“When a magazine does a ‘comedy issue’ it’s usually just a few pages of pictures of famous comedians (or more likely comic actors, who aren’t really ‘comedians’ at all) wearing expensive clothes in a silly photo shoot that, despite its purported aims, winds up being the opposite of funny. I’d like to offer a tiny antidote to those offensive shit rags.” -Rob Delaney
All right, so you’re not reading a comedy issue or even a magazine at all, but Delaney, who appears below in our list, has a point. This list isn’t filled with glamorous photo shoots or people who are simply funny onscreen. These folks are hilarious, and they’ve proven it on stages in front of nobody, or, worse, loads of people who simply do not care. These folks will make you laugh. Some of them have transcended stand-up work and are now on the big screen. Others will end up there one day as well. They say laughter is the best medicine, and we think the folks below are just the “tiny antidote” you need.
10: Zach Galifianakis
America, we have awakened a sleeping giant. We welcomed Galifianakis into our homes, and now he will never, ever, ever go away—not that there’s anything wrong with that. From movies (Due Date, the only good part about Dinner For Schmucks) to hilarious web series (“Between Two Ferns”), we have all been struck with Galifianakis Fever, a fever so powerful that it leads us to using too many metaphors when writing about this hirsute funnyman.
9. Max Silvestri
The Brown University graduate hosts a free, live comedy show called Big Terrific in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, every week, and plays scattered dates outside New York from time to time. But the vast majority of his comedic output is found online. From his writings for outlets like The Onion’s A.V. Club (about television, food and Internet commenters, amongst other subjects) to his comedy videos (most recently, Gabe & Max’s 100 Seconds, which Silvestri produces with writing partner and Videogum senior editor Gabe Delahaye, whom he met on MySpace), the web is Silvestri’s second home.
8. Dan Telfer
In his “Best Dinosaur” bit, Telfer challenges a crowd to name, you guessed it, the best dinosaur, and then viciously shoots down every suggestion with a mix of knowledge and “complete bullshit.” For the 31-year-old comedian—who’s been doing improv, writing plays and refining his act since he was 18—it was the perfect opportunity to flex some nerd skills and interact with his audience. He’s since garnered a few comedy-club bookings, released an EP and is continuing to build momentum as he prepares for his first full-length album.
7. Rob Delaney
Between his increasingly famous Twitter and Tumblr accounts, to the poignant and hilarious essay he wrote for Vice, 2010 was a monstrous year for Rob Delaney. Speaking of that Vice essay, if you’re unfamiliar with this guy, start here. And seriously, follow him on Twitter.
6. Jenny Slate
It would be a shame to merely think of her as “the newcomer who dropped the F-Bomb on SNL,” because she is oh-so-much more than that. From Marcel the Shell (see below) to Hoda Kotb and everything in between, Slate’s versatility and ability to emit funny noises through her voicebox will always make us laugh.
5. Kyle Kinane
The newest of the newcomers on this list, we can’t remember the last debut comedy record that knocked us over quite like Kyle Kinane’s Death of the Party. With a delivery not unlike It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Charlie Kelly, the Los-Angeles-by-way-of-Chicago stand up weaves lengthy stories of bunny fornication, bowel movements and getting arrested on a bicycle throughout the record, but does it with a talent that belies his rookie status.
4. Natasha Leggero
The new generation of observational humor will not be led by Seinfeld wannabes, but by fresh, witty upstarts like Natasha Leggero. Her razor-sharp wit can and will mock anything from legumes to Call of Duty with ease.
3. Aziz Ansari
Even as he becomes a massive force in the comedy world (from his standup to Parks and Recreation), Aziz Ansari still seems like the kind of guy you could have a drink with. Whether he’s ranting about IMAX or dropping one of the year’s best comedy releases, it feels like we’ve known Ansari since childhood.
2. Hannibal Buress
In 2010, this Chicago expat who now calls NYC home wrote for Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock (the latter is his current gig), released the fantastic My Name is Hannibal and performed at festivals curated by both Wilco and the Insane Clown Posse. Enough said.
1. Louis C.K.
Sure, Louis C.K. has been around forever, but he positively owned 2010. Let’s run down the facts, then. Fact One: His film, Hilarious, was the first stand-up movie to be shown at Sundance. Fact Two: He finally struck television gold with Louie (Seriously, if you’re not watching it on FX or Hulu, you’re dead to us.), which was renewed for a second season. Fact Three: He’s currently finishing up a gigantic tour that took him to every corner of the U.S. Game, set, match.