Before we turn our calendars to 2019 and start making jokes about writing 2018 on all of our checks that we no longer write because we live in a digital age, it’s time once again for our annual tribute to the year’s most valuable players in comedy. This is the fourth time that New York Times comedy critic Jason Zinoman has joined me for this annual debate, and Zinoman got me thinking about whether we should expand our honors to include not only the comedy MVP candidates, but also Rookies of the Year, Comeback Comedian of the Year, and more. Do we talk about Hannah Gadsby? Of course we do. We also get into Tiffany Haddish, Michelle Wolf, Hasan Minhaj, Donald Glover, Kate McKinnon, John Mulaney, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Ellen DeGeneres and more. So let’s get to it!
Brian Regan is most comedians’ favorite comedian. Even if you might not recognize him or place his name, Regan has stood out among stand-ups for the past two decades, with multiple comedy specials to his credit – including Comedy Central’s first and still only live special, recorded at Radio City Music Hall. Regan performed 28 times on David Letterman, and since added a few Fallons. As part of his deal with Netflix, Regan is releasing a four-episode series that’s part classic stand-up routines, part new sketches based on those premises. He produced it with Jerry Seinfeld. Stand Up and Away! comes out this Christmas Eve. So let’s get to it!
Adam McKay won the Academy Award for best screenplay for his adaptation of The Big Short. His newest film at the end of 2018 is VICE, McKay’s darkly satiric yet mostly true retelling of the life and career of Dick Cheney. He has come a long way since his Second City days as an improviser and founding member of the Upright Citizens Brigade. McKay is a former head writer for Saturday Night Live, where he first teamed up with Will Ferrell on sketches and digital shorts. Their first feature film together was 2004’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. McKay also wrote and directed Ferrell in Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby, Step Brothers The Other Guys, Anchorman 2, and on Broadway and HBO in a send-up of George W. Bush called “You’re Welcome America.” Together, McKay and Ferrell formed Gary Sanchez Productions in 2006, and a year later, helped launch Funny or Die. In 2018, McKay had one of his busiest years yet, bringing the series Succession to HBO, executive producing several other TV series, and finishing work on VICE. All while surviving a heart attack. There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get to it!
Sarah Cooper could have enjoyed a lucrative career in tech, only she didn’t enjoy Google as much as she did making jokes about it. She began performing stand-up in 2010, and in 2013, saw a blog post she wrote about how to look smart in meetings go viral and land her a three-book deal. She has moved from New York City to Silicon Valley and back again, and her third book, How To Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings, is out now. So let’s get to it!
Rosebud Baker has two famous names if you know where to look. Her family business isn’t exactly Citizen Kane, although if you were paying any attention to politics, then you know a life of stand-up comedy and podcasting about Justin Bieber is a far cry from her grandfather’s past as Secretary of State for President George H.W. Bush. Rosebud started out as an actress — she co-starred in the 2010 Sundance reality series, Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, and now co-hosts a podcast about Justin Bieber called Two Less Lonely Girls. In between, Rosebud has written for Someecards, Elite Daily, The Frisky and more, and she’s starring in a brand-new Amazon Prime series, Inside Jokes, which followed her journey as a New Face at the Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal. So let’s get to it!