Forgive my enthusiasm for being retrospective at the start of a New Year, but I’ve done a lot more this year than I actually realized. Slacking a lot more too, I imagine. This site was always supposed to be about being funny, or at least entertaining, and the most fun and entertaining events I’ve been a part of have been seeing stand-up comedy in Philadelphia, and having the privilege of meeting some of the best and brightest new performers in the field today. Our friends over at It’s Always Funny in Philadelphia posted a Top 5 list of comedians to watch in 2012 (check it out here). So I thought, since I have the experiences to share, I’ve personally shot the footage, and I enjoy randomly and brazenly excluding people for no legit reason, I’d make a Top 10 (motherfuckers) List of my favorite comedians over-all, and reasons to keep watching them in 2012. In the words of the late, great Kel Mitchell*: Awwww, here it goes!
10. John Nunn
It’s hard to rank your favorites from 10 to 1 without feeling bad about where you place them, but fuck it. They should be happy just to be here. John Nunn has been consistently one of the funniest people I’ve met, and not just in the fat hipster category either! I mean like…out of normal people, too! He’s a great guy with a good heart despite his often-filthy sense of humor. He hosts a comedy showcase at Little Bar in South Philly called Last Laugh with John Nunn. Check out more on Little Bar’s page.
9. Carolyn Busa
I have only had the chance to see Carolyn Busa a few times, but that might be a factor that landed her on this list. Seeing comedians over and over as they work on their material can be tricky. Catching a performer like Carolyn the several times I have, has given me the chance to see her when she’s truly on. Carolyn tends to “play” the innocent and quiet role on stage, which makes her jokes about waking up with no underwear and shitting the bed go over so well. She is one half of the comedy duo who host the open-mic showcase, Laughs on Fairmount, every Monday evening at the Urban Saloon.
8. Shawn J. Jackson
For having only seen Jackson perform one time (I believe), the fact that he’s stuck in my mind through Twitter and Facebook and other shameless self-promotion, is a huge deal. Always Funny in Philly named him one of their top 5 comedians to watch in 2012, and I’d have to support that. You might say his future’s so bright he has to wear shades, but then you wouldn’t be able to get lost in his magical eyes. Jackson’s moving very fast, and his sharp wit on stage pushes him ahead of many of his contenders. It often seems like his mind and ambitions are racing and the rest of him is rapidly trying to catch up.
7. Alex Grubard
Alex Grubard doesn’t have any money, and he’ll be the first to let you know. The good news is that his luck should be changing very soon with the recognition he is pulling in, along with the material he continually pushes out. His stage presence is self-depreciating, focused, and bitter, but he is one of the most friendly people I’ve ever met. After seeing Grubard take over several different rooms, I’ve found his material is far from broad, but always manages to find an audience. He is a comedian’s comedian and will no doubt continue to grow in 2012.
6. Lisa Yost
Yost conjures up an essence of Sarah Silverman, mixes it with her own fantastic brand of pseudo-relationship humor, bakes it for a while and puts it on the windowsill to cool, because she’s a lady, god dammit, and she’s kicking ass. The late Christopher Hitchens once argued in Vanity Fair that women aren’t funny, but he’s been wrong before. Lisa Yost is only getting better every time I see her. You can see her passion and desire for more in every performance. And it’s amazing to see that amount of power and presence coming from such a petite female comedian–er–I mean…”Comedian.”
5. Conrad Roth
One of the founders of Center City Comedy, Conrad Roth is so versatile that his material can often appear completely off the cuff. He is a towering figure, but with a subtle way of controlling a room through the magic of passive-aggressive comedy. Roth downplays himself and his stage presence is often introspective and subdued, but make no mistake, he’s a pioneer in the scene and he hasn’t stopped or even slowed down. No matter where he finds himself in 2012, Roth will rule with an iron fist–as he should.
4. Chris Cotton
Chris Cotton is the greatest human being in the world. Okay, let’s just say he’s the greatest person in the Philadelphia comedy scene, just to make it easier. He also runs the open mic performances at Center City Comedy‘s Thursday night shows at Raven Lounge. Cotton behaves on stage as if he is hanging out with a group of best friends, telling his favorite stories with such pin-point accuracy in his humor and observation that by the time he’s finished the set, everyone in the room is actually his best friend.
3. Mary Radzinski
The violently single half of the Laughs on Fairmount comedy duo with Carolyn Busa, Mary has been one of my favorites since the first time I caught her set. It’s difficult for a female comedian to deliver jokes that speak directly to the women in the audience without causing the men to grumble and become immediately disinterested. Naturally, men and penis jokes have to be the center of attention. Somehow, and don’t ask me how, Mary magically captivates everyone in the crowd and for that brief moment, even if it’s only a few minutes, it’s not all about dick. Radzinski is always professional, always creative, and always pushing herself to do things bigger and better…and it always works.
2. James Hesky
When he’s not complaining about how much new and original content Louis CK constantly delivers, James Hesky is actually a stand up comedian! He also hosts at Helium Comedy Club and records his own show called Cheapodcast. Hesky sets himself apart from the crowd in that he never wears himself thin. He’s always searching for more, new, different, and better. Despite all of the creative outlets he makes for himself, and the self-loathing that comes with trying to be the best there ever was, Hesky’s material never misses. He is constantly evolving and always staying relevant. I, for one, can’t wait to see where he takes his material in 2012, and whether he’s aware of it or not, he’s only getting better.
1. Ryan Shaner
A fully-registered member of CCR**, the world is Ryan Shaner’s stage. Not necessarily in a bullshit Shakespearean way, but suffice it to say that Shaner is always on, and always creating. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ryan Shaner not writing, even if he doesn’t literally have a pen and paper in hand. And this is how “Rainman” Shaner uses his slightly autistic (not proven) powers to be so spot-on, innovative and hilarious every time he’s behind a microphone; more often than not, spouting new material. Don’t let his miniature Henry Rollins stature fool you, Shaner is a smart, friendly, hysterical and endlessly inventive young comic…and he almost certainly is not a rapist.
(For more from our favorite comedians, visit the VIDEOS section. And for more great comedy bloggers, see the LINKS on the side of this page)
*Kel Mitchell has not passed away.
**Center City Rapists