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Shooting Stars

10 Rising Stand-Up Stars You Need to Know

Catch Ali Wong, Cameron Esposito and more of the hottest stand-up stars on the Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival.

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Photo Credit: YouTube/Netflix

With the 21-city nationwide tour of the Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival kicking off in West Palm Beach, FL, on August 25th, stand-up comedy is in the air. And with an increasingly diverse set of voices finally breaking through to the mainstream, the festival’s line-up seems particularly relevant.

We thought we’d take a look at a few of the hottest stand-up comedians slinging the yucks right now, some who will be headlining the Oddball fest this year, and some who’ll hopefully be stopping by in the years to come. To see some of these stand-ups live, visit Oddball Fest for tickets and venue information.

10. Fahim Anwar

Best known for guest spots on NBC’s Chuck and Fox’s Lie To Me, and a regular gig on MTV2’s Guy Code, Fahim Anwar has steadily become the next big thing in comedy. With his self-deprecating stand-up — in which he obsesses over his sex life, chatty Uber drivers and going to the airport on Thanksgiving — Anwar’s positioned himself as a Jerry Seinfeld for a more diverse age. Now we just hope he can get a girlfriend without over examining it so much.


9. Joe Pera

Pera is not your typical stand-up comedian, by any stretch of the imagination. With a slow, drawn out delivery, he turns every hokey joke into a surreal roller coaster of comedy — if that coaster was going two miles an hour. His entire set lives in-between air quotes. Oh, also, it’s brilliant. There’s no way to describe what Pera does. You just have to watch, laugh, and then explain to your parents why it’s funny.


8. Beth Stelling

With her dry delivery and surprising punchlines, Stelling has quickly become a critical darling. Her Comedy Central ‘Half Hour’ was named by Vulture as one of the “Best Stand-up Specials of 2015.” Her latest album, “Simply the Beth, ” was named by The Interrobang and Splitsider as one of the top ten albums of 2015. And her writing for Pete Holmes’ new HBO series Crashing hasn’t made any Top Ten lists, but that’s just because no one has seen it yet. But with Beth behind it, we’re sure it’s going to be great.


7. Kyle Kinane

If you’re a fan of comedy, you’ve come across Kyle Kinane in your travels. A regular face on Comedy Central thanks to his half hour specials, regular appearances on @Midnight and a memorable, drunken retelling of the Haymarket affair on Drunk History, Kinane has also been the voice of the network since 2011. A gifted storyteller, with a gruff delivery belying a self-deprecating wit, Kinane has become a regular on just about every podcast and late night show you can think of. It’s only a matter of time before he gets the right vehicle that launches him to Louis C.K. levels of fame. Get on the Kinane train now, people.


6. Cameron Esposito

Esposito made her television debut in 2013, on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson. The first guest that night was Jay Leno, the often reviled former host of The Tonight Show, who took it upon himself to riff with the comedian, somehow creating a magic TV moment between two comics who could not be more different. Calling her “the future,” Leno said, “white men were on the way out.” Sure, he may have set her up to fail with such lavish praise, but instead she’s become one of the brightest stars in the alt-comedy community. (Catch Cameron Esposito live on the Oddball Comedy Fest and watch her on Maron anytime on IFC.com and the IFC app.)


5. Nate Fernald

With writing gigs for The Pete Holmes Show and The Late Late Show with James Corden, Fernald is the voice behind your favorite late night comedians. In fact, did you know that he used to cohost WTF with Marc Maron before being cut out? Okay, Fernald may have made that up, but his white hot stand-up career is no lie. With a Comedy Central ‘Half Hour’ special on the way, and a classic guest spot on FX’s Louie under his belt, he may be the one hosting a late night show in the near future.


4. Michelle Wolf

You may recognize Michelle Wolf as the latest addition to The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, where she’s been a correspondent and writer since April. Really though, that’s just the cherry on top of her meteoric rise in the New York comedy scene. In the last few years she’s written for Late Night with Seth Meyers, the Oscars, and appeared on Louis C.K.’s passion project Web series Horace and Pete. All that, and she’s become a breakout star on the stand-up stage. We look forward to Michelle’s next move. (Catch Michelle Wolf live on the Oddball Comedy Fest.)


3. Lil Rel Howery

Sure, this Chicago comic made a name for himself on Last Comic Standing, but it was really the one/two punch of the sketch series Friends of the People and NBC’s The Carmichael Show, where he’s been appearing as star Jerrod Carmichael’s brother, that’s brought Howery into the big-time. It didn’t hurt that Kevin Hart himself produced Howery’s comedy special, RELevent, capping off an incredible two-year run.


2. Iliza Shlesinger

Shlesinger was the youngest ever winner of Last Comic Standing, back in 2008, but it’s only been in the last couple of years that she’s finally broken through to the next level. With movies like Paradise, a hit podcast called Truth and Iliza, and a Netflix stand-up special, Confirmed Kills, premiering this September, she’s on the cusp of becoming the next big thing in comedy. (Catch Iliza Shlesinger live on the Oddball Fest.)


1. Ali Wong

Ali Wong is on fire right now. Marc Maron called her latest stand-up special, Baby Cobra, in which Wong performed while seven-and-a-half months pregnant, “the most honest, rawest, funniest special I’ve seen in years. She has huge balls.” No one is getting more heat than this new mom, who knows how to mine the pitfalls of striving for the perfect life better than almost anyone out there right now. Get used to her, because she isn’t going anywhere. (Catch Ali Wong live on the Oddball Comedy Fest.)

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.