30 Under 35: Female Comedians to Watch
3:01 pm, October 24th | by Colette McIntyre
When Saturday Night Live went through its massive overhaul earlier this fall, introducing the most new cast members since the ’90s, we weren’t devastated just because Bill Hader was gone (though that certainly was a factor). Our hearts broke once we realized that only one woman was selected to grace the legendary Studio 8H stage. One woman, out of six new additions. And don’t even get us started (again) on how white everyone was…
It’s not that the talent isn’t out there. Despite what some male comedians and ignorant talking heads would have you believe, there is a real wealth of young funny women changing the game. It may be that these performers aren’t in the traditional comedy spaces, standing in front of a brick wall, water bottle perched on a stool, but they are creating comedy and making names for themselves — directing viral videos, launching their own sketch groups, starting open mics, reaching hundreds of thousands of fans on Twitter, and/or writing the next Bridesmaids. These women all deserve spots on SNL or, at the very least, your attention. From Amy Schumer, who has quickly become the new It girl of comedy, to nineteen-year-old Twitter prodigy Shelby Fero, here are the most buzz-worthy and talented female comedians yet to place a 35th candle on their birthday cake.
1. Sasheer Zamata
This isn’t the first time that we’ve sung Sasheer Zamata’s praises and it certainly won’t be the last. Bewitchingly hilarious, Zamata’s web videos have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to BUST and we personally named our diaries after her just so we could feel like we were chatting with her every day. (Don’t hate the playa, hate the playa’s debilitating loneliness!) Unsurprisingly, she was one of the few comics selected to perform in Comedy Central’s Comics to Watch showcase. You can see examples of her smart, sharp humor on Totally Biased, Inside Amy Schumer, MTV’s Hey Girl, or the UCBNY stage, where she performs sketch and improv.
2. Katie Crown
You may not know Katie Crown (yet) (though you really should) but you definitely know her voice: this Canadian performer has voiced characters on all of our favorite animated shows including Bob’s Burgers, Adventure Time, and Total Drama Island. The very same abilities that make Crown such a dynamic voice-over actor distinguish her comedy from that of her peers; we never knew that stand-up could be so endearing and charmingly awkward until we saw her perform. Crown’s sense of whimsy is slowly making her a star — she has been racking up television appearances on shows like Conan, BBC America’s The Nerdist, and HBO’s Funny As Hell.
3. Nicole Byer
Fact: we only watch MTV’s Girl Code for Nicole Byer. There is just something so familiar about Byer and her sense of humor — she’s like the girl who ruled over the back of the school bus with dick jokes and magnetic confidence, the one you were always dying to sit with or by or even somewhat near. Except Byer is way funnier. And we aren’t alone in our obsession: Byer is practically the queen of Tumblr and, as the old saying goes, “if there are 1000 GIFS of your jokes slowly taking over the Internet, you are doing something right. When she’s not advising us on how to break up with a guy or what to bring to a party, Byer can be seen all over College Humor and performing at UCB, where she is on an improv team with fellow light of our lives and 30×35 honoree, Sasheer Zamata.
4. Annie Lederman
The best two words that we can come up with to describe Annie Lederman’s comedy are honest and ruthless — emphasis on ruthless. A recovering alcoholic, Lederman has seen some shit and she is not ashamed or afraid to share those rock-bottom-stories with the world. (Which is great for the world since those stories are hilarious.) Now knowing what you do about Lederman and her penchant for no-holds-barred humor, it should come as no surprise that she is a Chelsea Lately favorite. Expect to see more of this raunchy bombshell on your TV; she already appears regularly on MTV’s manic prank show Money From Strangers and performed a set on the upcoming Comedy Central series Adam Devine’s House Party.
5. Kate McKinnon
After the mass exodus of long-tenured Saturday Night Live‘s cast members from Studio 8H, Kate McKinnon has quickly become the sketch show’s fastest rising star and nothing could make us happier. We still remember giddily watching McKinnon on Logo Network’s Big Gay Sketch Show, crying with laughter anytime she played Fitzwilliam, the small British boy who dreams of having a vagina. McKinnon’s celebrity impressions are out of this world; she is a type of facial acrobat, committing to her roles in a way that is manic, mad, and, most of all, memorable.
