The 25 Best Comedians of 2015

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Is there too much comedy today? Almost every comedian I interviewed this year talked about the current “comedy boom” and what will happen to them if/when it ends. They’re not all nervous, or anything, but just recognize that there’s way more comedy in way more places than ever before right now. We’ve already gone over our favorite comedy podcasts and internet videos of the year, two avenues that didn’t really exist for comedians barely more than a decade ago. Although the internet makes it easy to get your comedy out to the masses, that glut might make it harder than ever for a comedian to stand out now. It almost always requires some elaborate combination of podcasting, social media and traditional stand-up specials, sitcoms or movies. Indeed, almost everybody on the list below excelled at more than one kind of comedy. Some wrote books, others made multiple guest spots across the TV dial, and some even got to write and star in their own movies. The only common denominator is a background in stand-up or sketch comedy and the ability to actually make people laugh. Whether this comedy boom is about to go bust or not, you can’t ever have too much good comedy, and these 25 people made the best of the year. (And if you want to read last year’s list, click here.)

25. Kumail Nanjiani

Over the last few years, Kumail Nanjiani has gotten more and more popular while still being true to his nerdy origins. Beyond his starring role in Silicon Valley and hosting gig in The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail, he’s become one of the most reliable guest stars on TV, delighting us with appearances in shows like Community, Inside Amy Schumer, PortlandiaThe Grinder, Broad City and more. 2015 was a standout year for Kumail Nanjiani’s career both in and out of comedy, as he landed a role on the upcoming reboot of The X-Files (if you listen to his podcast The X-Files Files, you’re familiar with his unbridled enthusiasm for the show). With this momentum, 2016 should be an even more fantastic year for him.—Olga Lexell

23 & 24. Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer

I have no idea what it’s like to be a woman or to be a twentysomething in 2015, but I have to imagine Broad City pretty much nails what it’s like to be both for at least a certain part of the population. In last year’s list Maren MacGlashan wrote that Jacobson and Glazer “brought ladies into the realm of slacker comedy.” With Broad City’s excellent second season, Jacobson and Glazer made us forgot dudes ever did “slacker comedy” to begin with.—Garrett Martin

22. Jerrod Carmichael

Carmichael did something remarkable this year: he made a traditional network sitcom work. The Carmichael Show is as traditional in format as sitcoms get: three walls, four cameras and a studio audience whose laughter may or may not be sweetened in postproduction. It works far better than it should, though, and not just because of Carmichael’s cool charisma and great performances from David Alan Grier, Loretta Devine and Lil Rel Howery. Carmichael and his writers addressed topics you wouldn’t normally find in sitcoms, including Black Lives Matter and gun control, and somehow did it with class and humor. Those first six episodes have us excited for the show’s return in 2016.—GM

21. Rachel Bloom

Before her breakout role on the CW’s new musical comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and before her Golden Globe nomination, Rachel Bloom sang songs on YouTube about cake farts, watching the Tony Awards with a Craigslist weirdo, and lusting after Ray Bradbury. She had then what she has now: a seemingly boundless reserve of energy, a refined sense of silliness, and a knack for clever lyrics. The only difference is the size of her audience. Watching Bloom rake in the accolades for Crazy Ex, which she co-created with The Devil Wears Prada writer Aline Brosh McKenna, has been a highlight in a year otherwise dominated by more established talent. Bloom is quickly carving out a place for her unique feminist take on mental illness—something sorely needed but rarely done on broadcast television.—May Saunders

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