The 40(ish) Most Influential People in Comedy 2021 – Hollywood Reporter

The 40(ish) Most Influential People in Comedy 2021 – Hollywood Reporter

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From comedy royalty like Kevin Hart, Larry David and Tina Fey and touring titans like Ali Wong and yes, Dave Chappelle, to the distinctive new voices making breakout hits like ‘Hacks’ and ‘Reservation Dogs,’ these are the people shaping the funny business right now.


Earning a spot on the Comedy Power List doesn’t mean The Hollywood Reporter’s staff finds you hilarious (though that certainly helps). Rather, the creatives and executives honored — from the touring titans and living legends to the makers of this year’s hottest shows and its most distinctive new voices — are the ones truly shaping the ever-evolving funny business. And that, as they say, is no joke.
Hacks creators

Ted Lasso may be television’s reigning sitcom by plenty of standards, but it was this threesome that was awarded the top prize for comedy writing at the 2021 Primetime Emmy Awards in September. Hacks, HBO Max’s skewering of entertainment ageism and Gen Z naivete, minted its co-creators the object of writerly adoration around Hollywood. Next up for the Broad City alums is season two of their Jean Smart vehicle and new projects under overall deals with WarnerMedia (married couple Aniello and Downs) and Universal (Statsky).

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Writer-director-producer
In the past year and a half, the mentor-mogul added Pete Davidson (The King of Staten Island) to the long list of emerging talent whose voices he’s helped bring to the screen. He also went into production on Netflix pandemic meta-comedy The Bubble, about a group of actors shooting in a quarantine bubble. Apatow continues his exploration of the comedy greats with a two-part George Carlin HBO documentary and is producing Billy Eichner’s gay rom-com Bros as well as a comedy from the Lucas brothers, both for Universal. And yet, there’s still plenty of time to bomb, Apatow says, which happens “with my family at most dinners.”
Actor-producer
Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens, which the actress created and executive produces, just completed its second season on Comedy Central. The show might as well be a “what if” scenario in which Nora Lum stayed in the outer boroughs instead of becoming a movie star. In real life, Awkwafina continues to prove the surprising versatility of her signature New York slacker shtick, this year helping save the world as a valet turned archer in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which took in more than $400 million amid the pandemic, and as the titular mystical creature in Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon. “Comedy is a means of communication,” she says. “I’ve known how to use it to bring laughter, get out of trouble and make people feel less sad since age 5.”

Writer-producer
A year after bailing on his nine-figure Netflix pact, Barris has both a staggering lineup of films and an equity stake in newly formed BET Studios. The prolific scribe and dad to six also is prepping an eighth and final season of his seminal ABC comedy Black-ish plus standalone #BlackAF films; and, after nabbing a writing credit on the 2021 Amazon hit Coming 2 America, he’s reteaming with star Eddie Murphy on a Netflix comedy that will serve as Barris’ feature directorial debut. “It’s Meet the Parents meets Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” he says, adding of a script that he co-wrote with Jonah Hill: “Think Jewish family, Black family, oppression Olympics.”
Dave creators
An unlikely cult sitcom hit based on the real life of its 33-year-old Jewish rapper star, Dave “Lil Dicky” Burd, Dave premiered at the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020 and found an audience of appreciative cringe-comedy connoisseurs (including many TV writers under lockdown). Co-created by Schaffer — a veteran of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld (he’s the guy who came up with the Festivus pole) — the show has introduced a new generation to the pleasures of solipsistic neuroticism. And typical of that generation, they seem to have found their way to Dave not via broadcast — which averaged about 200,000 viewers an episode on FXX — but rather via streaming, where, thanks to great word-of-mouth, viewership later skyrocketed to 4.8 million per episode.
Touring titans
As stand-up returns post-shutdown, Mulaney, Burr, Minhaj and Wong are leading the comedy comeback. After a turbulent personal year that saw him enter rehab, Mulaney is now selling out venues with his From Scratch show, along with voice work on Big Mouth and a deal for two more Sack Lunch Bunch specials. Burr is currently touring the U.S. and has a North American arena and amphitheater tour set for 2022 — one of the few comics who can sell out Madison Square Garden — and this year landed roles in Reservation Dogs and The King of Staten Island while continuing to serve as co-creator of Netflix’s F Is for Family. Wong returned to the stage on her Milk and Money Tour, along with voice work in Tuca & Bertie and the upcoming Netflix series Beef and the Amazon series Paper Girls. And Minhaj also is back on the road with his one-man show The King’s Jester and a post-Patriot Act stint on The Morning Show. Says Minhaj: “This last year has been a reminder to embrace the cosmic joke: We only get one ride on this roller coaster called life, so we might as well enjoy it.”