6. Franchesca Ramsay
With just one video, Franchesca Ramsay shot to fame — excuse us, with one flawless, painfully insightful, and downright funny video. After releasing “Shit White Girls Say To Black Girls,” Ramsay’s two YouTube channels racked up over 150k subscribers and 23 million views. She is one of the best web comics out there, consistently producing content that is smart, funny, concise, and much too real. If you don’t believe us, just check MTV, The New York Times, NPR, Ebony, and a thousand other publications who have all fallen under Ramsay’s spell.
One day and one day soon, Betsy Sodaro will have her big moment and the world will be a better place for it. If you are into comedy at all, you’ve definitely seen her around: her UCB credit are bananas (she performs on the legendary ASSSSCAT improv juggernaut, various sketch teams, and in numerous UCB videos), she appeared in the film The to Do List, and can be seen all over your TV boxes on comedy programs such as Comedy Bang Bang, Stevie TV, and Kroll Show. This girls is too talented and charismatic to not be big! Lord, hear our prayer!
8. Ali Wong
Ali Wong has already dominated the Bay Area comedy scene, being selected by SF Weekly as the best comedian of 2009 and awarded “Best of the Bay” by the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and now she has set her sights on the world. If her performance on John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show is any indication of what she has in store for us, we think Wong is easily going to increase her territories from just the Bay Area to the entire continental United States. And soon.
9. Nikki Glaser
MTV has done very little for me in the past — when I was 12, my mother caught me secretly watching The Real World and grounded me for a week; the network introduced me to Gideon Yago, the love of my life, and then, without warning, it just snatched him away; I was made to talk to Veejay Damien Fahey, the poor man’s Carson Daly, outside of an AFI show (I was going through a phase, okay?) — but giving Nikki Glaser a late-night show has made up for all of it. Along with her comedy partner Sara Schaefer, Glaser is taking back the late-night, infusing some much needed estrogen and panty jokes into the scene. Also, if you haven’t listened to the duo’s podcast “You Had To Be There,” well my friend, you haven’t lived.
10, Jessica Williams
The Daily Show‘s brightest new star Jessica Williams is an actress, writer, and all-around funny lady from Los Angeles, California. Before she was teaching the world that Black Mormons do exist, Williams performed at all the classic LA comedy venues, including UCBLA, and putting on shows with “ComedySportz: The College Team.” As The Daily Show‘s first Black female correspondent, Williams easily won our hearts but she kept them because she’s a natural performer — vibrant, lively, and charismatic<— providing a nice contrast to the show’s traditional suit and tie shit.
11. Shelby Fero
Shelby Fero is a Twitter phenom, a Twitter prodigy. But she’s more than just “that really funny girl from Twitter,” she’s now a nineteen-year-old full-fledged comic who hangs out with comedy greats like Paul Scheer (who she performs with at UCB LA), has the respect and admiration of Patton Oswalt and Norm McDonald, writes for the upcoming TBS late-night show Midnight Show with Pete Holmes, and — and we can’t talk about her anymore. We feel terrible about ourselves.
12. Emily Heller
It’s incredibly easy to be Emily Heller’s fan; she is disarmingly self-deprecating and hilariously perceptive. We love her because she’s the type of comic whose jokes will make as laugh, sure, but also think Wait — that’s so true! THAT’S SO TRUE! We aren’t the first to toot Heller’s horn: she has been included in Comedy Central’s Comics to Watch showcase, won Rooftop Comedy’s Silver Nail Award, and was named one of the “Funniest People in Town” by 7×7 Magazine. Next up Heller’s whip-smart mind will be put to good use as a writer on the upcoming Fox series Surviving Jack.
13. Jamie Lee
It’s unfair that Jamie Lee gets to be both a babe and incredibly funny. Evidently our mothers lied — some girls do have it all. When Lee isn’t making spot-on jokes about ladyhood and love on MTV’s Girl Code, she’s popping up on Vh1 countdowns as the only talking head that you want to listen to or writing for television shows like Rob Dyrdek’s MTV series Ridiculousness or Pete Holmes’ new late-night show The Midnight Show.
