A comedian who simply stands up (hence the name) on a stage in front of his or her audience and tells jokes. Usually the comedy comes from humorous observations on life and people.
Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Eddie Murphy all started out as standup comics.
Standup comedy in and of itself is unfortunately something of a dying art. I mean, sure, you can see Chris Rock, Dennis Miller, Jerry Seinfeld, and George Carlin on HBO specials, but these people are all popular because they are going back to stand-up. When was the last time you saw a truely funny, little-known comic debut on David Letterman or Jay Leno? And if you dare set foot in a comedy club, you will undoubtably leave without truly laughing once. Those stand-up routines that have not become formulaic one-liners have merged with performance art to become exhibitions of dysfunctional childhoods and survival experiences that are only a bit funnier than what you'd hear at your standard AA Meeting. Julia Sweeny and John Leguizamo have actually had successful play runs of doing basically just that.

Some blame Hollywood for the death of stand-up, as it takes the talented comedians and gives them good jobs on sitcoms, then takes the funny ones and offers them good jobs as writers for sitcoms, leaving us with Gallagher and Carrot Top.

Others blame the rise of irony in American Culture. Sprite is airing self-referential commercials that would have made good jokes in a stand-up routine not 10 years ago. Professional Wrestling barely even pretends to be for real anymore, but people still go to see it. How can you top that? Making ironic statements about how advertisers make ironic statements somehow falls flat.

If standup comedy dies in our lifetime, it may be tragic, but it also may be just the way it is. Like vaudeville, which was killed when TV shows found they could deliver higher quality for less, the popularity standup seems to have contributed to its own demise. It will be interesting, though, to see what can come to replace it. I have always been partial to improv, which makes the most of its interactive format that you simply cannot get through Television, or even the internet.

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