Comic-writer-director
What Burnham did should have been impossible: perfectly encapsulate the isolating despair of the pandemic and the multifaceted complexity of the internet’s virtue/toxicity in a single Netflix special made entirely by himself. Bonus: Inside was stuffed with catchy musical earworms that helped make Burnham the first person to ever win three solo Primetime Emmys in a single year. All the while, the comedian-songwriter — formerly best known/dismissed as a YouTube sensation — has remained almost entirely publicity-silent, as a legion of fans and industry admirers, old and new, await his next act.
Comic
The most controversial comedian in the world? At the moment, perhaps, but there can be no denying that Dave Chappelle also remains the most influential. Before The Closer-gate sucked up the oxygen, the Mark Twain Prize-winning stand-up, 48, was closing out a triumphant pandemic year that included his universally lauded 8:46, a 27-minute set about the George Floyd murder, and Chappelle Summer Camp, a series of socially distanced performances at Wirrig Pavilion in Yellow Springs, Ohio, that lured many of the top comics on this list like Bill Burr, Kevin Hart and Ali Wong. Of course, the Oct. 5 drop of The Closer, the final special Chappelle owed Netflix in his current $60 million deal — and widely criticized as transphobic — has led to a Netflix staff mutiny and Ted Sarandos mea culpas for his handling of the crisis. Chappelle has weathered the backlash doing what he does best: performing 10 sold-out shows at London’s Eventim Apollo. “Right now in America there’s two types of Americans,” he told the crowd on opening night. “The kind that like my special, the kind that don’t.”
Actor-writer-producer
It’s hard to write a comedy blurb for the 34-year-old British multihyphenate because her seminal work, the universally acclaimed I May Destroy You, resists genre categorization (even considering today’s blurred boundaries). But Coel’s ability to find dark humor in the story of a woman piecing together the truth about her own rape evinces a talent deserving of any and all recognition. Taking her own Emmy acceptance speech — in which she urged writers to “not be afraid to disappear” — to heart, she currently is in a silent phase while she’s filming Black Panther: Wakanda Rising.

Actor-writer-producer
With a neurosis so powerful — and hilarious — that it’s fueled one of the best broadcast sitcoms of all time and one of cable’s longest-running hits, David remains a master of the television comedy domain even as he approaches his 75th birthday. Seinfeld is being embraced by a new generation following its October Netflix debut (the streamer paid a reported $500 million for the rights), while Curb Your Enthusiasm just returned for its 11th season on HBO and boasts a murderer’s row of guests (including Jon Hamm, Woody Harrelson, Kaley Cuoco, Bill Hader and Albert Brooks). All told, David continues to do pretty, pretty … well, you know the rest.
Producers
There was a time, not too long ago, when Will Ferrell and his producing partner, Jessica Elbaum, considered scrapping Gloria Sanchez Productions — not so much the company, responsible for female-fronted successes including Booksmart, Hustlers and Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, as its name.
“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny to call it Major Company?’ ” recalls Elbaum, a reference to the fact that it would now encompass all of Ferrell’s projects as an actor and producer following the dissolution of his and Adam McKay’s Gary Sanchez Productions, from which Gloria Sanchez formerly spun off.
Instead of maintaining its focus solely on female-driven comedies — as it had since it was conceived by Elbaum, then Ferrell’s assistant, in 2014 — the label would now house Ferrell vehicles like Apple TV+’s The Shrink Next Door and other commercial fare. Nevertheless, a name change seemed risky, the pair reasoned, if not flat-out foolish, given that Gloria Sanchez had done the near impossible by garnering name recognition (and major heat) in Hollywood and beyond.
Read the full story here.
Read Ferrell’s THR cover story here. 
Actor-writer-producer
Though she’s stepped away from the sitcom spotlight, a co-sign from power-producer Fey remains a make-or-break behind a green light. The Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock veteran continues to be prolific under her Universal Television first-look deal, executive producing 2021 standouts like Peacock’s Girls5eva and NBC’s Mr. Mayor, both of which will be coming back for second seasons. She also took on bicoastal hosting duties with Amy Poehler for her longtime network at the socially distanced 2021 Golden Globe Awards.

