7 of the Best Stand-Up Comedians to Keep You Laughing

Story posted March 23, 2021 in Arts & Entertainment by CommRadio Arts & Entertainment Staff.

Some people are just too funny. Stand-up comedy has always been a fantastic experience, but there are certainly some acts that stand out the most. In this listicle, the CommRadio arts & entertainment department takes a look at some of the best comedians that make us laugh the most.

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Dave Chappelle

There’s no denying that Dave Chappelle is the undisputed king of comedy at the moment. His last three comedy specials all won the Grammy for Best Comedy Album, and it’s hard to argue that there is anyone more important to the medium than Chappelle.

Rising to prominence in the ‘90s and then to superstardom in the 2000s with a slew of successful specials and the wildly popular “Chappelle’s Show,” Chappelle’s staying power as a high-profile comic even withstood his decade-plus hiatus out of the spotlight.

One of the most head-on comics when it comes to race and politics, Chappelle is never afraid to speak his mind on topics that most comics straight up avoid. His last special, which got ripped apart by critics for coming across as insensitive, was beloved by audiences and fans. Chappelle is living proof that in an age of talking heads and a society that is becoming more complex, sometimes what people need to hear is unbridled commentary from one of the greatest comedians of all time.  —Paul Martin

George Carlin

One of the greatest comics to grace the stage, the history of stand-up simply could not be told without mentioning George Carlin. His routines, which were meticulous and maniacal, came across as a nut job ranting about his frustrations with American society. But every word in every routine Carlin performed was chosen with purpose, and it’s clear when watching his long jokes how every word he used feels like the perfect one.

Carlin’s most memorable bit, “The Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television,” not only transformed the face of comedy but also censorship laws as well. The Supreme Court case FCC v. Pacifica Foundation led to defining the power the FCC had on indecent material broadcast on public airwaves, and Carlin’s bit was at the forefront of that controversy.

On top of his greatness, Carlin was also an immensely prolific comic, releasing a new stand-up special nearly every year for four decades, with one being filmed four months before his passing. Carlin gave almost his entire life to the medium, and if he were alive today, he’d probably have a lot to say on the society that we now live in.  —Paul Martin

John Mulaney

John Mulaney has had a very successful career in the comedy industry. Mulaney first started as a writer on “Saturday Night Live,” writing sketches like “Herb Welch” and “What’s the Name?” He also wrote the popular character Stephon, played by Bill Hader.

After “SNL,” Mulaney was asked to host the show many times, performing in sketches like “Sitcom Reboot” and “Diner Lobster.”

Other than “Saturday Night Live,” this amazing comedy creator has prospered in his stand-up career. Mulaney has many shows with former “SNL” comedian cast members, such as Seth Myers, Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brien.

His stand-up career really skyrocketed in 2015 when Netflix released his show “New in Town.” Viewers from around the globe had the opportunity to finally witness the gut-busting jokes from Mulaney himself.

Since then, Mulaney has had two more shows released on Netflix: “The Comeback Kid” and “Kid Gorgeous.” In 2018, “Kid Gorgeous” was recorded in Radio City Music Hall, a place where many comedians can only dream of performing.

John Mulaney is only 38 years old, and his career is still on a roll. We may have only just seen the beginning from one of comedy’s best young performers.  —Cade Miller

Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld has been a comedic genius since the ‘80s, mostly known for playing himself in the hit sitcom, “Seinfeld.” Considering that legendary show still earns constant reruns to this day, it’s clear why his legacy lives on.

Seinfeld first started his comedy career after his graduation from Queens College in 1976 when he performed at an open-mic night at New York’s Catch a Rising Star. After that, he received a premier on HBO.

In 1988, “Seinfeld” aired its first episode. By the show’s third season, it had become America’s No. 1 most watched sitcom, surpassing shows like “The Simpsons,” “Full House” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

After the show, Seinfeld returned to New York and continued his stand-up career. He was also hired for many commercials and movies. Not only did he partake in fictional films, but Seinfeld also created many documentaries about his career.

