As long as I can remember I have always been a fan of stand-up comedy. I remember watching comedy specials when I was a kid and watching comedians on Johnny Carson with my dad and thinking some day I want to do that. Being funny is something I've always been good at, maybe even the only thing. Then I grew up got married, got a regular job, house, and so on. Started living the American dream. The thought of doing stand-up comedy escaped me. Now fast forward 12 years and I'm going through a divorce. I felt like I had wasted the last 12 years of my life. I started writing to cope with the divorce and decided to finally try stand-up comedy. Now it's the only thing I could imagine doing even though I still have a day job and I'm only a part time comedian.
I've been doing stand-up for almost 7 years now. With directing two comedy festivals, producing shows, and performing myself I've seen a lot of stand-up comedy beyond what you can see on Comedy Central, Netflix, Seeso, and so on. With all the stand-up I"ve seen you'd think that I hated comedy, but I'm still a fan. The whole dynamic of stand-up comedy fascinates me. It's a vast network of guys & gals busting their butts grinding away at open mics, crappy one nights, and shows across the country hoping to be discovered and becoming the next Louis CK's, Dave Chappelle's, Marc Maron's, Sarah Silverman's and on and on.
For some time I've been thinking about doing this list and I will admit that I am probably being bias as I've worked with all of them and would consider all of them friends of mine. Some closer than others, but friends none the less. Aside from being hilarious all these comedians share another thing; they are great human beings and some of the nicest people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. If I had time this list could go on forever as there are hundreds of comics that I think you should know, but for now I've narrowed it down to 10. Please remember that this is not a ranking, but merely a list of comics I think you should know. I would also like to add that while this is just my opinion their own accolades speak for themselves from numerous TV appearances to prestigious comedy festival victories. So without further adieu here are the 10 comics I think you should know.
1) Spencer James
I'm probably most bias about Spencer as he is one of my closest friends that I gained since I've started comedy. He's been kind of like a mentor to me and even gave me my first paid gig. Spencer is one of the hardest working comedians that I know as comedy is his livelihood and he treats it as such by setting a strong work ethic and setting goals. He has a plan and that plan is to succeed. Spencer won the 2014 World Series of Comedy, has been featured on Fox's "Laughs" and regularly headlines clubs in Las Vegas. He has a very classic Vegas style mixing in both song & dance to his shows. If you took Frank Sinatra & Justin Timberlake and mixed them together you'd have Spencer James. If you're in the South Dakota area you can catch his show live at the Goss Opera House in Watertown, SD May 19th, 2017. You can connect with Spencer via Instagram: @comedianspencer.
2) Erik Knowles
Erik Knolwes is another comedian that I am probably extremely bias about as we have become great friends and were even roommates for a spell. Some of my best times living in San Diego were during the time that I lived with him and his family. In fact his children are some of the few that I actually like. Erik was the first comedian in San Diego that I met when I moved out there years ago. He was already great then, but over the years I got to see him grow even stronger. Whether Erik's talking about his time in the Marines or being a step father he's always hilarious. He's been featured on Fox's "Laughs, he won the 2016 World Series of Comedy and just recently recorded an album with Uproar Comedy. Erik is one of the original members of the Veterans Of Comedy, an organization that perform for the military, does lots of fundraising for vets, and are heavily involved with preventing veteran suicide. Be sure to look for Erik's album on Uproar Comedy and connect with Erik via Twitter: @erikknowles.
3) Taylor Tomlinson
Taylor Tomlinson is one of the brightest young comedians I've ever seen and definitely a rising star. She started when she was 15 or 16 performing in churches and all age shows. I remember the first time that I saw her live. She 19 or 20 at the time and she was the feature act at an all ages Comedy Heights show at Twiggs Coffee in San Diego. It was like watching a live comedy special. Her jokes were sharp & funny, her stage presence was powerful, and she had great interaction with the crowd. Not to mention her comedy was "Clean". Taylor had everything in one package to be a star. I remember thinking to myself as I watched her that if she didn't become a star in comedy it would have to because she chose not to. Along with performing at colleges all over the country, Taylor was a top 10 finalist on season 8 of Last Comic Standing and is a regular host of the Fox TV show "Laughs". You can connect with Taylor via Twiiter: @taylortomlinson.
4) Ryan Hicks
Ryan Hicks is another favorite of mine. I've had the pleasure of watching his career grow since he started comedy. I hosted his very first open mic and I remember him coming to the open mic for months before just to observe. Now he's a regular at all the popular clubs in San Diego. It should be no surprise that Ryan is great at comedy as he is the nephew to the legendary Bill Hicks. While a lot of comics would use that to their advantage to further their careers; Ryan is quite the opposite. For almost the first year that he performed he didn't tell anyone that Bill was his uncle because he wanted to find his own voice in comedy and not to be expected to be just like his uncle. Ryan definitely accomplished that. From tackling the issues of traffic in California to burning down his ex's house you're guaranteed to be entertained watching Ryan. Aside from performing he also produced a popular show in San Diego called "Tabled" in which he brings together a live cast to do a table reading of popular movie scripts. Some of Ryan's writing has been featured as part of the "Living With Animals" exhibit at the Museum of Man in San Diego. You can connect with Ryan via Twitter: @ryanhickstv.