Comic-writer
Fumudoh spent her quarantine asking everyone from Alyssa Milano to Fran Lebowitz “How many Black people do you know?” Baited With Ziwe, Fumudoh’s satirical talk show born on YouTube, made a pandemic pivot to Instagram Live, where it amassed a cult following and then was picked up by Showtime (and retitled simply Ziwe), transforming into a full-scale variety show produced by A24, now with a second-season pickup. Fumudoh, 29 — a Chicago native who cut her teeth writing on Showtime’s Desus & Mero — also sold the comedy series Nigerian Princess to Amazon.
Actor-writers
Wiig and Mumolo’s Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar became the sleeper hit of quarantine after it was sent to PVOD by Lionsgate because of the theatrical shutdown and then debuted on streaming. Though Barb marked the first time SNL alum Wiig and Mumolo shared the screen, their writing debut, Bridesmaids, earned $288 million globally, plus an Oscar writing nomination that put them on the screenwriting A-list — they’re now writing a comedy musical centering on Cinderella’s stepsisters for Will Ferrell and Jessica Elbaum’s Gloria Sanchez.
Actor-comic
Working at a breakneck pace since Girls Trip, which grossed $141 million largely off the hype of her breakout performance, Haddish, 41, might have spent the pandemic mostly offscreen (save for Netflix comedy Bad Trip and a dramatic turn in The Card Counter), but she’s coming back in a big way. She plays opposite Nicolas Cage — as Nicolas Cage — in Lionsgate’s The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and stars in Amblin and Universal’s Easter Sunday, shot during the pandemic: “I’ve done so many [COVID] tests!” She also continues to support diverse stand-up voices, debuting season two of Netflix’s comedy series They Ready this year.
Writer-director
Harjo majorly broke into the Hollywood scene in 2021, after a decade of independent docs and features leading to FX’s Reservation Dogs, which he co-created with Taika Waititi. The show, following four Indigenous teenagers, is the first to have all Native American writers (including Harjo himself), directors and most of the cast. Up next, he will return to showrun the second season, co-write the Native American basketball feature Rez Ball for Netflix (with LeBron James producing) and serve as a co-creator on the Paramount+ series Yellow Bird.

