It’s the end of our fifth year covering all the greatest comedy happening in the United States and around the world, and we’re thrilled to still be covering comedy because everything’s changing so fast and its all pretty exciting.
In 2014, you picked Bill Burr as the Stand Up Comedian of the Year. In 2015, Nate Bargatze was your runaway favorite, in 2016 you overwhelmingly chose Jim Jefferies as the #1 comedian and last year you chose Judah Friedlander as the greatest comedian of 2017.
Once again, we chose our top ten stand up comedians looking at so many factors including who put out stand out specials, who pulled in gigantic audiences, who focused on stand-up, but also had other accomplishments, as well as those who were true purists to the craft. We also looked for comics who either had a growth year, or those already at the top of the craft who have remained so consistently outstanding, that their place on our list was undeniable. Popularity and celebrity were not part of our criteria, and this is not necessarily a list of the ten best performers working today, but rather ten comedians who had the best collective accomplishments in 2018.
Read all the nominees below, scroll down to vote for your favorite (you can vote once a day), and come back on January 4, to see who took the prize.
GAD ELMALEH: When Gad first arrived in the US, we knew that he was known as the French Jerry Seinfeld because of his role in the Bee Movie adaptation and his gigantic success in Europe, but not much else. In the United States he was still unknown and making his first appearance at Joe’s Pub. That was 2015. In 2016 he made his American Late Night television debut. In 2017 he released his first French Netflix special, later released in English. But it’s 2018 that has really been Gad’s year. He’s really hit his stride in the U.S. with a major tour playing a list of great theaters across the country, and we’re hearing he’s working on a tv series. But his biggest 2018 accomplishment is undoubtedly his phenomenally funny Netflix Hour, American Dream, performed 100% in his second language- English. That’s a major accomplishment and its a major special. Gad has a gigantic future ahead of him in comedy in America. 2018 will be seen as the beginning of his breakthrough.
JOE ROGAN is the dominant name in podcasting. He is the dream…the reason others create podcasts. Every podcaster wants to have a show as popular as The Joe Rogan Experience, every guest with something to promote wants to be booked. He’s a career maker- maybe not on the level of Carson, but there are scores of young great comedians who owe their jumpstart in the business to appearances on The Joe Rogan Experience. He’s a news maker with guest appearances going viral regularly, particularly his recent episode featuring Elon Musk. Rogan also is a force to be reckoned with on the stand up stage with a brand new killer special in 2018, “Strange Times” that come fairly close on the heels of his great late-2016 release. Rogan is a long-time power player in the comedy game, and this year may be his best yet.
HANNAH GADSBY was the talk of comedy this year, transcending the typical media coverage allotted to comedy performers on their way up. Her special took comedy by storm, becoming the dominant conversation throughout the industry and beyond. Everyone was talking about the Tasmanian born Australian comedian, and although she’s been a strong stand up performer for years, this was the first year she was world famous, bursting out as a major voice in comedy. Her special, “Nanette” sparked debate over the meaning of comedy and will give birth to a new comedy philosophy- something that only happens every few decades. Unfortunately it was also the year she announced she was quitting comedy. But Hannah is now an icon, a face that graces magazine covers, a voice that is invited to roundtables of the Hollywood elites and after Kevin Hart dropped out of the Academy Awards show, her name has been touted as a possible replacement. Not a bad year.
BERT KREISCHER has been amassing a gigantic following over the last decade, with his shirtless, hard drinking, adventure craving, life of the party persona. He is the answer to the sensitivity problem, the eternally young, eternally edgy, always shocking stand up comedian who has no plans to give in to pressures to be join the ranks of the woke. He doesn’t have to, because he’s actually a really great guy. When Kreischer released “The Machine” in 2016 it didn’t seem possible for him to top himself, at least not this quickly. But he has with a special that stood out without employing a single gimmick. In 2018 Kreischer also stepped up his running game, repeated his Sober October challenge, set out on an international tour and he continues to deliver in his weekly podcast, Bertcast.
