Imaginary Cocktail Party: 5 Stand-Up Comics

You know that thing where you imagine inviting famous people, living or dead, to a dinner party? No? Well it’s a sort of conversational game that can come up at cocktail parties.

Like in that Golden Girls episode where Rose first meets Myles and she goes to a party at his place, but she’s intimidated because the other guests are all college professors who are exchanging witty conversation, like who they’d invite to dinner, and chuckling appreciatively over one woman inviting “Browning…. without his wife!”

Hahaha! Très drôle! Uh, yeah…. anyway…

I sometimes think about who I’d have to an imaginary dinner party, if I could invite anyone in the world, living or dead, but I can never come up with an answer. For one thing, those parameters are way too broad. I need some limits or my brain wanders off into a tangle. For another, a dinner party is a lot of work and even an imaginary dinner party makes me stress about what to serve. (Sad, but true.)

So… instead… I’ll imagine a cocktail party. Maybe even a potluck kind. BYOB so everyone drinks and snacks on whatever they want. And I’ll narrow it to a theme: stand-up comics.

I’ve always had a thing for stand-up comedy. Going way back to a childhood of George Carlin, and Comic Relief, and VH1’s Stand-Up Spotlight (hosted by Rosie O’Donnell). Oh, and remember when Dorothy did stand-up at an open mic night in a different episode of the Golden Girls? (I may watch a lot of Golden Girls.)

That makes it pretty hard to pick just 5 stand-up comics for my imaginary party, but I’ll give it a whirl, and I’ll stick with living people, because as George Carlin would be the first to point out, dead is dead. There are no cocktail parties once you’re dead, except in a Weekend At Bernie’s situation and no one wants that.

1. Patton Oswalt

Patton gets the first invite for several reasons. His last show (Annihilation, which I saw live in 2017) was an amazing blend of comedy and tragedy as he wove in stories about his wife’s death and his struggle with grief and single-parenting. He’s worked on shows that I love (Dollhouse !!! and Agents of SHIELD). He’s from the area where I now live, occasionally frequents my friends’ comic book shop, (though I’ve yet to run into him there), and once gave an amazing commencement speech at a local high school.

Also, I’m going to see his current show later this month. So, clearly, we have a lot in common and would become instant best friends if this imaginary cocktail party were to actually happen.

2. Eddie Izzard

Another stand-up comic who I’ve been lucky enough to see live a few times. The first time I saw him live, I remember having the distinct thought, “This is a guy I’d love to have a beer with.” Well, maybe not a beer (wheat allergy), but a drink, preferably in a bar where we could sit at one of those round, high-top tables and chat—very fast—jumping from one topic to the next, working in wacky observations about those around us, and blending up a crazy mix of intellectual and silly humor.

But I can happily adapt that fantasy to bring him into my home cocktail party of hand-picked comics. I doubt I could keep up my end of witty banter in this crowd, but I’d be content to sit back and watch Eddie stir up the others!

3. Tig Notaro

I discovered Tig through her Amazon show, One Mississippi, before checking out her stand-up comedy. And I love her in both. Her comedy has an ideal blend of dry and playful. She tackles some dark subjects, but with such a straightforward manner that you can’t help but nod along and hope to pick up some of that frank confidence for yourself. At our cocktail party, maybe I could sit beside her, trying to play it cool, while we roll our eyes together at some of the sillier antics.

Until she comes out with some perfect observation that makes me choke on my wine, losing all of my pretend cool, but knowing that’s okay because Tig doesn’t care about stuff like that.

4. Trevor Noah

Yep, I didn’t know Trevor Noah until he took over The Daily Show, and I didn’t know what to expect since he had some pretty big shoes to fill. But, wow, has he won me over. His autobiography, Born a Crime is must-read storytelling. And his stand-up? He crosses cultural boundaries to zero in on the human connection. It doesn’t matter that he grew up on the other side of the world and had some wild experiences. He gets to the heart of what’s funny in a totally relatable, human way.

And now I’ve gone and picked 3 male comedians, which is somewhat misleading since I actually watch as many (or more) female stand-up comics than men. I’m having a hard time choosing between so many hilarious women, like Kristen Schaal, Jen Kirkman, Ali Wong, Chelsea Peretti, and Michelle Wolf, but I have to stay true to my roots to pick…

5. Ellen Degeneres

Ellen and I go way back, pre-talk show. To her earliest stand-up days. To her sitcom. To her audio books—which are great on road trips! We’re old pals (who have never met). Ellen’s humor is timeless. It’s classic. On the surface, it’s light and cheery, but when Ellen wants to, she can cut to the quick. I think she’d be laid back, despite her mega-fame, and make an interesting addition to our party mix. Plus, let’s face it, with Ellen Degeneres, you get funny and someone to lead the dance breaks. And what’s a cocktail party without dancing?

Whew! That list was harder to create than expected and I’ll likely wake up at 2 a.m. thinking of someone I wish I’d added, but I’m sticking with it.

Your turn. You can invite 5 living (or dead, your call!) stand-up comedians to a cocktail party. Think about it and let me know in the comments!

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5 years ago

1. Robin Williams- he will always hold this spot.
2. Eddie Izzard
3. Johnathan Stewart
4. Ellen Degeneres
5. David Letterman

Angel Fischer
5 years ago

I don’t really follow comedians, but the one person I thought of before I read your list was Trevor Noah. And since I like small parties, I’d be content to spend the whole time chatting him up.

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