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The Best in Mainstream Comedy

By The Second City | Apr 16, 2013

Mainstream Comedy gets a bad rep. There’s an attitude that mainstream comedy is always less inventive, less satirical, and less poignant than what’s just beneath the surface. In this ongoing series I’m going to explore – mainstream, underground, and classic comedy you should know. But let’s start at the top. We live in a golden era of comedy – yesterday’s underground has arrived as today’s headliners and the bill is filled with a unique, diverse, and fucking funny group of talent. Sure, there is still a sea of poorly written sitcoms, sketch shows, and stand ups but there is a genuine renaissance going on. So let’s acknowledge that…

Louis CK

 1) Louie CK

With the news that season 4 of Louie will be delayed let’s reflect on WHAT he’s already done. Louie CK has boiled down the bland observational comedy into the far superior existence of what it means to be a human born to die. Holy shit! That’s pretty good for an overweight divorced dad. He has taken social satire to new places. Many times within the confines of a half an hour to boot.


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 2) Melissa McCarthy

Some people are just born hilarious. You look at them and you know their THEY ARE going to make you laugh. It’s not about smarts or talent – they were just born to do it. After her movie-stealing role in Bridesmaids she’s become a star. Here’s hoping she doesn’t begin a string of shitball movies to follow her success.


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3) Dr. Steve Bruehle

I can’t tell you why John C Reilly playing a retarded doctor is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, but I can tell you that this platform is used to showcase some of Tim and Eric’s most interesting and positively stupid work.


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4) Everything Is Terrible

Comedy on film is all editing. Like Tim & Eric and WonderShowzen before them, these guys have re-edited 80’s and 90’s nostalgia into something far greater and more satirical. This internet collective are the masters of the found footage genre they credited.


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5) Rob Riggle

Ex-Marine — total psycho. Some may classify this as Bro comedy – I’d say its SO far past that, as it throws that genre on its back back and blows him.


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6) Cecily Strong, Vanessa Bayer, and Aidy Bryant

With all do respect to the great men of SNL (Armisen, Hader, Robinson, Sudekis….Jesus, there are too many to name!!!), these three recent Second City alumns have shown that the show has lost no female funny prowess after Kristen Wiig’s departure.


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7) Jon Glaser

After Delocated’s finale last month, all eye’s are on John Glaser’s next move. With stint’s at SNL, Conan, and Adult Swim – he is one of the most seasoned and inventive comedy minds going.



8) Portlandia

Everybody makes fun of hipsters. At least every hipster does. Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein are the best thing I’ve seen poking fun at alternative culture since Del Close took on the Beat Generation (have I mentioned that I’m 70, apparently).


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9) Bobby Lee

Animal Practice kinda sucked – but Dr. Yama-mazing kinda rules.


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10) Key and Peele

There has been a sizable hole in comedy since Chapelle show, which in this writers opinion, handled race and politics with more gusto than anything since Bring The Pain era Chris Rock. In their second season Key and Peele have upped their game and begun to fill this giant crater left by DC.


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11) Lena Dunham

Love her or hate her, she is important and doing ground-breaking work. Why doesn’t the new face of feminine comedy write characters whose lives are not dominated by thoughts of their adequacy to men? Because like Louie CK, her talent is her ability to share her generation’s vulnerabilities. Her writing is strong because its honest.


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12) Patton Oswalt

The most literate comic on the underground circuit is currently at the top of his game. Its a testament to the age that someone this funny and genuine could become so popular.

Did I miss anybody? Agree? Disagree? Wanna fight? Let me know if there’s anyone I’ve left out on this list. Or anyone who you don’t believe belongs here.


Billy Bungeroth, (Editor) is a Director and consultant at The Second City in Chicago and also plays guitar with JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound. You can follow Billy on Twiiter @BillyBungeroth or learn more than you should from his continuing adventures at

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