Why Stand-Up Comedy Is Best For Long Road Trips

Image credit: Kristen Lee/Jalopnik
Image credit: Kristen Lee/Jalopnik

There’s a lot you can do to keep yourself entertained on lengthy road trips. Listening to music is always an excellent option. Podcast are great as well. Scintillating conversation. For me, it always has been and forever will be listening to stand-up comedy.


My parents work a lot, so when my brother and I were kids, taking vacations was extra special. Our first vacations were always to the national parks out West. Oftentimes, those trips involved very long car rides. Las Vegas to Mesa Verde and back. Helena, Montana, to Jackson, Wyoming. San Francisco to Los Angeles or the Oregon border.

Before we left for these trips, my dad would come home about a week beforehand with about five or six new comedy albums he’d picked up from the record shop. Sometimes he listened to them through samples, but I think a lot of the time it was just picking them blind.


Throughout the trip, we’d work through them, stripping the plastic off the jewel cases and sliding the discs into the rental car’s CD player.

In the beginning, the humor was cleaner, with fewer swearwords and indelicate material. Jeff Foxworthy’s You Might Be A Redneck If and Totally Committed. Bill Engvall’s Here’s Your Sign, Dorkfish, Now That’s Awesome and Cheap Drunk: An Autobiography. Ray Romano’s Live At Carnegie Hall. Jerry Seinfeld’s I’m Telling You For The Last Time. Brian Regan’s Brian Regan: Live. Stephen Wright’s I Have A Pony. Even Bill Cosby’s Why Is There Air?

And as we got older, so did the material. Kathleen Madigan’s In Other Words. George Carlin’s What Am I Doing In New Jersey and Complaints And Grievances.

CDs and tapes were always the best for us, because in that awkward time before smartphones and Spotify, the only other way you could kind of get comedy was through satellite radio. There were a few stations that had it, sure, but they almost never played full shows, only select tracks. I always hated that. You’d be listening and get to a set you were really into, and then it would end abruptly because the station switched to another clip.


Stand-up comedy really shines when you listen to a full show from beginning to end. Most comedians will make references to materials from earlier, which makes them extra funny. They feel like inside jokes this way. Hearing them on the radio as disembodied and unrelated snippets is jarring. It doesn’t do the comedian justice.

That’s why road trips are the perfect place to listen to stand-up. Your hands are free and you’re generally traveling on highways, so your mind is also available to listen. If the show is good, the hours melt away and everyone is in a better mood by the end of it.


Timing is also important. Stand-up has its time and place. I’ve found that the best time to dig into a new album is right after you hit the highway and the map says you’ve got a couple hundred miles to go on that road before taking an exit. At that point in the drive, you’re usually awake and fresh. You engage more easily with what’s going on around you. You’re more open to something new.

I don’t get to listen to much comedy when I drive in a car nowadays and I kind of miss it. New cars don’t have CD players anymore, Spotify doesn’t always have full shows and I can’t exactly Netflix it while I drive. I guess I could always try YouTube from my phone, but that’s kind of the same as Netflix. I’m not sure what to do.


If you currently don’t listen to a lot of stand-up comedy, I highly encourage you to give it a try the next time you have a long drive ahead of you.

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.

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“...because in that awkward time before smartphones and Spotify, the only other way you could kind of get comedy was through SATELLITE RADIO.”

You know you’re old if you got a chuckle out of that last line.