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Banish 2014's Woes With Our Stand-Up Comedy Picks

What were the best jokes of 2014? With professional comedians using multiple platforms to tell jokes in every format, we certainly don't have enough space for a comprehensive list — but I asked three comedy insiders to at least name one or two.

Rod Man, winner of this year's Last Comic Standing, was a fan favorite from the beginning, says the show's co-executive producer, Page Hurwitz. The Georgia native's joke about self checkout lines was a huge hit. "It was so funny because he was able to take something seemingly mundane and trivial and just blow it up into the most hilarious story and hilarious joke," she says.

In past seasons of Last Comic Standing, Hurwitz says, comedians have mined the same material for jokes. "For a while there were a zillion jokes about ADD and online dating." Not this year. "We saw that there was really a variety of material and styles," she says. One of Hurwitz's favorites: A wickedly funny "perversion of history" joke by comedian Tracey Ashley that mashes up Oprah Winfrey and the Underground Railroad.

Caroline Hirsch is the owner of the club Caroline's On Broadway and founder of the New York Comedy Festival; she singles out a joke called "Women Don't Dress for Other Women" from Whitney Cummings' Comedy Central special.

Hirsch says Cummings' beauty and unsparing wit are an explosive combination. "She looks like a Vogue model on stage, and she's just so smart and bright, and when you put that beautiful face together with what comes out of her mouth, I think it's even funnier," says Hirsch.

As a booker for Conan O'Brien, J.P. Buck is knee deep in who's got the best jokes on any given day. Buck figures, on average, he watches about 50 stand-up performances per week, and he's unequivocal about his favorite this year: "Bill Burr is the best working stand-up comedian today," he says. Burr's joke about old people getting in trouble is spot on, Buck says. "When a tidal wave of social and media outrage builds, Bill is the one voice that speaks up and says 'Hey, wait a second. Let's look at all the facts and have an educated discussion here.' "

In his Netflix special I'm Sorry You Feel That Way, Burr has one long, scathing joke about the outrage over controversial remarks by chef Paula Deen, Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson and former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Burr says, "They're old. What did you think they thought?"

Leave it to the professional fool to make the most sense.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.
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