Opening today in limited release, American: The Bill Hicks Story is an excellent documentary profiling the now-legendary stand-up comic and social satirist. Hicks was very much on the rise when he died of pancreatic cancer back in 1994 (he was only 32); in the years since his untimely demise, his reputation has only continued to grow. Much of that is due to his nine scathingly brilliant comedy albums — seven of them released posthumously, all among the most beloved stand-up discs of recent years. In celebration of his legacy, we decided to take a look at some of the most influential comedy albums of all time; take a look after the jump, and add your picks in the comments.
Bob Newhart, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart
THE ALBUM: Newhart, a former accountant and copyrighter, had a distinctive stand-up style, in which he would frequently perform one-half of conversations (often over telephones), realistically portraying a fundamentally silly situation. His first album for Warner Brothers, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, was an absolute sensation; it went to number one on the pop charts (unseating Elvis Presley) and winning both Album of the Year and Best New Artist at that year’s Grammys — not exactly a common occurrence for a comedian.
INFLUENCED: Newhart’s straight-laced, profanity-free mix of silliness and observation influenced countless comics, from Robert Klein and Jay Leno to Jim Gaffigan and Ray Romano.
SIGNATURE BIT: “Abe Lincoln vs. Madison Avenue,” in which Newhart plays a slick adman advising the President on how to cultivate his public image.