Comedians have always pushed boundaries and questioned social taboos, so it's no surprise that so many of them have become part of cannabis culture - whether intentional or not. So to celebrate their contributions, we've put together a five-part series on the best marijuana moments from the all-time best standup comics, based on the list of the 50 Top Stand-Up Comics published earlier this month by Rolling Stone.
10. Mort Sahl
Mort Sahl paved the way for later comics like Jon Stewart and Bill Maher by blending comedy with sharp political commentary. In his standup sets, Sahl used humor to reflect on hard-hitting issues like racism, bigotry and even marijuana prohibition.
Unfortunately, there aren't any clips of his cannabis jokes online. But here he is breaking down how politics in America works - or doesn't work, to be more accurate. Even though the piece is 50 years old, parts of it ring true today.
9. Dave Chappelle
You can't talk about Dave Chappelle and marijuana without mentioning the 1998 stoner comedy Half Baked, which he co-wrote and starred in as Thurgood - a custodian who resorts to dealing marijuana to bail out a friend who's in jail for accidentally killing a diabetic police horse.
While promoting the film, Chappelle opened up about his own experience with cannabis.
"I don't know if you've ever smoked reefer, fellas," he told Conan O'Brien and Andy Richter. "It's a kind of substance that makes you have friends that you have nothing in common with but reefer. I'm serious. It was getting bad. I mean, I have friends in the Klan. They call me up, 'C'mon jigaboo, we're smoking.' And I'm like, 'Who is this?' But, of course, I go."
8. Bill Cosby
While acknowledging the severity of the allegations against Bill Cosby, the writers at Rolling Stone noted that "scrubbing his name from the annals of stand-up would be impossible." The same is the case for the role Cosby played in shaping attitudes toward cannabis at the height of his career, from cracking pot jokes in standup sets on stage to discussing in The Cosby Show episode 'Theo and the Joint' (1985).
7. Jerry Seinfeld
The observational comic doesn't touch cannabis jokes often. But he did crack a few in an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee when fellow standup Louis C.K. chatted about smoking a joint and going to the movies. Which isn't a casual affair for C.K. He told Seinfeld that it takes an intense amount of preparation to get to the theatre without any mishaps or unwanted encounters harshing his buzz.
6. Joan Rivers
The late Joan Rivers was not a fan of recreational drugs. "I like to be in control," she told Access Hollywood back in 2012. But she did make an exception for cannabis. "I love marijuana because it's giggly," she added.
And she once smoked cannabis on her reality TV show just to annoy her daughter Melissa. Here are the highlights from that cannabis episode of Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?
5. Chris Rock
If you want to hear one of the best takedowns of cannabis prohibition, check out Chris Rock's standup special, Never Scared (2004), which features a blistering rebuke of the War on Drugs.
"The government always says drugs are illegal because they're bad for you and they're trying to protect society. But the government don't give a fuck about your safety. They sell guns at Walmart. They don't give a fuck about you. The government doesn't want you to use your drugs. They want you to use their drugs. So every night on TV you see a weird-ass drug commercial trying to get you hooked on some legal shit. And they just keep naming symptoms till they name one that you fucking got."
4. Louis C.K.
Nobody nails the trials and tribulations of middle-aged cannabis consumers like Louis C.K. In his set for Live at the Beacon Theater (2011), C.K. opened up about the challenges faced by former smokers who want to have a puff again after laying off marijuana for years.
"I'm standing in the parking lot with these kids - like, 20 years old - and we're smoking a joint. And I'm taking huge hits because I had no idea. I didn't know they'd been working on this shit like it was the cure for cancer. I didn't understand the technology that's gone into making pot so powerful. Cuz when I was a kid, you could just smoke a joint for a while. Now you take two hits and you go insane. It's not doable anymore."
3. Lenny Bruce
No topic was too controversial for the late Lenny Bruce to tackle in his outrageous standup acts. So it's no surprise that the counterculture comedian challenged social taboos around cannabis. And he predicted the future of cannabis legalization in America.
"They're gonna legalize marijuana because every law student I know smokes it," he once said.
2. George Carlin
In the HBO special George Carlin: 40 Years of Comedy (1997), the legendary comedian told Jon Stewart about the role cannabis plays in his writing process.
"I find with pot - I'm not a big drug user anymore, but I always have a joint somewhere near me," he said. "I hardly touch it - maybe once a month. That would be frequent for me. But when I'm writing something, and I write perfectly straight, perfectly sober. And I write a whole lot of stuff - six, seven, eight, nine pages. And I really pour it out. Then, the next day, one hit - that's all I need now - one hit and it's punch-up time! Time to get this thing going. And with that sort of judicious use, I do find there's some value in it."
1. Richard Pryor
The late Richard Pryor began his standup career as a TV-friendly comedian who could get a few laughs now and then with safe jokes. Then in the early 1970s, he reinvented himself as the outrageous comic that we know him as today.
Part of his new act involved taking on risqué topics like racism, sex and drugs. So it's no surprise that one of his earliest sets after his self-reinvention featured confessions about smoking pot.
Banner image: Comedian/actors Jerry Seinfeld (L) and Chris Rock attend the "Top Five" premiere at the Ziegfeld Theatre on December 3, 2014 in New York City. (shutterstock.com)