by Ryan Meehan
Before we get started, I’d like to clarify that this in no way is a list of the best comedians working. We all know that comics like Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman, and Chris Rock are at the top of their game right now but that doesn’t give us any new information. This is a list of comics who in my opinion had breakout years and have taken themselves to the next level with their comedy. I believe that in five years everybody on this list will be extremely popular in some way or another, be it onstage or via social media. Comedy is headed in a direction where there are so many different ways to get it, that it is now possible to find funnier people on the internet than you would at one of the Comedy Store’s open mic nights. Thankfully, there will always be people hitting the stage with new talent because people still like to go out and see a live show. These are the five comics that really stood out to me as having a breakout year.
1. Hannibal Buress – “I don’t hang out with people who quote rape statistics”
When I received Hannibal Buress’ new CD “Animal Furnace” back in April, I had no idea who the hell he was. And for a few minutes I was ready to forget about him forever because the disc didn’t exactly have the most powerful start to it. But within the next few minutes, I was hooked. Buress moves through topics that would make a lot of people squeamish, but he does so in a way that you can’t help but relate.
Here are a few of Hannibal’s bits:
“Sometimes when I watch porn, I wear a hoodie so it’s creepier”
“I know some of you got upset when I called that woman a cunt, but someone steals over a thousand dollars from me I call ’em what the fuck I want”
“She said to me: ‘I have to be careful…three out of ten women who get raped don’t report it’, and I said ‘One out of one dudes is walking away from this conversation’”
“I don’t believe in cancer walks…I mean, I believe in ’em, ’cause they exist, I just don’t think cancer responds to how far people walk”
Although a lot of comics have great pieces on masturbation, Buress’ is by far the best I’ve heard in a while as he gets back at his 17 year old cousin in a very creative way for that young man’s lack of taste in the comedy department. That kid must have a serious problem, or he just doesn’t get it because I think Hannibal is awesome. Buress also appeared on TJ Miller’s new show “Mash-Up” where they acted out a skit that describes his jaywalking ticket in Montreal last year. (“Now we have three Montreal police officers working this high-profile jaywalking case”…) If they could have worked the piece with him accusing his cousin of getting down, that might have been one of the best segments of television in a long time. What’s also important to mention here is that Hannibal has already written for two huge shows by this point in his career: “30 Rock”, and “Saturday Night Live”. Now he’s got his own thing and he’s killing it, for which he should be commended.
2. Jenny Johnson – “My Sleep Number is Grey Goose”
What impresses me the most about Jenny Johnson is that she doesn’t even do standup. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Jenny, she is a former television news producer from Houston, Texas who now writes for Gentleman’s Quarterly and has one of the most foul mouths on Twitter. It’s funny how growing up your parents always try to instruct you to avoid swearing because it could damage your professional life, because Jenny has taken that theory and crammed it right up your parents’ asses.
Here are some of Jenny’s Tweets:
“I can’t believe Mary’s parents bought that whole “pregnant virgin” thing”
“I used to give my co-workers nicknames based on their most dominant features, like ‘Loves Abortions Brenda’ or ‘Eats Her Feelings Julie’.”
“If your key ring is full of keychains with clever sayings, plus a stick filled with glittery water, I know you had a baby in high school”
“If you don’t shave or wax your pubes and you wear pantyhose with no underwear, your crotch looks like Vlade Divac robbing a gas station”
“Watching my mom use an iPhone is like watching a 12 year old girl try and contact her dead grandma on a Ouija board”
“It’d be funny if everyone told their kids Steve Buscemi is the tooth fairy”
And when Houston had their annual Web Awards, Johnson won the Tweet of the year with this brief synopsis of the current political state in America:
“Most people don’t know this, but you can quietly be a Republican or a Democrat”
But it gets even weirder than that…Johnson was well-known for attacking faux celebrity Kim Kardashian and R&B singer/domestic abuse specialist Chris Brown. I think Kardashian ended up blocking her at some point, but Brown hung around until the two got in a really serious spat, and then Brown deleted his twitter account which led to this:
What we’ve got here is a situation where someone who simply wanted to write jokes blew the up out of nowhere, and then found herself at the forefront of “feud” if you will. And it’s a feud that she won easily, mostly because 1) she’s brilliant, and 2) it’s hard to say Chris Brown’s name in the same sentence as the word “brilliant” without falling out of your seat laughing.
Although I don’t see it happening anytime soon, I would to see Jenny try her hand at standup comedy. To say that she’s got a really quick wit would be a serious understatement, and perfecting her timing doesn’t seem like it would be an exhausting procedure at all. Her persona has also allowed her to become friends with several people in Hollywood who are looking for ways to make it funnier, such as Jason Biggs and Jenna Elfman. It probably won’t be long before she’s writing on a huge sitcom, so there is plenty of funny left to come.
3. Rob Delaney – “Just passed a hipster playing a ukelele as he walked down the street so my week is totally fucked”
Rob Delaney is similar to Jenny Johnson in the sense that he has made a substantial number of contacts due to his Twitterfeed. But unlike Jenny, Rob has become a very popular standup comic. He released his digital album “Live at the Bowery Ballroom” this past fall on Comedy Central Records and the reviews have all been very good. Here are some of Rob’s more recent gems:
“Just told my Secret Santa I murdered a plumber in Vermont in 1995 or is that not how it works?”
