Comedian Joe List now has his own stand-up special, but these are his favorites

Joe List released "I Hate Myself" in August, and it's since been viewed more than a million times on YouTube.
Joe List released "I Hate Myself" in August, and it's since been viewed more than a million times on YouTube.Comedy Central

Last month, South Shore native Joe List released his first hour-long comedy special, “I Hate Myself,” on Comedy Central’s YouTube channel. He had recorded it in March at his favorite club, the Comedy Cellar in New York, just before live entertainment shut down, and after his most prolonged period of working as a headliner.

And so it might sound strange when List says “there’s not many things I’m more grateful for" than the timing of the special. Since it dropped on Aug. 6, “I Hate Myself” has surpassed a million views on YouTube. List owes its success to arriving at a time "when everyone’s kind of around and looking for entertainment.”


The special also comes just a couple of months shy of his 20th anniversary in stand-up, which he started performing in Boston fresh out of Whitman-Hanson High School. It’s tough for List to wrap his head around the fact he’s been doing comedy for his entire adult life, but he’s thankful he got the opportunity to record “I Hate Myself” when he was ready for it. “A lot of times the industry pushes young, and they want youth,” he says. “But to me, the general public wants good. And good is usually 10 to 20 years in.”

There are a handful of specials that List, a self-proclaimed comedy nerd, can point to as having inspired him or shaped his view of stand-up. This is his list, in no particular order:

George Carlin, “Doin' It Again” (1990)

As a kid, List watched this enough times to memorize the jokes — even if he didn’t understand them — and impress his friends at school. “It was pretty insane for a 9-year-old kid to be quoting George Carlin. It gave me the feeling of, I’m saying something to people that they’re not supposed to hear, and it felt good. And exciting.”


Chris Rock, “Bring the Pain” (1996)

List watched this just as he started doing comedy. “It just blew my mind,” he says. “And this time I actually got the jokes because I was now 18.” At the very end, Rock walks backstage exhausted. “I remember thinking, wow, to get a view of that feeling of killing a special like that, he must feel so good. And he should feel so good. I remember thinking I would like to experience that, feel that.”

Patrice O’Neal, “Elephant In the Room” (2011)

List calls O’Neal one of the best ever, although he says he can’t claim him as an influence, since no one could really capture O’Neal’s singular presence. “Patrice just felt so natural. He seemed to never even write anything or record sets. He seemed like he was doing comedy in such a different way.” O’Neal, who grew up in Roxbury, died at 41 in 2011, several months after this special was released. List especially admires O’Neal’s material on relationships and race.

Brian Regan, “I Walked On the Moon” (2004)

This is a favorite for many reasons, because of the strong material and because Regan shot it at a club. “I still think comedy at a comedy club is the best,” says List. “If people go watch ‘I Walked On the Moon’ by Brian Regan, you will laugh harder than you’ve laughed in a long time. It’s just a hilarious guy at a comedy club. That’s what I wanted my special to be.” Regan has a particular cadence that’s catchy as a pop song, especially when he goes into his “dumb guy” schtick, contorting his features and making guttural utterances to show absolute befuddlement. “It’s hard not to do it onstage,” says List. “I’ll still fight with it when I write a bit, and it’s something where I’m dumb in the bit, and it’s hard not to do that, like, ‘Okay!’”


Louis C.K., “Chewed Up” (2008)

While List admired a lot of comics from his favorite specials, Louis C.K. was more relatable. “He was a Boston teenager who started out at the same [age] in the same city, standing there in a black T-shirt saying, ‘This is crazy, listen to this thing that happened.’ That, to me, was like, ‘Oh, this is what I do and want to do.’ ” Family and aging are some of the bigger themes on “Chewed Up.” List wasn’t in the same life space as C.K. at the time, but the attitude resonated. “It just felt relatable to me,” says List. “That was closer to where I come from.”

Dave Chappelle, “Killin' Them Softly” (2000)

Chappelle had been around awhile by the time this special came out; he’d appeared in Mel Brooks’s Robin Hood parody “Men In Tights” and helmed the stoner comedy “Half Baked” with Jim Breuer. But with “Killin' Them Softly,” a wider audience got to see what was special about him as a stand-up. “We’re watching a guy get seen the way he should be seen, him at his best,” List says. “At one point he does a joke and a guy just stands up and high-fives him in the middle, which I always loved.”


Richard Pryor, “Live in Concert” (1979)

“It’s the best comedian’s best work,” says List. For all the praise Pryor gets as a trailblazer, people can forget how good he was at creating scenes and lacing them with punchlines. “He does the thing about his heart attack,” says List, “and he acts it out and he’s laying on the ground, and he’s arguing with his heart, and his heart is like, squeezing him, and he’s like, ‘No more pork, okay! No more pork!’”

Joe List performs live Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at WooHaHa at the Worcester Beer Garden, 64 Franklin St., Worcester. Tickets: www.thewoohaha.com