5 Conscious Stand Up Comedians Redefining Comedy

Conscious Comedy: 5 Stand Up Comedians With Stakes in the Ground

Laugh and learn by digging deep into these five stand up comedians who address serious issues through comedy.

“What’s the deal with airline food?”

Now that we’ve gotten the heavy-hitting stuff out of the way, let’s talk about other things.

Comedy serves as a natural distraction and relief from the trials and tribulations of everyday life. However, it doesn’t always have to be light one-liners, and can instead serve as a powerful medium for addressing heavy, hard-to-digest dialogue in a different, more understandable context.

Check out these five stand up comedians who don’t always keep things comfortable and instead use part of their artform for social consciousness.

Disclaimer: Some clips below are NSFW, so view at your own discretion.

Maria Bamford

I won’t mince words: Maria Bamford is one of my favorite stand up comedians on the planet and has been so since I first watched her on Comedy Central Presents as a kid. As an unorthodox, quirky female comedian with bipolar disorder — “the new gladiator sandal,” as she calls it — she addresses issues such as gender inequality, mental illness, and suicide in ways that bring about an”Aha!” kind of perspective, clarity, and laughter. The spaces into which she pushes the medium are often uncomfortable, but wildly important.

Tig Notaro

Imagine for a moment that you’re hospitalized with a life-threatening disease. Then, on top of that, your mother passes away a few days after you’re discharged. Now on TOP of that, your relationship ends. Now on TOP of that, you’re diagnosed with breast cancer and require a double mastectomy. Meet Tig Notaro.

“Hello. Good evening, hello. I have cancer, how are you? Hi, how are you? Is everybody having a good time? I have cancer, how are you?”

Notaro experienced what seems like a lifetime of tragic events in the span of four months, and her stand up special, “Tig Notaro: Live!” — recorded just days after she was diagnosed with cancer — is unlike any other comedy album you’ll ever hear as it intimately addresses all of the above with humor, emotion, and an impact that cannot be understated.

Patton Oswalt

If you don’t recognize Oswalt’s name from his illustrious stand up comedy career, you may recognize him from his enormous social media presence that has been the subject of many articles, tweets, and other discussions, which have collectively made Oswalt into one of culture’s biggest critics and satirists.

Though he’s currently on a much-needed break from social media, he utilizes his Twitter following of 1.8 million as a significant off-stage platform to offer challenging perspectives both in support of liberal causes and as critique of the leftist PC police who seem eager to judge and sensationalize nearly anything.

Danielle K.L. Grégoire

While a wonderful stand up herself, Danielle’s biggest social impact comes from her founding and management of The Comedy Womb, a “female-focused-but-not-female-exclusive” stand up comedy space in Seattle. In the boy’s club that is the greater comedy world, Grégoire has successfully created a place where female stand up comedians can feel safe and supported as the Womb reserves half of its open mic spots for self-identifying women comedians. Adding in the room’s well-understood content policy against misogyny, racism, homophobia or hate-ridden material, Grégoire has created a place for everyone to laugh together.

Margaret Cho

Loud. Crass. Cho.

Maragaret Cho is an undeniably unique figure in the stand up comedy world, and as a bisexual, female, Asian-American comedian, she is a subcultural reservoir from which many perspectives may be drawn. The subject matter of her comedy focuses at length on LGBT issues — helping create her large following in this community — while also covering race, eating disorders, substance abuse, gender, and more.

Follow Garth on Twitter @garthinkingcap

Related on EcoSalon

Amy Schumer of Comedy Central: Are Offensive Female Performers Ever Really Good?

From ‘Chapelle’s Show’ to ‘Girls’: 7 Streaming TV Comedies For When You’re Feeling Blue

Women On Film: Tina Fey Makes the Screams Go Away

Photo by Paul Hocksenar