14. Amy Schumer
Amy Schumer is comedy’s new It girl and we are not complaining. For any strange guy you meet in a dive bar who smells like buffalo wings and argues that women can’t be as vulgar or raunchy as men, just pull up a clip from Schumer’s hit Comedy Central series Inside Amy Schumer on your 4G MSN Bing phone. While she may look like the girl whom you graduated high school with and became a kindergarten teacher, Amy Schumer tells jokes that would make a sixteen-year-old Tosh.O fan cringe. She is proof that a woman can be sexy, hilarious, and ruthless all at the same time, and that the people will just eat it up: her stand-up special Mostly Sex Stuff is Comedy Central’s second-highest rated special.
15. Joselyn Hughes
Joselyn Hughes knows how to find the humor in life’s small tragedies, like getting trapped at the office party with a creepy coworker or realizing that most of your exes have come out as gay. Her ability to combine the relatable and the weird in one quip has made her a Twitter pro, nabbing her a nomination for the National Lampoon Twitter Awards. Hughes has appeared on Chelsea Lately, Tosh.O, and VH1, and now can be seen on her very own Nerdist web series “DIY, Damnnit!”
16. Cameron Esposito
A few months ago we declared that Cameron Esposito had the best late-night debut in recent history and the title still holds true. Despite being called into the lion’s den, a.k.a. being invited to join Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson and Jay Leno in the panel seats, Esposito managed to keep her cool and rattle off jokes like an ol’ pro. Leno was right when he called her “the future” — Esposito’s moxie and smart takes on pop culture and life easily overshadow most of her competitors on the comedy field.
17. Aparna Nancherla
Aparna Nancherla has been on practically every list and roundup of the best up-and-coming comedians and one look at her various stand-up clips or sketches will tell you why. While the comedic landscape is currently dominated by what we like to call “runaway LOL trains” — comics who seemingly never take a breath, Nancherla knows how to make silence work in her favor. She is a stand-out performer and the industry has taken notice: Nancherla writes and performs for FXX’s Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell and was one of the New Faces at the 2013 Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal.
18. Jena Friedman
Jena Friedman defines her comedic style as “dark, dry, and Jewey.” A former staff writer for The Late Show with David Letterman and a current field producer at The Daily Show, Friedman has successfully translated her hilarious and smart standup into a multi-platform career. In fact, her play skewering the American Girl dolls and, in turn, the American Dream, Refugee Girls, had a successful off-broadway run. Friedman is performing some of the sharpest satirical and political comedy out there.
19. Alice Wetterlund
The third (and the last) Girl Code cast member to make the list, Alice Wetterlund is the wackiest of the bunch. A little spacey, a little sardonic, and just the right amount of weird, Wetterlund sees the world at a different bend; each of her performances is glimpse inside one of the most unique and creative new minds in comedy. A New Face for the 2013 Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal and a featured comic for Fox’s Night of Comedy in Los Angeles, Wetterlund is fast on her way to becoming a household name.
20. Kate Berlant
Kate Berlant doesn’t perform your typical stand-up comedy. Shying away from embarrassing anecdotes about her sex life or pithy observations on airlines , Berlant focuses on the surreal and the absurd. Her world is psychedelic, a bit crooked; her jokes are digressive, a bit tangential, sometimes even improved. Following in the tradition of Andy Kaufman and, more recently, Reggie Watts, Berlant brings theater and nonsense into her stand-up and the result is electric. You may not get her at first but something about her will make you keep trying until you do.
21. Sarah Fineout
Sarah Fineout is a Chicago comic, through and through. A masterful improviser and an undercover actress, Fineout commits to her characters and her games with tenacity and assured confidence. Never settling for the easy joke, she waits, gives more of herself, and coaxes the scene into its full fruition. A member of iO theater’s The Scene and Revolver and The Playground’s Out of Character, Fineout is a reliably hilarious performer.