Writer-producer
Harmon remains a mad genius of storytelling trope-busting with his Emmy-winning Adult Swim hit Rick & Morty (which he co-created with Justin Roiland) and is now preparing a return to broadcast with his upcoming ancient Greece-set animated series Krapopolis, which might be Fox’s best hope in years for adding a title to its Sunday night animated lineup that can keep up with The Simpsons and Family Guy. “Oh my God, I just googled ‘Fox,’ I have to call my agent,” Harmon joked when asked about the show’s home. Krapopolis also is set to be the first major series to issue NFTs, a stunt that seems so much like something Harmon would mock that we can’t help but wonder whether he’s trolling us.
Actor-comic-producer
Hart’s a top-earning stand-up with four Netflix specials; he has his own comedy network, Laugh Out Loud, with a Peacock deal; and he has become a superstar actor and producer, executive producing Dave and starring in Roku’s Die Hart, Netflix’s Fatherhood and Peacock’s Hart to Heart. With a box office gross of more than $4 billion, his domination continues, producing the upcoming STX sneaker comedy American Sole (starring Pete Davidson) and appearing in Netflix’s buddy comedy Me Time alongside Mark Wahlberg and the Sony action-comedy The Man From Toronto, coming in January.
Agent, UTA
From Will Ferrell and Tiffany Haddish to Jason Sudeikis and Kenan Thompson, the UTA partner’s client roster is, quite frankly, sick. And his hands are all over the year in comedy. Heyman, who helped Sudeikis put Ted Lasso together and sell the eventual Emmy winner to Apple TV+, sold the Bo Burnham special Inside to Netflix, attached Will Ferrell to the reportedly $175 million Christmas feature Spirited and even booked funnyman Jake Lacy for a darker role in HBO’s celebrated The White Lotus.
Actor-writer-producer
Mindy Kaling has quietly become a Gen Z heroine. Thanks to the evergreen popularity of The Office — her deftly deluded character, Kelly Kapoor, inspires new memes on the daily — and ascendant high-school-set Netflix creation Never Have I Ever, the 42-year-old writer, producer and actress has a proven knack for speaking to those outside her own age group. That rep should hold with her latest series, HBO Max’s sweet and raunchy The Sex Lives of College Girls, out Nov. 18.
Read the full interview here. 

The Other Two creators
The former Saturday Night Live head writers are having a banner year. Onetime Comedy Central series The Other Two, now reaching a larger audience on HBO Max, recently garnered a third-season order. And, at HBO, the longtime writing partners are stretching their tonal muscles, developing a “dark, psychological comedy.” The as-yet-untitled series follows a closeted gay teen at the turn of the last millennium who disassociates and imagines his life is just a role for a famous straight actor.
Big Mouth creator
What better way to declare comedy supremacy than having Mel Brooks — Moses himself — choose you to help oversee the sequel to his 1981 movie spoof History of the World, Part I for Hulu? That surprise announcement comes at the end of a busy year for the writer-performer that saw him voice Uncle Fester once more in The Addams Family 2 and ready the return of Big Mouth, his animated hit about puberty (he co-created and voices Nick and Maury the Hormone Monster, among others), whose fifth-season drop arrives Nov. 5 on Netflix. With one more season at least of Big Mouth due as part of his Netflix deal, the former star/writer of The League isn’t going anywhere soon. Good thing, says Kroll, because “I’ve never really been good at anything else.”
Writer-director-producers
“Honestly, a pandemic turned out to be a pretty relevant time to release a movie about a family surviving an international crisis and how technology brings us together as well as pushes us apart,” say power producing and directing duo Lord and Miller about their breakout The Mitchells vs. the Machines. “Note: This is not a confession that we started the pandemic. However, I might look into those Ted Lasso people.” The duo, both 46, will be working with Lasso‘s Bill Lawrence on a reboot of Clone High — the animated series that put them on the map during the early 2000s and has since reached cult status — with a two-season order from HBO Max. Also on the horizon for the Lord Miller banner is the Elizabeth Banks-directed feature Cocaine Bear, which is inspired by the true story of a 175-pound black bear consuming more than 70 pounds of cocaine, as well as an upcoming venture into premium episodic comedy with Apple TV+ series The Afterparty, starring Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz.

