The 20 Best Comedians of 2013

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It’s 2013, and comedians have more platforms for success than ever. Gone are the days when making it was limited to landing a spot on Carson or Letterman, then maybe a movie, TV series or stand-up special. Comedy Central is growing faster than ever, handing out deals for shows and web series left and right, as are other networks like FX, IFC and, of course, the major broadcast networks. No discipline has taken better advantage of both podcasting and Twitter, which have allowed some true talents to find their niche and gain the recognition they deserve. Comedy is everywhere, and regardless of how offbeat your sense of humor is, there’s a place for it.

And thank god for all these new avenues for humor, because it also seems like there are more funny people working than ever before. It might be a “chicken or the egg” situation, but when it comes down to it it doesn’t really matter. It’s easier than ever to find a laugh—whether you’re in your car, in front of your computer or TV or in a comedy club—and that can only be a good thing. So without further ado, here are our 20 favorite comedians from 2013:

20. Anthony Jeselnik

Though his irreverent Comedy Central show The Jeselnik Offensive was recently canceled after two seasons (both of which aired in 2013), it’s hard to argue that Jeselnik hasn’t had a big year. Landing his own show was a huge step up from roasting the likes of Donald Trump and Charlie Sheen, and his latest special Caligula was released in January.

19. Doug Benson

It might seem counterintuitive that a stoner of Doug Benson’s caliber is also one of the busiest comedians in the game, but such is the case, especially so over the course of 2013. In addition to releasing a new comedy CD, Gateway Doug, this summer, Benson has continued his popular “Doug Loves Movies” podcast, as well as filming a bevy of “Getting Doug with High” segments, in which comics come by to smoke with Benson at 4:20 (his phone alarm goes off everyday at 4:19), before having an enlightened discussion.

18. Chelsea Peretti

Chelsea Peretti has one of comedy’s best Twitter accounts, her stand-up is hilarious, she’s written for everything from Parks and Rec to Kroll Show and now she’s starring opposite Andy Samberg in the year’s biggest breakout comedy, Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It’s an esteemed quad-fecta of comedic success, and as Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s popularity increases, so will Peretti’s name recognition.

17. Kumail Nanjiani

Pakistani comic Kumali Nanjiani had one of the best stand-up specials of the year in Beta Male, which aired on Comedy Central in July. His Middle Eastern heritage finds its way into his act often, as do video games (sometimes at the same time), and he even hosts a Nerdist podcast focusing on the latter with his wife Emily Gordon called The Indoor Kids. In 2014 we can look forward The Meltdown With Jonah and Kumail, a show with fellow comedian Jonah Ray that Comedy Central gave the green light this summer.

16. Maria Bamford

Appearing on Louie seems to have become something of a rite of passage for established comedians today, and of all the comic cameos, the first thing I think of is Bamford sitting on the toilet telling Louis, “I’ve got crabs.” That was in 2012. In 2013, Bamford had a guest spot on the new season of Arrested Development and released a new comedy album, Ask Me About My New God!, which features more of Bamford’s mousey-voiced stories of coping with the anxieties of day-to-day life.

15. Chris Hardwick

Chris Hardwick has become one of the premiere Renaissance men of comedy. Regardless of what you’re into, it’s been hard to avoid him in 2013. He’s hosted a myriad of podcasts and TV shows, including Talking Bad and Talking Dead on AMC. Most recently, he took the helm of Comedy Central’s new Twitter-friendly late night show, @midnight. He’s a stand-up, too, of course, and earlier this year his first one-hour special, Mandroid, was released digitally and on DVD after premiering on Comedy Central last November.

14. Nick Kroll

2013 has seen Nick Kroll transform from “that guy from The League” into “Nick Kroll.” He’s become a fixture around the world of comedy, guesting regularly on podcasts like Comedy Bang Bang, sharing the dais on Comedy Central’s roast of James Franco and landing his very own sketch show, Kroll Show, on the same network.

13. Jim Norton

Podcasting is one thing, but appearing live on a daily morning radio show requires an entirely different level of commitment and skill. The irreverent Jim Norton does it on Siriux XM’s “Opie and Anthony Show,” espousing controversial opinions on everything from government transparency to whether the Washington Redskins should be forced to change their name or not. Oh, and he also performs stand-up regularly and released a new special, American Degenerate, earlier this year. So he’s been busy.

12. Key & Peele

Known separately as former MADtv cast members Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, the comedy duo has risen to prominence through the success of their Comedy Central sketch show that just wrapped up its third season in November. More significantly, they recently signed a deal to write a feature length comedy along with Judd Apatow, which seems like something that might be good for their careers.

11. Pete Holmes

When you put out one of the best stand-up specials of the year and land your own late-night talk show, I think you qualify for having one of the biggest 2013s in comedy. His first one-hour, Nice Try, The Devil aired on Comedy Central in May and in October The Pete Holmes Show premiered in its post-Conan time slot on TBS. It’s hard not to find Holmes’ bubbly personality endearing, and now that he has his own platform it looks like his enormous, aw-shucks smile will be showing up on TV and the Internet with more and more regularity.

It’s 2013, and comedians have more platforms for success than ever. And thank god for all these new avenues for humor, because it also seems like there are more funny people working than ever before. It might be a “chicken or the egg” situation, but when it comes down to it it doesn’t really matter. It’s easier than ever to find a laugh—whether you’re in your car, in front of your computer or TV or in a comedy club—and that can only be a good thing. So without further ado, here are our 20 favorite comedians from 2013.