MICHELLE WOLF went from zero to 100 this year, instantly becoming the type of celebrity that makes headlines on the regs. After her breakout 2017 special “Nice Lady”, Wolf was on everybody’s radar. She started the year on a high-note, inspiring Netflix to offer her a weekly late night style talk show. Shortly after the White House Correspondents Association selected her to deliver the annual White House Correspondent’s Dinner address. And deliver she did. Wolf’s set was as sharp and funny as it was divisive, and it was very divisive. For weeks the nation’s most powerful media and political personalities debated her commentary and by year’s end, she would be quoted by the President of the United States. Because of her set, next year there will not be a comedian hosting the dinner. Her Netflix series, The Break With Michelle Wolf debuted this year, and although it was cancelled after a short run, the work was excellent delivering hard hitting monologues, funny sketches and great guests. This could be the year of the Wolf.
TIFFANY HADDISH had a bust-out, break out year in 2017 which landed her on our list of the top ten stand up comedians last year, and followed that up sustaining her position as one of the top comics in the country in ever measure- the media loves her and she’s constantly making trending headlines, she’s in demand to be cast in seemingly every comedy film and this year she got nominated for a Grammy award for best spoken word album for her audio-verison of her bestselling book “The Last Unicorn.” This year she also was included on Time’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, co-starred in one of the funniest comedies on television, “The Last O.G.”, had two movies released, “Uncle Drew” and “Night School”, signed a first look deal with HBO and she announced she’ll take on some starring voice roles. There’s more but we’re just running out of room for all Haddish’s accomplishments!
KATT WILLIAMS: 2018 could very well be the Year of the Katt. 2018 was a smash for Williams with a brand new hour special GREAT AMERICA that Williams’ fans are calling one of his best. He was nominated for, and won an Emmy for best guest appearance in a comedy series for his role as Alligator Man on Donald Glover’s second season of “Atlanta.” Williams stayed relevant this year, touching off a national debate over the lack of support for developing black female comedians, and he’s continued to support young rising comics. A major feature in GQ magazine cemented his year. Of course not all Katt’s press was positive, but somehow he managed to get in less trouble than usual with fewer arrests, and just a handful of high profile fights.
HASAN MINHAJ: If scoring your own weekly talk series is a sign that this is your time in the sun, then HASAN MINHAJ is getting plenty of Vitamin C. In 2018 we saw the debut of his own self titled Netflix series with a commitment for more episodes than they’ve ever given. He also won a Peabody Award and had roles in two movies this year. 2018 is the culmination of a steady build, scoring a job at The Daily Show just four years ago, following that up with an award winning one man show and a gig hosting the White House Correspondents dinner in 2017. Many are predicting Minhaj’s “Patriot Games” series on Netflix will bust the talk show curse and survive cancellation. And 2018 brought the arrival of a first child for Minhaj and his wife Beena Patel.
ALI WONG is a killer on stage and 2018 proved she’s not a one-special wonder. Ever since Neflix started buying up specials left and right, it’s become harder than ever for a “special” to feel special. And Wong’s busted through that hurdle not once but twice. This year she released the follow up to her industry shaking first special “Baby Cobra,” and “Hard Knock Wife” is another revelation. Wong has inspired a trend of women in comedy having babies while in the prime of their careers- something not previously seen. She also scored some big roles this year including a co-starring voice role with Tiffany Haddish in a Netflix animated series, and a lead in a romcom for Netflix with Randall Park while she continues to have a featured role in ABC’s American Housewife. Two babies, two specials, two hits. Can we keep this going?
JUDD APATOW has been a major influence in the comedy world for his entire career. And this may be his biggest year yet. His Netflix series Love ended its 3 year run, his HBO series Crashing is in its third season, and his gargantuan chronical of the life, comedy and diaries of Garry Shandling will change the way careers are documented. He’s also performing stand up all over the country, touring with his HBO hit series Crashing, and showing up at festivals and comedy clubs around the country. His reach as a career maker, and a producer seem unstoppable and almost untoppable but every year it seems he becomes more influential than before. And while running a comedy empire and hitting the stage regularly, he’s also a tireless activist supporting a seemingly endless list of causes. His hardcore support of a long list of issues have influenced others to follow suit. Apatow is a true game changer.