L.A. abounds with clubs and bars where comedians work relentlessly, night after night. Whether they bomb or kill, they improve, slowly. It’s grueling work and pays off for only a handful—and we’re betting that’ll be the case for these local standouts. Here’s our annual list of the best talent breaking through right now.
See our picks perform onstage during Time Out L.A.’s Comics to Watch LIVE.
Photographs by Mandee Johnson Photography | @mandeephoto
L.A. comedians hitting it big this year
Whether talking about dating or race, Davis can criticize without being cynical. Her quiet confidence will grow on you to the point that, by the end of the set, you’re laughing even in between the punch lines. She cut her teeth doing roast battles at the Comedy Store but didn’t breed ill will in the process: Davis’s peers often name her as one of their favorite stand-ups.
The funniest thing about L.A.: “The entrances to freeways seem to be both hidden and in plain sight all at the same time, like the entrance to the Secret Garden.”
With seen-it-all authority, Davis delivers jokes that twist in ways so delightfully absurd that, even if you know a twist is coming, you’ll never predict which way it will go. She moved to New York for a couple of years because she knew the hustle of conquering a new scene would make her a better stand-up. Now that she’s back in L.A., you’ll want to pay attention.
The funniest thing about L.A.: “No one thinks they’re going to die.”
Gentle and charming, Goldstein wins over crowds with self-effacing personal jokes about family and dating. As he rises in the ranks of the scene, he also continues to book roles as an actor—most recently on Starz’s Counterpart—meaning you’ll soon see his handsome face everywhere.
The funniest thing about L.A.: “When I tell people I’m from New York, they immediately respect me more. Meanwhile, I grew up in a suburb of Long Island, and my first concert was Ashlee Simpson at the mall.”
Jackson’s comedy is relentless. Instead of settling into a flow of tension and release, audiences just never stop laughing. He’s written for Nick Cannon and Leslie Jones, and even though he’s been in L.A. for almost a decade, he still flies back to Tacoma, Washington, to host a monthly show he started near his hometown. (That’s the kind of commitment we wish more Angelenos had.)
The funniest thing about L.A.: “It’s the only city where my barber and I are on the same comedy-show lineup.”
Fearless, reckless candor is a characteristic always appreciated in comedy, and Ley has it in spades. His punch lines are smart, his attitude is wicked, and he’s one of those comedians to have been blessed with a funny voice. Honestly, it’s difficult not to like him—unless you’re a prude. Prudes, steer clear.
The funniest thing about L.A.: “When I lived in San Francisco, everyone talked shit about L.A., while everyone I met from L.A. was like, ‘OMG, we love the Bay!’ There’s a similar thing here, except it’s people on the Eastside saying the Westside is fake and uncool, while the Westside is like, ‘OMG, I love an Echo Park! That’s, like, a big sound bath, right? My dad has one on his property.’ ”
Silly and high energy, this native Canadian is still new enough to L.A. (two years in) to find humor in our city in ways only an outsider can, even offering a fresh take on the weather. His polished observational stand-up has scored him three gala appearances at the prestigious Just for Laughs festival. But his oddball lo-fi Instagram videos prove there’s nothing staid about him.
The funniest thing about L.A.: “The ‘Wanna Betta Butt’ bus stop ads. I laugh. Every. Single. Time.”
Refreshing, artistic and boundlessly confident, Okatsuka’s sense of humor makes audiences feel like they have always been on her side, even when she’s taking them to task. She’s also the only one of this year’s comedians who grew up in L.A. Follow her on Twitter so you can fall in love with her dancing grandma, too.
The funniest thing about L.A.: “There’s a guy who looks like Moby that works at Moby’s restaurant. We call him Faux-by. (And the fact that Moby has a restaurant.)”
See Okatsuka in Let’s Go, Atsuko: A (Woke) Japanese Game Show at Dynasty Typewriter on the last Sunday of every other month at 8pm, in the Comedy Pageant at the Virgil every month, in Plan C at the York on the second Wednesday of every month at 9pm and in her Hulu special, They Call Me Stacey. Follow her on Twitter at @atsukocomedy and Instagram at @atsukocomedy.
If you’ve turned on Cartoon Network in the past five years, you’ve likely heard the improv-and-sketch stalwart’s voice (most notably as Buttercup in The Powerpuff Girls). But it’s Palamides’s high-concept, audacious character work that’ll blow you away, as it did audiences at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where her solo shows have won awards two years in a row.
The funniest thing about L.A.: “How much people care about lists.”
Catch Palamides at Dr. Brown Live Directs a Show at the Lyric Hyperion on Monday nights, on her podcast Hidden Mickeys and in the web series Please Understand Me. Follow her on Twitter at @natdogkatdog and Instagram at @nataliepalamides.
With a point of view both clear-eyed and biting, Weinberg will make you rethink the cultural norms we take for granted, particularly if they’re religious or political. And that’s just his stand-up: He’s also twisted his personal story into two web series: Ahamed’s Ramadan Diary and Please Understand Me, which uses local comedians to delightfully silly effect.
The funniest thing about L.A.: “Every dentist office looks terrifying, and every weed dispensary looks legitimate. Where I’m from, it’s just the opposite.”
Deadpan and not in a hurry, Welch has been plying L.A. stages with her wry wit for eight years. Most recently, she’s appeared on Conan as well as Comedy Central’s Corporate. And her collection of illustrated comics, How to Die Alone (due in April), suggests that life is funny precisely because it’s horrifically sad. Nailed it.
The funniest thing about L.A.: “Everyone’s trying to make it. You see your dermatologist at an open mic. Your hair stylist is an influencer. And your mailman pitches you a web series. It’s terrifying.”