50 funniest New Yorkers

The best comedians—and most hilarious writers and performers—living in Gotham, as picked by TONY.

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  • Tom Scharpling's music video for "Easy" by Real Estate

  • Bill Hader on SNL

  • Photograph: Seth Olenick

    Kristen Schaal

  • Photograph: Clay Patrick McBride

    Lewis Black

  • Photograph: Ben Rosengart/Fantag

    Michael Kupperman

  • H. Jon Benjamin

  • Illustration: Rob Kelly

    Wes Anderson

  • Photograph: Jody Sugrue

    Todd Barry

  • Photograph: Jolie Ruben

    Joan Rivers

  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

    Mike Birbiglia

Tom Scharpling's music video for "Easy" by Real Estate

20. Tom Scharpling

Yeah, yeah, the host of call-in radio program The Best Show on WFMU technically resides in New Jersey. But since its start in 2000, his show has remained an excellent platform for spotlighting comics from across the Hudson, both established (Aziz Ansari, John Oliver, John Hodgman) and up-and-coming (John Mulaney, Chris Gethard, Kurt Braunohler). Not to mention that Scharpling, who's a pop-culture junkie in the best sense of the term, has found a new role off the air as a director of indie-rock music videos—he's produced some hilarious NYC-set vids for the likes of Real Estate, and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. But the real reason we love him? His lengthy on-air "feuds" with pal Jon Wurster's characters are some of the funniest radio bits ever recorded.—TL



19. Bill Hader

Whether he's channeling Vincent Price, former governor Eliot Spizter or Dateline anchor Keith Morrison, Hader fully commits to bringing the wackier sides of these figures to life. But it's Stefon, the clueless, clubland-obsessed Weekend Update correspondent that we love the most: It's a joy to watch Hader break character while trying to deliver absurd phrases ("beatnik doctor Soulpatch Adams"), which are often concocted off-the-cuff by SNL writer John Mulaney.—AP

See him live: Advance tickets for SNL tapings between September and May can be obtained through a once-a-year lottery; enter by e-mailing snltickets@nbcuni.com during the month of August. 30 Rockefeller Plaza between 49th and 50th Sts (212-664-3056, nbc.com/tickets). Dress rehearsal 8pm; live show 11:30pm. Must be 16 or older to attend.



18. Kristen Schaal

This Brooklyn comedian's Kewpie-doll–like appearance and girlish voice belie a wickedly funny and absurd sense of humor, which is put to the forefront when she cohosts the weekly Hot Tub comedy showcase with Kurt Braunohler. But Schaal's all over the place these days: Along with H. Jon Benjamin and Eugene Mirman, she's a series regular on Bob's Burgers, has a recurring role as Hazel Wassername on 30 Rock and can occasionally be seen as the "senior women's issues correspondent" on The Daily Show. (During a recent appearance, she handily mocked the stupidity of Republican attitudes toward women—it's one of the funniest things we've seen all year.)—AP

See her live: Schaal cohosts Hot Tub on Mondays at 8pm. Littlefield, 622 Degraw St between Third and Fourth Aves, Gowanus, Brooklyn (718-855-3388, littlefieldnyc.com); $5.



17. Lewis Black

Not that he really has to convince anyone anymore, but this delightfully cantankerous, chain-smoking comedian can plow through a rant better than just about anyone. Plus, the ever-peeved vet (of the ongoing "Back in Black" segment on The Daily Show) is a New Yorker through and through. Explaining how the city's madness helps his sanity, he notes in a bit from last year's comedy album The Prophet: "Nothing can make you feel better than sitting in front of a guy who's whacking off, singing 'Happy Days Are Here Again.'" True. Very, very true.—TL



16. Michael Kupperman

Cartoonist Michael Kupperman transports his readers to another world altogether. In the recurring comic Tales Designed to Thrizzle and book-length parody Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910–2010, Kupperman perverts antiquated cultural signifiers into a jungle of foreplay robots, nut bras and absurd character concoctions such as the Mannister (a man whose superpower is turning into a bannister). Even in his live appearances—during which he occasionally appears as Twain—Kupperman has the same sort of folksy okey-doke quality as his pulpy '50s source material; but make no mistake, there's an uncanny comedy brain teeming underneath his cool exterior.—ML



