The Next Wave 2015: The Top Up-and-Coming Comics in New York
Welcome 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 standups 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 New York City: home of SNL, Late Night and other legendary shows that have launched hundreds of comedy careers, NYC remains one of the most exciting, and intimidating, places to perform. 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:
Becky Astphan (Stand Up NY, Chemistry)
Hy Bender (Best New York Comedy)
Elise Czajkowski (The New York Times)
Luisa Diez (Comedy at The Knitting Factory)
Chenoa Estrada (Fresh Out NY)
Christine Evans (The Stand NY, Comedy Underground Live)
Anya Garrett (Lasers in the Jungle)
Billy Nord (The Talk Show Series)
Julie Seabaugh (Variety, Rolling Stone)
Rebecca Trent (The Creek and the Cave)
Marianne Ways (Night Train with Wyatt Cenac)
New York’s Next Wave:
Jo Firestone (@kingfirestorm)
One of the city’s most original and prolific performers all in one, Firestone is a comedic force who pushes conceptual boundaries and produces a wide variety of visionary shows (like the NYC Inner Beauty Pageant and the Friends of Single People dating game). With character- and premise-driven sets that are often lovingly labeled “weird comedy” by critics, her standup is always completely unpredictable. Firestone also co-hosts the acclaimed Punderdome 3000 (alongside her father), and hosts WFMU’s weekly Dr. Gameshow.
Sabrina Jalees (@sabrinajalees)
With a fiercely magnetic personality and a gift for crowd work, Jalees is a captivating live performer. She started her comedy career in Canada where, in addition to writing for Canada’s Got Talent, she frequently appeared on MuchMusic and CDC Radio. Since relocating to New York, she’s been named one of Just for Laughs Montreal’s New Faces, and has become a recurring guest on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.
Dru Johnston (@drujohnston)
Winner of the 2014 Andy Kaufman Award, which highlights exceptional, unconventional performers, Johnston is a writer and improviser with a love of bad puns, dumb premises, and playing the straight man. A longtime writer and producer for The Chris Gethard Show, he’s also co-creator of Above Average series Bleacher Creatures. Johnston was one half of Sketches From An Italian Restaurant: A Billy Joel Sketch Show, a lightning-fast tribute to the legendary singer that earned praise from Vice.
Yassir Lester (@yassir_lester)
With his quick delivery and infectious smile, Lester’s standup draws crowds in and keeps them locked on him til the very last punchline. In addition to serving as a judge on Rob Dyrdek’s Snack-Off and making many appearances on Take Part Live, Lester has written for several Adult Swim shows – and, the reason for his recent relocation to NYC: he’s currently working on the next season of HBO’s Girls.
Monroe Martin (@monroemartinIII)
Martin has an adept ability to find humor in dysfunction, often drawing inspiration from his rocky childhood and channeling it all into completely honest, and truly hilarious, comedic storytelling. Though he’s appeared on Adam Devine’s House Party and Gotham Live, Martin is probably best known for his run on the most recent season of Last Comic Standing, where he made it into the final top 10 contestants.
Joe Pera (@josephpera)
Pera’s onstage awkwardness is so terrifically calculated, audiences sometimes think they’re witnessing someone’s very first set — but after a few halting, charming moments, it’s clear he’s in total control. A skilled comic coated with saccharine sweetness, he’s a perfect fit in the role of MTV Other’s Pancake Breakfast Critic. Pera is a three-time winner of Ithaca College’s standup competition, and was a finalist in the 2013 Comedy Central UP NEXT competition.
Yamaneika Saunders (@yamaneika)
Saunders is a true joy to watch onstage, a high-energy performer whose enthusiasm and attitude are impossible to resist. She’s appeared on Gotham Comedy Live and Comedy Central’s Insecurity, and in 2014 she developed a huge following when she made the semifinals on Last Comic Standing. With her starring role on current Oxygen reality show Funny Girls, her fan base is about to get much bigger.
Liza Treyger (@glittercheese)
A Soviet Union native who began her comedy career in Chicago, Treyger is a completely fearless performer whose act winds between hilariously honest tales and perfectly composed punchlines. An alum of the Glasgow Comedy Festival and Jeff Garlin’s Winter Comedy Arts Festival, among many others, last year Treyger was named one of Comedy Central’s Comics to Watch and one of Just for Laughs’ New Faces, and last year she was a finalist in Caroline’s New York’s Funniest competition.
Brooke Van Poppelen (@bvpcomedy)
With a sharp wit and the ability to find universal hilarity in just about anything, Van Poppelen possesses an exceptionally personable stage presence. She’s appeared on @midnight and John Oliver’s New York Stand Up Show, and at festivals including the Melbourne International Comedy Fest and the Bentzen Ball. A former writer and producer on Girl Code, Van Poppelen stars in the web series Seeing Other People and recently made her debut as co-host of truTV’s Hack My Life.
Nick Vatterott (@nickvatterott)
Though Vatterott has been a staple of the NYC scene for years, his debut album, For Amusement Only, just came out last November — it was easily one of 2014’s strongest comedy albums, managing to capture his energy and range on tape. Vatterott, formerly from the Chicago, toured with the legendary Second City and earned the title of Funniest Man in Chicago; he’s also won the esteemed Andy Kaufman Award, a well-deserved recognition of his signature style that blends deep metacomedy with straight-up amazing joke writing.
Photos by Mindy Tucker.