It’s the question that has loomed over stand-up comedy since the first day someone stepped in front of a mic and shared their observations about the human condition: Are men funny? Thanks to groundbreaking stand-up comics like Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers, and their contemporary heirs apparent Amy Schumer, Chelsea Peretti and a host of other fantastically funny females, we know women can serve up laughs. But what about their male counterparts? A cute face or a well-groomed beard may get you a special, but looks don’t matter if you can’t bring the funny. The following ten comics prove that they’re more than their pretty faces; they remind us men can actually be funny.
10. Dan Mintz
Part of Mintz’s magic stems from his voice. As the oldest Belcher sibling Tina on Bob’s Burgers, he’s got a recognizable drone that works in tandem with his staid delivery. Mintz has a dry demeanor, which actually works to amplify his set-up and punch lines. He’s less a narrative comic than others on the circuit, but his one-liners pack a funny punch nonetheless. The opposite of physically loud comedians, whose body language and gestures play as big a role in their act as their words, Mintz proves that less is more.
9. Greer Barnes
Barnes has one of the most soothing voices in stand-up, a velvety tone with a gravelly edge. In addition to being a sharp writer, it’s how he uses his voice to deliver jokes that sets him apart from his fellow comics. From another person’s mouth, soothing might not necessarily do well when it comes to being funny, but with Barnes it only heightens how his jokes land. Once a staple on Chappelle’s Show, he can often now be found at the Comedy Cellar in New York City offering audiences a laidback delivery paired with keen observations about life in the Big Apple.
8. Rory Scovel
Originally from South Carolina, Scovel doesn’t let his geographic background define his persona onstage. Slipping in and out of accents, he is as unpredictable as they come. Whether he wears a full-on thick southern drawl or a tight and reserved German accent, it only amplifies his jokes, which range from observations about the everyday to the truly absurd. When Scovel appeared on Conan alongside Jon Dore in a bit that made fun of late night TV, he showed he’s a comic up for anything.
7. John Mulaney
As a writer for Saturday Night Live, Mulaney displayed his sense of humor by helping create NYC club fiend Stefon, played by Bill Hader, before landing his own stand-up special, New in Town. His freshly pressed suits and polished appearance belie the sharp wit and self-deprecating wisecracks that make up his act. Although the comic tried his hand at a TV sitcom, it’s clear his true home is the stage. The writing prowess that got him a job at SNL lends itself to his clever observations about blackout drinking, Law & Order: SVU and being mistaken for an Asian boy when he was young. He’s a writer’s comic all the way down the line.
6. Aziz Ansari
Ansari had been doing stand-up for less than a decade before gaining attention for his role as materialist and image-driven Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation. His two filmed stand-up specials for Netflix immediately took off thanks to his wry take on the woes of dating and modern love. With bits that riff on the inanity of texting someone for a date, Ansari’s point of view hits home with a generation embroiled in finding love via technology. He’s even co-written a book about romance and technology. When he sold out Madison Square Garden after performing stand-up for less than 10 years, he showed everyone he’s a voice to reckon with.
5. Louis C.K.
Louis C.K. has been performing since the mid-1980s, and proves that he’s got the staying power to hold his own among a slew of ambitious young comics vying for audience attention. By taking control of his act, his image and the production qualities surrounding both, Louis C.K. has proved he has more to offer than just his stand-up. When a mid-2000s sitcom failed him, he found his voice best served by a single-camera set-up that delves off into all manner of the absurd. With stand-up revolving around everything from marriage to divorce to kids to living in the 21st century, Louis is a revered favorite for a reason.
4. James Adomian
With a lilting southern drawl and an ability to humorously mine his past for its more humorous moments, Adomian brings a refreshing perspective to the stage. Beyond discussing his own experiences, like his time as a closeted member of his Christian high school football team, he investigates instances of homophobia in beer commercials and gay Disney villains. Adomian touches on all manner of subjects and also delivers killer impressions (like his take on Jesse Ventura), and always with an astute with and easy-going delivery that makes him a favorite among audiences.
3. Mike Birbiglia
All comics are storytellers at heart, but Birbiglia is a storyteller first and foremost. He has a laundry list of accomplishments to his name already, all revolving around his skilled storytelling ability. Between his albums, his stand-up specials, his one man shows, his book and his film, Birbiglia allows audiences glimpses into the (at times painfully) humorous moments of his life. Everything is ripe for the picking. More than recounting these moments, though, Birbiglia almost reenacts them by fleshing out his memories onstage and redefining what it means to perform stand-up.
2. Nate Bargatze
This Tennessean comic waxes sarcastic about everything from his dad’s day job as a professional clown to admiring teen moms for getting the job done early. In true comic form, he’s a “tell it like it is” guy, poking holes into the reality of his life and life in general, but where he differentiates himself from other comics comes down to his acerbic delivery. He’s long been a favorite among comedians for a reason. With two comedy records and one special under his belt, Bargatze has what it takes to get the laughs.
1. Hannibel Buress
The comic’s comic, Buress got his start performing in and around his native Chicago. He was well known among the stand-up world for his delivery and fresh take on life’s more irreverent moments, but it was Comedy Central’s showBroad City, where he plays a young dentist, that made him a recognizable face beyond the stage. In 2014, Buress became a mainstream sensation for his rape joke about Bill Cosby. As one of the first and most prominent comics to take the legend to task, Buress isn’t afraid to go where others tread lightly. Buress’s Live from Chicago special solidified the comic’s place as one of his generation’s greats. His own series, Why? With Hannibal Buress premieres on Comedy Central on July 8th, and he’s about to shoot the fourth season of Adult Swim’s The Eric Andre Show, where he serves as Andre’s sidekick.
Amanda Wicks is a journalist specializing in music and comedy. As a Canadian, she’s happy to say she does know that guy from Toronto you met once. Follow her on Twitter.