There were some outstanding comedy albums released in 2016, and these ten are our favorites. A couple of our picks are audio versions of specials, but most of these albums were only released as albums. No matter who you vote for, if you love comedy you should give all of them a listen.
Scroll below the graphic to read our list in pure text format.
Vote for your favorite, and come back on January 2, to see who took the prize in 2016.
Amy Miller’s first full-length comedy album, Solid Gold, captures the comedian’s unique voice. She tackles her childhood, family, and race relations with her own spin of effective storytelling. Recently moving from Portland to Los Angeles, Miller made waves in 2016. Her first album cements her status among the top up-and-coming comedians working.
Rich Vos is a New York comedy legend. He is a beloved presence at all of the top clubs in the city, for his ability to riff, do crowd work, and deliver topical material. Vos can connect with an audience quickly and never lets go. Few stand-ups are better in a club setting than Rich Vos. Rich released two albums this year, 141 IQ, referring to his IQ and his fifth album, simply titled V. Both are great but it’s V, released right before Halloween that truly belongs on this list. This latest album largely puts the crowd work away, and focuses on material and it’s an excellent album. When Vos focuses frequently on his own personality quirks and phobias he is pure lightning. Material about paying for his brother’s funeral, being annoyed by salespeople, and his relationship with his wife, and Vos’ notorious cheapness strike true gold. And he has a bit about drinking soda that is so funny and so uniquely Rich.
Maria Bamford is one of the most original comedic voices working today. Bamford has been doing stand-up for more than 20 years and has earned well-deserved recognition this year. Her Netflix series about her life — Lady Dynamite — was well-received, and Stephen Colbert called her his favorite comedian when she did stand-up on The Late Show. Her new album, 20%, shows a truly one-of-a-kind voice, unafraid to tackle mental health issues or delve into pure silliness.
W. Kamau Bell has climbed the ranks to be one of the foremost political comedians working. He parodies his own quasi-fame in the album title, Semi-Prominent Negro. Though he may not be a household name, comedy fans know exactly who he is from his popular FX late-night series Totally Biased. Kamau dives into loaded topics like Black Lives Matter, reverse racism, mixed race children, and when white people can say the N-word in this album. Those who were fans of his show should not be surprised – his social commentary continues to get stronger.
Aparna Nancherla is one of the most sought-after stand-up comedians and writers today for good reason. Her debut album, Just Putting It Out There, captures her distinct point of view and sharp joke-writing. She dissects depression and anxiety, living in Los Angeles and New York, working in an office versus working at home, and failed online dating. Aparna has written for Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell and Late Night with Seth Meyers, but her album firmly establishes her own fresh perspective.
If you ask any comedian or comedy fan to name their favorite comedians, Gary Gulman is on the shortlist. His Conan set – where he relays one bit for the entire six-minute set – was one of the best of 2016. His carefully crafted bits and fantastic delivery are on full display in It’s About Time. From Trader Joe’s to Hitler synonyms, Gulman is a wordsmith whose conveys perfectly to an audio-only form.
Yannis Pappas has characters, Maurica and Mr. Panos, that are as popular as some beloved SNL characters. Yet Yannis left the characters behind for his debut stand-up album, Let Me Be Yannis. The absence of the characters might be surprising to fans of the characters, who Yannis has said are more popular than he is, but what is left is a very strong debut album. His six minutes on guns are worth the price alone.
No live comedy show generated as many waves as quickly as Trump versus Bernie. Anthony Atamanuik’s dead-on Donald Trump impression and James Adomian’s fantastic Bernie Sanders impression captured nationwide attention. The show got an extended life when both candidates advanced further than experts predicted. The impressions are top-notch, the material mocks both the candidates’ stances as well as speaking patterns. Most Americans were exhausted from the 2016 election cycle, but the creation of Trump vs. Bernie was one of the silver linings from the entire ugly campaign.
Joe List’s second album, Are You Mad At Me?, captures one of the best working comedians today. List deftly crafts a 47-minute set that hilariously hits on a range of subjects, from his anxiety to Buddhism to dirty talk to parent tips. He also has a unique ability to make common topics feel fresh, with his clearly defined point of view. Few comedians can write a joke as strong as List can – and to answer his question, after hearing this album, no, we are not mad at you at all.
Physical Whisper is Josh Gondelman’s second comedy album – and his career has been soaring since his debut album in 2011. Gondelman has become a staff writer for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, winning awards on one of the most acclaimed late-night shows today. Gondelman is an excellent writer, which is on full-display in his album of well-crafted and intelligent bits, but he is also an effortless storyteller with an easygoing, friendly, and positive demeanor. In a comedy world where many stand-ups appear unhappy about everything, Gondelman and his engaging persona is a breath of fresh air.