Our Top 5 of 2008 lists continue...
TOP FIVE MOST IMPROVED COMICS OF THE YEAR, 2008 by Pat Barker
1) Kent Haines. Perhaps this wasn't an improvement as much as it was Kent shining when given an opportunity, but there's no way anyone else could head this list. I don't know the exact time line of when Kent got here from Alabama, but he might not have even been in Philly one year ago. Now he's one of my favorite local guys. Smart, funny material. It's just a shame that the University of Alabama are choke artists and blew the National Championship. Can't win 'em all, Kent.
2) Aaron Hertzog. Aaron's always been a good joke writer, but I feel like he's turned a corner recently and gotten even better. His joke about the Hide-and-Go-Seek Killer is brilliantly crafted and anyone who quotes Dr. Dre in their act is good in my book. Check out his set on his MySpace from Doogie Horner's Ministry of Secret Jokes show.
3) Conrad Roth. It's tough for me to get into the one-liner stuff too much, because so many people do it horribly. Conrad is not one of those people. I did a show with him back in May, and there were definite bright spots, but it was still very hit-or-miss. Over the next six months, he wrote a bunch of great new stuff, ditched a bunch of mediocre old stuff, and now his act is solid. Conrad consistently impresses me by pulling off a style I never could.
4) Pat House. While this list is mostly relegated to relative newcomers, I feel like I have to make mention of the strides House has made recently. A lot of his newer jokes are really good and he's been tweaking older jokes and making them better too. I did a show with him a few months ago and was very impressed. Pat and I have probably done over 100 shows together, and this was the best I've ever seen him.
5) Derek Gaines. Quite possibly the most underrated comedian in Philly. Every time I see him, he's funnier than the time before and has developed some new killer bit. It's impressive. He'd definitely be higher up on the list if I got to see him perform more. Derek will "make it" in comedy in some way, guaranteed. Ridiculously good stage presence, great material, and an overwhelming likeability. He's even cut down on his use of ridiculous acronyms, and that is admirable.
For the record, picking five people for this was insanely difficult. There are lots of people who made strides over the course of '08, and recognizing them all in this limited of a forum is impossible. Special "shout out" to a whole bunch of others that make me laugh very consistently - the Doogies and Joe Docs and Brendan Kennedys and Chip Chantrys of the world. Overall, I feel like Philly has a very very good scene and I'm excited about 2009.