Unless you spend all day in front of a DVR, you’re definitely missing a lot of great TV (like, for example, did you catch Conner O’Malley’s interpretative dance performance on last week’s Late Night?) And this year there was so much great standup aired across so many new networks, it’s been especially hard to keep up with all the great sets – between the dozens of comics who killed on Conan to the stacked live shows captured by Meltdown and Flophouse, just to name a few.
Broadcast comedy isn’t, obviously, all about tight fives on talk shows anymore. Of course, a Tonight Show appearance still has an unparalleled air of importance; for comics raised on Carson, it’s a measurable career milestone with seemingly unlimited promise – and at the very least, it provides a credit all your family members can be proud of. Take Adam Cayton-Holland’s word for it, from his Conan set last February:
But there are only so many major network late night shows, and so few slots for standups between them – luckily, well-curated showcases like Adam Devine’s House Party and Night Train with Wyatt Cenac offer more ways to celebrate emerging, enduring talent.
So, the DVR recap of the past year features polished sets from veteran late night performers like Nate Bargatze and Maria Bamford, with a huge number of notable debuts – from comics like Joel Kim Booster, Anthony DeVito, Matt Ingebretson, and Dulce Sloan – and a handful of delightfully offbeat moments from Rory Scovel (both solo and as part of Meltdown’s comedy gospel supergroup, the Five Footprints), musical comic Pat Regan, the surprisingly enduring Andrew Dice Clay, and more.
These 50-ish sets were shining moments in the shitstorm of 2016; hopefully, they’ll brighten up your holiday break a bit, too.
Anthony Atamaniuk (Trump vs Bernie)
All year – and long before SNL scrambled to find their own Trump – Anthony Atamaniuk was perfecting his eerily accurate version of Don better than anyone, down to the facial tics and short temper.
Maria Bamford (The Meltdown)
On The Meltdown, Lady Dynamite Maria Bamford has a breakthrough about how relationships have a lot to do with luck.
Nate Bargatze (The Tonight Show)
On the second of his two 2016 Tonight Show appearances, Nate Bargatze tells us what it’s like to perform in a prison.
Joel Kim Booster (Conan)
Armed with an unwavering smile and a few beautifully drawn-out pauses, Joel Kim Booster made a spectacular Conan debut in June.
Guy Branum (The Meltdown)
Guy Branum’s throught process is brilliant to unravel, so we can’t wait til his Talk Show: The Game Show premieres on truTV in 2017.
Matt Broussard (Conan)
Teen movie villain doppelganger Matt Broussard knows you probably don’t like him already, but this hilarious set will win you over.
Rhea Butcher (Conan)
Take My Wife star Rhea Butcher delivers plenty of wry one-liners in her Conan debut.
Dave Chappelle (SNL)
In a return to TV – as an actor and a standup – that’s been years in the making, Dave Chappelle opened his SNL episode with an extended monologue on the election (and his laid-back politics in general) that seemed to jump-start the comics’ interest in releasing new material.
Andrew Dice Clay (The Tonight Show)
Modern day Aesop, 80s superstar Andrew Dice Clay, returned to the stage this spring and before you start worrying, yes everything he wore was made of leather. The clip isn’t embeddable but you can see it here.
Sonia Denis (CC Comics To Watch)
Featured on Comedy Central’s 2016 Comics to Watch list, former Chicagoan Sonia Denis has a seriously magical energy.
Anthony DeVito (Adam Devine’s House Party)
Vaguely ethnic Anthony DeVito laments his TSA troubles, but has some hopeful predictions about the future of racism.
Matt Donaher (Conan)
Bait and switch master Matt Donaher made his second, satisfyingly silly Conan appearance late this past spring.
Josh Fadem (The UCB Show)
On Seeso’s UCB-curated variety show, standup and actor Josh Fadem uses of every inch of the stage in this intensely physical set.
Rachel Feinstein (The Late Late Show)
Following the release of her latest special, Only Whores Wear Purple, Rachel Feinstein visits James Corden with stories about real-life lap dances and her mom’s awkward multiculturalism.
Jo Firestone (Night Train with Wyatt Cenac)
Standup, writer, prolific NYC comedy producer used her televised Night Train set to pitch one of her many game show ideas.
The Five Footprints (The Meltdown)
A gospel supergroup that formed, fatefully, when The Fantastic Negrito dropped out of San Francisco’s Outside Lands fest in August of 2015 and a few comedians – Drennon Davis, Rory Scovel, Ron Funches, and Joe DeRosa – filled in for him. Davis’ beatboxing somehow became a gospel chorus, and the rest is history, reprised live on The Meltdown.
Megan Gailey (Adam Devine’s House Party)
Eternally bubbly Megan Gailey gets into a few of her relationship quirks.
Chris Garcia (Adam Devine’s House Party)
Comic Chris Garcia was a frontrunner in this year’s SNL hiring, and it’s easy to see why in this set full of spirited character work.
Noah Gardenswartz (Conan)
New Yorker Noah Gardenswartz explores some of the best, and worst, parts of living in the city.
David Gborie (Conan)
In one of the year’s last late night spots, human teddy bear David Gborie made his Conan debut this week.
Nikki Glaser (The Tonight Show)
Fresh off her own well-regarded late night series, Not Safe, Nikki Glaser dresses up to deliver a killer five minutes for Jimmy Fallon.
Josh Gondelman (Conan)
The friendliest man in comedy (and one of the funniest on Twitter), Josh Gondelman delights with his real-life description of “ghosting” in his first late night set.
