There have been memorable stand-up comedy bits about love, marriage, parenting, divorce, politics, dating, sex, friendship, jobs, and pop culture. But one niche area of stand-up comedy that is often overlooked, because it is not particularly weighty or philosophical, is food. Plenty of comedians have made jokes about food. Jim Gaffigan has pretty much made an entire career out of it. Food jokes are among the most relatable, because everybody eats and everybody feels the joy and shame of eating certain foods, and they have even been made by the most astute of political comics. So, here are the 10 funniest bits by stand-up comics about food.
10. Mitch Hedberg on club sandwiches
Mitch Hedberg is one of the great underrated comics. He died tragically young from a drug overdose in 2005 at the age of just 37. Fortunately, he left behind a hell of a legacy and he will long be remembered as one of the greats. Hedberg was always a favorite of comedy legend Steve Martin and the influence of his snappy, deadpan delivery and combination of absurdist one liner jokes with non sequiturs can be felt in the comedic stylings of some of today’s alternative favorites, like Demitri Martin, Tig Notaro, Zach Galifianakis, and Emo Philips. Plus, Aziz Ansari has noted Hedberg’s influence on his own early career. In his famous bit about club sandwiches, Hedberg ponders where the name comes from. Why do they call it a club sandwich? Hedberg imagines an actual club that was formed by some people who realized they all had a shared affinity for sandwiches constructed using three pieces of bread. He also jokes that while he often orders a club sandwich when he is in a deli or a restaurant, he is not actually a member of said club and he doesn’t know how he keeps getting away with ordering club sandwiches in these places.
9. Eddie Murphy on McDonald’s
When is Eddie Murphy going to go back to being Eddie Murphy? What happened to him? Back in the 1980s, he was the funniest person in the world. He was doing edgy, hilarious, groundbreaking, brilliant stand-up comedy and he was appearing in movies that were instant classics. But in recent years, his career has taken a massive downward spiral. He needs to get back to making good movies where he can be himself. He’s been put in family movies recently, but Eddie Murphy needs to be unfiltered. Murphy’s stand-up routines about his mother were always the best, like the bit about mocking the kids who couldn’t afford ice cream that leads into the bit about how his mother used to throw her shoe at his head when he misbehaved. The bit about McDonald’s is definitely the funniest. He talks about how, as a kid, he would go nuts if he was ever near a McDonald’s restaurant. He would beg his mother to take him there and she would promise him that she could make a burger that was better than McDonald’s. So, he’d go home and get all excited about the plump, juicy, McDonald’s like burger that was coming his way and then his mother would serve him a flat, pathetic “welfare burger.”
8. David Cross on Coors Light
David Cross is typically a political comic. He’s like a modern day Bill Hicks, tackling the Bush administration and the Trump administration with his searing satirical wit, just like Hicks would if he were alive today. But even Cross has found himself performing bits and routines about less heavy topics like food. His album Bigger and Blackerer (a play on the title of a latter day Chris Rock album) features one routine near the end about the changes being made to Coors Light. Okay, Coors Light isn’t a food – it’s a drink. But it still falls under the same category. He jokes that the drinkers of Coors Light must be idiots, because the company keeps changing it to make it easier to drink. They made the mouth hole bigger in order to keep the spillages down to a minimum. They made the mountains “cold activated” so that they will turn blue when they’re cold enough to drink. Cross jokes that people who aren’t complete morons should be able to drink a can of Coors Light without spilling it and should also be able to tell if a drink is cold from touching it (“Of the five senses available to me…” he quips sarcastically).
7. Chris Rock on Krispy Kreme
Chris Rock is like a modern day Richard Pryor. He is just as brilliant and edgy and hilarious and groundbreaking as Pryor. It’s saying a lot, since many people would consider Richard Pryor to be the greatest standup comic who ever lived, but it is not undeserved. Rock is not only really funny, he is also known for his political humor. He does deep and insightful routines about the sorry state of the world. He jokes about racism in America and corrupt political powers and police brutality – he doesn’t usually joke about trivial topics like food. His beloved bit about Krispy Kreme actually comes in the middle of a rant about the surge of drugs into the streets of America. He discusses the tragedy of drug addiction as a national epidemic and then he gets onto talking about Krispy Kreme. So, how does he get from talking about the drug epidemic in America to talking about Krispy Kreme? Well, Rock theorizes that the reason why Krispy Kreme tastes so amazing and is so incredibly addictive is that there is crack in it. The way he sees it, that’s the only way that Krispy Kreme could be so fantastic. It’s laced with crack. And frankly, it’s difficult to argue with that. Krispy Kreme is delicious.
6. Ellen DeGeneres on airline food
Ellen DeGeneres has been back on the club circuit doing stand-up comedy in recent months, because she is building up her first new hour of material in years in anticipation of her first ever Netflix special. She was never a particularly niche comic, despite being a lesbian whose sexuality lost her a show when conservative network executives found out, and often jokes about mainstream topics that are clean and fun and that everyone can relate to. Every comedian in the world has jokes about airplane travel and airports and flight attendants and airline food, because the nature of being on the road and traveling all over the country to perform means that they spend most of their time waiting for flights or sitting on planes or eating airline food. So, it’s a huge frame of reference for comics and it’s a source of a lot of their material. This means that we’ve been treated to a ton of different jokes and angles that concern airplane travel and airline food. It has become a hacky area for comics. Even the mere mention of a joke about airline food is enough to make your eyes roll. But somehow DeGeneres, with her sharp wit and ability to find the relatable humor in everything, makes it great.