15. H. Jon Benjamin

Benjamin has a sarcastic-as-hell comic sensibility and apparent love of pissing people off. (For proof of the latter, check out Comedy Central's Jon Benjamin Has a Van, in which he annoys many a New Yorker going about his or her day.) The comedian, though, is probably most recognizable for his voice-over work; he's lent his unique baritone to solid animated series such as Home Movies, Bob's Burgers and the deservedly popular FX spy spoof Archer.—TL

See Jon Benjamin Has a Tour live: Knitting Factory, 361 Metropolitan Ave at Havemeyer St, Wiliamsburg, Brooklyn (347-529-6696, bk.knittingfactory.com). May 3 at 9pm; $15.



14. Wes Anderson

Yes, the characters in his films are often ironic eccentrics. And yes, his distinct style has influenced more than a few duds by other filmmakers. But let's not forget that Anderson released two completely unique comedic knockouts back to back (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore)—all before turning 30, no less—and has created a few fantastic movie moments in every picture since then. (That his solid ensemble comedy The Royal Tenenbaums is set in a wonderfully gritty-yet-whimsical New York City doesn't hurt, either.) His latest, Moonrise Kingdom, which chronicles two love-stricken camp kids on the lam somewhere off the coast of New England., hits theaters on May 25.—TL



13. Todd Barry

You might recognize this ever-touring stand-up from comedy-nerd essentials like The Larry Sanders Show and Louie (or from his voice on Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist and Aqua Teen Hunger Force). But trust us, he's best in person. Onstage, Barry delivers economical, wry observations with a likable ease; he can kill in NYC rooms both huge and small.—TL



12. Joan Rivers

While showing us around her posh Upper East Side pad, the iconic comedian and TV host hit us with the following zinger: "This is a bag from year one. I think I carried this one around when I was dating Moses." The indefatigable and (especially for a septuagenarian) foul-mouthed stand-up still mans the mike—and proves her chops—regularly in town. Before you see this zingy, old-school talent, make sure to get acquainted with the revealing doc Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.—TL

See her live: Laurie Beechman Theatre (at the West Bank Cafe), 407 W 42nd St at Ninth Ave (212-695-6909, beechmantheatre.com). Apr 17, May 1 at 8pm; $45 plus $15 food or drink minimum.



11. Mike Birbiglia

Over the past several years, this Upper West Side–dweller has transformed from a dependable and highly likable stand-up into one of the city's preeminent comedic storytellers. After turning heads with self-deprecating tales on This American Life (check out his hilarious high-school horror story on the episode "Fall Guy"), he cooked up two excellent Off Broadway one-man shows, Sleepwalk With Me Live and My Girlfriend's Boyfriend. Both highlight the strengths of a particularly patient and humble raconteur.—TL

Users say

12 comments
Michael
Michael

Was it necessary to be a born New Yorker on this list? Louis CK is from Boston and John Mulaney from Chicago (although very funny people). I also agree: no Jim Norton or Opie and Anthony?

Susan
Susan

As usual, not enough women on this list.

Nick
Nick

No Jim Norton? You may want to rethink that.

Pete
Pete

Lonely Island = Berkeley, Hannibal Burres = Chicago, the amount of non-NY'ers on here is as long as it is disturbing.

Davey
Davey

Tiny Fey is 100% NOT funnier than Woody Allen, are you high???

JasonR
JasonR

So many important and innovative funny people are left off this list of 50 -- surprise -- mostly already famous people. Looks like another missed opportunity to help comedians - some of the most beloved yet under supported performers in the world.

MsBellaF
MsBellaF

I only read this list to make sure that Tom Scharpling was included (and then I stopped there)---great pick, guys! ...But did you really need to tell us that Jerry Seinfeld and Howard Stern are funny New Yorkers? I know this isn't a top "unknowns" list, but telling me that Seinfeld is funny is like telling me water is wet. Could have used those spots for a struggling comic. Just my two cents.

Michael
Michael

I guess I really don't understand why Demetri Martin wouldn't be on the list

Joe reiner
Joe reiner

more than a few of these don't live in Nyc at all but solid solid list of greatness

Billy
Billy

Chris Gethard? Bobby Moynihan? Will Hines? Sarah Silverman (when shes not in LA)? Kate Beaton (well, until she moves back to Canada)?