10. Tig Notaro

Late last year, Tig Notaro was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly before performing at LA club Largo. She took the stage and couldn’t help but address the issue, resulting in one of the most touching and heartfelt sets of stand-up in recent memory. Thankfully, a recorder was running and the result was Tig Notaro: Live. Louis C.K. called it “an example of what comedy can be.” Buy it now for $5 through Tig’s website. And as a side note, if you haven’t heard Notaro’s Taylor Dayne story, take care of that as soon as you have a free 15 minutes. She’s the master of the deadpan.

9. Mike Birbiglia

In 2012, Mike Birbiglia found his niche and broke out with Sleepwalk With Me, a special-turned-feature-film about his real life struggles with sleepwalking (and with his girlfriend). In 2013, My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, a relationship-centric special combining stand-up and storytelling that he’d been working on since before Sleepwalk With Me, premiered on Netflix after a successful, award-winning theater run. He’s currently workshopping material for his next special, Thank God For Jokes, as well as adapting My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend into a feature film. Oh, and he’s also hammering out two additional features and a TV show based on his life. So yeah, despite all the recent success, Birbigs might actually just be getting started.

8. Kevin Hart

Kevin Hart’s star continued to grow in 2013; according to Forbes he pulled in the sixth most money of any comic, only falling short of heavyweights like Jerry Seinfeld and Louis C.K. The cash has come through continued sales of his previous stand-up specials, as well as from starring in the BET parody show Real Husbands of Hollywood, releasing a new stand-up special, Let Me Explain (filmed at Madison Square Garden) and appearing in apocalypse comedy This Is The End. Hart has even more feature films on the docket for 2014, including a starring role alongside Ice Cube in Ride Along in January.

7. Amy Schumer

Since finishing fourth on Last Comic Standing in 2007, Amy Schumer has steadily been gaining momentum behind her unabashed comedic riffing on her promiscuous sex life and all of the sexual hang-ups we’re afraid to talk about, in general…I won’t go into detail here. Late last year she had a special, Mostly Sex Stuff premiere on Comedy Central to favorable reviews, and in April the same network debuted her own sketch comedy show, aptly titled Inside Amy Schumer. Season 2 is coming in 2014.

6. Rob Delaney

It’s been a huge year for the reigning king of comedy in 140 characters or less. Delaney is now on the verge of eclipsing one million Twitter followers, an impressive feat for someone whose fame has come almost entirely from his work on the micro blog. In addition to his tweets and stand-up, in Delaney released his own board game, “Rob Delaney’s War of Words,” and, most recently, published his “memoir” Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage.

5. Bill Burr

Rolling Stone recently called Bill Burr “the next Louis C.K.” As Burr noted on Conan, the distinction might have had more to do with the fact that he’s pale and Irish than anything to do with his comedic stylings, but the fact remains that Burr is funny as hell. His most recent special, You People Are All The Same, was released in 2012 (and is currently available for $5 on Burr’s website), but Burr’s been plenty busy in ‘13, too, performing stand-up regularly, podcasting like a mad man and knocking it out of the park as Kuby, one half of Saul Goodman’s muscle, on the final season of Breaking Bad.

4. Hannibal Buress

The 2013 New York Comedy Festival’s promo posters featured Hannibal Buress staring at the camera, looking exasperated, wearing giant foam lobster claws on each hand. The shot encapsulates Chicago-born comic’s even-keeled (stoned?) riffing on both intelligent and completely ridiculous topics. Buress will touch on race, but usually does so in the context of things like how apple juice euphoria can render racism obsolete, or various ways to woo someone of color on Valentine’s Day (“I know you’re biracial, but there’s nothing mixed about my emotions.”). Earlier this year, he signed a huge deal with Comedy Central, and is currently developing a web series for the network called Talking with Strangers. Every Sunday night you can catch him hosting comedy at Brooklyn’s The Knitting Factory.

3. John Mulaney

John Mulaney  made a name for himself as a stand-up in 2013, but might be poised for an even bigger breakout next year. His Comedy Central special New In Town will hit Netflix in January, and Fox recently picked up Mulaney, a show based on his life that he will write, executive produce and, of course, star in. He’s come a long way in a short time since writing for SNL, where, most notably, he co-created and co-wrote Bill Hader’s “Stefon” appearances on Weekend Update. As we’re all beginning to realize, though, Mulaney is way too likable to stay behind the scenes.

2. Aziz Ansari

Netflix recently had the priviledge of exclusviely premiering Aziz Ansari’s latest stand-up special, Buried Alive, which is great for Netflix, because people freaking love Aziz Ansari. With Buried Alive, the now 30-year-old Indian-American moved from his relationship with Kanye West to more mature topics, like rejoicing at the fact that he doesn’t have kids like all of his miserable friends. A few months earlier he killed at Comedy Central’s roast of James Franco, and, of course, he’s still balling as Tom Haverford on Parks and Rec.

1. Louis C.K.

Well, no surprise here. It might be boring to put Louis C.K. at number one, but let’s be honest: he’s still the best and most influential comedian in the world. And with a new stand-up special becoming almost a yearly tradition (this year it was Oh My God) to go along with writing, directing, producing and starring in an Emmy award-winning show, he’s also in the running for the most prolific. Shine on, Louie.

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