The current popularity of stand-up comedy means a constant stream of jokes, specials and fresh comedians; fans will never be at a loss to hear different perspectives and inventive approaches to every subject under the sun. One of the only difficulties is trying to dig through the embarrassment of riches to hone in on new and interesting voices. Here, Rolling Stone does some of the work for you, picking some of the brightest young talents worth watching as they nab their first, big credits and beyond. From the “Space Prince” to a man one identified onstage as “Ahbad Badoody,” these firecrackers and oddballs have been rising in the ranks and sure to break big soon.
Stand-up comedian and SNL writer Julio Torres is making a name for himself onstage and off. True to his moniker, “Space Prince,” Julio Torres has an ethereal stage presence and gentle, lilting cadence full of pregnant pauses. As his set from Late Night with Seth Meyers shows, this El Salvadorian transplant’s bits about the loneliness of veganism and estrangement from middle America do seem to observe Earthlings from some light years away. His best guess at getting a straight guy a birthday present is to bring him an empty Gatorade bottle to put in his room, and he can’t quite get a handle on small talk: “I was at a party, and I was trying to explain to a friend what fantasy football is, when someone interrupted me and said, ‘No, no, Julio, that’s Quidditch.'” On SNL, he has a way of endowing great importance on small things (like a gawdy bathroom sink contemplating the reason for its existence) and his ostensible parody of Fisher Price commercials “Wells for Boys” – written with fellow SNL writer Jeremy Beiler – is one of the best sketches on the show in the last few years. His capacity for translating weirdness for a big audience means that his name recognition can only grow, whether he is at the mic or behind-the-scenes.
Mo Amer knows how to seize the moment. On a trans-Atlantic flight, he
happened to be upgraded to a seat next to Eric Trump, whom he prodded about the
proposed Muslim registry. It blew up on social media and, months later, he was
making a bit of it on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. And though he had already toured
countries around the world, opening for Dave Chappelle has informed the
Kuwaiti-born, Texan’s comedic cadence and approach to his subject matter. The
comic takes big, often thorny social issues – immigration, policing of
minorities, Muslim life in the U.S. post 9/11 – and examines them from a slightly
askew angle while always making room for a little silliness and light. (In a
concert film made with a collective of fellow Muslim stand-ups called Allah
Made Me Funny, Amer jokes about the difficulty of chaperoning his proud,
energetic nephew Osama at Walmart: “He’s nine years old. He’s running
can’t call him!“) Also working to connect disparate audiences, Amer
plans to record his first hour special in English in 2017, and then translate
much of the material and record it in Arabic in 2018.
One moment listening to lively, chatty Naomi Ekperigin, and it’s clear: This woman knows her voice and how to channel it. In a rapid stream of sing-song verbiage, she covers topics from her Jewish husband (that is, her “Jewboo”) to advice for white girls gleaned from true crime shows (“Stop with the jogging at dawn and dusk. If the light is low, you do not go.”) While she has already appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers and in her own Comedy Central Half-Hour, stand-up is just one of her talents. As a writer for Broad City and Difficult People, Ekperigin also has her finger on the pulse of the motormouthed, pop-cultured, urban-dwelling protagonist. She was tapped to create the new Jessica Williams show for Comedy Central, and though it didn’t get picked up, she has more than one way to make her mark in showbiz in the coming years.
In an industry constantly on the lookout for the relatable performer with universal likability, it’s a surprise that Gina Brillon hasn’t blown up yet. This Bronx-born Puerto Rican comic’s take on family, work and relationships is smart, perceptive and hits home with comedy club audiences and on Late Night with Seth Meyers, too. Her subjects include the maddening echo chamber she feels inherent in the female mind, what it’s like to have a twin with low self-esteem and her wish to rid the world of the term ‘cougar’: “If you’re an older woman dating a younger guy, good for you. If you can’t find a good man, raise one.”
Brillon’s presence is both comfortable and comforting: She could be a daughter, a cousin or a neighbor chatting about the everyday challenges of catcalls and guys who want her to sound like Rosie Perez. Thankfully, as she’s made her way through the club system, she’s also made a few important friends. Gabriel Iglesias has included her in projects such as his Stand-Up Revolution and produced her debut, Pacifically Speaking. And though her Kevin James-backed CBS sitcom didn’t get picked up, it’s only a matter of time before either her comedy or some scripted project breaks her to a wider audience.
