Client: Curtis Cook – Comedian
If you live in New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago, or you don’t but you do spend a lot of time on TikTok, you’re well aware that there are almost too many talented comedians you should know: sketch groups, stand-ups, and people making weird animated videos or singing funny songs in their apartments. With traditional markers of success like Comedy Central half-hour specials becoming rarer, and a historic and successful writers’ strike grinding to a halt late-night stand-up debuts and staffing announcements for over six months, it’s harder than ever to predict which of these performers will end up being a big deal and which of them are just people the algorithm has assigned to you in particular.
That’s where Vulture’s “Comedians You Should and Will Know” list comes in, now in its tenth year: We’re here to celebrate the cream of the crop, separate the wheat from the chaff, and present to you 25 unique, hilarious babies we refuse to toss with the yucky bathwater. These are the comedians you will know because they’re creating all kinds of weird and wonderful work while introducing a range of new perspectives and sensibilities to the art form. And they’re posting it all: Some comics have built entire careers solely off their crowdwork; others are sharing their podcasts minutes at a time on TikTok. Every one of them has sent their performances into the ether, and the ether has laughed back to the tune of scene-stealing movie and TV roles, writing gigs at SNL and The Daily Show, and, most important, more passionate and ardent fan bases than ever.
Vulture polled more than a hundred industry insiders, including bookers, producers, artistic directors at theaters, talent scouts, TV executives, heads of podcast networks and comedy record labels, comedy photographers, and previous Comedians You Should and Will Know, to name the writers and performers they think are breaking out beyond their own orbits and into a collision course with popular culture writ large. More than 200 comedians, duos, and groups got at least one vote, but these are the 25 Comedians You Should and Will Know of 2023:
“I’m not very smart,” one of Curtis Cook’s best jokes begins. The context: He thought that “Sufjan Stevens is what Cat Stevens changed his name to when he converted to Islam.” In fact, Cook is a closet intellectual — always informed, never bragging. He insists that he isn’t smart but uses his gruff voice and constant sighing to smuggle in syllabus-fodder material without shutting anyone out. He wants to reference Duchamp in a joke about scoring coke at an art-gallery opening? He makes sure everybody knows he’s only there because of his artist girlfriend (now wife). “I didn’t know Diego Rivera’s wife could paint!” he shouts with feigned ignorance. The punch line comes in the video caption: “For marketing purposes, it would behoove me to post this clip with a caption that’s like, ‘Very few people will understand this.’ ‘Cause even though that’s a straight-up lie and this is a pretty simple bit, that sorta caption would trick people into leaving comments about how they get the joke.”
Cook is quick paced to the point of sometimes shocking even himself with his own punch line. Describing the embarrassment of watching a male-confidence influencer, he says “And I’m even more embarrassed to say that it helped” with a rhythm that implies “Can you believe … me?” Like Jessica Seinfeld’s smuggling cauliflower into mac and cheese, the self-deprecating humor isn’t fooling anyone, but that’s also kind of the point, and that balance — the smart with the dumb, the vitamin K with the melted cheese product — has led to producing comedies like This Fool and American Dad!, writing for the reboot of Crank Yankers, and a discussion of Ye that somehow got the Jim Jefferies Show audience onboard with the idea of the Black Panther Party.