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Ten Or Twelve Of The Greatest Stand-Up Comedy Movies Of All-Time

Musicology 101
Ten Or Twelve Of The Greatest Stand-Up Comedy Movies Of All-Time
SEPTEMBER 2, 2014 BY THE NUTTY PROFESSOR

Bette Midler on stage in Paris in 1978. (Photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)
Bette Midler on stage in Paris in 1978. (Photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)

Gabriel Iglesias is one of the funniest and most likable stand-ups working in comedy today. He sells out shows all over the world and his DVDs always threaten the million-units-sold plateau. That’s why it’s a surprise to learn that his concert film, The Fluffy Movie, opened with a $1.3 million weekend. As of Sept. 1, the genial funny man’s live performance flick has earned a total of $2.8 million at the old box office.

I think Guardians of The Galaxy earned more than that in its first 17 minutes of release.

The Fluffy Movie was filmed during two Gabriel Iglesias tour stops—one on Feb. 28 and another on March 1. The movie was directed by Manny Rodriguez and it dropped July 25. The project was filmed and released in less than five months.

Don’t feel bad for Iglesias or his release. Despite the seemingly underwhelming returns, The Fluffy Movie is the tenth highest grossing comedy film of all-time (if time started in 1982). By the way, the list was compiled by the Web site Box Office Mojo.

If you think about it, this is not only one of the smallest cinematic genres of all-time but it’s also on life support—only two of the two dozen films are from this decade. Not only have YouTube and Netflix killed the stand-up comedy concert film but so has the price of movies tickets.

If I’m going to take out a mortgage to go to the Cineplex, the movie better have at least three dimensions and enough explosions to permanently damage my hearing. I’m not the only one who thinks like this. Combined, the 24 films on BOM’s list earned less than $232 million.

Eddie Murphy Raw (1987)
The highest grossing stand-up comedy concert film of all-time is Eddie Murphy Raw. It made more than $50 million. At the time, and until 1990, Raw held the record for the most utterances of the f-word. That iniquitous curse was spoken 223 times. Now, the movie isn’t even in the top 30.

The Original Kings of Comedy (2000)
The Original Kings of Comedy was directed by Spike Lee and contained sets from Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac. The film was a huge success making more than $11 million in its opening weekend. It also inspired a bunch of similar enterprises like The Original Latin Kings of Comedy, The Blue Collar Comedy Tour, The Queens of Comedy, and The Comedians of Comedy.

Anecdotally, The Comedians of Comedy (starring Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, Brian Posehn, and Maria Bamford) was released on Nov. 11, 2005. It was shown in two theatres and grossed $354 in its opening weekend and $549 overall.

Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip (1982)
Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip was the most lucrative concert film of the legendary comedian’s career. That’s saying something because his 1983 concert film, Richard Pryor: Here and Now, is sixth on the list with $16 million. Remember, Pryor invented this genre in 1979. His Richard Pryor: Live in Concert is the first movie ever released that was devoted to one guy doing nothing but telling jokes on a stage. In Live on the Sunset Strip, Pryor discusses the infamous incident when he was freebasing cocaine and lit himself on fire.

Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain (2013)
Let’s look at the numbers. Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain grossed $32 million at the box office and cost $2.5 million to make. His traditional film, Ride Along (2014), grossed $153 million and had a budget of $25 million. I wonder what kind of movie Hart will make next? The diminutive comic’s 2011 stand-up film, Laugh at My Pain, comes in at number eight (thanks to $7.7 million in gate receipts). Let Me Explain was filmed at Madison Square Garden while Laugh at My Pain was recorded at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.

Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat (2002)
Martin Lawrence has two stand-up concert films in the top ten: Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat is fifth with $19 million and 1994’s You So Crazy is seventh with $10 million. Runteldat was filmed at the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington D.C the same venue where Eddie Murphy shot his television special Delirious. You So Crazy was originally rated NC-17. It was then sold to another studio who released it as “unrated.”

Divine Madness (1980)
I’ve mentioned directly, or indirectly, nine of the top ten stand-up comedy concert films of all-time. The only film I have yet to enumerate is number nine, Divine Madness. Yes, the one with Bette Midler. Although the 94-minute film has the Divine Miss M singing 16 songs it also has her performing several stand-up comedy routines. Apparently, that qualifies it as a stand-up comedy film. The $5.3 million it earned at the box office qualifies it for ninth place.

Comedian (2002)
If you reject Divine Madness then The Fluffy Movie moves to number nine and Comedian, starring Jerry Seinfeld, slides to number ten. You can argue that Comedian should be disqualified from consideration because it’s more of a documentary than a performance concert. If that’s the case then our new number ten is Eddie Griffin’s DysFunKtional Family (2003), which grossed $2.25 million.

Gabriel Iglesias
For the sake of argument let’s not count Divine Madness or Comedian. If we do then all ten of the top grossing stand-up comedy concert films star minorities. All but one, Iglesias’ The Fluffy Movie, star African-American comedians.

Also, of all the comedians in the top ten (or 12 if you include Midler and Seinfeld) only Iglesias and Hart are in their 30s. In fact, everyone but Eddie Griffin (46) and Martin Lawrence (49) are in their 50s. While many on the list still perform stand-up, all most all are working in film or television. The only member of the top ten (twelve) that’s primarily a stand-up comedian is Gabriel Iglesias.

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