The 40 Best Comedians of the 2010s

Comedy Lists best of the decade
The 40 Best Comedians of the 2010s

Earlier this year I got dogpiled online for a review that some people didn’t agree with. That wasn’t a problem for me—that kind of nonsense will happen in this business, and it’s not the first time it’s happened to me. One of the things those fragile folks were angry about was my statement that comedy is better than it’s ever been before. I don’t even know why that would be controversial, and it’s about as self-evident as it can be. Over the first decade of this century comedy broke out from the confines of comedy clubs—those anti-audience gatekeepers of the miserable old stand-up guard—and flourished in every possible venue that people in cities across America could fit a microphone and a crowd into. YouTube then opened it up even further, and although the vast, overwhelming majority of YouTube videos are absolute garbage (yes, including my own, thank you very much), that free distribution helped some of the best and brightest young voices in comedy establish themselves. Those seeds were all planted last decade, and then everything bloomed in the 2010s. From sketch to stand-up, from sitcoms to movies, from social media videos to online comedy writing, the comedy bubble just continued to grow throughout the ‘10s, with artists who never would’ve had a chance 20 or even 15 years ago finding the support and outlets they needed to hone their craft. It’s impossible to keep track of all the comedy that’s out there today, and although not all of it is good, there’s more of it that’s great than at any other point in recent memory. Just getting this list down to 40 was hard as hell.

If you’re wondering about methodology, it comes down to two things: the opinions of myself and my assistant editor, Olivia Cathcart. This list reflects what we personally think are the best comedians of the last decade, whether they work primarily in stand-up, sketch comedy, podcasts, movies, or TV. Maybe you’ll agree. You probably won’t, at least not entirely. Either way we hope you agree that there’s more than enough comedy in the world today for everybody to find what they like, whether it’s popular with others or not. With that said, let’s get on with it. Here are the 40 best comedians of the last decade.—Garrett Martin

40. Stephen Colbert

The Colbert Report lived almost half its life this decade, and remained appointment viewing up until the very last episode. The end of Colbert’s Comedy Central show was kind of a symbolic end to the entire political comedy genre—yeah, it still exists, in greater volume than ever before, but Comedy Central hasn’t been able to replicate the Report’s success with a handful of other follow-ups, The Daily Show is about as far removed from the public conversation as it’s ever been, and Donald Trump’s inexplicable rise to the Presidency has made all political comedy feel pointless and ineffectual. Real life is such a joke that it’s hard to actually tell good jokes about it. Maybe that’s why Colbert was ready to jump to CBS when David Letterman retired, casting aside his longstanding Fox News parody character and embracing a friendlier, more traditional late night persona as the host of The Late Show. He’s become the new ratings king of late night, and remains the sharpest and funniest host in that market when he wants to be, but despite the regular Trump jokes required of every late night show, the CBS version of Colbert isn’t nearly as brilliant or brutal in his takedown of right-wing hypocrisy as the Report was.—Garrett Martin

39. Jo Firestone

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Firestone’s a highlight whenever she appears on The Tonight Show, but that’s not the only reason she’s on this list. She’s here for two reasons. First is Joe Pera Talks with You, where she played the most convincing middle school band teacher / Doomsday prepper ever seen on TV. By the end of the first season her character is much more than just a love interest, but a fully realized human being with her own interior life, deep inside a bunker. As a writer on the show, Firestone was responsible for one of its most memorable episodes, the school musical about Alberta, Canada’s Rat Wars. She also had a memorable half-hour special on Comedy Central in 2017, and put out a great stand-up album in 2018 called The Hits, which nicely captures her one-of-a-kind stand-up (and also features music from the Arcade Fire’s Will Butler). Finally her podcast, Dr. Gameshow, has been running strong since 2014.—Garrett Martin

38. Brett Gelman

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Gelman was everywhere this decade, with major roles on Fleabag, Stranger Things, the HBO series Camping, and NBC’s Matthew Perry sitcom Go On. He was even in that Twin Peaks revival. None of that is why we put him on this list, though. Gelman co-wrote (with director Jason Woliner) and starred in three specials on Adult Swim between 2014 and 2016 that represent some of the riskiest and most transgressive comedy of the decade. Dinner with Friends with Brett Gelman and Friends, Dinner with Family with Brett Gelman and Brett Gelman’s Family, and Dinner in America with Brett Gelman are dark, surreal, terrifying and hilarious, especially the latter two, which focus on abusive families and racism, respectively. And then Gelman severed his relationship with Adult Swim while bringing attention to both its poor record of working with women and its relationship with the alt-right comic Sam Hyde. Gelman has carved out his own weird niche as both a comedian and a character actor, and has made every project he’s been a part of stronger.—Garrett Martin

37. Natasha Leggero



From stage to screen, Natasha Leggero is always captivating, with her brand of subversive comedy wrapped up in a faux-posh starlette demeanor. Her signature style made her a perfect fit for appearances on Drunk History, The Comedy Central Roast of James Franco, and the reality-spoof Burning Love. Her tragically short-lived Comedy Central series Another Period seamlessly satirized two unique eras of feminism, class, and, uh, incest. Through the lens of Kardashian-type socialites at the turn of the century, Another Period held up a hilarious mirror up to society that (unfortunately for us) rang truer during its run than it would have just a few years prior. Leggero and her husband, comedian Moshe Kasher, combined forces to create one of the more original Netflix specials, The Honeymoon Stand-Up Special. Divvied up into three parts, each half of the couple gets their own half-hour special before reuniting for a third half-hour called “The Couple’s Roast” where they invite couples up on stage to question and roast their.—Olivia Cathcart

36. Julio Torres


I first saw Julio Torres perform a short set at the end of a very long day of comedy at the Just for Laughs festival in 2015. It was the single best set of the 70 or so I saw that week.
He was already killing it on YouTube and at stand-up shows throughout New York, and then brought his one-of-a-kind comedic voice to Saturday Night Live in 2016, where he wrote the best sketches and videos of the last few seasons. This year he co-created and starred in HBO’s brilliantly absurd bilingual comedy Los Espookys and also released his first HBO stand-up special, My Favorite Shapes, which is our favorite special of the year so far. As one decade ends and another is about to begin, Torres is Paste’s early pick for the best comedian of the next decade.—Garrett Martin

35. Cameron Esposito

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Esposito’s rise to fame this decade bridges both the old and new paths to success for comedians. She performed stand-up on a variety of late night shows in 2013 and 2014, but also built a large following through a variety of podcasts and various online gigs, including Buzzfeed’s Ask a Lesbian series and a column for the AV Club. Her Seeso sitcom might’ve been short-lived, but she released her best work yet in 2018 with Rape Jokes, a darkly hilarious special about sexual harassment, abuse and rape that’s deeply personal but also universally relevant in these days of the #MeToo movement. Building up to a frank discussion of Esposito’s own history with abuse, Rape Jokes aims to both reclaim the conversation surrounding rape for the victims, while also pushing it beyond what she calls the media’s SVU-style depiction of rape as violence committed by strangers on darkened streets. Esposito remains masterfully confident throughout, broaching difficult subjects with a tone that veers from the performative to the conversational.—Garrett Martin

34. Kenan Thompson


Kenan Thompson is never going to leave Saturday Night Live and that’s the best thing that could possibly happen to that show. Kenan’s like a Terminator built solely for making people laugh: pretty much everything he says or does, every motion and facial expression, garners a reaction. He’s single-handedly saved more SNL sketches than any other cast member, and the thought of the show without him at this point is basically impossible. In a recent Stranger Things parody it was revealed that Thompson was actually in charge of the show in the Upside Down; based on how great he is on camera, we wouldn’t be opposed to him taking over behind the scenes whenever Lorne Michaels hangs it up.—Garrett Martin

33. Amy Schumer


Schumer felt like an overnight success when she blew up with the Judd Apatow film Trainwreck in 2015. She had been performing stand-up for over a decade at that point, with her own Comedy Central special in 2010 and a run on Last Comic Standing that saw her finish fourth for the season. Trainwreck turned both the Apatow manchild formula and the romantic comedy on its head, leading to more film roles and high-profile stand-up specials on HBO and Netflix. Still, it’s her Comedy Central sketch show, Inside Amy Schumer, that most earns her a slot on this list, with its smart, funny, and often brutal commentary on sexism, misogyny, and how society views and treats women.—Garrett Martin

32. Aparna Nancherla

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Maybe this says more about me than her, but Aparna Nancherla continues to be just about the most relatable comedian working today. She’s basically an artist of awkwardness, finding new and more endearing ways to get confused by the world we’re living in today. Somehow it’s comforting for us, the audience, to see how hilariously uncomfortable Nancherla is on the two half-hour specials she’s released for Netflix and Comedy Central. (She also has an album. It’s good!) Beyond stand-up, she created the great web series Womanhood with the similarly excellent Jo Firestone, and shines as a regular on Comedy Central’s scathing capitalism satire Corporate.—Garrett Martin

31. Joel Kim Booster

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Joel Kim Booster seems to have breakthrough year after year. His late-night debut on Conan felt like his tenth as Booster delivered one of the tightest fives in recent memories only to follow up with an even more captivating set the following year. He one-upped himself again following his stellar Comedy Central half hour special in 2017 with his very quotable album, Model Minority. His impeccable joke writing and fun, subtly dramatic performances makes his comedy incredibly bingeable. Unsurprisingly, Booster’s charisma translates perfectly into acting roles on the Comedy Central YouTube series Unsend, Hulu’s Shrill, and the just-cancelled-by-NBC series Sunnyside. While Booster is one of today’s sharpest comedic voices, you still get the feeling that the best is yet to come. Maybe it’ll be his Jane Austen-inspired rom-com set on Fire Island that’s coming not soon enough to Quibi. Whatever the project, Booster is always one to watch out for.—Olivia Cathcart

30. Will Forte



Forte got famous because of Saturday Night Live, but he was barely even on the show this decade, leaving at the end of the 2009-2010 season. He’s on this list for a few reasons, only one of which is related to that show. MacGruber was a poorly reviewed bomb in 2010, but the true heads immediately recognized it for what it was, and it’s now considered a legit cult classic and one of the best and weirdest comedies of the decade. After a dramatic turn in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska (where kindred spirit and fellow comic genius Bob Odenkirk played his brother), Forte starred in the brilliant Fox sitcom The Last Man on Earth. Between that show, the MacGruber film, and guest appearances in a number of TV shows and specials over the decade, Forte continued the deeply absurd work he became known for on SNL.—Garrett Martin

29. Tim Robinson



A lot of SNL cast members were let go after only one season this decade, and none of them deserved that treatment less than Tim Robinson. (Although Mike O’Brien, another SNL writer turned cast member, is pretty much right alongside him on that regard.) Robinson’s brief stint resulted in two of the show’s best sketches of the decade, the fantastic “Roundball Rock” and the formally inventive “Z-Shirt” / “90s Funeral” twofer. Despite its prominence, SNL wound up as just a footnote on Robinson’s resume. Robinson co-created the beautiful Comedy Central sitcom Detroiters alongside Zach Kanin, Joe Kelly and co-star Sam Richardson, producing 20 lovably shaggy episodes that bridged the gap between sketch comedy and sitcoms. Robinson also had the best episode on Netflix’s 2016 sketch anthology The Characters. That half-hour should be mandatory viewing for fans of Robinson’s later Netflix sketch show, 2019’s practically perfect I Think You Should Leave, a cheerfully weird examination of extreme awkwardness that has become a cult favorite and one of the biggest meme generators of the year. Robinson is today’s premier chronicler of the absurdity of social anxiety, both as a writer and a performer.—Garrett Martin

28. Chelsea Peretti



After years of paying her dues, Chelsea Peretti more than earned her moment in the spotlight with her 2014 Netflix special One of the Greats. Considering the special’s title, it’s tempting to ask the obvious question: Is Peretti indeed one of the greats? Long answer—for anyone who has tracked her growth, it’s clear that she has always been a voice to be reckoned with. In this way, her special only reiterates what any serious comedy fan had long ago determined. Short answer—yeah, she’s pretty friggin’ great. (Also, I mean, just check her out on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.)—Mark Rozeman

27. Marc Maron



Marc Maron’s comedy career is weird because his actual comedy is the least important thing about his career. Maron has improved greatly as a stand-up comedian as he’s grown older, calmed down a bit, and put in the work necessary to better understand himself, but his specials are dwarfed in significance by his podcast, WTF pretty much defined an entire medium with Maron’s long, deep, personal conversations with other comedians, becoming a must-listen for comedy nerds and, later on, fans of indie rock. Maron also proved he had legit acting chops in GLOW, where his turn as the cynical director with a deep well of compassion almost stole the show away from the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.—Garrett Martin

26. Scharpling and Wurster

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Despite a short break near the middle of the decade, Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster continued to produce the best comedy on the radio—now exclusively in podcast form. The Best Show jumped from WFMU to their own website in 2014, after a year-long interregnum. TV writer Scharpling and rock drummer Wurster have been building the elaborate fictional universe of Newbridge, New Jersey, one conversation at a time since 2000, and if anything have gotten sharper and more hilarious as the years have passed. Scharpling also launched a second podcast a few years ago, the gloriously grumpy TV recap parody Meet My Friends the Friends, which is just about as funny as The Best Show.—Garrett Martin

25. Rory Scovel



No two Rory Scovel shows are the same, which makes him one of the most exciting comedians to watch live. Scovel brings an unparalleled commitment to each performance, loosely merging in and out of prepared material and a wild, improved stream-of-consciousness. It might seem impossible to capture lightning in a bottle, but his Netflix special Rory Scovel Tries Stand-Up For the First Time does an excellent job of showcasing the wild ride that is a live Scovel set. He is constantly reinventing the from with his non-traditional approach to stand-up, which not only brings himself new hoards of fans, but makes new fans of stand-up in general. His fan-base looks poised to grow even more next year as Comedy Central has picked up his new show Robbie for eight episodes.—Olivia Cathcart

24. Jim Gaffigan



Watching comedians you love grow over time is a delight, and Jim Gaffigan’s commitment to continuously releasing material is something to celebrate. Rather than coast off the success of his biggest specials, Gaffigan keeps putting jokes on record. When times get tough he opens up about it, but never in a way that alienates. If anything the slightly darker turns in his last two specials have made him all the more relatable. In an industry where so many comics release only one or two albums in their entire career, it’s comforting to know Jim Gaffigan is always around the corner with a new update about how he’s doing, in good or bad times.—John-Michael Bond

23. Donald Glover



Yes, Donald Glover is a comedian. It’s easy to forget, what with his red-hot music career and the thoughtfulness of his show Atlanta. Early this decade he released a fine stand-up special called Weirdo and was probably the standout of Community’s amazing cast. Since then he’s made the jump into serious film acting but has also co-created Atlanta, a weird, dark, important show that’s also incredibly funny when it wants to be.—Garrett Martin

22. Chris Gethard



Chris Gethard makes earnestness work, which is incredibly hard to do in the 21st century. His stand-up, as captured in the HBO special Career Suicide, is practically a one man play, probing his own emotions and depression for universal insight into modern life. His eponymous talk show found catharsis in chaos, with Gethard’s endearingly sincere presence serving as a rock amid a swirl of absurdity inspired by public access TV and punk rock.—Garrett Martin

21. Michelle Wolf


Netflix cancelled Michelle Wolf’s show far too soon, before it even really had a chance to find its voice, but it was a creative success, no matter what its streaming numbers were. Her most notable work was at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, of course, where her blistering mockery of Trump and his administration was so savage that she single-handedly killed the tradition of comedians hosting the event. Her 2017 hour-long HBO special Nice Lady is one of the best of the decade, and her appearances on The Daily Show have been the highlight of the Trevor Noah version of the show. Wolf makes the political personal with scabrous results, and should have a bright future ahead of her.—Garrett Martin

20. Amy Poehler



Forget the Neilson ratings, you know you’ve made a hit show when you see 100 variations of yourself at comic-con. Poehler’s legendary Leslie Knope was the more-than-worthy successor to Michael Scott as Parks and Recreation swiftly filled NBC’s pit-sized void after the end of The Office. Poehler made incredible use of her turn as the lead with her flu-riddled, waffle-loving politician. During an era when sitcom comedy was often defined by the crazies and the assholes, Poehler showed how the funniest character can be the one imbued with the most warmth. Although more even-tempered and charming than many of her classic SNL characters, the decade still gifted us a healthy dose of zany-Poehler with the return of her more absurd Susie in Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp and Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later. While I would never consider her time in front of or behind the camera as “underrated,” the last decade truly proved how versatile Poehler is.—Olivia Cathcart

19. Issa Rae



Issa Rae’s Insecure doesn’t cares about anyone’s approval; that’s one of the great things about it. Insecure muscled its way through HBO’s lilywhite line up, telling the stories it wanted to tell, and saying what it wanted to say about the lives of young black professionals, anchored by Rae’s star-making performance. Just look at the scene where Rae wins over the crowd at an open mic night with her song “Broken Pussy.” Even as Insecure’s characters stumble over their own anxieties, they sometimes stumble into moments of clarity and success, just as Rae does—strutting in and out of her light, gleefully rapping about pussy.—Graham Techler

18. Maria Bamford



Like her demeanor, Bamford’s material ranges from the intimate to the grandiose. An early joke in her Netflix special Old Baby, delivered to her husband and their pugs, pokes at the apologetic language people use to describe their relationships. “Um, well we just met, and we genuinely liked each other, and, you know, there’s ups and downs, but we like each other, so we stay together,” she intones, in character, her tone painfully earnest. Then her face turns cold and stony; she’s back to herself: “Oh, I’m sorry—if you’re bored with your miracle!” Her husband chuckles, patting the dog. You can tell he’s heard this joke before but it’s not a pity laugh. The beauty of their domestic setting is that it’s imbued with context, from the painting of their dog to the little bride-and-groom figurines resting atop the couch. This feels like any old day for them, just hanging out and goofing around.—Seth Simons

17. Kristen Schaal



Kristen Schaal is a horse. Her 2013 stand-up special, Live at the Fillmore, showed off her equine and comedic chops in one of the most unique and entertaining specials of the decade. Specializing in the silly and delightfully weird, the comedian has been a long-time stand-out making audiences rethink what stand-up comedy can be. While most of us are not lucky enough to see her each week hosting her show Hot Tub alongside Kurt Braunohler in Los Angeles, everyone can at least hear her on their respective cache of streaming services. Schaal has voiced some of the decade’s most iconic cartoon characters, most notably the semi-psychotic Louis Belcher on Bob’s Burgers. Since 2011, you cannot walk into a Halloween party without seeing a pair of pink bunny ears skipping around the room. She was also as crucial to the success of The Last Man on Earth as Will Forte was.—Olivia Cathcart

16. Joe Pera


Joe Pera Talks with You was the funniest TV show of 2018. It was also just the best one, too. Pera had been active for years before that, though, making various series for YouTube and other sites and developing his distinct persona on stand-up stages. Pera’s work has the bittersweet feel of classic Peanuts, with Pera as a Charlie Brown who thinks he’s a Linus, muddling through life in a world that doesn’t know what to do with him, but with an optimism that almost never cracks. It’s comedy with gravitas, no matter how ridiculous it gets, that mines serious laughs from Pera’s naive character and his small town setting without ever looking down at or belittling them. If the episode where Joe discovers the Who’s “Baba O’Riley” doesn’t win you over, we probably won’t agree on much.—Garrett Martin

15. Jerrod Carmichael

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The brilliant and criminally overlooked The Carmichael Show is the best traditional sitcom since at least Frasier. If viewers had been able to see past the live studio audience, the obvious sets and the four-camera setup, they would’ve found a show that’s unusually brave and just as wise, one that dealt with some of the most sensitive issues of our time with clarity, compassion, and legitimately great comedy. An obvious spiritual successor to Norman Lear’s socially conscious sitcoms of the ‘70s, The Carmichael Show also had one of the all-time great sitcom casts, with David Alan Grier and Loretta Devine being joined by soon-to-be stars Tiffany Haddish and Lil Rel Howery. Beyond his sitcom, which ran for three short seasons on NBC, Carmichael has proven himself to be a nervy and perceptive stand-up comedian across two HBO specials, where he challenges the audience’s political and social beliefs with understated insistence.—Garrett Martin

14. John Oliver

John Oliver has lapped all the other news satire shows by focusing on global issues and devoting up to half of each episode on a single main story. He effortlessly explains complicated issues in hilarious fashion, helping his American viewers learn crucial information from around the world while still entertaining them. Unlike The Daily Show, where the circular cynicism of US politics crushed Jon Stewart’s will to perform, Oliver still approaches every episode with vigor. Perhaps he too will burn out in time, but hopefully the once-a-week schedule and periodic season breaks keep him fresh. John Oliver is the most important comedian currently working in the worlds of public affairs and current events, and it’s hard to imagine him having the same freedom anywhere else that he has on HBO. Garrett Martin

13. Tim Heidecker



No slight to Eric Wareheim: he and Heidecker still collaborate on (very) occasional seasons of Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories and Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule. Still, Heidecker’s most frequent comedic partner this decade was Gregg Turkington, the once and future Neil Hamburger; the two have concocted their own elaborate comedy universe with the On Cinema series. On the surface a parody of movie review shows, Heidecker’s On Cinema character (also named Tim Heidecker) targets the conservative-driven culture wars and toxic masculinity of right-wing critics and pundits. This version of Heidecker is also the star of the spinoff Decker, a series of absurdly no-budget films that reflect their creator’s egotism, incompetence, and political ignorance. The whole On Cinema universe is so expansive and obtuse that it pretty much needs to be started from the beginning; if you can make that time commitment, you’ll be in love with it by the end, as well. Heidecker has also appeared in a variety of movies and TV shows over the last decade, and released a few albums of incredibly dry Randy Newman-inspired pop songs.—Garrett Martin

12. Tiffany Haddish

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In 2017 Tiffany Haddish blew the hell up. Her show-stealing turn in Girls Night elevated her from a great but obscure stand-up and sitcom actress into one of the most famous people in comedy in the span of just a few days. Her infectious personality helped a ton with that—she’s one of the most naturally likable and charismatic people to ever set foot on a stage. She’s been a highlight in every movie she’s been in the last two years, which is kind of a lot of movies, and had her own well-received stand-up special on Showtime in 2017. The former Carmichael Show cast member has basically been everywhere the last few years, hosting SNL and MTV’s VMA Awards, writing a memoir, producing a series of stand-up specials featuring her friends and colleagues for Netflix, and appearing as one of the two lead characters in Netflix’s criminally cancelled cartoon Tuca & Bertie. Haddish is striking while the iron is hot, but somehow hasn’t struck out once despite doing so much.—Garrett Martin

11. The Lonely Island


Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer might’ve wrapped up the Digital Short era of Saturday Night Live in 2012, but The Lonely Island has continued to crank out great work throughout the decade. 2016’s Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is the best music mockumentary since This Is Spinal Tap, and their three albums and two Netflix specials continue their track record of perfectly observed pop music recreations. Of the two Netflix specials, 2019’s The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience is a particularly brilliant mash-up of modern day pop and late ‘80s nostalgia, with Samberg and Schaffer playing Oakland A’s sluggers Jose Conseco and Mark McGwire in a parody of Lemonade-style “visual albums.” And although they aren’t officially Lonely Island joints, Samberg starred in two hilarious sports mockumentaries for HBO, 2015’s 7 Days in Hell and 2017’s Tour de Pharmacy, that share the troupe’s eye for closely observed details and the absurd.—Garrett Martin

10. Bill Hader



SNL is an assembly line that regularly plugs new cast members in to take the place of departed ones without even slowing down. The show’s never quite recovered from the departure of Bill Hader, though, who was equally adept at serving as a sketch’s Phil Hartman-style “glue” or at taking the lead in the vein of Will Ferrell or Kristen Wiig. Since leaving SNL he’s co-created the excellent Documentary Now with Fred Armisen, Seth Meyers and Rhys Thomas, and co-created the dark HBO comedy Barry, which has brought him a couple of Emmys for his acting. Hader has proven himself to be perhaps the best actor in comedy today, and far more versatile than the mere mimic he seemed to be when he first joined SNL in 2005.—Garrett Martin

9. Kyle Kinane

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There’s no better person to be the literal voice of Comedy Central for the past decade than the guy who’s been one of the most consistently quotable comedians to grace the stage. Kyle Kinane churns out list-topping special after special with instant-classics in 2012’s Whiskey Icarus, 2015’s I Liked His Old Stuff Better, and 2016’s Loose in Chicago. The gruff-voiced comedian intricately weaves long, but not overdrawn, stories punctuated by his surly but sweet demeanor. His natural charisma and self-awareness of his and society’s flaws makes him a compelling comic to watch. Seeing him live never gets old as Kinane always seems to have something new up his sleeve and delivers each new hilarious and relatable bit and wayward riff in a way that seems effortless. As this point, it probably is.—Olivia Cathcart

8. Kristen Wiig


The women of SNL have dominated the long-standing series since the beginning, but Kristen Wiig topped one of the their most dynamic eras. Wiig’s ability to dissolve completely into her off-beat characters led to a colorful palette of unforgettable sketches and four Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Her exit from the show was unlike anything else, a sweet and somber musical sendoff that truly cemented what a beloved and essential member of the cast she was. Wiig continued to make the world take note of her comedic genius by creating one of the biggest comedy films of the decade, 2011’s Bridesmaids. In addition to a record-breaking spin at the box office, Wiig and co-writer Annie Mumolo broke through the Academy’s biopic-loving hearts to snag a nomination for Best Original Screenplay. And this was not a dramedy that starts with 10 minutes of jokes and ends with one hour of crying—this was a true-blue comedy. Anyone who can write Melissa McCarthy shitting into a sink and grab the Academy’s adoration is a comedy god.—Olivia Cathcart

7. Melissa McCarthy


The former Groundling was nominated for an Oscar for her role in 2011’s Bridesmaids. That’s basically unthinkable. Comedies always get the shaft from the Academy, and Bridesmaids is the kind of gross-out comedy that especially gets no attention from critics or Oscar voters. Of course it was a unique gross-out comedy, and a legitimately great one, with McCarthy playing its breakout role. Bridesmaids turned her into one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood, and although not every movie she’s made since has been good, The Heat, Ghostbusters, The Boss, and especially Spy represent a better body of work than any other mainstream Hollywood film comedian of the decade. She’s also one of only two celebrities to warrant their stunt cameo as a political figure on SNL, with her Sean Spicer sidling up alongside Larry David’s Bernie Sanders as one of that show’s highlights over the last few years.—Garrett Martin

6. Tig Notaro

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For some comedians, comedy is about dredging up your pain and anxiety and burning it down into something relatable, universal and, yes, hilarious. Few do that better today than Tig Notaro, who literally bared her mastectomy scars in a set discussing her battle with cancer. Notaro’s stand-up has grown increasingly personal since her diagnosis in 2012, which has imbued it with a power and poignancy that resonates with anybody who’s known pain and loss. Notaro’s matter-of-fact outlook on pain also drove her fantastic Amazon sitcom, One Mississippi. If you doubt her power over a crowd, just check out the last few minutes of her 2018 Netflix special, Happy to Be Here; Notaro keeps the audience in the palm of her hand while repeatedly tricking them into thinking the Indigo Girls would close out the set with a surprise appearance, before actually introducing the real Indigo Girls. Trust me, it’s hilarious.—Garrett Martin

5. Danny McBride and Jody Hill



Danny McBride and Jody Hill have collaborated on three different series for HBO this decade, and each one is a hilarious and surprisingly poignant portrait of morally and emotionally undernourished men confronting their own failed ambitions and realizing their own irrelevance. Eastbound & Down’s Kenny Powers, a former major leaguer desperately chasing the superstardom he briefly knew on the mound, might be McBride’s defining creation, but he finds new shades of that archetype in both Vice Principals and The Righteous Gemstones. In a decade when the lines between comedy and drama were more porous than ever, McBride and Hill understood the power of that crossover more than almost anybody else, somehow making us care for these deeply flawed men who regularly acted reprehensibly and made the worst possible decision in almost every situation.—Garrett Martin

4. Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key


While one half of this dynamic duo is best known in 2019 as the new Alfred Hitchcock, Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key shook up Comedy Central in the 2010s with their stand-out sketch series Key and Peele. While many half-hour sketch series struggle to step out of SNL’s shadow, Key and Peele hit zeitgeist-level highs. Not only did the show finally give us the great Barack Obama impersonation we’d been starving for while teaching us all how to pronounce “Aaron,” but I don’t think anyone can watch the intro to a football game without thinking about Tyroil Smoochie-Wallace and Ladennifer Jadaniston. The series garnered numerous Emmy nominations but the better indicator of success has to be when the creators get to end their show on their own terms. Sadly short-lived, Key and Peele exited their titular series in 2015 to move onto other projects including their 2016 film Keanu. It’s almost five years but damn we still miss it.—Olivia Cathcart

3. Tina Fey



Despite leaving the show in 2006, Tina Fey still made a massive impact on Saturday Night Live in the 2010s, hosting several times and bringing her unforgettable Sarah Palin impression back when needed. The former head writer showed off her underrated acting skills in and out of the Weekend Update desk and shined in her turns as host, including her Emmy-winning stint with Amy Poehler in 2016. The two would go on to put all the late-night James’ award hosting skills to shame by hosting three sharp-tongued Golden Globe award ceremonies. She’s also starred in a run of often underrated Hollywood comedies, including Date Night, Admission and Sisters. Fey’s producing prowess lead to the creation of two shows on Paste’s 100 Best TV Shows of the Decade, and as funny as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was, Fey’s greatest contribution of the decade has to be the last few seasons of 30 Rock. The critic’s darling and cult-favorite show wrapped up it’s seven series run strong. Each season only got better and it still probably holds the title for most jokes-per-minute for a TV show.—Olivia Cathcart

2. Hannibal Buress

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Over the past decade Hannibal Buress has cultivated a bulletproof persona across three specials, five albums, numerous movie roles, a co-starring turn on Broad City, and co-hosting duties on The Eric Andre Show. His delivery can make almost anything funny, in a way similar to Mitch Hedberg and Steven Wright in previous decades. His actual material isn’t anything like those two comics, though—full of personal observations and stories, Buress is able to take some of the most overdone types of stand-up and make it feel fresh and new through his unique viewpoints. Yeah, sure, that’s what most stand-up comedians do, but very few do it as well as Buress.—Garrett Martin

1. John Mulaney

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So this was pretty much the Mulaney decade, wasn’t it? At least in the comedy world. He has the biggest and strongest body of work of any comedian over the last 10 years, and apparently did it without harassing or abusing anybody. Crazy! Mulaney doesn’t tell jokes, per se; he weaves long, elaborate stories out of his daily life, both now and as a child, focusing on how absurd the mundane can be. That might make him sound like some kind of Seinfeldian observational comic, but he avoids the clichés of that genre. It’s not the observation that makes Mulaney funny, or the recognition we might have for whatever he’s talking about. It’s the level of detail that he goes into, like when he talks about elementary school assemblies. He doesn’t just bring up that familiar setting and tell a few broad jokes about kids, teachers and school. He goes deep into one specific assembly he had to attend every year, describing in detail the Chicago police officer who specialized in child homicide and would give annual presentations on how to avoid or escape “stranger danger.” Mulaney creates a whole tableau out of this assembly, from the outlandish appearance of Officer J.J. Bittenbinder, to the cop’s increasingly ridiculous scenarios, with the comedy growing with every new detail. There’s no conventional setup or punchline, and little reliance on the universality of his topic; it’s just a story ostensibly pulled from Mulaney’s life and told in a fantastic fashion. That skill set maybe wasn’t transferable to his short-lived and rightfully criticized sitcom, Mulaney, but between his stand-up specials and albums, his writing for SNL, his work on Oh Hello and Big Mouth with Nick Kroll, and even his role as Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham, in last year’s tremendous Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Mulaney has produced an incredible—and incredibly consistent—body of work throughout the entire decade. Now let’s see if he can do it again in the 2020s.—Garrett Martin

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