As both writers and live performers, many comedians are able to translate their comedic chops into adjacent entertainment mediums. You’re more likely to recognize their names in a sitcom’s writing credits or as the voices behind cartoon characters like the families of Bob’s Burgers and The Great North, but there are a few live-action series where you can both see and hear your favorite jokesmiths. Here’s where you can find today’s current sitcoms featuring stand-up comedians in the main cast:
Network TV is entering a new era of prominence thanks to a recent wave of upbeat and funny sitcoms like ABC’s Abbott Elementary. Created by comedian, actor, and Internet Queen Quinta Brunson, the mockumentary set in an under-funded public school in Philadelphia became a runaway hit this year as the first ABC show to quadruple its ratings. Fellow stand-up, Janelle James, puts on a scene-stealing performance as the inept, yet uproarious principal Ava Coleman. Abbott joins the sophomore series Home Economics. Renewed for a third season, the show follows three adult siblings across varying tax brackets. Stand-up comedian Shasheer Zamata plays middle-child Sarah’s wife. The former SNL cast member’s comedy special, Pizza Mind, is available on Amazon.
NBC’s Grand Crew is a show full of fresh faces and fresh jokes. The series follows the lives of a tight group of friends, including Nicole Byer, who regularly get together at their favorite wine bar. The comedian is probably all over your Netflix queue hosting the baking competition show Nailed It! or slinging jokes on stage in her stand-up special BBW, but NBC is where fellow cord-cutters can find Byer’s Nicky Koles.
Showtime is getting serious about its comedy programming with late night shows like Ziwe and sitcoms like Flatbush Misdemeanors, created by and starring New York stand-ups Dan Perlman and Kevin Iso. Now in its second season, the show follows fictionalized versions of the two and their daily struggles living in the titular Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn with guest appearances by some of their stand-up peers. The freshman series I Love That For You premiered this spring as a starring vehicle for SNL alum Vanessa Bayer. Set in the world of home shopping TV, she’s joined by comedian Matt Rogers, co-host of the Las Culturistas podcast with Bowen Yang, as executive assistant Darcy Leeds. In addition to hosting live comedy shows like Gayme Show, Rogers can also be seen in the recently released film Fire Island with fellow comedian Joel Kim-Booster.
The baby platform is still finding its footing in the realm of original programming. Despite this, Peacock does have a buzz-worthy sitcom on its hands with Bust Down. The series boasts an all-comic main cast with Chris Redd, Sam Jay, Langston Kerman, and Jak Knight as low-wage coworkers at a small casino. Each episode of its short six-ep run pumps out ridiculous one-liners at 30 Rock rate. Bust Down is joined by Killing It, which follows Floridians hunting and killing pythons for the reward money. You’ll recognize comedians Rell Battle and Australia’s Claudia O’Doherty running around the swamps with Craig Robinson.
Many of the aforementioned network shows can be seen via Hulu thanks to its many distribution deals, but its current schedule also features two originals starring stand-ups in the lead role. Although the tone is more dramedy than straight comedy, Amy Schumer leads Life & Beth as the titular Beth, a woman whose life is upended when a sudden incident forces her to engage with her past. Ramy Youssef takes on the fictionalized self role in Ramy, which follows his journey as a first-gen American Muslim wrestling between his faith and lifestyle in New Jersey. Youssef took home a Peabody and Golden Globe for his work on the show. His special, Feelings, was one of Paste’s favorite stand-up specials of 2019.
Netflix has emerged as one of the big platforms for specials filling the void left by Comedy Central’s shifting priorities. Swimming in their sea of original shows is The Upshaws featuring Mike Epps and Wanda Sykes. The comedians star in this traditional family sitcom about a working-class, African American family in Indiana with a struggling auto garage business. Unlike some comedians, Sykes and Epps are no strangers to TV, having played regular and recurring characters in a plethora of sitcoms.
“The Max’s” TV series library is chock-full of underrated, orphaned American sitcoms and overseas gems. One of their newest acquisitions is Taika Watiki’s pirate-satire, Our Flag Means Death, which stars fellow Kiwi, Flight of the Conchords manager, and stand-up Rhys Darby as wannabe pirate Stede Bonnet. The pair are joined by the UK’s Guz Khan (Man Like Mobeen), Dutch-Mauritanian comic Samba Schutte (Sunnyside), and our friend Claudia O’Doherty. Just renewed for the third season (or “series”) is the ever-delightful modern day romcom Starstruck. The series follows Jessie, played by comedian and show creator Rose Matefao, and her courtship with a famous actor à la Notting Hill. Matafeo’s special, Horndog, won best show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and is also available to watch on the streamer.
Yes, there’s more to watch on Apple+ than just Ted Lasso. You can catch comedians Joel Kim Booster and Ron Funches on the new series Loot. The comedy follows a billionaire (Maya Rudolph) who discovers she owns a charity organization only after a messy fallout with her backstabbing husband. Booster’s first one-hour special, Psychosexual, premiered on Netflix last week shortly after his feature film writing debut Fire Island hit Hulu. Funches released his special Giggle Fit in 2019, the same year the Harley Quinn animated series premiered where the comic provides the voice for King Shark.
The idea of a digital afterlife gets a comedic twist on Upload. Whereas Black Mirror took a profound reflection on the concept, Upload is more concerned with questions like, “What if therapy dogs could talk?” On the main cast you’ll find Zanaib Johnson as Aleesha, a handler for deceased residents of the heaven-esque Lakeview. Johnson was a finalist on season eight of Last Comic Standing and was named one of Variety’s 2019 Comics to Watch. You can watch Johnson/Aleesha and company on Amazon Prime.
Olivia Cathcart is a comedian and writer.