2011 gave us plenty to laugh at and plenty of reasons to need laughter. Thankfully, these 10 comedians brought the funny all year long—in person or via comedy album or TV special. Some of our all-time favorites were too busy being famous movie and TV stars, but that left room for some newer comedians to fill the void. Here are the 10 Best Stand-Up Comics of 2011.
10. Maria Bamford
Her surreal style and vocal talent make her one of the most unusual and creative comedians working today. She was part of the Comedians of Comedy with Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis and Brian Posehn, but you may know her has the crazy overachieving shopper in those Target ads.
9. Wyatt Cenac
In 2008, Cenac joined a long line of talented stand-up comedians to join The Daily Show as a field correspondent. His hilariously understated style extends to his stand-up comedy.
8. Aziz Ansari
When MTV canceled his cult-hit show Human Giant, Ansari just found a new home on NBC’s Parks and Recreation. But as much as we love Tom Haverford, we love his stand-up even more, from his stories about cousin Harris to vents about thread counts like this:
7. Donald Glover
“Yeah! Yes I’m on top! I’m going this hard, and no I won’t stop!” shouts Childish Gambino, aka comic actor Donald Glover, in his song “Hero”—“Actor, writer, rapper. Nigga, I do all of it.” But it isn’t just typical rap-world bluster. Glover really does do all of it: He started writing for 30 Rock straight out of college, joined the ensemble cast of NBC’s Community in 2009, made a movie called Mystery Team that same year and showed it at Sundance, all the while performing standup and recording three full-length albums of his own distinctive brand of hyper-clever rap music.—Aaron Belz
6. Kyle Kinane
Of the 10 tracks on Kyle Kinane’s uproarious debut album, Death of the Party, released on ASpecialThing Records (Paul F. Tompkins, Jen Kirkman, Doug Benson) in 2010, only one of them is less than five minutes long. One, the epic “I Know What I Want,” an extended meditation on, amongst other things, Bob Seger’s “Night Moves,” moving to Los Angeles from the Midwest, how people relate to each other via food, and crashing a Ford Focus, comes close to 10 and a half minutes. To say that Kinane is a bit of a storytelling comedian is an understatement. But like any great story, from one told on the spot over drinks between close friends, to a well-worn and increasingly embellished tale told by an old timer trying to impress his grandkids, it takes some work, or at the very least, an inborn knack for this kind of thing, to make it truly pop.—Austin L. Ray