The Cutting-Edge Comedians
There are more ways than ever to get laughs these days, which makes this class of riotously funny, multi-platform performers the new definition of comic geniuses.

Comedy was a simple business for the ancient Greeks: a stage play with a happy ending. The options have, of course, multiplied over time, and particularly in the past few years—stand-up, sitcoms, film, the Internet, podcasts, Twitter, Instagram—leading to some very happy endings for the savviest comedians. Comic hyphenate (stand-up-sitcom-movie star) Patton Oswalt has long been the Nerd King of funny, but this year, thanks to Twitter, he became its Yoda. As Jimmy Kimmel tweeted after one particularly ingenious prank directed at conservatives, "@pattonoswalt just brought twitter to a thrilling and exquisite conclusion. We should all get off now." Not that Oswalt isn't a master of long form—2013 was also the year he delivered his trenchant online screed on rape jokes and hecklers—he's just made shorthand into his signature, even if he wouldn't call it that. "My comedy is more story-type stuff," he says. "The tweets I just do for fun, to clean my brain."

Kevin Hart has been kicking around almost as long as Oswalt has, but his leap from working comedian to bona fide brand is recent. The onetime shoe salesman just landed a sitcom deal at ABC, and that's in addition to the BET hit Real Husbands of Hollywood, numerous films (seven in the pipeline), sold-out stand-up tours (including the wildly successful "Laugh at My Pain" in 2011), a five-times-platinum album, and an app (Little Jumpman). Yes, an app. But then Hart, like his massive worldwide fan base, "lives by social media," which is the perfect platform for his hyperpersonal material. "It proves my comedy isn't an act or a gimmick," he says. "It's who I really am."

Amy Schumer bristles at the idea of branding—"It feels kind of icky to me, and counterintuitive for stand-up," she says—which hasn't prevented her from getting branded: the dirty-minded girl next door, equal parts lovable and lascivious. Yes, she's got the Comedy Central sketch show Inside Amy Schumer. And, yes, Judd Apatow is producing her first film. But what makes Schumer remarkable is something so retro it feels new: She hustles. Schumer tours like crazy, always has ("I've been the next big comic for 10 years," she says), which keeps her stand-up skills razor-sharp and broadcast-ready. So while she can appreciate that people's sharing of her bits from various Comedy Central roasts has been a game changer, her alma mater is the old school. "I'm lucky I started before Last Comic Standing and YouTube and tweeting, when the philosophy was still 'You gotta go on the road, you gotta work really hard,'" she says. "There's no comedian I would pay to see who hasn't been at it a long time."

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, of Comedy Central's hit sketch show Key & Peele, aren't exactly neophytes, either; they first worked together on MADtv in 2003. But their particular style of biracial comedy has resulted in a spectacularly diverse fan base. "'Other' is the box we checked when we were growing up," Peele says. "There was no real place for us in pop culture before Obama. You had Lenny Kravitz, you know?" The upside to being Other: a genius for finessing loaded subjects. "We want to deal with race and sexuality in a way that invites everyone in," Peele says. Adds Key: "It's judo as opposed to boxing," And sometimes it's just "simple and stupid," says Peele (see their inspired YouTube phenomenon, East/West College Bowl). "People sharing our sketches allows them to take a little ownership of our comedy. When we meet fans, we get a lot of 'I showed this to all my friends. I'm known as the East/West Bowl guy.'"

Kevin Hart, 34 (pictured, above, right)
Credit Check: Think Like a Man, This Is the End, Laugh at My Pain; upcoming: Grudge Match, Ride Along
Listen to Your Elders: "I pride myself on appealing to everyone. Years ago, Chris Rock gave me a memorable piece of advice: 'Don't be funny to one specific group. Get out of the country, travel. It's not about making money all the time. Sometimes it's about taking a loss to build an audience.'"

Patton Oswalt, 44
Credit Check: The King of Queens, Justified, Young Adult, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Share the Wealth: "A lot of comics in the past did comedy like they were running for the office of comedian, like there could be only one. The attitude now is 'There needs to be a lot of us; there's no me and them anymore.' So if you do make it through the door, don't bolt it behind you—bring people along or you'll die."
Amy Schumer, 32
Credit Check: Delocated, Louie, Girls, Inside Amy Schumer
Comedy Is Like a Shark: "I used to be more irreverent—I feel like more of an adult now. No one wants to hear you doing the same stuff with the same point of view. With musicians, we want to hear the greatest hits forever, but with comedians, it's like, 'You're still this guy? You're still the racist guy?'"
Keegan-Michael Key, 42, and
Jordan Peele, 34

Credit Check: MADtv, Key & Peele
The Mother of Invention: Peele: "Social media is revolutionizing comedy. This kid, King Bach, is mastering the art of the six-second sketch on Vine." Key: "Pryor and Cosby—everybody told stories back then. Now it's snap, snap, snap—you have only 15 seconds. You have six seconds. You have 140 characters. Before you know it, we'll be back to Keaton and Chaplin."

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Diesel Power
Studio execs may claim to love small, critically acclaimed films, but they lust after massive, Diesel-powered vehicles. Vin Diesel–powered. The basso profundo–voiced actor has rewritten the laws of Hollywood physics, driving the so-brazen-it's-brilliant and entirely critic-proof Fast and Furious franchise to new heights (F&F 6 earned the most of all) at a time when so many action movies are going straight to video. So it's no wonder that Diesel (2013 earnings: a reported $96 million) is already racing into three new projects for 2014, including another F&F trilogy and a still-under-wraps Marvel role that he teased at Comic-Con, saying, "Marvel was excited about bringing a different kind of love story." Like, say, Hollywood's love for a certain bald-headed star.

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The 2013 Hollywood Mavericks

The Transformer

The New Kings of Doc

The Antiestablishment Exec

The Dynamic Duos

The Soundtrack Wizard

The Netflix Natives

The Cutting-Edge Comedians

The Character Actresses

The Crowdsourcer

The Creative Capitalists

The Prestige Producer

The Rookie Filmmakers

The Indie Auteur