[/ul]“Big” is a relative term here. Define it as you see fit. Mine are all comedians in early-mid 90s New York City.
Jon Stewart, 1991: Closed a show at Stand Up NY on the Upper West Side. Very conversational, “casual” comedy. Very funny.
I knew the woman who ran the open mike nights on Monday at the Boston Comedy Club in Greenwich Village, NYC, which I lived down the street from, and which was my summer hangout. I saw all of the following there, in 1994:
[li]Mark Maron: I remember the bare bones of what would become his signature style. Seemed promising, but not really funny then. He was trying too hard.[/li][li]Todd Barry: Like Maron, I could see his low-key style forming. Funny.[/li][li]Dave Atell: Had a certain obviousness to his jokes. Yelled a lot. Hit-or-miss.[/li][li]Dave Chappelle: He was there with the owner of the club, who was also his manager. Manager was convinced he would be huge. Easily the funniest of all, like a young Bill Cosby. The timing, the originality, everything seemed fully formed.[/li][/ul]
There was another guy whom I saw only once, and to my knowledge never made it big. He came out, briefly looked at the audience, and then launched into the most manic combination of Jerry Lewis, a Tex Avery cartoon character, and meth-addict-on-overdrive that you could ever imagine. Didn’t say a single coherent word. I stared at him slack-jawed for a full 30 seconds before bursting into amazed laughter. If anyone has any idea who this might have been, I’d love to hear about it.