The world of comedy used to be dominated by men. All of the ones we remember as the best pre-2000 are men, but that’s not our fault. It’s because only men were making it to the top – the George Carlins and the Richard Pryors and the Eddie Murphys and the Bill Hickses and the Lenny Bruces and the, well, you get the picture. The only legendary women in standup before then, who had managed to get their voice heard through the noise of all the men – male comics, male promoters, male agents, male managers, male producers, male executives, male everyone – were Lily Tomlin and Joan Rivers. But they were massively in the minority. However, in the past few years, we’ve been seeing a major change in the way that women in comedy are seen. Finally, the powers that be have realized that women can be just as funny, just as fierce, just as relatable, just as honest, and just as talented as men. We’ve seen that in the critical acclaim and $288 million box office haul of Bridesmaids, the Peabody Award-winning pop culture phenomenon that is Amy Schumer, and many more instances of women outdoing men in the field of comedy. In 2018, the female comedic meteor will only continue to rise (the metaphor doesn’t really work, but you get the point). So, here are 15 brilliantly funny women you should watch out for in 2018.
15. Kay Cannon
After cutting her teeth as a writer on shows like 30 Rock and New Girl, Kay Cannon graduated to writing movies and wrote the whole Pitch Perfect trilogy (rounding itself off this winter with its final instalment). And next year, you’ll want to be watching Cannon’s career closely, because she’ll be making her directorial debut, and who knows where that could take her in the future? The movie is called Blockers (it’s been through various title changes – it was once The Pact, but that’s already a horror movie), and it’s about three parents (played by the odd combination of Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, and John Cena) who try to stop their daughters from losing their virginity on prom night. Raunchy premise, good cast – let’s see where Cannon takes this one!
14. Chelsea Peretti
In 2014, Chelsea Peretti tweeted, “I GOTTA GET MY SHIT TOGETHER IN 2018.” Well, it looks like she has. She’s got a nice, comfortable job stealing scenes in a supporting role in a highly rated and much loved Fox comedy series, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. She’ll also be seen in the movie Game Night, which combines the comedy and thriller genres in an R-rated, suburban adaptation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Peretti co-stars alongside Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Lamorne Morris (Winston from New Girl), Jeffrey Wright (Bernard from Westworld), and Michael C. Hall (better known as Dexter Morgan – or David Fisher). Peretti will also be continuing performing standup, for which she is beloved within her own community – she’s been described many times by fellow comic Marc Maron as “the best” on his popular podcast.
13. Sasheer Zamata
It’s a shame that Sasheer Zamata left Saturday Night Live this year (along with a couple of other cast members who called it quits), but now, she’s made a name for herself in the world of comedy and she’s free to do whatever she wants. She was a standout performer on SNL for her impressions of Rihanna, Michelle Obama, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce Knowles, Solange Knowles, Diana Ross, Lupita Nyong’o, and Taraji P. Henson, and she also did that Netflix movie Deidra & Laney Rob a Train. Next year, she’ll be appearing in Mario Anthony’s new comedy series Abelism, about a rich, famous internet tycoon who “despises social interaction and can’t speak without sarcasm.” Interesting. And Zamata’s standup spreads a positive message for women of color, which is never a bad thing.
12. Jennifer Flackett
Jennifer Flackett is one of the co-creators, along with Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, and her husband Mark Levin, of the animated Netflix sitcom Big Mouth – a hilarious trip down memory lane where you can relive all the painful experiences of going through puberty as a teenager. Flackett brings a female perspective to the show, which enriches it on the whole. It’s not just boys getting boners and watching porn and liking girls – it’s also girls getting periods and developing boobs. Very inclusive, all thanks to Flackett. Netflix have renewed Big Mouth for a second season, so we can look forward to that next year. In 2014, Levin and Flackett took a year off to travel the world with their two children. They called the experience “A Year to Think” and spent it visiting 110 cities across 38 countries across six continents across 365 days. They made 120 short films over the course of that year about their experiences traveling. Isn’t that cool? That’s what we all talk about doing, but they actually went and did it.