Writer-producer
Lorre has been working in the multicam sitcom world since 1987’s Charles in Charge, generating billions in revenue for studio Warner Bros. TV (in fact, a 2019 deal to stream all 12 seasons of The Big Bang Theory on HBO Max is itself estimated to be worth billions). Yet Lorre is somehow more prolific than ever, with four current CBS titles. One is television’s most-watched comedy (Young Sheldon), and two others (Bob Hearts Abishola and United States of Al) demonstrate how the 68-year-old has diversified his storytelling (even as Lorre tells us the new rule for multicam success is to “not offend anyone, anywhere, at any time”). But it’s his segue into streaming with Netflix’s The Kominsky Method that’s perhaps one of his greatest flexes, proving the broad comedy hitmaker also can produce thoughtful critical darlings as well as anyone.
Saturday Night Live standouts
SNL‘s current season 47 cast is the largest in the show’s history, at 21 members, and yet McKinnon, Davidson, Yang and Che consistently steal the spotlight. That sketch stardom has translated to plenty of opportunities outside of 30 Rock as well: McKinnon will play Carole Baskin in NBCUniversal’s Joe Exotic limited series; Davidson will follow up The King of Staten Island with the rom-com Meet Cute, the STX sneaker dramedy American Sole and the Netflix biopic I Slept With Joey Ramone; Yang just wrapped a star turn in Searchlight’s Fire Island; and Che put out the HBO Max comedy series That Damn Michael Che earlier this year and is now in his fourth year as a head writer at SNL.
Producer
Michaels is lording over the 47th season of Saturday Night Live and, at age 76, has no clear succession plan. He managed to keep nearly his entire Emmy-winning cast and book a string of headline-grabbing hosts (we’ll admit it, Kim Kardashian West was delightful). But to really see his scope, duration and continued influence in comedy, just scan this list and see how many of the names wouldn’t be here if not for Michaels’ stewardship, from stalwarts like Will Ferrell and Tina Fey and former writers like John Mulaney and Tim Robinson to current SNL breakouts Michael Che, Pete Davidson and Bowen Yang, who are poised for the next step. “There’s a thing that I used to say — and I think the first person who did it well was Molly Shannon — which is, ‘Build a bridge to the next thing, and when it’s solid enough, walk across it.’ Don’t leave for the first offer or because, you know, Hollywood is calling,” says Michaels. Heck, even being fired by the guy can be a mark of future influence — just ask Larry David.

Stand-up comedy exec, Netflix
Well, no one can say that Netflix’s comedy department isn’t getting any attention. Yet, despite the drama around Dave Chappelle’s latest foray, the streamer — where Just for Laughs vet Praw runs stand-up specials — remains the genre’s dominant player. In the past year alone, Netflix has all but monopolized televised stand-up with projects from Kevin Hart, Michelle Buteau, Bo Burnham and, of course, Chappelle himself. His controversial The Closer has been a fixture on Netflix’s Top 10 since it premiered in September.
Actor-writer-producer
As her Peabody Award-winning and Emmy-nominated Insecure makes its fifth and final bow, the young burgeoning mogul, 36, hasn’t paused for a break. In addition to executive producing fellow THR Comedy Power List honoree Robin Thede’s A Black Lady Sketch Show (also Emmy-nominated), Rae’s Hoorae banner continued her love letter to young Black professionals in South L.A. with HBO Max’s unscripted Sweet Life: Los Angeles earlier this fall and is currently shooting Rap Sh*t, a comedy for the streamer about a female duo trying to break into Miami’s music scene.
Comic-writer
This year, the hot comic, 37, released her first stand-up special (HBO Max’s Sorry, Harriet Tubman), the unscripted Doing the Most With Phoebe Robinson on Comedy Central, her third book (Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes) and launched her own publishing imprint. “Tiny Reparations Books had been a dream of mine since 2014,” says Robinson. “I used to joke that I’m too ignorant to get the real reparations — land or cash — but I can get those small ones like a table opening up at a restaurant or Bono sending me flowers.”
Actor-writer
Despite being baked into the title of his own show (Netflix’s I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson), he’s not exactly a household name. But over two seasons of the cult sketch series, Robinson has built a distinctive rep as the comic willing to take a bit so much further (often painfully further) than others would dare. That’s made the former SNL writer’s platform a go-to spot for comedy cameos — Patti Harrison, Bob Odenkirk, Will Forte — and source of community adoration. (Seth Rogen called it “the absolute most uproariously funny thing that currently exists.”)

