It's no longer enough merely to be funny. Today comedians must take a much more enterprising role in their careers, creating their own projects, actively cultivating engaged fan bases and self-marketing unique styles and personas. Here are some of the individuals and groups who are not only attracting industry attention in Los Angeles and beyond but also making hard work — and dependable hilarity — look easy in the process.
10. Ryan Singer: He joined Marc Maron in Bob Dylan's groundbreaking "Like a Rolling Stone" interactive video, directed his own pilot starring Brent Weinbach and co-hosts monthly Echoes Under Sunset variety show Underbelly with Chris Garcia. "The reason all these comedians choose to work with Ryan is because he makes you love comedy," explains L.A. booker and producer Samantha Varela. "Ryan's enthusiasm is infectious and compels you to hang on to every word. He lives life to the fullest and dives headfirst into every adventure." As Singer's second album, Comedy Wonder Town, muses, "You have to keep an open heart and an open mind."
9. Power Violence: Smoothing over some mid-2013 venue hiccups, Rodney Berry, Budd Diaz, Clay Tatum, Whitmer Thomas and tech master Jeramy Ritchie's interactive Sunday weekly show returned to Theatre Row's the Complex, picking up where they'd left off in their ongoing embrace of the collaborative creative process. The Modern Comedian veterans live together, shoot nutzoid video sketches together, play music together and celebrate skate culture together; after this month's appearance at the L.A. Riot comedy festival, this spring they'll hit underground venues throughout their old Southeast stomping grounds. The DIY road exploits will be filmed and released as a full-length tour documentary.
8. Ian Karmel: Following July's Just for Laughs Montreal set, the "New Faces" breakthrough was quickly snagged as a Chelsea Lately writer and regular performer. Recalls fellow Portland, Ore., native and Portlandia vet Ron Funches, "I knew he was undoubtedly a star the first time I saw him at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival, carrying an improv group on his back like some type of star NFL running back. Whether it's onstage or singing in the shower, Ian exudes incredible charm and range. He is one of the most hardworking and quick-witted people I've ever met."
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7. Cristela Alonzo: The Texas transplant grew up surrounded by abject poverty and drug cartels; after living nearly 10 years in Los Angeles, her résumé now includes Showtime, MTV.com, Comedy Central's The Half Hour comedy special and a spate of late-night credits. Alonzo also has on the horizon both a CD and an ABC show based on her stand-up and family, proving that while culture, relationships and wondering why we don't quite fit in with the world around us may be broad, well-trod topics, in the right hands their universality will never diminish.
6. Bryan Cook: The Nerdist podcaster's Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction — in which comics create filthy stories involving characters from film, TV, literature, even real life — has been invited to San Francisco SketchFest, Bumbershoot, Just for Laughs Chicago and more. "Its genius is that it challenges every comic to work blue, and the range of deliveries is hilariously unique," says Danielle N. Kramer, program director and producer for NerdMelt Showroom, the show's home base. "The audience gets to join the fun, too, by adding topics to a hat and voting on who most masterfully created the dirtiest tale. Plus I get to write things like, 'Get yer panties in a bunch for CEFF!' in promotion, so it's a win-win all around."
5. Andrés du Bouchet: The Conan staff writer is responsible for some of the show's funniest sketches ("How to Draw Forehead Penises"). In addition, as TheComedyBureau.com's Jake Kroeger notes, "His album Naked Trampoline Hamlet showcases an array of brilliantly farcical characters and reaches such poetic and hysterical peaks as the title track's casting director exclaiming, 'There's the door!' to those unprepared to perform Hamlet nude ... and bouncing." Live, du Bouchet ratchets the absurdism up even further, from reading "excerpts" of a book on finch mating calls to sampling only the beginning and end of his unproduced one-man show, One Hundred and Me Percent.
4. Matt McCarthy: The former college mascot and World Wrestling Entertainment writer is all about conveying slow-burning energy and an intrinsic physicality. Now co-host of the We Watch Wrestling podcast alongside Tom Sibley and Vince Averill and a regular on TBS talk show The Pete Holmes Show, the omnipresent commercial actor's live stand-up has grown even more measured, with numerous festival (Sasquatch, All Tomorrow's Parties) and TV appearances (Comedy Central) revealing a multidimensional artist capable of commanding laughs with the slightest raise in volume, morose dropping of a lip or knowing arch of an eyebrow.
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3. Betsy Sodaro: A member of Upright Citizens Brigade's house team Bangarang! and weekly performer on the theater's ASSSSCAT showcase, Sodaro, according to UCB artistic director Alex Berg, is "a rare case of somebody who's so innately talented, so naturally and effortlessly hilarious and engaging, that it makes you giddy at the prospect of where she'll be in 10 years." Though her 2012 NBC series, Animal Hospital, didn't pan out, both The Kroll Show and Comedy Bang! Bang! took notice and have given her roles. "You know she's going to be iconic at some point," Berg says. "It's just a question of when it'll happen."
2. Drennon Davis: The musical-character mastermind behind The Imaginary Radio Program has performed his FM free-for-all at SXSW, Dave Chappelle's Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival and Scotland's annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where his monthlong run was produced by acclaimed international sketch duo the Pajama Men. The multitalented performer's credits also include Comedy Central series Adam Devine's House Party, and his quadruple-threat status is firmly cemented with eclectic, world-weary, not-particularly-kid-friendly animated content, which has appeared at the L.A. Animation Festival, the New York Television Festival and on MTV's Liquid Television block.
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1. WOMEN: "If you agree the world is an awful place populated by awful people, you'll enjoy WOMEN," promises Sean Casey, Westside Comedy Theater general manager and artistic director. "You'll laugh at targets you already know — bros, improv, cancer — and look forward to more." Pat Bishop, Dave Ross, Jake Weisman and Allen Strickland Williams' sketches (which have appeared on Tosh.0) are tight and brisk, containing no meandering character explorations or pointless filler but plenty of pitch-perfect detachment. "[They prove] you can reference something and also hate on it," Casey adds. "Long may their dissatisfaction last."
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