11. Maria Bamford
Described by comedy overlord Judd Apatow as “the most unique, bizarre, imaginative comedian out there right now,” and “the funniest woman in the world,” Maria Bamford is a fierce force of funny. She has her own Netflix series, Lady Dynamite, in which she plays a fictionalized version of herself. Like Richard Pryor, she fearlessly bares herself on stage (not literally – she does wear clothes, but she opens up about her personal life). She talks about her dysfunctional family and does self-deprecating comedy about her depression and anxiety. She has been highly acclaimed for managing to juggle both light topics and dark topics in her standup act. She’s got a couple of movies coming out in 2018, but don’t forget to also check out her live performances.
10. Vanessa Bayer
It was sad when Vanessa Bayer decided to leave Saturday Night Live this year. She was always a dependable cast member for a good laugh. But at least her departure has opened her up to take on all kinds of new projects. Specifically, she has two new comedy movies lined up for distribution through Netflix. In January next year, The Polka King will be released, which tells the story of Jan Lewan (played by Jack Black), a polka star who seduced his fans into investing in a Ponzi scheme, with Bayer playing a character named Binki Bear. Later in the year, we’ll be seeing her in Ibiza – no, not the place; it’s a movie called Ibiza. She’ll star alongside Gillian Jacobs and Phoebe Robinson as a group of best friends searching the popular vacation destination for a sexy DJ played by Robb Stark (well, Richard Madden, who played Robb Stark). Expect great things from Vanessa Bayer.
9. Heather Graham
Heather Graham has had a really diverse career, with roles in such a wide range of movies as Drugstore Cowboy, Austin Powers, Six Degrees of Separation, The Hangover, Boogie Nights, Bowfinger, and Swingers. One thing has always stayed the same – she’s always been lovable and delightfully watchable. Well, now, she’s also a director and screenwriter. Her new movie Half Magic, which she’s writing, directing, and starring in, will explore the themes of “female empowerment through sex, work, and friendship.” It tells the story of a group of women who are able “to come together through their frustration over male dominance and, in fact, use their newly formed sisterhood to lean on each other and understand that they must first learn to love themselves before doing anything else.” Sounds great.
8. Diablo Cody
The writer and director of Juno are reuniting for another female-centric comedy drama movie. Now, hold for movie fans to rejoice. Jason Reitman will be directing Tully, a dramedy movie about the struggles of motherhood starring the great Charlize Theron, from a screenplay by Diablo Cody. Cody is also working on a pilot episode for her own talk show, Me Time with Diablo Cody, and a teen drama series for Fox called Prodigy, which according to The Hollywood Reporter, will focus on “a 16-year-old genius who, through home schooling, has been isolated from her peers. Hoping to experience a ‘normal’ teen social life before she enters the adult world of academia, she enrolls in her local high school. Her experiment goes off the rails when she finds herself adopted by a wild crowd, getting caught up in a whirlwind of romance and crime.” These all sound like truly exciting projects.
7. Chelsea Handler
Chelsea Handler used to just have the show Chelsea Lately on E!, but ever since Netflix started producing original content, she’s been taking the entertainment world by storm. She hosted both the documentary series Chelsea Does and the talk show Chelsea on the streaming service, as well as bringing them standup specials like Uganda Be Kidding Me (what a great pun!). She ended her talk show after this year brought us its second season, but she only ended it so that she could focus on other projects (specifically activism and philanthropic work) in the coming year. But don’t worry, we can still enjoy her comedy. She’s still bringing a new documentary to Netflix and the movie We Still Rise, about a group of women including Handler who stood up against political authoritarianism and started one of the biggest global movements of our time.
6. Gillian Jacobs
Gillian Jacobs is gearing up for a hell of a year. In March next year, the third season of her show Love will premiere on Netflix. The show’s first season was described as “an honest look at building a relationship, helped along by its two appealing leads,” while the second was praised for “tread[ing] the balance between comedy and drama with greater confidence, going deeper into the endearing, frustrating, delightfully realistic relationship of Mickey and Gus.” It was recently announced that Love’s third season would be its last, and that’s sad, because it’s a really terrific show and fans were hoping it would go on a lot longer. But hey, all good things must come to an end. And then Jacobs has Melissa McCarthy’s new movie Life of the Party coming up, where she’ll star alongside McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, and Julie Bowen.