5. Jerry Seinfeld on seedless watermelons
Thanks to his eponymous sitcom, which was one of the most popular and critically acclaimed TV series of all time, there are literally hundreds of classic Jerry Seinfeld routines available for viewing whenever you want. And since there was only time for a short one or two minute stand-up segment per episode of his show, they are all tight, succinct, well rounded, meticulously written routines without a word to spare. This one about seedless watermelons is a highlight, along with the bit about how sports fans support the shirt rather than the player and will boo a player that they once cheered if they get transferred to a new team and therefore wear a different shirt (“Boo! Different shirt!”). Seinfeld’s point is a strong one: scientists are working on removing the seeds from watermelons when there is still no cure for cancer and global warming continues to get worse and worse. Instead of curing terminal illnesses, these guys have decided that the most important scientific quest of their time is eliminating the need to spit out seeds while you eat watermelons, and the hassle of picking them up afterwards. Of course, that is a pain in the ass, but the iconic observational comic’s point is that there are more pressing matters at hand than watermelon seeds. And Seinfeld doesn’t stop there. Like any great comedy bit, he introduces what is ridiculous about the world as it is now and then he suggests where the trajectory is heading for the future, and that’s where it gets really absurd as he talks about scientists finally leaving fruit alone when they are able to grow ready made fruit cups in the ground. There’s probably a team of brilliant scientific minds working on that very idea right now.
4. Maria Bamford on cheese spray and box wine
Maria Bamford can’t cook. She is not a culinary genius. That much is clear from her bit about cheese spray and box wine. She begins by talking about her concerns over Paula Deen’s excessive use of sugar and butter in her cooking and it somehow devolves into Bamford demonstrating the act of spraying Easy Cheese and box wine into her mouth simultaneously. That is the extent of her cooking ability. That’s a meal for her. The way she does it is hilarious. Bamford has really been making a name for herself in the past few years, but she has always been brilliant. She was one of the comics – and the only female one – who appeared alongside Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, and Brian Posehn on their “Comedians of Comedy” tour that brought their alternative brand of comedy to a bunch of unconventional venues like rock clubs. She has since moved on to selling out her own shows and releasing her own specials, and she deserves it. She’s worked really hard, she has great energy as a comic, and she’s freaking hilarious. She usually tells self deprecating jokes about herself and her family life. She’s been awarded the American Comedy Award for Best Club Comic.
3. Wanda Sykes on carbs
We all like carbs. Carbs are in all the best things: bread, cake, sugar, pie, chips, cookies, everything. So, when we are told that to lose weight or to get in shape or to live a healthier life, we will need to cut down on carbs in our diet, we don’t want to do it. We like our carbs – don’t take them away from us! There is no comic who has encapsulated the frustrations of carb cutting more than Wanda Sykes. She explains in great detail why she chooses to ignore her personal trainer when they tell her to cut down on carbs. She says, “Let me explain something to you. I’ve got this medical condition, and when you cut out my carbs – my foot? Right up your ass.” Wanda Sykes has become famous for her small supporting roles in comedy movies and her guest appearances as herself on Larry David’s HBO sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm. She won a Primetime Emmy Award for her work as a writer for Chris Rock’s talk show, and a few years later, as she made a name for herself on the stand-up comedy scene, she was named one of the 25 funniest people in America in Entertainment Weekly.
2. Patton Oswalt on the KFC Famous Bowl
Patton Oswalt has a bit about Lean Cuisine meals that features on Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time, arguably the funniest and tightest of all his albums. It’s on the track titled “Creative Depression,” in which he says that since his daughter was born, his depression has had to get creative in order to make him unhappy, because now, he has a bundle of joy to give him eternal hope in the world. So, one day, he was browsing the Lean Cuisine meals at the mall while “Africa” by Toto played in the background and he had the sudden urge to kill himself. We’ve all been there. It’s Lean Cuisine. But that is not his finest routine about food. That title goes to his joke about the KFC Famous Bowl. In case you’re unfamiliar with the KFC Famous Bowl, it is a dangerous high calorie KFC meal featuring creamy mashed potatoes, sweetcorn, and bite sized chunks of crispy chicken, all layered on top of one another and then drizzled with the Colonel’s famous gravy and topped with three types of cheese. If you want a heart attack, give it a go. KFC calls it the “Famous Bowl.” Oswalt calls it a “failure pile in a sadness bowl.”
1. Jim Gaffigan on Hot Pockets
Jim Gaffigan is the king of stand-up comics who joke about food. Every special he’s done has had a memorable bit about food. Of course, Gaffigan jokes about a wide variety of topics that are both deep and relatable. He makes jokes and observations about his life as a parent, which is common subject for stand-up comedy due to it being one of the most primal and identifiable parts of life, and he also talks a lot about his Catholic faith. But his third, slightly less philosophical subject is food. He has written two books, one titled Food: A Love Story and the other titled Dad is Fat. He is a man who enjoys his food. Gaffigan has a ton of beloved and brilliant jokes about food, but his standup routine about Hot Pockets is arguably his most famous. This is the one that made him a celebrity. He came up with the routine one night when he was watching a Hot Pockets commercial on TV that was so ridiculous that he actually mistook it for a Saturday Night Live sketch. When he realized that this absurd commercial was real, he took it and ran, encapsulating the shame of eating Hot Pockets in a hilarious stand-up bit that made him one of the biggest comics in America.