Comic-podcaster
His “I’m a liberal but …” right-wing platitudes provoke plenty of criticism, yet Rogan’s podcast The Joe Rogan Experience reportedly gets up to 200 million downloads a month on Spotify, where the comic/MMA commentator signed a $100 million deal in 2020. His stand-up books arenas, he’s creating a comedy venue in Austin, and is there any other comic sitting down with everybody from Elon Musk to Bernie Sanders while generating headlines every time they utter something they admit is boneheaded?
Actor-writer
“Laughter is straight-up medicinal,” says Rothwell, a writer-performer whose break came in 2013, when Lorne Michaels auditioned her, among other Black female comedy talent, for SNL. That resulted in a writing gig at the NBC sketch show when diversity — or the absence of it — was still very much an issue. It was only when she landed at HBO’s Insecure, where she sits in the writers room as well as plays the sexually liberated Kelli, that Rothwell found her comedy groove — and audiences found her. This year, besides her breakout turn in HBO’s The White Lotus, Rothwell signed a multiyear deal with ABC Signature to develop comedic TV series.
Writer-producers
In addition to their side hustle as cannabis entrepreneurs, childhood friends Goldberg and Rogen, both 39, are two of the few producers who still can get a studio theatrical comedy made. Their string of R-rated hits via their Sony-based Point Grey Pictures include 2019’s surprise smash Good Boys, which made $120 million off of a $20 million budget. Meanwhile, their TV footprint encompasses Amazon’s edgy superhero satire The Boys and Showtime’s Wall Street dark comedy Black Monday, starring Don Cheadle. And while the Rogen starrer An American Pickle was offloaded by Sony onto HBO Max during the theatrical shutdown, Point Grey will return to the big screen with an Adele Lim comedy for Lionsgate about four women traveling through Asia in search of one of their birth mothers.

Writer-producer
With his track record for finding humor in the earnest (Parks and Recreation) and cerebral (The Good Place), Schur has proved himself to be the most bankable outlier in television comedy. A power producer most recently known for shepherding others’ passion projects — Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Q-Force, Hacks, Master of None, Rutherford Falls — Universal Television’s golden goofball (see: that nine-figure overall deal) is now lining up his next major commitment as a writer with Peacock’s Field of Dreams series.
Ted Lasso creators
The Ted Lasso team is Marie Kondo-ing streaming comedy: It’s all about sparking joy. The pandemic-uplift Apple TV+ series chronicles a middle-aged white-guy-we-can-feel-good-about soccer coach (Sudeikis) and has earned its cast and producers lucrative new deals (including a bump to $1 million per episode for Sudeikis and a possible extension of showrunner Lawrence’s overall deal with Warner Bros. Television). The series may end up with a short shelf life as actor-writer Hunt says the upcoming third season is “quite possibly” going to be its last (because happiness truly is fleeting). But its breakout popularity and recent Emmy Awards sweep has inspired “why so popular” head-scratching media headlines that suggest the show is reteaching the industry that sometimes viewers simply would rather not feel terrible.
Actor-writer-producer
It would be reductive to call the multihyphenate the Black Lady Lorne Michaels (for one thing, Saturday Night Live’s impresario doesn’t write and perform in his sketch comedy series). Thede is her own woman, and in addition to prepping the third season of her Emmy-winning A Black Lady Sketch Show — where she’s currently inspired by “creating imaginary worlds where the pandemic doesn’t exist” — she also is developing and will star in HBO Max’s Perfect Strangers reboot.
President, Live Nation Comedy
As the big cheese at the country’s most powerful live-comedy promoter, Geof Wills has been integral to the stand-up careers of everyone from Dave Chappelle to Ali Wong. The job has never been crazier.

