The Next Wave 2015: The Top Up-and-Coming Comics in Los Angeles

nextwave-la-2015Welcome to the second semi-annual edition of The Next Wave, Splitsider’s roundup of exciting new comic voices from around the country.

Splitsider readers are no doubt familiar with most of the established stand-ups in the country – ones who have risen up via TV appearances, podcasts, Twitter — but what about the newer names who will be popping up on everybody’s radars over the next year or two?

Today we’re taking a look at the biggest, fastest growing comedy scene in the country: Los Angeles. Land of endless summer, countless TV writing gigs, and hundreds of amazing comedy shows every week, LA’s the best place to discover your next favorite performer (before they make it big). We reached out to some of the city’s most informed comedy bookers, festival producers, journalists, and industry insiders, and asked them to share their current favorite up-and-comers with us. The Next Wave was compiled with input and guidance from:

Troy Conrad (Set List, Prompter)
Jamie Flam (Hollywood Improv)
Emily V. Gordon (The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail)
Mandee Johnson and Joel Mandelkorn (The Super Serious Show, Hot Tub with Kurt and Kristen)
Jake Kroeger (The Comedy Bureau)
Abbey Londer (Riot LA Comedy Festival)
Matt Lottman and Frank Chad Muniz (Comedy Living Room)
Julie Seabaugh (Variety, Rolling Stone)
Mike Still (UCB LA)

Los Angeles’s Next Wave:

Ashley Barnhill (@ashley_barnhill)

A skilled writer with almost unnervingly deadpan delivery, Barnhill has quickly established herself as one of LA’s sharpest comics (as evidenced by her current undefeated streak at the Comedy Store’s infamous Roast Battle). Last year, she was a finalist on Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s HBO series, Project Greenlight, and she’s currently working on the upcoming season of Maron; she’s also been opening for Dave Chappelle on some of his most recent tour dates.

Rachel Bloom (@racheldoesstuff)

Equal parts comic, singer, and actress, former Robot Chicken writer Bloom created one of last year’s smartest and most original pilots, My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. She also voices several characters on BoJack Horseman, and has released an entire album of Chanukah parody songs. Bloom’s behind several dozen incredibly catchy (and incredibly nerdy) parodies including the Hugo Award-nominated “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury” and legit dance anthem “Die When I’m Young”.

Drennon Davis (@drennondavis)

Musician and comic Davis blends his skills onstage with the help of a few looper pedals and some impressive beatboxing. In his completely unique show, The Imaginary Radio Program, Davis’ one-man band plays dozens of characters from stations across the dial, deftly skewering pop music and talk radio banter. He’s appeared on the original Last Comic Standing series and, more recently, on Adam Devine’s House Party.

Jesse Elias (@finalfanjesse7)

A completely unpredictable master of darkly absurd, layered humor, Elias has appeared at some of the country’s biggest comedy festivals (including Just for Laughs, where he was featured on the 2014 New Faces showcase). He was a writer on season two of The Eric Andre Show, and is also known for writing some of Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction’s craziest stories.

Mary Holland (@mholland85)

An incredibly talented comic actress with a range and innate charm reminiscent of Kristen Wiig’s, Holland frequently stars in videos for Funny or Die, CollegeHumor, and UCBComedy.com. She’s also appeared on numerous episodes of Comedy Bang! Bang! (both the podcast and the IFC series), and had a memorable role on the first season of Silicon Valley. A staple of the LA improv scene, she performs live with several UCB house teams, plus acclaimed improv supergroup Wild Horses.

Matt Ingebretson (@mattingebretson)

A writer for The Soup and The Onion, Ingebretson’s ability to put a wry spin on absolutely anything is mirrored in his standup (and in his love of posting absurd signs all around LA). He’s the creator of several web series that feature standups, including Matt’s Game Chamber and Idiot Fencing, and he founded humor anthology The Impolite, a collection of writing by LA comics.

Jak Knight (@itsjak_knight)

Knight’s the kind of comic whose easygoing affability can charm any crowd, a skill that earned him a spot on Comedy Central’s 2014 Comics to Watch list. He’s a Seattle native who moved to LA almost immediately after performing standup for the first time. It was a good move — he frequently appears on some of the best alt comedy shows in the city, and he landed a job writing for animated series Lucas Bros Moving Co.

Whitmer Thomas (@whitmerthomas)

Named one of Just for Laughs’ New Faces in 2014, Thomas is an Alabama native with undeniable Southern charm and a truly magnetic stage presence (and it comes across onscreen: last year, Thomas starred in a pilot, a film, and appeared on several sitcoms including Workaholics). He’s 1/4 of comedy collective Power Violence, known for their endearingly chaotic live shows and acclaimed videos; along with the rest of the group, he’s also a writer and co-star on the animated series Stone Quackers.

Dave Thomason (@dave_thomason)

A comic whose babyfaced charm makes his sharp, sometimes dark wit even more delightful, Thomason was a recent finalist in Comedy Central’s nationwide UP NEXT competition, and he recently made his TV debut on Adam Devine’s House Party. He’s been featured on NPR and Sirius XM, and appeared at a handful of festivals, including the Aspen Rooftop Comedy Fest (he was also awarded Rooftop’s coveted Silver Nail Award). He’s currently a writer’s assistant on @midnight.

Baron Vaughn (@barvonblaq)

An acclaimed comic with his own Comedy Central Half Hour, dozens of festival spots, and many appearances on MTV and VH1, Vaughn can barely be labeled an “emerging” comic, but 2015 is definitely a big year for the longtime LA favorite, who has a lead role on the highly anticipated forthcoming Netflix series Grace and Frankie. A classically trained actor (who also co-hosts the Wolfpop podcast, Maltin on Movies), Vaughn will fit right in with co-stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.

Also check out our list of the top up-and-coming comics in New York and outside of NY and LA.

First two photos by Mindy Tucker.

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