Tim Dillon could be a fictional character from a comic novel: He’s a conservative-leaning gay man from Long Island who knows the average citizen might describe his aesthetic as “retired detective.” In fact, Dillon’s blustery, outspoken act is as titillating as his bio. He’s seemingly capable of formulating an articulate (and often contrarian) opinion about anything at a moment’s notice. In an on-camera segment giving off-the-cuff advice to Chris Gethard Show interns, he told them to forget individuality, abstain from voting, marry for money and work jobs they hated: “Controversial philosophies have always relied on very likable guys like myself. I’m a salesman… [Charles] Manson: bad guy, good salesman.” This is part of the reason why he’s made the rounds in podcasts that require thoughtful, provocative improvisers, including Robert Kelly’s You Know What Dude? and Ari Shaffir’s Skeptic Tank. While Dillon thrives in cynicism, it isn’t all bracing: He’s also happy to dish about his love for Haagen Dazs on shows such as Gotham Comedy Live.
The L.A.-based stand-up and sketch comedian Ahmed Bharoocha doesn’t want audiences to dwell on the negative. Even when considering issues like culture clash or religious hypocrisy, he delivers his material with a light touch and always throws in a good dose of absurdity. In an extended bit on his album Almond Badoody, Bharoocha compares God to a young, immature parent, and talks about God’s obsessive period: “Tell your friends about me. Tell your friends about dad. Tell ’em to come to dad’s house. Tell ’em I’m a fun dad. I’m the only dad. Thou shalt only have one dad!” Recent sets on outlets such as Conan let his audiences hear intricate and incredibly well-constructed jokes like this one as well as quick hits about crows’ lackluster parenting skills. He’s also a part of the happily juvenile sketch trio Dead Kevin, a partnership that highlights his playful theatricality onstage; his ability to recreate the myriad settings of ceiling fans is just one indication that he thrives in aspects of performance that many stand-ups gloss over.
One of the most whimsical, wooliest and most prolific comedy minds on the East coast, Firestone is an ingratiating presence with a penchant for creating brand-new shows at the drop of a hat. Like her friend and former employer Chris Gethard (of The Chris Gethard Show), Firestone embraces awkwardness and exhibits a sincerity that ingratiates her to audiences big and small. Most recently, her idiosyncratic mind has found a platform on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, where she plays bemused, air-headed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and performs in individual segments such as a demonstration of the silliest products from the NYC Toy Fair. While she is surely a great help in creating Fallon’s latest party games, she’ll doubtless invent another one of her unconventional projects—e.g. her by-proxy dating game Friends of Single People, her annual Inner Beauty Pageant or Punderdome 3000, the pun competition she hosts with her dad—which will be sure to endear and disorient in equal measure.
At first blush, Liza Treyger is every drunken girl you’ve seen at the end of the bar, telling loud stories about tiny dicks and renting limos for Miley Cyrus concerts. (No doubt that’s what encouraged Louis C.K. to cast her as a barfly in Horace & Pete.) But once a listener gets past the vocal fry and repetitions of the word “like,” Treyger’s casual tales of debauchery quickly become something smarter, darker, thornier and incredibly self-aware (“My grandparents met in a concentration camp, and I’m like, ‘Tinder is the worst.'”) As her Comedy Central Half-Hour and her album Glittercheese make apparent, Treyger’s cleverly bawdy and slyly feminist perspective is only going to get more intriguing over time.
Ouzts is still a young comic, but his appealing history – which is full of shit jobs, like being a waiter at IHOP – and loads of self-doubt give this natural talent plenty of fodder for his act. An offhanded yet inviting delivery sucks audiences in and makes them want to root for him as he ponders: “What if I get a big girl pregnant, and the baby grow up, start to walk and run, and we can’t catch it? We’ll literally be unfit parents.” His expressive mug – including eyes that widen to the side of saucers – can create a punchline on its own. Add these assets together, and Ouzts can convince comedy fans he is the complete package in just one set, as is evidenced in some of this New York comic’s early credits, including Adam Devine’s House Party and Conan. While Ouzts is a big dude, and quite happy to talk food and weight, it’s not a signature issue on which he’ll spend the entirety of his career dwelling.
Dulcé Sloan is wildly confident for a young stand-up. She doesn’t need to seduce, bully or otherwise cajole audiences into listening; she speaks and they simply fall in line behind her, ready to hear everything she’s got to say about Spanx or why its better to fear the Congolese than Chicagoans. (“Ma’am, that bitch is a child soldier. She’ll kill you with a blowdart and a sharpened banana.”) The Atlanta-bred, L.A.-based comic has already racked up a number of great credits, including Conan and Steve Harvey’s “Comedians You Should Know” segment, won her episode of the Chris Hardwick-hosted @midnight, and she’s already begun to pick up promising industry gigs (including a role in a new pilot opposite Eva Longoria). Chances are Sloan’s self-assured sass will lead to great things, and sooner rather than later.