How did your job change most in the past 18 months?
My job was booking and producing shows, and then it became moving and canceling shows. At the start of this pandemic, it was, “We’ll probably get back to work in two weeks.” Then it was a month. Then it started to set in. And no one knew what was going on at first and people get frustrated and obviously they’re looking out for their livelihoods, and they were starting to see that slipping away. I tried to be as Zen about it as I could, but I got pretty frantic for a while. Everyone did: comics, agents, managers, my co-workers. It was rough.
Comics started to pivot. Who impressed you during that time?
Obviously what Dave [Chappelle] did in Yellow Springs [Ohio, hosting dozens of comedians for a “Summer Camp” during the 2020 lockdown]. In terms of the more experimental stuff, you saw a ton of comedy online. You saw people trying to do live shows on Instagram and YouTube, and a lot of people got work doing Zoom corporate events and stuff like that. Andrew Schulz is a great example of someone who worked really hard on his social media. You saw guys like Tom Segura doing these podcasts. A lot of people found new revenue streams that they didn’t necessarily know existed, and they increased their popularity. It’s weird when you get pushed into a corner; some people stay in the corner, and other people figure out how to fight their way out.
Is it accurate to say the path back has been rocky?
Oh, yeah. Windows would open and then close. When Vegas opened, Dave did a couple of arena shows and then Dave and Joe Rogan did a couple and those had the vibe of, “Hey, we’re back!” It was joyous and Vegas was packed and there were parties and this and that. Then COVID reared its ugly head again.
And how would you describe the market now?
Everyone is out there working — almost in a weird way, too many people are out, but it’s because everyone sat on the sidelines for so long. I don’t think my office could be any busier than it is right now. And we’re getting it done and it’s exciting, but it’s also scary knowing that you could have the carpet pulled out from under you again.

Documentary filmmaker
Part documentarian, part humorist, Wilson, 35, made a big impression on the comedy landscape in 2020 with HBO’s How To With John Wilson. Dubbed “funny, sad and, in the end, shockingly profound” by THR‘s Daniel Fienberg, the avant-garde project was an eleventh-hour entry on many best-of lists for the year and earned a speedy renewal. A follow-up season, with Wilson again off-camera and interrogating life’s absurdities, bows Nov. 26.
Writer-director-producer
The man who somehow made Adolf Hitler funny in Jojo Rabbit (and won an Oscar in the process) has more recently appeared in blockbusters (he steals the show as Free Guy’s video game mogul Antwan) while simultaneously readying the release of Marvel’s comedy-heavy Thor: Love and Thunder, which he co-wrote and directed (his 2017 Thor: Ragnarok earned $845 million). Then there’s his TV work — What We Do in the Shadows is airing its third season on FX (a “Twilight-style” kickball game pits vampires against werewolves), while FX on Hulu’s Reservation Dogs — co-created by Waititi and fellow THR Comedy List honoree Sterlin Harjo — drew rapturous reviews for its hilarious depiction of Rez life.
The White Lotus creator
After a quiet few years, the Enlightened and School of Rock writer reemerged in a major way with HBO’s The White Lotus, a satire of privileged Hawaii vacationers that took over the TV conversation this summer (fellow honoree Apatow deems it the funniest thing to come out of the pandemic). Though it was intended as a limited series, White, who served as writer, director and executive producer— shining a spotlight on friend Jennifer Coolidge in the process — will return for a second season with a new cast and a new resort, venturing to a companion White Lotus property.
Who owned, thrived and survived during these turbulent times

Last year, as the pandemic shut down most of the industry, late night hosts were some of the first to reemerge, finding novel ways to get back on the air — often from ad hoc home studios. It wasn’t always smooth: We learned, for instance, that John Oliver really needs an audience, though that didn’t stop him from taking home another Emmy. And there were disruptions of the more routine TV variety, too, as when Fox News’ Gutfeld! beat all broadcasters in late night for a week in September.  But the period also provided raw emotional highs. Trevor Noah made The Daily Show his own with 45-minute episodes unpacking the summer of social justice. Stephen Colbert ripped up his monologue after Donald Trump falsely claimed a stolen election. Meanwhile, their competitors, like Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Desus & Mero, James Corden, Samantha Bee, Bill Maher and Jimmy Kimmel, invited us into their homes, introduced us to their families and provided real-time commentary and much needed comic relief. These hosts proved that even during trying times for linear ratings — not to mention the world at large — they retain real influence on the comedic landscape. — THR staff
This story first appeared in the Oct. 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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