Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Comedy's 17 Favorite Comedians

Who are the best working comedians today? Who's creating the best material, influencing the most people and is the flat-out funniest? You could base the answer on a number of factors, be it ratings and box office success or Twitter followers and YouTube views. But I was more interested in who the people who look at and create comedy all day, every day think are really working at the highest level. The people who actually are actively getting comedic content out there, whose lives revolve around comedy. So I asked them.

I asked 12 people in the comedy business who their favorite current comedians are. The resulting list has the names you'd expect on it, but also some you might be surprised by.

In order to compile the list, I had people send me a list of 10 names in order from favorite on down. I assigned each choice a point value, with a #1 pick netting 10 points, a #2 pick netting 9 points and so on. I then added the points up. It was pretty straightforward, as I am no scientist.

Here are the judges who were kind enough to contribute lists to the survey:

-Eric Appel, Writer/Director, Funny or Die
-Owen Burke, Creative Executive, Gary Sanchez Productions
-Neil Campbell, Artistic Director, UCB Theatre LA
-Mike Farah, President of Production, Funny or Die
-Sam Grossman, Director of Original Programing and Development, Comedy Central
-Hallie Haglund, Writer, The Daily Show
-Chris Kelly, Writer/Director, Onion News Network
-Anthony King, Artistic Director, UCB Theatre NY
-Rob Kutner, Writer, Conan
-Christine Nangle, Writer, Saturday Night Live
-Sam Reich, President of Original Content, CollegeHumor
-Ricky Van Veen, Co-Founder and CEO, CollegeHumor

And now, onto the list:

15 (three-way tie): Maria Bamford

Maria Bamford is an excellent standup, and what makes her sets so unique is her voice. One of the best voice actresses around, she's voiced characters in shows such as Home Movies, Daria, Tom Goes to the Mayor and Hey Arnold! In her standup, she utilizes her voice to portray her dysfunctional family, amongst other characters, making her standup surreal yet personal.

15 (three-way tie): Hannibal Buress

Hannibal Buress has turned a promising standup career into jobs writing for two of the highest-profile comedy shows on TV: Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. Having written for SNL last season, he's now on board for the upcoming season of 30 Rock. He also released a great standup album this summer entitled My Name is Hannibal, cementing his reputation as one of the sharpest joke writers out there.

15 (three-way tie): Chelsea Peretti

If you don't follow standup comedy too closely, you probably recognize Chelsea Peretti from her great guest appearances on Louis and The Sarah Silverman Program. But she's an amazing standup and writer in her own right, and she's also been behind some things you've probably heard of, such as Black People Love Us and the New York Rejection Line. Her profile has been steadily rising for a while now, and it seems like it's only a matter of time before someone gives her her own show.

14: Brett Gelman

Brett Gelman has become one of Funny or Die's go-to actors, and with good reason. Gelman always seems a little unhinged, a little on the edge of doing something that nobody else involved in the shoot planned on. He's got a certain controlled creepiness to him that he expertly utilizes in videos such as his Mr. Celebrity series and Death Bed Subtext. And clearly, the higher ups at Funny or Die have taken notice: Gelman's character in The Other Guys was absolutely scene-stealing and one of the best parts of the entire movie.

13: Donald Glover

Donald Glover is one of those people who has so much ambition it makes everyone else seem lazy in comparison. What has he done in the past couple years? Let's review: his comedy group Derrick is one of the most popular sketch groups on the internet, a popularity they used to help finance their movie Mystery Team, which was sold to Roadside Attractions at Sundance. Donald was also a writer at 30 Rock, a job he quit only to be cast as Troy in NBC's Community mere days later. He started doing standup only about a year ago, but he's already had his own Comedy Central special. Oh, and he's also a musician, naturally, selling out shows under the name Childish Gambino. And what have you done this year?

