Video: Ranting, Raving, Doing the Dishes

A new group of offbeat comics thrives on cable

Stepping in front of a live audience all alone is a pressure-packed moment for any stand-up comedian, but no one seems to handle it worse than Bob Goldthwait. Wavering between what appears to be incapacitating stage fright and drug-induced hysteria, Goldthwait delivers his lines in a choked, trembling voice that regularly erupts into shrieks of agony. "Thank you very . . . thank you very . . . thaaaarrrrgggghhhh!" were the first words from his mouth in a recent HBO special taped at Manhattan's Bottom Line. Two or three more half-finished sentences followed, then an angry shout of defiance: "I never...

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