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And Now for Something Completely Different

Aziz Ansari

Ansari has become one of the most prolific writers and performers on the comedy scene in recent years, despite being only 26. The American Indian made his mark at New York's Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and won a standup award at the Aspen Comedy Festival in 2006. Ansari was soon cast in small roles on such shows as "Scrubs," "Flight of the Conchords" and "Reno 911!" but his recent standout work on the NBC comedy "Parks and Recreation" is proof that he is ready for prime time.

Anjelah Johnson

Johnson's energy and characters have earned the 27-year-old a following on the Web and in clubs alike. The San Jose native and former Oakland Raiders cheerleader has already been seen on several episodes of "Mad TV" and recently filmed an hourlong special for Comedy Central. Johnson also has a part in "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," due this year.

Jon LaJoie

Less than two years ago, LaJoie hit it big with his viral Web videos "Everyday Normal Guy" and "Show Me Your Genitals," bringing his Web views beyond the 100 million mark. He made the transition to the stage with tours of Canada and the U.S. Based in Montreal, LaJoie is also working on a musical feature and developing a TV pilot with Jeff Schaffer, an executive producer on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Seinfeld."

Kumail Nanjiani

The chance that you've heard of Nanjiani is as slim as that of pronouncing his name correctly, a joke that was the foundation for his hit one-man show, "Unpronounceable." The Pakistani-born member of New York's UCB theater is gaining attention, having opened last year for Zach Galifianakis.

Chris O'Dowd

Irish actor O'Dowd first developed a fan base among U.K. audiences thanks to his geek role in Channel 4's "The IT Crowd." He reportedly wanted to leave comedy behind, but industry folks and fans have found comedy suits him. On the silver screen, he can be seen this year in "Hippie Hippie Shake" opposite Sienna Miller and next year in "Gulliver's Travels."

Aubrey Plaza

Plaza got her start at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, where people soon noticed her talent to slip into different characters, including a Sarah Silverman impersonation that became popular on YouTube. Plaza currently plays Amy Poehler's intern on NBC's "Parks and Recreation" and was cast as Seth Rogen's love interest in the recent Adam Sandler comedy "Funny People."

Sugar Sammy

If you tell the same joke in four different languages, will it still be funny? For Sammy, the answer is yes. A Canadian born to Indian parents, Sammy has performed to sold-out audiences in English, French, Hindi, Punjabi—in 14 countries, including the U.S. He also opened for Dave Chappelle in Toronto.

Alia Shawkat

Fans of Fox's "Arrested Development" will already be familiar with Shawkat, 20, who played Maeby Fünke, a high school student who moonlights as a Hollywood producer. Last year found her starring opposite Cheryl Hines in the indie comedy "Bart Got a Room," and in October she will appear in Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, "Whip It!"

Michaela Watkins

Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery when it comes to comedy, too? Ask Arianna Huffington, who lavished praise on her impersonator, Watkins, a former Groundlings performer and the newest member of the "Saturday Night Live" cast. Watkins' characters make her funny to watch and—in her own right—hard to imitate.

Gina Yashere

The daughter of a Nigerian immigrant, Yashere was the first British comic to appear on HBO's Def Comedy Jam. She mines her experiences of both worlds to deliver punchy comedy that crosses borders as easily as her career. Already well-known in the U.K., where she is filming a series for ITV, Yashere will be performing this year at JFL in Montreal.   

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Nielsen Business Media 

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