12: John Mulaney

John Mulaney started out doing standup and making videos with writing partner Nick Kroll. Now, he's scored one of the most coveted gigs in comedy: writing at Saturday Night Live. And last season, he appeared on Weekend Update as a featured correspondent. When not working on the show, he's tirelessly touring and writing, and a move either up the ladder at SNL or into movies seems inevitable. And with a natural delivery honed on the stage, he's a natural choice for the writer/anchor role that people like Tina Fey and Seth Meyers have filled in the past. Could we be looking at Seth Meyer's replacement as head writer and Weekend Update anchor when he eventually leaves the show? It wouldn't be too much of a surprise.

11: Jon Glaser

Jon Glaser spent many years making people laugh from behind the scenes as a staff writer for Late Night with Conan O'Brien, but despite him now having his own show, you still may not recognize him. That's because his show, Delocated, is about a family in the witness protection program, so he's always seen in a ski mask and with his voice distorted. The show is wonderful, an absurd and surreal take on reality TV that's like a natural extension of the many characters Glaser created for Late Night. Oh, and he also was the frontman of Detroit Octane, the joke band that played "Barack Obama-sistable" during the 2008 election, so clearly he gets bonus points for that.

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  • http://sorryyourheinous.tumblr.com/ sorry your heinous

    I can't disagree with anyone on the list (which is pretty remarkable for the internet). That says to me there are a lot of really great comedians working right now and they are reaching an audience. One huge omission, in my opinion: Paul F. Tompkins!

  • sunspot

    Ricky Gervais has managed to ride ridiculously far on one bitchin' show and a British accent

  • saythatscool

    Granted, Lulu Roman is great. But somebody who works that blue has no place on this list with the incomparable Donald Glover.

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  • Choire

    I wish black people were still funny. But they're so late 90s.

    • saythatscool

      Bamford's kinda ghetto.

    • http://sorryyourheinous.tumblr.com/ sorry your heinous

      I was going to make a joke about Mark Curry (Hangin' With Mr. Cooper!) and whatever happened to him, but decided to check first (just to make sure he hadn't died or something). Turns out, he was involved in an aerosol can explosion that burned 18% of his body! He considered suicide the recovery was so painful. I had no idea. Hope he's still doing comedy, I did like his show.

      • dlew

        Im not going to research weather or not this is true, because I don't want to ruin how funny this comment is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jess-Lane/4200405 Jess Lane

    Now ask the 17 people who appeared on the list who THEIR favorite comics are, and get another REALLY interesting list. And so on, and so on, and so on. (Really, I'd love to see that.)

  • http://www.twitter.com/becca_oneal Becca

    This should definitely be the list of the top earning comedians.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kate-Jones/1193611601 Kate Jones

    I seriously don't understand how Tina Fey didn't make this list.

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  • someguy

    Ugh, Amy Poehler? She's so aggressively awful and her entire shtick for years has been to be loud. Her youthful enthusiasm on UCB and Conan were super-grating and now she's graduated to a completely non-justifiable (and equally annoying) smugness. I don't care that she married Will Arnett (who is actually talented and hilarious). She's just terrible.

    Tina Fey should've gotten the spot on this list and I don't even care for her either…but she's not as over-the-top terrible as Poehler. Ugh.

    • http://sorryyourheinous.tumblr.com/ sorry your heinous

      Do you watch Parks & Recreation? She's incredible, she's not a "loud" character (and definitely not smug), in fact I think she gives Leslie a remarkable depth, more than simply being funny.

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  • linernotesdanny

    So, I had to go google Daniel Kitson, and wouldn't you know he has a podcast! The sound is poor, and it seems to be updated basically never, but it gives you an idea of what he does with a long set, and it's pretty great. You can subscribe here.

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  • dlew

    No PFT or Kindler?

    • patrick roddy


    • Jolene

      PFT is the king.

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  • http://whyamiwearingpants.tumblr.com Alix

    This list is perfection, I love every single comedian on here.

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