It is a high honor when people have a documentary created about them; Seinfeld has been featured in more than five. If that doesn’t scream success, his net worth will ($950 million as of September 2019).

Since the ‘80s, Jerry Seinfeld has been one of the kings of comedy, and the fact that he still remains there today is incredible.  —Cade Miller

Bo Burnham

Bo Burnham is a unique comedian. He knows how to play piano, write terribly funny songs, and recite poor poetry. Burnham writes observational, ironic, obvious, and extremely inappropriate jokes.

Out of the thousands of funny things he has said, here is an example: “Drugs kill, just like cancer. So don’t smoke… tumors.” (For reference, this joke is more on the milder side of Burnham’s humor.)

Burham began his career on Vine and YouTube by singing his strange songs and short jokes. He rose to fame quickly, earning two Netflix comedy specials: “What” and “Make Happy.”

Burnham is a many of many talents, as he has also directed his own movie, “Eighth Grade (2018),” and starred in the 2020 film “Young, Promising Woman.” 

Burnham is just loaded with comedy, and that’s why he is one of the best stand-up comedians today. When he’s in front of the camera or on the stage, he is pure hilarity.  —Emily McGlynn

Daniel Sloss

Daniel Sloss is a Scottish comedian who knows how to joke about trauma in an appropriate way while keeping it comedically inappropriate as well. Sloss likes to talk about his horrific experiences and the current realities of culture, but with his signature comedic twist.

What’s amazing about his humor is that every joke he tells has a lesson to it. In his 2018 Netflix Special “Jigsaw”, Sloss teaches his viewers how to maintain relationships. Sloss has said that one of his biggest accomplishments is the number of breakups and divorces he has caused (tongue-in-cheek, of course).

Sloss will make you laugh with his intricate jokes, but he will also make you think. He has been extremely influential on important issues like rape, ableism, and veganism.

The best part of his routine is the randomness of each topic and how they have no relation to each other. He’s also the king of facial expressions and good fake impressions. They make his shows that much more entertaining.  —Emily McGlynn

Hannah Gadsby

Hannah Gadsby comes from Australia, and she can best be described as a transformative comedian. Her specialty is talking about her dark past and deeply analyzing world-renown pop culture pieces.

Gadsby started comedy in 2006 and popped off in 2018. Her Netflix special “Nannette” went viral, and people instantly obsessed with her.

In her 2020 Netflix comedy special “Douglas,” Gadsby looks at extraordinary, classic art pieces, adding analysis and context. Viewers will be gasping for air due to laughing so hard.

Truly, Gadsby is a creative character who knows how to relate to all walks of life. Not many comedians can do that. 

Not only does she write for her own stand-up routines but she has also acted in many other TV shows in guest appearances, bringing her typical humor with her. This woman breathes comedy at all times.  —Emily McGlynn

 

Paul Martin is a junior majoring in telecommunications and media studies. To contact him, email at phm5095@psu.edu.

Cade Miller is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email cam7095@psu.edu.

Emily McGlynn is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email esm5378@psu.edu.

About the Contributors

Paul Martin's photo

Paul Martin

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Emily McGlynn

Freshman / Broadcast Journalism

Emily McGlynn is a freshman from Birmingham, Michigan majoring in broadcast journalism at Penn State. She is a writer for the CommRadio arts & entertainment department as well as a member of the CommRadio news team. She is on the 5:30 Wednesday news broadcast every week. She uploads about one or two movie or album reviews each week. Listening to music and watching movies are some of her favorite things to do, and she wants to share her differing opinions with everyone else. To contact her, email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Cade Miller's photo

Cade Miller

Freshman / Broadcast Journalism

Cade Miller is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in theatre and sports studies at Penn State. He is a writer for the CommRadio Arts & Entertainment department. His writings include newly released album reviews and TV show reviews. Cade is also a host on the podcast “This Is The Way Weekly,” giving listeners a spoiler-filled breakdown of Disney’s “The Mandalorian.” To contact Cade, email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).