5. Amy Schumer
Amy Schumer was the biggest comedian in the world for a few years, with a box office smash in Trainwreck, a much loved and critically adored sketch show in Inside Amy Schumer, and a long string of popular standup specials on networks like HBO and Netflix. The cultural zeitgeist might be moving on to Stranger Things and President Trump, but Schumer is still one of the best comics out there and she’s still got millions of fans behind her. If you are one, you can look out for her latest movie next year, a comedy called I Feel Pretty. Directed and written by the male/female duo of Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, I Feel Pretty will have a really great feminist message, based on the synopsis that’s been released. “Renee Bennett (Schumer), an ordinary woman who struggles with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy on a daily basis, wakes up from a fall believing she is the most beautiful and capable woman in the world. With this newfound confidence, she is empowered to live her life fearlessly and flawlessly.”
4. Whitney Cummings
Whitney Cummings is one the edgiest standup comics out there, as seen in her live specials Money Shot, I Love You, and I’m Your Girlfriend. She’s not afraid to go there. She’s one of those. Now, she’s broadening her horizons beyond edgy standup and TV sitcoms, because she’s written and directed a movie called The Female Brain, based on the novel of the same name by Louann Brizendine. Cummings co-wrote the screenplay with Neal Brennan, Dave Chappelle’s cohort behind the fantastic sketch show Chappelle’s Show, and she also stars in the movie alongside Sofia Vergara, Toby Kebbell, James Marsden, Lucy Punch, Cecily Strong, and Chris D’Elia. It had its world premiere last summer, but we won’t get to see it until early 2018 when it gets a theatrical release. After that, the world will be Whitney Cummings’ oyster.
3. Tig Notaro
Tig Notaro is one of the boldest and most inspiring comedians out there. She’s known and beloved for her brand of deadpan comedy – days after she was treated for cancer, she delivered a standup set that was described as “instantly legendary.” The New York Times put it perfectly: “She showed the audience her scars and then, through the force of her showmanship, made you forget that they were there. It was a powerful, even inspiring, statement about survival and recovery, and yet, it had the larky feel of a dare.” After spending a lot of her career under the wing of Louis C.K., she’s cut ties with the guy following his sexual misconduct scandal, and so in 2018, we’ll get to see Notaro spread her wings and fly and it’ll be exciting to see where her newfound freedom takes her. Under her belt already, she has books, movies, bestselling standup albums, documentaries, and her own show on Amazon Prime. So, what’s next?
2. Ellen DeGeneres
After a lengthy time spent starring in sitcoms, getting fired from them for being gay, coming back with a vengeance with a talk show, and voicing a computer animated fish, Ellen DeGeneres is finally returning to the stage. She explained, “Earlier this week, I got a tweet from the people at Netflix and I have good news and bad news. The bad news is, they wouldn’t tell me what happened to Barb on Stranger Things, but the good news is, they asked if I was interested in doing a standup special. I said I’m going to have to think about it, and then 30 seconds later, I said yes. It has been 15 years since I did a standup special. 15 years. And I’m writing it now, I can’t wait. I’ll keep you posted when and where I’m gonna shoot my Netflix special. I’m excited to do it. I’m excited for you to see it. And now, each one of you, you get to Netflix and chill with me. How about that?” That sounds great, Ellen!
1. Ali Wong
The comedy of Ali Wong is terrific and really original, because she provides representation for two different groups that you don’t usually get to see on a standup stage: not just women, but also the Asian community (she was born in San Francisco, but her father is Chinese and her mother is Vietnamese). The last time she did a Netflix special, Baby Cobra, she performed it whilst heavily pregnant (and this was also the source of much of her material). In the meantime, she’s been appearing on Inside Amy Schumer and writing for Fresh Off the Boat, but now, she’s had the kid, raised it from baby to toddler, and she’s back on the road. Next year, the Netflix library will be blessed with another one of her hilarious specials. She’s filmed it in Toronto, where she quipped, “I heard there’d be a lot of Asians at my Toronto shows. Thank you all for bringing your white boyfriends.” And that’s not all – she’s also starring in a new romantic comedy with Randall Park that’ll be hitting Netflix soon.