if anything to influence his choice in film roles.
Early on, Barr broke barriers all over the shop despite the suggestion that she was a difficult talent to handle.
Roseanne’s contribution to comedy can’t be overstated. She’s spent a career sticking to her guns, and it was that very resilience that paved the way for the liberation of other female comedians.
The Raw Comedy Roadshow airs on SBS2 Wednesday night at 8pm. Watch the first episode: