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.