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The 10 funniest comedians who broke through in 2018

Yardbarker logo Yardbarker 11/30/2018 Sean Keane, Yardbarker
Hannah Gadsby wearing a suit and tie: Hannah Gadsby speaks onstage during the 70th Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, California on September 17, 2018.  © ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images Hannah Gadsby speaks onstage during the 70th Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, California on September 17, 2018. 

2018 was a great year for comedy, with more venues than ever for comedians to emerge: comedy clubs, podcasts, sketch groups and roughly 5,000 Netflix specials. It’s also the most diverse the comedy landscape had been, with people from all over the world and all over the spectrum of lifestyles getting a chance to shine. But there are 10 particular comedians who stood out, with their perspectives, creativity, and dance moves elevating them above the pack, onto our televisions and computer screens and into our hearts.

Warning: Some of these comedians work blue material, so not every link is safe for all audiences. 

Emmy Blotnick

Mayim Bialik posing for the camera © Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images

Emmy Blotnick has always been a star behind the scenes, writing for shows like "Midnight," "Not Safe with Nikki Glaser," and "Late Night with Stephen Colbert," where she’s still on staff. But this year she went front and center with her own Comedy Central half-hour, discussing dating, internet rabbit holes and Swedish pop music emperor Max Martin. She also went on "Conan" to talk about her hatred of comic book movies, and she talked heists and farts with Chris Distefano. In addition, she served as head writer for one of the year’s most subversive TV programs "The President Show." It was a "yooge" year for Blotnick, and you can catch a clip of her here.

Nicholas Braun

Nicholas Braun wearing a suit and tie © Hannah Turner-Harts/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Nicholas Braun plays Cousin Greg, aka “The Egg,” the breakout character on the best new comedy of 2018, "Succession." (Editor's note: Not really a comedy, but we'll allow it.) In a show full of arrogant, wealthy monsters, Braun’s Greg is an awkward endearing innocent; a goldfish dropped into a tank of piranhas. It helps that Braun stands a gangly 6-foot-6 and calls himself “the tallest guy in the room with the least amount of power,” 

This may be a theme for him, as he also played "Tall Brian” in "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot." (He’s also played a character named “Ponytail Derek.”) Braun’s stammering delivery and impeccable timing lead to his stealing scene after scene, and his relationship with Matthew Macfadyen’s Tom is the closest thing the show has to an emotional heart, whether they’re eating endangered ortolans, discussing “the death pit” or Greg is rhapsodizing about his love of the California Pizza Kitchen. Be sure to check him out here.

Hannah Gadsby 

a man sitting on a stage © Walter McBride/Getty Images

Netflix has been criticized for releasing too many comedy specials, often all at once, which makes it hard for any to stand out. That was not a problem for the Australian Gadsby, whose "Nanette" was the most talked-about, tweeted-about and think-pieced-about special of 2018. (“I wouldn’t want to be a straight white man if you paid me! Although the pay would be substantially better.”) Especially in the year of #MeToo, Gadsby managed to turn trauma into comedy while also creating comedy about how messed up it is to do that in the first place. As Gadsby herself puts it, “Generally, I like to take a story of woe from my actual factual life and make it hilarious. You’re welcome.” She may have been trying to bomb so she could quit. She also stole the show at the Emmys with her brief appearance as a presenter, lampooning reaction to her special and getting some free clothes out of it. Don't miss one of 2018's best breakthroughs in comedy here.

Joel Kim Booster

a person standing on a stage in front of a curtain © FilmMagic/Getty Images

Joel Kim Booster has a completely unique background in standup comedy. He’s a gay South Korean native who was adopted by white evangelicals in suburban Chicago (he sold a series about it) and calls his comedy a way to deal with his resulting “identity dysmorphia.” Booster explained the he was homeschooled so he wouldn’t learn about sex or evolution, but “as a fun fringe benefit of that, I don’t know about states either.” Mainly the result is Booster’s brash comedy with tight, precise joke-writing that landed him a Comedy Central special and his debut album, "Model Minority." This year, he appeared on Variety’s Comics To Watch list as well as the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, since he’s frustratingly talented for how young he is. He’s done "Conan," written for Billy On The Street and Big Mouth, and he can even pull off wearing coveralls on stage.  He's great, so don't miss this rising star.

Sam Jay

a man standing on a stage in front of a curtain © FilmMagic/Getty Images

Sam Jay had a 15-minute Netflix special in 2018, following a Comedy Central half-hour which came out at the tail end of 2017, which speaks to just how much funny material she puts out, considering she also released an album in July. That album, “Donna’s Daughter,” might be the first great comedy album to focus on lesbian divorce. It’s also a pastiche, featuring hip-hop-style production, and the standup bits are interspersed with conversations, answering machines messages, etc. that further elaborate on Jay herself beyond the “hostile” stage persona. It’s energetic, hysterical, pull-no-punches comedy. Jay also wrote for the Emmys and the MTV Awards this year and is currently in her second year writing for a little sketch show you might have heard of: "Saturday Night Live." You need to know her routine now.  

Megan Gailey

a person holding a microphone © FilmMagic/Getty Images

Megan Gailey's first half-hour special premiered this fall on Comedy Central. National audiences had previously discovered the Midwestern charms of Gailey on "Conan," or her MTV prank show, "Ladylike." But this year she really broke through, fully embracing being an “annoying white woman,” and delivering a lot of great tips for not getting murdered. Complex said Gailey could spout off about anything and it would be effortlessly funny, and they aren’t wrong. This year, she started hosting a show for NFL Network called "The Checkdown," she’s a co-host on "Hysteria," the podcast from Crooked Media, ABC put her pilot into development, and she got engaged in front of a Reggie Miller mural! It would be a perfect year for Gailey if only her beloved Indianapolis Colts were doing slightly better in the AFC South. Don't miss her PSA on personal safety

Nico Santos 

a man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera © Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for GLAAD

Nico Santos had already charmed audiences with his appearances on "Chelsea Lately" and starring role as undocumented immigrant and “shady queen” Mateo in "Superstore" (a character that was rewritten so it could feature Santos). But this year, he was part of the biggest comedy hit of the year, playing “the rainbow sheep of the family” in "Crazy Rich Asians." The movie also featured the first cast entirely made up of Asian actors since 1993, and it made the producers crazy rich themselves. America may not have known it needed Santos heckling outfits with Awkwafina, but it absolutely did. You can also see Santos performing stand-up all over the country when he’s not needed on set. Or you can watch him here for just a sample.

Demi Adejuyigbe

a man standing on a stage holding a microphone © Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for New York Magazine

In 2018, comedian/writer/musician/honorary member of Earth Wind & Fire Demi Adejuyigbe left the acclaimed sitcom "The Good Place" to write for the acclaimed variety show "The Late Late Show with James Corden." But his star shines even brighter on the internet, where his Will Smith credits raps might be our favorite thing on there — unless it’s his annual videos every Sept. 21, which this year got so big that he raised over $17,000 for charity simply selling the T-shirt he wears in them. Now that he’s working on a show known for its musical comedy, Adejuyigbe will no doubt deliver even more vital sensations. But you can also get your Demi fix on the podcast "Pump Up The Jam," where he reviews and remixes popular songs. Need a lift? Yes, he'll make you smile.

Hasan Minhaj

Virat Kohli wearing a microphone © Matthew Eisman/Getty Images for Ozy Media

Normally, having your own show on Netflix or having a sketch comedy special on Comedy Central would count as a wildly successful year for a comedian. Hasan Minhaj had both happen in 2018. "Patriot Act" is a weekly political show from Minhaj, the veteran of "The Daily Show" and the White House Correspondents' Dinner, while "Goatface" is a sketch show specifically about the Indian/Middle Eastern experience in America — Sneaker Baus is a particular standout, though we also love the old sketch about an Indian Spider-Man. Will Minhaj’s show succeed? He made a good first move by consulting with "Queer Eye" early on. He even makes Jimmy Kimmel laugh.

Matt Ingebretson, Jake Weisman and Pat Bishop

a group of people standing next to a person in a suit and tie: Jake Weisman, Pat Bishop and Matt Ingebretson speak onstage during the Comedy Central portion of the 2018 Winter TCA on January 15, 2018 in Pasadena, California. © Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Viacom Jake Weisman, Pat Bishop and Matt Ingebretson speak onstage during the Comedy Central portion of the 2018 Winter TCA on January 15, 2018 in Pasadena, California.

The dystopian sitcom "Corporate," the creation of stars Matt Ingebretson and Jake Weisman, along with writer-director Pat Bishop, appeared on countless best-of lists for 2018 and got a glowing endorsement from Entertainment Weekly. It’s maybe the darkest sitcom on television — the first season finale was a long 9/11 joke — but the sheer zaniness and inventiveness of the show make it a delight. And what’s more relatable in 2018 than a group of depressed young people being crushed by a soulless corporation? Previously Jake made some amazing sketches with "Women" (they’re all dudes), also directed by Mr. Bishop, and Matt made a number of short films, including “I’d Love For You To See Me Dance.” 


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