Written in Ink

Favorite Alt Comics, West Coast Edition

It's been hard to ignore the outpouring of creativity coming from the LA scene. The podcast renaissance has given rise to a boatload of fresh talent and revivified careers, and both Marc Maron's WTF and The Nerdist, have been major contributors. The scene has recently given rise to a miscellany of new tv shows, and for the most part, the outlook is sunny. The Pete Holmes Show didn't quite make it out of the birth canal, but others seem to be doing just fine. Silicon Valley (starring TJ Miller and Kumail Nanjiani) even received an Emmy nomination.

Here are some of my favorite comics to come out of LA. These are the people that are doing interesting stuff now, and who I predict have the talent to do great things in the future.

Ron Funches


Funches might be the best thing to happen since whipped cream. His standup routine is fun, thoughtful, and alarmingly kind. He defies the stereotype that all humor has to be mean. (Please. I beg of you. Don't bring up the topic of his current tv show, Undateable. I really don't have any defense for it except to say that he didn't come up with the material.)

Ron Funches likes weed, The Cranberries, and hanging out with his kid. He is the winningest contestant on the comedy gameshow, @Midnight.

Moshe Kasher


Moshe Kasher wrote a book, Kasher in the Rye. I haven't read it, so I can't say whether or not it's good, but it describes his life growing up in Oakland with two deaf parents, one of whom later converts to Orthodox Judaism, making little Kasher parts hood rat, religious scholar, and burner. There's nobody quite like him. I admit to having a bit of a crush on him, even though I don't like the concept of celebrity crushes.

One of the other things that makes Moshe Kasher great is his podcast, which he co-hosts with Neal Brennan. (Brennan is famous for being the co-creator of The Dave Chappelle Show. And if there is any justice in the world, he'll also be known in later years as the co-creator of Fucking with the Champs.) They focus primarily on black comedians, acting both as a bridge to whities like myself and cultural middle men for black artists in general. Hey, Questlove himself is one of their biggest endorsers, making it a point to bring many of his own celebrity friends to the podcast. I can't stress this next part enough: this is the only podcast that I listen to regardless of who is being interviewed. It doesn't matter because I know the conversation is going to be lively. Brennan is offensive and kind of an asshole. He really gets you accustomed to having your feelings hurt. He likes to say things like, "Women just aren't as interesting as men." Fun stuff! Anybody who thinks there isn't a gender problem in comedy hasn't been listening to FwtC. But it doesn't matter. At least with this podcast their sexism isn't a quiet secret, felt but not spoken of.


Gabe Liedman


Gabe Liedman is best known as Jenny Slate's sidekick, but I don't think he'll stay that way. His comedy special Hiyeeee!! is kind of amazing. He talks about being gay and loving Netflix. I don't know what to say about him except that he is the comedian I would most like to have as a friend. I have lots of gay loves in my life. In fact, these are probably the only men who I'm likely to get any satisfaction out of.

I suspect that he may later become better known as a comedy writer since he's had a great career writing for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Inside Amy Schumer, Billy on the Street, and Kroll Show.


Maria Bamford


Maria Bamford is kind of a legend, and her various standup specials speak for themselves. I first discovered her from The Maria Bamford Show, which debuted on the now dead website Super Deluxe. Her specialty is a whimsical take on depression and mental illness. Whimsical? Okay, maybe the word "whimsical" falls flat within this context. She's a comedian's comedian. Every comedian knows her, and everyone respects her.

Chris Hardwicke


I feel like I have to have Chris Hardwicke on this list because I regret all the mean things I've said about him in the past. I said he was a poseur, that he wasn't really a nerd, that he was just a pretty face. None of that is true. (If we're being real, he's probably a bigger nerd than I am.) In fact, he's partly responsible for the current comedy renaissance. His comedy club/comic book store, The Meltdown, has been showcasing talent for awhile now. But he doesn't need anybody's apology, and certainly not from some anonymous Kinja commenter. He's become a real, live boy power broker. The kind of person you have to say nice things about, like Johnny Carson or Louie CK. He's also just a decent guy. Listening to his podcast makes me realize that, yes, real success doesn't come from being a cutthroat asshole, or from having a pretty face. It comes from hard work. Hardwicke runs a web empire, hosts several tv shows, performs standup, and still finds time to give good interviews.

The interviews were part of my initial reluctance to compliment him. When I first listened to his podcast, The Nerdist, he and his cohorts, Jonah Ray and Matt Mira, had a tendency to talk over their guests, to gab as if the real point of the interview was their own inane babble. Actually, I think for many hardcore comedy geeks it was absolutely the point. Not for me. Whatever the case, I think he's honed his interview skills and managed to even edge out Marc Maron himself as a draw for talent. In short, Hardwicke's abilities are undeniable. And, yes, he still has a pretty face.


[ETA: I added a lot of links and images, plus I tweaked some of the wording. My laptop battery died just in time for me to hit Save, but not enough time to add metadata.]

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