Monday, April 5, 2010

Inspired by this poorly ranked top 25 list, (, let’s take a look at five underrated funny people working today:

Judah Friedlander

1) Judah Friedlander

You probably know Judah Friedlander as Frank Rossitano, the TGS writer on Tina Fey’s 30 Rock who pees in sun-tea jars and leaves them on the ledge of his office, or as the dude that wears the hats with things like “Campion Del Mundo” written on them. But despite that role, Friedlander just doesn’t seem to get the mainstream cred that he deserves. Perhaps because, though 30 Rock is a perennial darling of critics and a multiple Emmy winner for Best Comedy, it just doesn’t seem to get the ratings to match.

Friedlander has worked steadily since 2000. In 2003, he had an outstanding turn as Toby Radloff, the quirky coworker of Paul Giamatti’s Harvey Pekar, in American Splendor. He appeared to be playing over the top until they showed the actual Toby and you realize just how tight his performance is. Between that role and 30 Rock, there’s a stream of minor movie and TV roles, but nothing that really jumps off the page at you. He was a mainstay on the New York City improv circuit for many years, and he’ll give you a heck of a standup performance as well.

Commercial: –3
Critical: –2
Cultural: +4
Cachet: –6

Total: –7
CCV: 4/4

UR: –7

Partly because of his persona and partly because of his look, Friedlander seems doomed to play the character role forever, and it’s a damn shame. He’s not only one of the funniest guys around; he’s also one of the nicest.


Christian Finnegan

2) Christian Finnegan

Finnegan is a brilliant comedian that falls pretty nicely into the category of “successful working stand-up.” He’s done a major college tour in conjunction with Comedy Central, and taped an episode of Comedy Central Presents for them, as well as a full hour-long feature for them in 2009 called Au Contraire. He pops up on Best Week Ever pretty regularly, as well as Countdown with Keith Olbermann, so if you know him at all, you know him as the dude that skewers Heidi Montag for getting more work done than they did during the restoration of the Sistine Chapel. (Editor’s note: Plenty more where that came from, VH1.) Still, all of that’s only translated into one feature film (2007’s Eden Court) and no regular sitcom work, which is absurd.

Commercial: –1
Critical: –5
Cultural: +2
Cachet: –3

Total: –7
CCV: 3/2

UR: –13.5

He’s done the kind of talking head work that’s propelled people like Hal Sparks into the mainstream consciousness, and if you think he’s not as funny as Hal Sparks, you need to punch yourself in the groin.


 Louis C.K.

3) Louis C.K.

The guy has *tons* of writing work to his credit for various comedy shows over the last 20 years. He’s written for Letterman, Conan, S.N.L., Chris Rock, and Dana Carvey. He’s written the screenplay for two Chris Rock movies, and he’s filmed several hour-long comedy specials for the likes of Comedy Central and HBO. For a guy that prolific, he’s remarkably under-recognized.

Commercial: –4
Critical: +2
Cultural: +3
Cachet: –3

Total: –7
CCV: 4/2

UR: –16

C.K. uses his standup to speak bluntly about his life at home with his wife and two kids and it was these routines that provided the fodder and inspiration for Lucky Louie, a show that he wrote and produced for HBO in 2006–07. Fortunately, an awesome book spent 1000 words explaining why it’s among the best shows you’ve never watched, so there’s no need to rehash that. This is the effort that should have had him fending people off. Sadly, it was axed by HBO after 13 wickedly funny episodes and it begs the question: what’s Louis C.K. doing wrong?


Mike Birbiglia

4) Mike Birbiglia

This guy is just waiting to blow up. His critically acclaimed one-man show Sleepwalk with Me, where he runs down really fucking funny stories about how he grapples with his sleep disorder, was extended several times in New York. But for some reason, Birbiglia just hasn’t been able to break through. His IMDb filmography lists a movie called Cedar Rapids (interestingly enough featuring co-underrated funny person Rob Corddry [see below]), set to come out some time next year, a comedy about an insurance salesman that travels to New York to try to save his coworkers’ jobs, but beyond that nothing much.

Commercial: +4
Critical: –2
Cultural: –4
Cachet: –5

Total: –7
CCV: 4/2

UR: –14

Birbiglia trudges on tirelessly in the standup comedy scene. He’s had appearances on Conan and morning talk shows, primarily to discuss Sleepwalk with Me. With any luck, the tide will turn here shortly.


Rob Corddry

5) Rob Corddry

There is literally no excuse for a network like Fox to not pick up a sitcom like The Winner, which Corddry starred in for six episodes back in 2007. The program itself was the brainchild of Seth MacFarlane and was about a guy looking back to 1994, a time that was a turning point on his way to becoming extraordinarily wealthy, when he befriended the 12-year-old son of his unrequited childhood love. Corddry shined in the role, playing the emotionally stunted Glen with pants-down hilarity.

Critical: –4
Commercial: –3
Cultural: +1
Cachet: –5

Total: –7
CCV: 4/2

UR: –22

And unlike just about every single person to work at The Daily Show as a Senior Correspondent (see: Helms, Ed and Carell, Steve), Corddry never seemed to catch on with the general public. He works pretty consistently, with big roles in small films and small roles in big films. And it appears that his Zach Galifinakis–as-“Alan”-in–The Hangover role is going to be that of “Lou” in the epic Hot Tub Time Machine. But for now, Corddry remains almost completely under the radar. And it’s a goddamn farce.

Geoff Wolinetz cannot be found on IMDb because the Hollywood community refuses to acknowledge the production of his seminal masterpiece Come What May, a gritty psychothriller starring a guy who kind of looks like Billy Baldwin and Erin Gray (formerly of “Silver Spoons”). If he were to be found on IMDb, his name would fall between “Geoff Witcher” and “Geoff Wood.” In addition to his imaginary film career, Geoff also maintains an imaginary career as a baron of industry, is lead singer of the imaginary band Kick Ass, Falco, holds an imaginary Olympic gold medal and is an imaginary Pulitzer laureate in the field of journalism for his investigative piece on the albinos of Alaska.

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