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  • Writer's pictureStand-Up Comedy Historian

The Bizarre Backgrounds of CC Presents

Updated: Jan 20

I began watching Comedy Central Presents when I was a teenager in 1999, and I had always noticed the often absurd and downright bizarre backgrounds that appeared onstage every Friday night.

The URL KILLS me—remember when we had to type "www." to get to a site, fellow millennials?

I assume the set designer was trying to make a name for themselves because each comic had their own completely different background, often with weird accessories that I guess matched their comedy style.

The weekly show ran from 1998 until 2011, and in that time it featured a LOT of now-famous comedic voices (and a few names that will leave you scratching your head).

Here are some of the most unique backgrounds that I could find online, and each comic has a link to either their full episode or a segment of their CC set if it's available on YouTube.

UPDATE: I found out the name of the art director for Comedy Central back then: Chas Plummer!

He is a photographer now, but he definitely made his mark on the comedy world—these sets were nothing if not memorable!

Let's go!

Wanda Sykes (first episode. I DID watch it a ton of times, and I still remember the braces=Jamaica routine)—a red curtain with shiny yellow sections

Bo Burnham (youngest ever comic on the show since he had just turned 18)—his "bedroom" (cuz he's the kid in the attic, get it?)

Mike Birbiglia—a white wolf's face

Maria Bamford (an immediate favorite that has stood the test of time)—a navy blue velvet curtain...not very fancy, but it let her brilliance shine!

Mitch Hedberg (a huge favorite of mine...I still thinking of him when I get a donut receipt lol)—flames/possibly the sun?

Jo Koy—green and black swirls

Kathleen Madigan—a map of the United States and luggage

Bill Burr (that hairstyle is how I saw him in college when he was touring!)—an abstract painting in a living room with sports gear

Judy Gold—a gold safe with gold bars (too literal for my liking!)

Elvira Kurt (loved her episode and her absolutely hilarious delivery)—a castle in the distance and giant boulders

Kyle Cease—another bedroom, this time with exercise equipment and a duffel bag (I'm pretty sure I own the same green and blue one from Land's End)

Jim Gaffigan—a cornfield and farm (yes, he's from the Midwest, but yeesh)

Bonus video of Jim and his wife reacting to his episode in 2018!

Patton Oswalt—a movie theater

Dave Attell—explosions and something that looks like a plane dropping bombs (?)

Eugene Mirman—paintings behind red velvet ropes

Dane Cook—drum set with his name on it and guitars

Anthony Jeselnik—arm holding a Molotov cocktail

Dom Irrera—an Italian market (complete with hanging salami!)

John Sneed—schoolroom with a chalkboard that says "I will tell jokes in class" (must have been the class clown lol)

Jeremy Hotz—a giant column

Dan Levy—late night show with an image of New York City (pretty meta!)

Greg Fitzsimmons (I watched this one many times and loved Greg's comedy)—a public park with graffiti on the wall

Demetri Martin (the first comic I became OBSESSED with and led to me seeing Spiral Bound in the summer of 2004!)—simple red velvet curtain that later becomes the foresty stage of his "comedic mind" where his jokes come from

Bil Dwyer—a desert painting

Ardal O'Hanlon—a mousehole with a GIANT shoe next to it

Slovin and Allen (I loved this duo, and both of them were in Demetri's episode as well as Eugene!)—a "Slovin & Allen" fancy gold sign

Tom Rhodes—a fancy study

Lewis Black—THE END in all caps (a great choice for his dark and jaded comedy)

Marc Maron—bright colorful spots, strings of white lights, and images of circus performers (a strongman, a fat lady, a gorilla, etc.)

He had another set later on with a bunch of sheep (including a stuffed one to really drive home his point)

Nick Thune—outdoor camping equipment plus trees and a backdrop of a mountain

Kristen Schaal (first saw her as Mel on Flight of the Conchords)—a throne and suit of armor in a castle

Mike Britt (saw him perform in college too!)—red blocks and a pink couch

John Heffron—Industries sign with metal pipes

Todd Glass—drum set and tinsel backdrop (looks like a lounge act)

Tom Cotter—name in Lego blocks (my son would LOVE this one haha)

Adele Givens—a photo of parents + drive-in movie = photo of her (one of my favorites haha)

Arj Barker (I saw him open for Flight of the Conchords in 2016!)—a cartoon drawing of a living room with a cat on the couch spray-painting "Arj Barker" on the wall

Nick Swardson—an arcade

Doug Benson—a carnival game booth with basketballs and stuffed prizes

Doug Stanhope—a picture of a man with his mouth taped shut

The Sklar Brothers (loved Randy and Jason on Cheap Seats!)—their baby pictures

Zach Galifianakis—a piano (deceptively simple because it grows to a magnificent finale complete with a choir, Zach in a leotard, and jokes written on a sketchpad like Demetri!)

Another interesting fact is that this originally aired six DAYS after 9/11 and was the first episode of CC Presents after those tragic events.

I guess America was ready to laugh again! (No, no we were not.)

Brian Posehn (one of the Comedians of Comedy along with Patton, Maria, and Zach)—his METAL composition notebook

Stephen Lynch (another favorite episode of mine...I've ALWAYS loved musical comedy)—a giant fairy tale book

Apparently he did a set later in the series when I wasn't watching as much—a Satanic mass!

Jimmy Carr—his last name in lights

And another Jimmy Carr—a British flag, couch and desk with a swivel chair

Sabrina Matthews—a dog and cat in a house with a chair and window

Gary Valentine—a baseball field fence

And the MOST insane one of them all...

Chris Hardwick and Mike Phirman (Hard 'N Phirm)—a dinosaur with an American flag planted in its back giving a thumbs up and an oil rig with the sun going "ooh!"

That's all I could find. Please let me know if you have any more humorous examples so that I can add them to this list!


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