5) AJ Finney
Of all the comics on this list, I've know AJ for the least amount of time as we only met earlier this year at Sioux Falls Sno Jam Comedy Festival. After watching him perform I was immediately drawn to his comedy by his fantastic storytelling ability along with the way he delivered his jokes. Not to mention he is just an all around cool dude. In 2014 AJ was crowned “Best of the Midwest” winner at Gilda’s LaughFest in Grand Rapids, was featured on the FOX television show Laughs, he was a finalist in the 2011 San Francisco International Comedy Competition and his list of achievements goes on and on. Connect with AJ on Twitter: @aj_finney.
6) Trenton Davis
Trenton Davis is so smooth. What else can I say about this guy. I once watched him shut down a group of heckling marines by sitting down on the stool and calmly telling them that they were a lousy audience and explaining why to them. It was like watching a teacher teach. Class was in session and there were lessons to be learned. Not only did he get them to calm down by the end of his set he had won them over and had them roaring in laughter. I've had many great conversations with this man about comedy & festivals. Trenton was a 2015 NBC Standup for Diversity finalist, the 2016 Runner up at the San Francisco International Comedy Competition, a finalist at the 2015 Laughing Skull, and the 2013 winner of the Sacramento Festival. His album “It Had To Be Said” is available for purchase at Uproar Comedy. You can connect with Trenton via Twitter: @Trentoncomedy.
7) Daphnique Springs
Daphnique Springs is another comic that I don't know well as we've only met a couple of times, but watching her perform was a delight and she is absolutely a wonderful person. Very kind and down to earth. She's appeared on Fox's "Laughs" and on the "The Arsenio Hall Show". When Daphnique isn't performing at clubs & colleges across the country she is also an actress appearing in several sketches on Jimmy Kimmel Live & most recently on "The Comedy Get Down". Stay connected with Daphnique via Twitter: @IamDsprings.
8) Tamer Kattan
Tamer Kattan is smart, witty, and fearless. He's not afraid to tackle social & political issues on stage and he does it in such a delicate way that you're laughing so hard at the joke before you even realize he's not just telling a joke, but making a statement. Tamer's ability to make a statement with his jokes is one of the things I admire most about him. Tamer won the 2015 World Series of Comedy and has appeared on Fox, Hulu, TruTV, and on the BBC. His latest album "Brown Sheep" is available to purchase on Uproar Comedy and you can connect with Tamer via Twitter: @TamerKattan.
Zoltan is another one of my absolute favorite working comedians. I had the pleasure of meeting and working with him when I lived in San Diego. We both filmed for Fox's "Laughs" the same night. He became a series regular and to no surprise my taping never aired. We had carpooled together and on the way back to San Diego the motor in my car blew up. I didn't really have any money so he payed for the tow (I did pay him back later). Of course Zoltan tells the story a lot better and more hilarious than I do. It doesn't matter if he's talking about his relationship, house hunting, or his cat it's gonna be hilarious. Zoltan is another great storyteller using both facial expression and great body language to really deliver the story. As I said before Zoltan is a series regular on Fox's "Laughs", in 2013 he won the Seattle International Comedy Competition, and in 2014 won the first annual San Diego Comedy Festival (he opened that set by cracking a joke about my name so I take full credit for that win and his ability to be hilarious had nothing to do with it. He probably disagrees with me). Besides headlining clubs & colleges across the country Zoltan has a great podcast "This Week In Zoltan". Connect with Zoltan via Twitter: @ZoltanCOMEDY.
10) Ryan Talmo
The final comic on my list is Ryan Talmo A.K.A. The Valley Jesus, while he doesn't have as many credits as some of the other comics on this list he is one of the hardest working comedians in Los Angeles. If you're a comedian living in LA, you've probably met him or at least heard of him. Ryan doesn't always follow the rules. In fact most of the time he makes up his own rules. He's a true artist whether on stage or on social media he speaks what he feels and without fear. If comedy punk rock had a face it would be Ryan Talmo. Once scorned by a bringer show Ryan started producing and creating his own stage time. He's produced hundreds of both standup & themed shows in and around LA. Some of the funnest shows that I've did were shows that he produced including the night of 100 comics and Performing Under the Influence. Ryan makes comedy fun and that's what I love about him. You can hear Ryan regularly on the "I'm Burger Podcast" and you can connect with Ryan via Twitter: @Rtalmo.
Besides checking out these comics check out your local scene. Almost every city has some form of comedy whether it's an open mic, comedy club, and/or an Indy show so go explore and support LIVE LOCAL COMEDY! In addition by exploring the Internet there are thousands of comedians to be discovered with many that could very well be my list.
Thanks for reading. Be sure to follow me on Twitter: @danbublitzjr