Gary Gulman (Conan)
Always an absolute pleasure to watch – especially his dizzying state abbreviation bit, seen here – Gary Gulman shines with an exceptional Conan set this past summer.
Lori Mae Hernandez (America’s Got Talent)
13-year-old America’s Got Talent contestant Lori Mae Hernandez has a hearbreaking backstory, but truly some of the sickest Trump burns we’ve heard all year.
Matt Ingebretson (Adam Devine’s House Party)
Co-creator and star of upcoming Comedy Central sitcom Hampton DeVille, Matt Ingebretson shares how he lost his virginity while watching Hocus Pocus.
Langston Kerman (Adam Devine’s House Party)
Superstar-in-training Langston Kerman takes us on a tour of his very black neighborhood.
Kyle Kinane (Conan)
Kyle Kinane celebrates the release of his latest special, Loose in Chicago, with a set lamenting the consequences of reckless living.
Matteo Lane (Late Night with Seth Meyers)
Matteo Lane’s got the body of a Greek god and the voice of Mariah Carey, and his amazing Late Night set shows off both.
Mike Lawrence vs Ralphie May (Roast Battle)
A little taste of the battle between two legendary roasters, Ralphie May and Mike Lawrence, in one of the final rounds of the Roast Battle competition that was broadcast live from Montreal’s Just for Laughs festival (Lawrence went on to win the first-ever Roast Battle Champion belt).
Jared Logan (The Late Late Show)
Showing off the staff’s talent, Late Late Show writer Jared Logan takes the stage to reminisce about NYC’s rats and explore his dad’s porn habits.
Carmen Lynch (Conan)
The brilliant Carmen Lynch links anecdotes of her awkward teen years with updates from her increasingly unhinged adulthood.
Bonnie McFarlane (The Late Show)
Long underrated comedy queen Bonnie McFarlane visits Stephen Colbert to explain why she’s not going to smile just cause you tell her to.
Kurt Metzger (This Is Not Happening)
Former Jehovah’s Witness Kurt Metzger gets into his weird childhood with his trademark affable candor.
Sam Morrill (Conan)
In case you’ve forgotten, Sam Morrill is here to remind you exactly why having kids around is awful.
Aparna Nancherla (Conan)
If you’ve ever dropped a handful of pills in public or had trouble working from home, this Aparna Nancherla set is for you.
Sean Patton (This Is Not Happening)
Few comics can command an audience like Sean Patton, who’s an electric storyteller – as seen in this clip from This Is Not Happening.
Joe Pera (Late Night with Seth Meyers)
Rosy-cheeked angel Joe Pera visited Late Night twice this year – the first time for what was undoubtedly one of the year’s most delightful, and most well-received, performances.
Pat Regan (Adam Devine’s House Party)
Musician / comic Pat Regan’s been blessed with a voice that rivals indie darling Jeff Mangum’s, which he pairs perfectly with razor-sharp lyrics as poetic as they are breathtakingly funny.
Rory Scovel (Conan)
Rory Scovel’s been behind some of Conan’s most memorable performances, and his recent set from the show’s week at The Apollo was appropriately legendary.
Eliza Skinner (The Late Late Show)
Late Late Show writer Eliza Skinner doubled up by jumping in front of the camera twice this season; this time, to impart some important relationship wisdom.
Dulce Sloan (Conan)
Equal parts impressive late night debut and a great excuse to show off an expensive bra, this set from Dulce Sloan is super fun.
Daniel Sloss (Conan)
Superstar UK comic Daniel Sloss travels to the States to share his vast knowledge of animal sexuality.
Doug Smith (Conan)
Doug Smith proves a dapper suit and a positive outlook can make even the saddest family histories seem funny.
Doug Stanhope (This Is Not Happening)
Longtime comedy outlaw Doug Stanhope makes a rare appearance on Ari Shaffir’s storytelling show with a cautionary tale about rebound relationships.
Chris Thayer (Adam Devine’s House Party)
Comic Chris Thayer shares a few basic Tinder do’s and don’ts.
Shane Torres (Conan)
Wide-smiling, wild-haired Shane Torres tells us why his dad’s ghost won’t let him enjoy a Cinnabon.
Liza Treyger (Late Night with Seth Meyers)
Irresistable Liza Treyger stops by Late Night to talk about a lot of stuff – but mostly thighs – in just under five minutes.
Baron Vaughn (The Meltdown)
Actor / comic / upcoming MST3K reboot star Baron Vaughn tells Jonah, Kumal, and the Meltdown crowd why allergies are as dangerous as the police.
Alice Wetterlund (Flophouse)
People of Earth / Silicon Valley star Alice Wetterlund is live from LA comedy house Babe Island.
Kate Willett (This Is Not Happening)
LA-via-SF standup Kate Willett shares a true, truly horrifying tale from Burning Man.
Allen Strickland Williams (CC Comics To Watch)
Yacht club bad boy Williams – who appeared on Conan two years ago – was named one of Comedy Central’s Comics to Watch this fall.
Anna Wintour (Vogue)
Iconic Vogue editor / perma-perfect style witch Anna Wintour switches places with comic Amy Schumer in this bit for her mag’s site, and as part of the swap, she goes up at the legendary Comedy Cellar – it’s brief and cheesy but, she gets points for playing along.
Michelle Wolf (Night Train with Wyatt Cenac)
Daily Show correspondent Michelle Wolf is an electrifying performer, as evidenced by this extended live set.