In film, directors often receive more acclaim and recognition than the screenwriter. Yet in television, the reverse is true. So we thought we would highlight some of the most important directors in television comedy working today.
Comedy Central’s Key & Peele has earned critical acclaim and a huge fanbase for being more than just another sketch show. The show has been praised for its visual beauty, surrealistic elements, and spot-on tone in their parodies. Peter Atencio plays a massive role in creating that world. Atencio has directed 43 episodes of K&P, which has aired four successful seasons and won a Peabody Award in 2013. Earlier this year it was announced that the fifth season of Key & Peele will be Atencio’s last as the show’s director – but only because Atencio is moving to feature films. Perhaps further underscoring Atencio’s importance to the series, it was recently announced that the fifth season would be the last for everyone. Key and Peele made the decision to end the series and are looking forward to new projects, including a collaboration on a feature with Atencio.
Lena Dunham is a trailblazer. She is the creator and star of the HBO series Girls. A polarizing figure for some audience, no one can deny Dunham’s influence. She has directed fifteen episodes of Girls. In 2013, Dunham became the first female director to ever win Best TV Comedy Series from the Director’s Guild of America Awards for her work directing the pilot episode. Prior to Dunham’s win, all 41 previous winners in the category had been male. Dunham’s success as a director began prior to her hit series – she directed, wrote, and starred in the independent film, Tiny Furniture, which caught the attention of HBO and, soon after, Judd Apatow, who is now an executive producer for the series.
Inside Amy Schumer has become one of the most popular comedies on television in 2015. Sketches have gone viral and boosted Amy Schumer’s profile to A-list status. She deserves the credit she is receiving, from critics and fans – as does Ryan McFaul. McFaul has directed or co-directed twenty episodes of Inside Amy Schumer, including the instant-classic “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” episode. McFaul’s ability to execute both the exceptional work of the writing staff and Schumer’s vision for the sketch series makes his work as a television comedy director stand out.
Jonathan Krisel has a very impressive resume for a career that began less than a decade ago. He has written and directed on some of the most influential and popular off-beat comedy shows during that time. He directed more than 50 episodes of Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! for Adult Swim. He also is credited as a writer for 46 episodes of the series. He directed 19 episodes of Nick Kroll’s Kroll Show for Comedy Central. Lorne Michaels trusted Krisel to direct multiple digital shorts for SNL back in 2010. Currently, he is killing it as the director of IFC’s Portlandia, as well as a co-creator and writer.
Few television directors have contributed to as many successful comedies as Beth McCarthy-Miller. Early in her career, she directed The Jon Stewart Show, the popular late-night show that predated Stewart’s Daily Show run. McCarthy-Miller was the director of Saturday Night Live for eleven years, directing 218 episodes of the legendary program during that time. Since leaving SNL in 2006, she has directed numerous episodes of shows like 30 Rock, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Modern Family, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Community, Important Things With Demitri Martin, Parks and Recreation, and The Mindy Project. She has also directed one-hour stand-up specials for comics like DL Hughley, Bob Saget, Jim Norton (Monster Rain), and Patrice O’Neal (Elephant in the Room). McCarthy-Miller has been nominated for eight Emmy Awards and won three DGA Awards.
At this point, any comedy fan knows that Louis C.K. writes, directs, and stars in Louie. He has directed every episode of the series, earning both Emmy and DGA nominations for his directorial work in multiple seasons. His work as a filmmaker extends beyond critics. Charles Grodin, who was previously unfamiliar with C.K. before he was asked to appear as a guest-star on the show, just gave an interview gushing about C.K. as a director. “He knows everything there is to know about shooting TV and movies. I worked enough to know when I’m in the room with someone where something special is happening.” He added that he was stunned at C.K.’s hands-on approach as a director. “I couldn’t get over him looking at the lenses and the lighting, in addition to writing, directing and acting… I’m aware of how gifted he is.”
You wouldn’t think that working as a director at Fox News for six years would lead to a successful career directing some of the most influential late-night comedy shows, but Jim Hoskinson made that jump. Hoskinson’s work at Fox News led to Stephen Colbert hiring him as the director of The Colbert Report, which satirized the pundits on cable outlets like Fox. Hoskinson worked on The Colbert Report for the entire nine-year run, credited with directing over 400 episodes of the show. Colbert would often refer to Hoskinson during the show, shouting “Jim!” or “Jimmy!” when he wanted to roll a clip. When The Colbert Report ended, John Oliver quickly snatched up Hoskinson. He is now working as a director on Oliver’s Last Week Tonight.
Robert Weide is likely best known by fans from seeing his name in the credits on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. For the first five seasons, Weide was executive producer and primary director of Curb. He won an Emmy for his work directing Season 3 – one of only two Emmys that Larry David’s amazing comedy has won. Weide, who also directed an episode of Parks and Recreation, is also known for promoting comedy through TV documentaries. He has directed documentaries about comedy legends like Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen.
Kyle Newacheck has quickly made an imprint on some fan-favorite sitcoms. He has directed episodes of Parks and Recreation, Community, Happy Endings, and Adam Devine’s House Party. Most notably, Newacheck co-created the Comedy Central series, Workaholics along with his good friend and star Blake Anderson. He has directed nearly every episode of the series, in addition to writing and acting on the series. And he’s only 31.
Bobcat has worn many hats in his illustrious career. Stand-up comedian. Actor. Filmmaker. And one of the most respected directors in TV comedy. In this area, Bobcat is perhaps best-known for directing Jimmy Kimmel Live for three years. He helped spearhead the show as it found its footing as an established hit in late-night. Bobcat has also directed Chappelle’s Show, Important Things with Demitri Martin, Community, The Man Show, Crank Yankers, and Maron. He’s guest directed many shows including most recently, sketch show Friends of the People. He has also leant his talents to direct TV stand-up specials for other top comedians, including Patton Oswalt and Eugene Mirman.