The Next Wave 2015: The Top Up-and-Coming Comics Outside of NY and LA

Welcome to the second semi-annual edition of The Next Wave, Splitsider’s roundup of exciting new comic voices from around the country.

Though Los Angeles and New York City are home to the country’s biggest comedy industries, they aren’t the only cities with thriving comedy scenes. In recent years especially – thanks to the rising popularity of locally-focused festivals, and ofma course, the internet – the following cities have become destinations for new comics looking to grow, and for bookers and agents looking to discover emerging talent. Here are a few must-follow cities, and the comics who are on their way to becoming The Next Wave.

We reached out to some of the most informed comedy bookers, festival producers, journalists, and industry insiders from comedy’s biggest scenes, and asked them to share their current favorite up-and-comers with us. The Next Wave was compiled with input and guidance from:

Matt Bearden (Punch Comedy)

Charlene Conley (Bridgetown Comedy Festival)

Stephanie Hasz (The Comedy Exposition Festival)

Andy Juett (High Plains Comedy Festival)


Denver-based comedy trio The Grawlix (Adam Cayton-Holland, Andrew Orvedahl, and Ben Roy) have hosted their monthly standup show to sold-out crowds for over four years, and they’re about to spend the summer on the West Coast shooting their forthcoming truTV series, Those Who Can’t; they’ll be leaving behind a rapidly growing scene that’s turned into one of the country’s most unique and exciting comedy destinations. Thanks in part to the High Plains Comedy Festival (produced by Cayton-Holland and local producer/performer Andy Juett), plus wildly popular monthly showcase Sexpot Comedy (which brings in headliners from around the country), Denver’s established itself as much more than just a jumping off point for comics looking to build a serious career.

Check out these great Denver comics:

Fine Gentleman’s Club (@FGC303)

The standup supergroup of Bobby Crane, Chris Charpentier, Nathan Lund, and Sam Tallent, hosts of an acclaimed monthly show plus the annual comedy and music party, Too Much Funstival.

Jordan Doll (@razorlou)

A magnetic performer (and must-follow tweeter) who recently won Comedy Work’s New Faces contest.

Kristin Rand (@krandomthoughts)

Though she’s making her way to the West Coast, gifted writer Rand’s been a staple of the Denver scene for years.

Troy Walker (@troywalkeresq)

A two-time winner of the New Faces contest (and a licensed attorney!) who has appeared at dozens of festivals.

Mara Wiles (@marawiles)

Named Best Comic at the Laugh Tracks Comedy Festival, Wiles is a skilled standup and improviser.


Austin’s well-known for its frequent festivals, including a handful of alt comedy celebrations like Austin Sketchfest and the Out of Bounds Comedy Festival. Recently, the city’s welcomed a particularly large number of new and aspiring comics, as evidenced by the monumental growth of the annual Funniest Person in Austin contest; FPIA includes over 230 contestants this year, all aiming for a title formerly held by Brendan Walsh, Chip Pope, and Chris Fairbanks (among many others). While it’s been a while since an Austin comic made waves in LA or NYC, locals have been hard at work creating a self-sustaining scene that includes production powerhouse Humordy and the recently launched Sure Thing Records.

Check out these great Austin comics:

Mac Blake (@macbdazzler)

Standup, writer, and Austin Sketchfest co-producer Blake’s recent debut album, Bird Drugs , broke into the iTunes Top 10.

Chris Cubas (@chriscubas)

Winner of @midnight’s recent #PointsMe competition, Cubas was a finalist in Comedy Central’s UP NEXT competition.

Cody Hustak (@codyhustak)

Originally from Omaha, Hustak’s a master of absurdity and the current reigning Funniest Person in Austin.

Maggie Maye (@maggiemayehaha)

Maye’s appeared on Gotham Comedy Live and festivals across the country, and was recently named one of the Austin-American Statesman’s People to Watch in 2015.

Danny Palumbo (@palumbros)

This Pittsburgh native is a fixture at Austin’s Cap City Comedy Club, and the brains behind brilliant restaurant parodies Abbrevs and Lil Buco .


Another city known for Keeping it Weird, Portland’s also got a rep for its impressive comedy community. Despite the recent departures of powerhouses like Ian Karmel , Ron Funches, and Shane Torres, Portland’s got a strong local audience and a supportive scene, and the annual Bridgetown Comedy Festival continues to promote a large number of local performers to crowds that are typically an equal mix of industry insiders and comedy superfans.

Check out these great Portland comics:

Sean Jordan (@seansjordan)

A finalist in the Portland’s Funniest Person contest and the Tacoma comedy contest, and a regular guest on Doug Loves Movies.

Amy Miller (@amymiller)

Voted Funniest Comedian by Willamette Week, she regularly headlines the infamous Purple Onion.

Nariko Ott (@nariko_ott)

An energetic performer who’s been a finalist in both the Willamette Valley’s Funniest Person and Portland’s Funniest Person contests.

Bri Pruett (@bripruett)

In addition to performing, Pruett produces several local shows and contributes a column to the Portland Mercury.

Steven Wilber (@wilberwithane)

A sharp, offbeat, and endearing comic who currently holds the title of Portland’s Funniest Person.


Long recognized as one of the country’s top comedy training grounds, for decades Chicago has been a launchpad for hundreds of beloved standups, SNL alums, and sketch stars. LA is constantly welcoming comics relocating from the Windy City, and while that means the scene cycles from crowded to cozy perhaps more frequently than others, there’s always a lot going on, especially in alt circles. The success of last year’s first annual Comedy Exposition Festival, which included a large percentage of locals, shows Chicago continues to produce exceptional talent.

Check out these great Chicago comics:

Natalie Jose (@nataliejose)

Standup Jose was recently featured on the OWN series My Life Is a Joke (and, she’s the frontwoman of a Patsy Cline cover band).

Danny Kallas (@dannykallas)

A finalist in the Laughing Devil Comedy Festival, Kallas also co-hosts nationally acclaimed show Comedians You Should Know.

Martin Morrow (@martinmmorrow)

A standup and frequent performer at Second City (as well as the creator of several one man shows), Morrow has performed at festivals including Chicago’s Just for Laughs.

The Puterbaugh Sisters (@puterbaughs & @dputerbaugh)

Tiffany and Danielle Puterbaugh host Entertaining Julia, one of the city’s biggest shows, and have brought their sketch-infused act to stages across the country.

Junior Stopka (@juniorstopka)

One of Just for Laughs Montreal’s New Faces in 2012, Stopka continues to be one of Chicago’s most memorable performers.

Be sure to also check out our rundown of the best up-and-coming comics in Los Angeles and New York City.

The Next Wave 2015: The Top Up-and-Coming Comics […]