From Alternative To Mainstream: '90s Comedians

Louis C.K. to Tom Lennon


Louis C.K.

David Cross

Janeane Garofalo

Jon Glaser

Tom Lennon and Robert Ben Garant

From Alternative To Mainstream: '90s Comedians CONTINUES...


6. Louis C.K.
Throughout the '90s Louis C.K. was a comic’s comic and celebrated writer for David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Dana Carvey, and Chris Rock. C.K.’s early standup, much more surreal in its writing, separated C.K. from the typical comics of his booming Boston scene. Despite insider plaudits, C.K. struggled to put everything together until he reinvented himself (inspired by George Carlin) as a raw, rough-edged comedian, tackling fatherhood, technology, and sex with a harder edge that never lost his surreal view of life. Today, C.K. is the biggest name in standup comedy, as several of his standup routines have gone viral, and his show on FX, Louie, has helped redefine what television comedy is capable of achieving.

Watch Louis C.K. talk about the production of Louie at a 2010 Paley Center panel.



7. David Cross
Fed up with the closed-mindedness of his Georgia upbringing, David Cross moved to Boston during its booming '80s comedy scene, meeting up with Louis C.K., Marc Maron, and Denis Leary, among others. Gaining notoriety for playing highbrow gay characters at excessively homophobic bars throughout New England. Cross landed a gig on The Ben Stiller Show, where he met Bob Odenkirk. Together, they created Mr. Show with Bob and David, a landmark show in the history of sketch comedy. Cross continued his standup career, which become increasingly political. His 2002 debut album, Shut Up You Fucking Baby!, obtained an overload of plaudits and several critics consider it one of the greatest political comedy albums ever released. Cross later came to see the album as a burden, and dealt with the ramifications of his success on his subsequent standup albums. In recent years, Cross has focused more on acting, especially celebrated as closeted psychologist Tobias Fünke on Arrested Development (a classic in its own right). He more recently starred in the UK-set comedy series The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret on IFC.

VIDEO: See Cross "moderate" a panel for FX's Archer at the Paley Center.



8. Janeane Garofalo
Janeane Garofalo got her start on The Ben Stiller Show and parlayed that relationship into a starring role in Stiller’s directorial debut, Reality Bites, stealing scenes away from her A-list costar Winona Ryder. Compared with many on this list, Garofalo found success much earlier, so much so that she was spoofed as a vestige of the ’90s on The Simpsons. Along with Fiona Apple and Daria, Garofalo became an icon for troubled girls in the ’90s, both in her standup and her roles in films like Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion, Dogma, and The Truth About Cats and Dogs (a role Garofalo mocks to this day). Garofalo was also a cast member of many high-profile TV shows, such as The Larry Sanders Show (where she received two Emmy nominations), Saturday Night Live, and The West Wing, and the host of the radio show The Majority Report on Air America. Garofalo, a pioneer of the alt comedy scene, released her first hourlong standup special in 2010 on EPIX.



9. Jon Glaser
Jon Glaser has been a gadabout of the comedy scene for the past twenty years, getting his start as a performer on several short-lived '90s sketch programs (The Dana Carvey Show, The Jenny McCarthy Show), and as one of the most frequently used character actors on Late Night With Conan O'Brien. In the last decade, Glaser has become most famous for creating and starring in Delocated, where he speaks through a voice modulator and a ski mask, which recently wrapped up its third season on Adult Swim. One of the more beloved sketch performers of the past twenty years, Glaser may have more recognition on the horizon, having recently made a phenomenal debut on Parks and Recreation in what will become a recurring role.



10. Tom Lennon and 11. Robert Ben Garant
Remarkably, just about all of the former cast members of The State have had very successful careers. At least financially, no two State veterans may have been more successful than Tom Lennon and Robert Ben Garant. After The State, the two cocreated, with Michael Ian Black, Viva Variety, which ran for three seasons on Comedy Central. Later, they cocreated Reno 911! with fellow State veteran Kerri Kenney-Silver, which ran for six seasons and a movie. Additionally Lennon and Garant have cowritten the screenplays for some of the most successful movies of the past decade, most notably the Night at the Museum films. They have openly spoken about their lack of shame about writing scripts that ended in lower quality due to producers’ notes, but their films have made more than $1 billion worldwide. The two collected their experiences writing Hollywood studio screenplays in their 2011 humorous Hollywood survival guide Writing Movies for Fun and Profit.




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