“Hope it sets the marriage equality folks’ minds at ease to know I’ve had loving, athletic anal sex with both Scalia & Thomas”
“With the new Google maps app, it’s much easier to locate hemorrhoid cream or cocaine while ‘On The Go’”
I could sit here all night and just copy and paste the funny stuff that comes out of Rob’s phone all I want, but you have to follow him to get the whole joke because he does it at the oddest times. He’s going to be a social networking force in the coming years, and he’ll get better on stage as time progresses so I’m really looking forward to that.
4. Amy Schumer – “Eat a Dick, Jane…Seriously, Try it!”
Even though Amy Schumer was popular amongst the national standup circuit and has been a headliner for a few years now, her breakthrough performance came on this year’s Roast of Roseanne Barr where she absolutely nailed it. She did everything right from a PR standpoint and had one of the best interviews ever on Howard Stern. What’s weird about Amy is that there is something about her delivery that I am not a huge fan of, and she is very upfront about the material in her standup special “Mostly Sex Stuff” as being very relationship and intimacy oriented and I’m usually not a fan of people who do standup and can only focus on just that. But the writing is so fucking good that I can honestly say that the material eclipses all of those criticisms. Here are a few bits:
“I have an excuse for why I’ve been drinking so much…I’m drinking for two…Thank you, Wow…I mean, just for now…somebody’s being evicted…”
“Very neat for a boy; always cleaned up his mess no matter where he got it on me. He’s Hispanic, so he’s like, ‘Now, who’s the wetback?’ I’m like, ‘Hey, still you. Get back into the kitchen, those dishes aren’t going to do themselves!”
“I’ll never forget how my best friend told us about her pregnancy. She took us all out to brunch and she was like ‘You guys, I’m keeping this one!’”
I’m very interested to see how the television show that premieres this March (aptly titled “Inside Amy Schumer”) goes because the standup is very X-rated. Amy’s stuff is more along the vein of poor taste, but when it comes to comedy I’ve always been a firm believer that poor taste is usually delicious. For example when you go to her website the first picture you see is an image of her taking a tray of muffins out of an oven, which looks innocent enough until you realize the black eye.
5. Jon Mulaney – “Jewish people don’t daydream, because folks are after them and they gotta stay sharp…”
Mulaney was another comedian that I hadn’t been all that familiar with this year until I recieved his CD in the mail. He’s from the Saturday Night Live writing crew, and more proof that the individuals behind the scenes of that show are much funnier than the comedians who perform the sketches. However on his newest record “New in Town” as well as “The Top Part”, he is operating without the filter of live television so he’s allowed to explore pretty much any topic with he wants in the most graphically descriptive manner that he feels necessary.
Here’s some Mulaney goodness:
“When it comes to instant gratification, cancelling plans is like heroin”
“Little people have never been enslaved…unless you count the Wonka factory…”
“The plan for Irish people is ‘I’ll keep all of my emotions bottled up right here…And then one day, I’ll die’.”
“So i just started running and running and there was a fence up ahead and I thought “I’ve never climbed a fence that high before!’, and then I woke up at home”
“When people make fun of me, I deserve it. If you’re ever on the highway behind me, I hear you honking, and I also don’t want me to be doing what I’m doing, I don’t like that I’m in that lane either.”
“So basically I was lying to get drugs, you know…like a crime…”
While Mulaney will likely continue to work in television, it’s my hope that eventually he will be able to latch onto some type of uncensored vehicle in the vein of HBO or Showtime so his work can be used to its full potential. There is also a bit on that CD that has to be one of the best drinking stories ever told.
Summary: Although on the local scenes in areas like Indianapolis, Seattle and Cincinnati there were a lot of comics that did very well and are poised for greatness, there are a lot of negative things going on in comedy right now: Whitney Cummings’ show got renewed for another season, Jeff Dunham is still selling out arenas everywhere, and Katt Williams is having a meltdown that is of Pryor-like qualities which of course doesn’t work because he doesn’t have Pryor’s material. There are some comedians who are live performance purists that don’t really like the whole social media approach to telling jokes, but unfortunately for them this is just the next step in a technological revolution that should work in their favor. I think Twitter and Facebook are both great for the comedy industry, but I can see how older comedians would be frustrated given all of the work they’ve put in over the years in various dive bars and comedy clubs during the past few decades. I understand their concern and have a lot of respect for that era of comedy, but like it or not we now live in the digital age.
Satellite radio is a great resource for comedy given all of the comedy channels, and that gives people an opportunity to listen to comedy in their cars without going to the show. But it’s my belief that all of these digital mediums still don’t really have a chance in hell at killing live comedy. You can’t see the heckler that’s ruining the show and is about to get dealt on, you can’t enjoy an order of onion rings a few feet away from someone you just saw on TV or in a movie the night before, and most importantly you can’t get the full experience of going to a real comedy club. This is exactly why the live comedy experience will likely never die.
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