Funny people on the way up

Here are five rising stars of the alt-comedy scene.

Aziz Ansari

Ansari started doing stand-up while still a business student at New York University. He and veteran Upright Citizens Brigade New York regulars Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel in 2005 formed the sketch group Human Giant, which debuted as an MTV series in 2007. This year, Ansari appears in Judd Apatow's "Funny People" and costars in UCB founder Amy Poehler's NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation." Next year, he'll costar in Apatow Productions' summer release "Get Him to the Greek," with Jonah Hill and Russell Brand. See his blog at


Paul Rust

Rust left Iowa in 2004 and moved to L.A. with a film degree and a couple of short films. He signed up for classes at UCB L.A. when it opened in late 2005 and started performing sketch comedy there. When launched, Rust posted a video every two weeks. By 2008, he had landed a starring role in 20th Century Fox's comedy "I Love You, Beth Cooper," and a small part in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds." Rust's now writing two features, one for Will Ferrell and Adam McKay and another (with Charlyne Yi) for Judd Apatow. See his blog at


Ben Schwartz

Schwartz left college in 2003 and spent four years studying at UCB N.Y. He used the Internet to raise his profile, posting sketches on YouTube and launching, a blog of jokes he submitted as a freelance writer to David Letterman and "Weekend Update" on "Saturday Night Live." By 2007, he got his first staff writing job on "Robot Chicken" on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim and a book deal with HarperCollins. By 2008, he'd been hired by Hugh Jackman to co-write the 81st Academy Awards opening number (a bit that earned an Emmy nod), and was cast in two feature films ("Peep World" and "Everybody's Fine") and a network TV pilot created by "Arrested Development's" Mitch Hurwitz (though it didn't get picked up).


Wyatt Cenac

Cenac came to Los Angeles about eight years ago and got a job as a writer on "King of the Hill." He spent three years there, then left to spend the next four years soul-searching and doing sketch and stand-up comedy at UCB L.A. Posted on YouTube, his impersonation of then-Sen. Barack Obama got him some attention during the presidential campaign and led to an audition for "Saturday Night Live." But he was passed over for Fred Armisen. Last summer, Cenac was broke and panicked. Then he nailed an audition for "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," earning a correspondent gig. Earlier this year, he starred in a well-received indie feature, "Medicine for Melancholy." Check him out at


Aubrey Plaza

Plaza moved to New York largely to be close to UCB. She got to intern at "Saturday Night Live" and page at NBC, all the while posting online videos, including her dead-on Sarah Silverman impersonation. But it wasn't until she auditioned in L.A. that her career launched. In one week last summer, Plaza landed three major roles: Seth Rogen's love interest in Judd Apatow's "Funny People," Amy Poehler's intern on NBC's "Parks and Recreation" and a part in next summer's "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World." See her site here:


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