Open Mike Eagle picks his five favorite current comedians


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If Open Mike Eagle isn’t the funniest rapper currently working, he’s close. His first full-length, ‘Unapologetic Art Rap’ featured a skit from ’30 Rock’ writer and ex-’SNL’ cast member Hannibal Burress, riffing on art rap battles and a lifetime supply of hummus (winner take all). His follow-up EP featured sardonic meditations on girls with Skrillex haircuts and Eastside night crawls gone terribly wrong. His latest record, ‘Rappers Will Die of Natural Causes,’ finds him prophesying a future where rappers need Viagra and bypasses.

The Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based Eagle is a hip-hop Billy Pilgrim, unstuck in time but uniquely modern. He’s shadowed by the ‘ever-present gay ghost of James Baldwin,’ while rapping and singing over Low End Theory electronic soul. To keeps things balanced, Eagle has a melodic baritone that softens the blistering humor. For both, he’s been embraced by the local comedy world, playing at UCB and now Largo, where he opens Saturday night for the acerbic wit of Paul F. Tompkins.


In advance of the show, Pop & Hiss asked Eagle to name his five favorite working comedians (Tompkins excluded).

Hannibal Buress ‘I really think that [Buress] can be one of the next greats. I was there when he literally first started doing comedy. He was funny as a person, but not the sort of guy who tried to be funny all the time. It’s amazing to see where he’s been able to take his act. He observes life in an extremely unique way. There’s jokes about everything from rap to cancer walks to kids pointing finger guns at him at airports.

‘On my first album, I had him write a bunch of material about his reactions to the term ‘art rap.’ He hadn’t even heard the album, but he just gave me a bunch of jokes. I edited it together to a minute and half, but he did five minutes of riffing. It was perfect because art rap is almost a term of endearment -- it’s an accurate way to describe what me and a few other people, but there’s definitely some comedy in the nomenclature, and he brought it out.’

Recommended listening: Hannibal Buress -’My Name is Hannibal’

Anthony Jeselnik

‘He’s got a crazy formula for writing jokes. [Jeselnick] is one of the best comedy writers right now. He’s brilliant. Each one of his jokes has like these little M. Night Shyamalan twists at the end. He’s in the vein of Mitch Hedberg, but whereas Hedberg was stoner observations rooted in language, [Jeselnick’s] stuff is more about storytelling. But they’re both joke-based comedians with great deliveries.’

Recommended listening: Anthony Jeselnick -- ‘Shakespeare’

Brent Weinbach

‘He’s really dark. He he has a recorded album, but it’s mostly skits, not just him in a club telling jokes. [Weinbach] also plays the organ, so there are organ interludes. It’s really experimental stuff. I highly recommend YouTubing some of his videos, he makes up dances and they’re all ridiculous. It’s definitely not for everyone. His comedy is really experimental.’

Recommended viewing: Brent Weinbach --- YouTube videos

Maria Bamford

‘Maria Bamford does a lot of impressions and has this Andy Kaufman sort of vibe. Even in her standup, she uses an artificial voice when she’s narrating about herself. She’s a character playing other characters. One of my favorite bits of hers is when she does Meridith Baxter Birney doing a celebrity home tour, then mid-story, she starts talking about her apartment in the same context.’

Recommended viewing: Various Comedy Central specials

Jim Gaffigan:

‘He’s a Midwestern guy. Out of everyone on this list, he has the most mainstream appeal. But he also has an undercurrent of social commentary that you might not catch at first. He also has this wild technique after he tells his jokes, where he puts on the voice of a really uptight conservative audience member responding to what he just said. It sets him apart. He does his joke and clowns the audience and stretches the humor even further.’

Recommended viewing: Jim Gaffigan-’Hot Pockets’


Download: Open Mike Eagle’s ‘Art Rap After Party’ EP

Pop & Hiss Premiere: The Hellfyre Club’s ‘Prometheus’ mixtape

SXSW 2011: Politicking with Shabazz Palaces and Open Mike Eagle

-- Jeff Weiss