22. Rhea Butcher
Rhea Butcher’s comedy gets personal — not like your middle school Xanga got personal since Butcher says things that people actually want to hear, but personal nonetheless. We’d argue that Butcher is more like hilarious storyteller than your typical comedian; her shows are smart meditations on identity, gender, and sexuality that just so happen to make you laugh. After opening for the likes of Maria Bamford and Bobcat Goldthwait, Butcher gave stand-out performances at cherished LA alt rooms like The Meltdown and Holy F*ck. In our opinion, it’s only a matter of time till Butcher is on the main stage.
23. Esther Povitsky
Known as “Little Esther” in ~*~the scene~*~, Esther Povitsky has studied comedy pretty much everywhere that one can. With time at io Chicago, The Second City, and The Groundlings under her belt, this Little Comic has easily made a name for herself, both through her viral videos and standup. The first female guest to ever appear on “The Joe Rogan Experience” and host of the “Weird Adults” podcast, Povitsky has also landed a docu-comedy pilot with MTV.
24. Morgan Murphy
Morgan Murphy sure knows how to keep busy: writing for everything from Human Giant to Jimmy Kimmel Live to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to now 2 Broke Girls, all while simultaneously hitting the standup circuit, the comedian’s hustle puts half of the industry to shame. Consistently great live, Murphy has performed in the “Comedians of Comedy” tour and each of Aimee Mann’s “Christmas Spectacular” tours.
25. Liza Treyger
According to her bio, Liza Treyger “is from the former Soviet Union, where jokes aren’t allowed. So she moved to Chicago, where she continues to tell jokes to this very day….Russia still thinks that Liza just went out for a pack of smokes.” If that didn’t win Treyger your favor, we simply don’t know what to tell you. Sharp and hilarious, she has been named one of Comedy Central’s “Comics to Watch” and participated in TBS’ “Just For Laughs” festival in Chicago. If that’s not enough for you, know that Treyger represented our beautiful nation, the good ol’ USA, at the Glasgow Comedy Festival this past April. So, in short, not liking Liza Treyger is not liking America.
26. Katie Dippold
It’s Katie Dippold’s job to make Parks and Recreation funny and we’d say that the New Jersey native is doing a pretty swell (swell?) job. After cutting her comedic teeth at the UCB theater in New York, Dippold went behind-the-scenes, writing for the twelfth season of MADtv, where she quickly became a co-producer. Oh and remember that little Paul Feig movie that you loved so much earlier this year, The Heat? Dippold wrote that too. In 2012, Variety named her one of the “10 Screenwriters to Watch”. If Variety doesn’t mind, we’re going to be watching Dippold in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017…
27. >Renee Gauthier
Provocative, perceptive, and smart, Renee Gauthier is a regular on the comedy circuit, telling jokes that are unpredictable in direction and delivery. Being a woman in the comedy industry isn’t easy but Gauthier has the bravado and self-aware likeability to make it anywhere.
28. Lauren Lapkus
You may see Lauren Lapkus and think of Orange Is The New Black‘s rookie correctional officer Susan Fischer but this funny lady has a lot more going for her than creepy Caputo’s crushy-wushy. Before landing a role on Netflix’s hit prison series, Lapkus was a minor celeb in the improv world, performing with ASSSSCAT and Bangarang! at UCB NY and appearing in a sketch with the Ryan Reynolds on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. Hopefully there is more in store for Officer Fischer in OITNB Season 2 because Lapkus’ has some serious comedic chops that deserve to be put to use.
29. & 30. Kate Micuicci and Riki Lindhome
Usually we just can’t with musical comedy acts. You can take your Bo Burnham; we’d prefer monotone jokes about pizza, farts, and pizza farts any day of the week. But when we discovered Garfunkel and Oates, Kate Micuicci and Riki Lindhome’s musical comedy duo, well, we ate our hats! Surprisingly, we don’t mind it when these ladies play ukuleles and sing to us about how pregnant women are smug and trying to get a medical marijuana prescription; the songs are dirty, charming, and damn catchy! Thus we were overjoyed when IFC announced their new ten-episode half-hour comedy starring these funny singing ladies.