Best comedians and cynical, insightful social commentators

People have recommended Bill Hicks almost as a gold standard. He was anti-social before it was cool and I’ll give him that. His comments on drugs could be insightful. But there is much more to being anti-social than just bashing christianity. Plus I never thought he was very funny when I listened to his albums. I like funny comedians with good social commentary that is a mix of insightful and cynical, but Hicks wasn’t anything special to me. His bits on smoking never interested me.

Carlin was better, but Bill Burr and Doug Stanhope are arguably the best comedians at both being funny and insightful while addressing social issues. Aside from them Patton Oswalt, Louis CK, David Cross, Bill Maher deserve honorable mention.

Richard Pryor should definitely be high on the list.

George Carlin hands down.

What about Lewis Black?

Chris Rock is brilliant at this.

But he forgot about the funny part his last few years.

Louis CK

Bill Maher’s Be More Cynical standup HBO special from 1999 (2000?) definitely fits that bill.

Jon Stewart

Carlin remains my absolute favorite in this field.

It’s hard to get more anti-social than “we’re a virus with shoes” or “Hitler was an underachiever.” He did the virus with shoes line long before The Matrix, I might add. And his bit on the people who hate people club is fun. He did sometimes get so busy haranguing people over God or policy that he’d omit the funny parts, I agree. But what makes him different from some of the other people we’re talking about here is that he adopted a tone of being more disappointed than angry and he did seem to have faith, sometimes, that people would achieve something better. I thought that was unique among social critic type comedians.


A very insightful social commentator, and for some reason he’s still the only person in broadcast TV who knows how to compare a politicians’ present positions to his past ones using video. But I wouldn’t call him a cynic. From what I can see, he’s an earnest old fashioned liberal who doesn’t trust institutions and thinks the politicians who get on the news are hypocrites and liars and the people who broadcast the news are distractable nitwits, but he seems to believe the people and the country can do better. These days that’s close to starry-eyed idealism. And that’s not a criticism of him at all; I think it’s why his show is what it is.

Try written stuff. Groucho Marx was even funnier as a letter writer than a screen presence. Great stuff. Mark Twain was bust your ass funny and insightful. Truly timeless stuff. And if you happen to be a conservative, H.L. Mencken is the wittiest conservative writer I’ve ever read.

From Australia, try Steve Hughes.

Plenty of his work on youtube. A bit of a left-wing bent, but has a good line in pointing out the absurdities in how some parts of our society has evolved.

Maybe Ricky Gervais. He portrays himself as more of a smarmy prick than a cynic, but his stand-up rails against the religious establishment a lot.

I don’t know, he sees more like just witty entertainment to me. I used to watch his show all the time, and I though it was humerous, but I can’t think of anything in particular that stands out. Some of these other comedians, Carlin, Hicks, Louis CK, Chris Rock - I think some of what they said will be remembered. I think once John Stewart is gone he’ll be forgotten relatively quickly.

Yes, Carlin was brilliant, but heavily influenced by Lenny Bruce. Who pretty much founded the cynical, insightful social commentator genre.

The OP said he’s looking for funny comedians. :wink:

I agree with you about Hicks. He was decent for reasonably insightful comments and allegations of hypocrisy against his political opponents. As a comedian he was just not funny imo. I havent seen enough of Carlin to comment on him. And I agree with you about Bill Burr. One of the few comedians who can literally make me laugh out loud.

Was Will Durst big in the States? Or was he one of your unwanted exports to us Brits?

I swear there is a link between how unfunny a comedian is and the amount of whooping and hollering their audience emits.