People have bandied around the phrase “comedy is the new rock’n’roll” for decades, but heavy metal was a different matter. Still, a handful of stand-ups have nailed their colours to the mast down the years and incorporated metal’s ethos in their sets over the years. From fast-talking hellraisers to deceptively clean-cut gagmeisters, here are the comedians who have forgone material on airline food in favour of doing a ‘bit’ on mosh pit etiquette.
The original rock’n’roll comedian. Sam Kinison was the first guy to really blur the lines between stand-up comic and rock star. He was a hard-partying, hard drinking, fast talking force of nature, who was often accompanied on tour with a live band backing him, and his cover of The Troggs Wild Thing was Grammy nominated. But, even without all that, it was Kinison’s act that truly reflects why he is listed here, his screaming, uncompromising, religion baiting act was genuinely shocking, brave and challenging for the era.
If he was a band he’d be: Ozzy Osbourne
Hicks was hailed as a shaman and a prophet as much as a stand-up comedian. Adored by many early 90’s musicians, he was even immortalised on the inside sleeve of Tool’s Ænima album following his death in 1994. Hick’s swaggering, ferocious and highly articulate diatribes against everything from government regimes to the New Kids On The Block are the stuff of legend… come on, you already know this surely.
If He Was A Band He’d Be: Tool
Bostonian motormouth Bill Burr is one of the finest and most respected comedians on the face of the planet right now. Much like much of metal itself, Burr's act is fuelled by frustration, righteous indignation and often (very, very often) seething anger frothing out at a million words a minute. As well as being a fantastically funny ball of rage, Burr is also a drummer and huge rock fan. On his podcast he has spoken at length about his love of 80's metal, and in one particularly memorable section he waxes lyrical on his admiration for Meshuggah's Tomas Haake after his drum teacher brought him along to a Meshuggah show.
If He Was A Band He’d Be: Meshuggah
The self-proclaimed “occult comedian” is a unique voice and presence in UK comedy. Their show Andrew O’Neill’s History Of Heavy Metal has been performed with a full band and celebrates the thrills, absurdities and legends of our genre. Plus, they play in steampunk band The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, who were able to sell out London’s Highbury Garage with no label or press support. Funny as fuck, DIY as fuck.
If They Were A Band They’d Be: Wolves In The Throne Room
Brian Posehn is the metal musician’s comedian: his odd, angry, geeky stand up led to him being the first comedian to be signed by Relapse Records. He’s performed at festivals all around the world, written the liner notes for Anthrax’s 2004 album, The Greater of Two Evils and recorded music with Scott Ian. Despite never compromising his love of metal to appeal to a bigger or cooler audience, he’s appeared in comedies such as The Wedding Singer, the TV show Californication and as a wedding minister in The Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer. For an overweight, thrash metal loving nerd, that’s some going.
If He Was A Band He’d Be: Slayer
A man who supported Metallica due to his uncanny onstage impersonations of Hetfield and Ulrich as well the entire line-up of AC/DC, Breuer was known to many in the early 90’s from his appearances on Saturday Night Live. In recent years, he’s found a new audience of metal and rock fans as his dexterous vocal cords can summon up what seems like an entire band on cue, as he playfully apes the ludicrous nature of a huge stadium rock show.
If He Was A Band He’d Be: AC/DC
In the often regimented and pre-planned world of stand–up, where off the cuff quips may have been practised in front of a mirror time and time again, Doug Stanhope stands alone as a true original. A man who barely even looks like he could be bothered to change his underwear every other week, let alone write jokes, Stanhope is every inch the rock star comic. He famously phoned his terminally-ill mother live from the stage every night on a London run just to see the reaction of the crowd on the night that she might not answer. Belligerent and with a brutally sharp tongue, watching Stanhope live is as dangerous and unpredictable as any rock band you care to mention.
If He Were A Band He’d Be: Butthole Surfers
This Pittsburgh comedian deals in the sort of brutal one liners that will knock an audience sideways, gasp, applaud and then feel a sense of cheek-reddening shame, plus he once destroyed Donald Trump on the the latter’s Comedy Central Roast. Look out for the story about his grandmother’s eulogy and offending the entire nation of New Zealand about a shark joke on his television show, The Jeselnik Offensive.
If He Was A Band He’d Be: Fantômas
When Sonisphere booked a stand-up comic to headline the second stage just before the arrival of Slipknot in 2011, there was only one candidate: Bill Bailey, former Metal Hammer Golden God award winner. Sure, he’s a regular on mainstream TV panel shows, but then he’ll cover Enter Sandman on bike horns during his live show. Plus he loves Mastodon and Wardruna. Good lad.
If He Was A Band He’d Be: Mastodon
Canadian slacker Wool’s dual loves of heavy music and excess have cemented his place in the hearts of rock and metal fans. His stoner lifestyle and flights of fancy on his booze and drug-crazed lifestyle are absurdly funny. The man is a walking, much more articulate, episode of Beavis And Butthead, plus the fact that Wool looks like he should be playing bass of Lynyrd Skynyrd helps… both for his comedy and with his bond with rock fans.
If He Was A Band He’d Be: Monster Magnet
A deafening mess of a man, Helm picked up a British Comedy Award for breakthrough artist. You’d never have thought it was possible if you’d spent long enough experiencing his ramshackle stand up sets, where he often enters to Saxon, spends half the set screaming about how he’s the greatest human alive before it all descends into chaos and we are left with a bitter, angry shell. One of the funniest car crashes around.
If He Was A Band He’d Be: Guns ‘N’ Roses
He may have, as he admits himself, a “Coldplay face”, but don’t be fooled, British comedian Ed Gamble is a proper metal fan. In various specials he’s spoken about his previous experiences at gigs and in bands, he’s recorded a show at notorious Camden heavy metal hotspot The Black Heart and even has a podcast called Lifers where he travels around the country getting to know the likes of Brian Tatler from Diamond Head, Skindred’s Benji Webbe and even bloody Dani Filth.
If he was a band he’d be: Bring Me The Horizon