Zach Galifianakis is one of the funniest and most successful comedians to come from the Tar Heel state

North Carolina is known as the birthplace of of many talented and notable figures, ranging from famous actors, singers, athletes, and more. The Tar Heel state is practically a breeding ground for success. But did you know that North Carolina is also home to some of the funniest, most hysterical stand-up comics in the game right now? Let’s take a look at some of my personal favorites!

Stand-up comedy seems to have skyrocketed in popularity recently. Now more than ever young up-and-coming comics are able to utilize social media to spotlight their material in a way that they never would have been able to before.

Even more seasoned comics like Bill Burr, John Mulaney, Pete Holmes and others have become household names over the years due to the increase in stand-up fandom. Hell, the most popular video so far in 2024 is longtime comedian Katt Williams popping off on his colleagues. All this and more makes it clear that stand-up is re-entering a boom period of sorts.

I’ve been a fan of stand-up comedy for as long as I can remember. When most kids were watching shows on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel, 12-year-old KC was glued to the half hour Comedy Central stand-up specials. I even dabbled in performing stand-up myself in my early 20s, which quickly and harshly tempered my perception of how funny I really was. Thankfully no footage exists of my aspiring stand-up career, which I promise is for the best.

Aside from my botched open mic appearances, North Carolina does actually get to claim some of comedy’s most successful and talented performers still in the circuit. Some NC-based comics have even managed to use their comedic chops as a launching pad to break through into other business ventures.

In no particular order, here are my picks for the funniest North Carolina-based comedians.

(Note: most of the clips used in this list contain NSFW language. You’ve been warned.)

  • 1. Fortune Feimster

    Fortune Feimster’s whole vibe is unlike anyone else in the stand-up scene right now. Fortune is a Belmont native and a graduate of Peace College, so she has deep roots in North Cackalacky. Though she made it big in California, Fortune doesn’t seem to have lost touch with her southern roots, as noted in her distinct accent and uniquely country-fried material.

    Fortune’s energy is wholly infectious and I encourage you to check her out when she comes through her home state.

  • 2. J.B. Smoove

    J.B. Smoove has such an impressive resume, especially considering his humble beginnings in the small North Carolina town of Plymouth.

    Over the decades J.B. Smoove has proven to be a versatile comedy commodity. In addition to his stand-up, Smoove is also an accomplished comedy writer and actor. He’s most known for his iconic role in the acclaimed comedy series Curb Your Enthusiasm, in which he plays the fan-favorite Leon Black.

  • 3. Ken Jeong

    I’ll admit I’m stretching the criteria of this list here. Ken Jeong is technically from Detroit, having moved to the Tar Heel state at a young age. But after earning medical degrees at both Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill, all while simultaneously starting his improv and stand-up career, I’d say he’s more than earned his Carolina card.

    Ken Jeong started gaining notoriety in the mid-to-late 2000s with brief appearances in various TV shows and movies. His brand skyrocketed, however, when he took on the role of the flamboyant and dangerous Mr. Chow in The Hangover trilogy.

    Nowadays Ken is enjoying a hosting stint on the popular singing competition series The Masked Singer.

  • 4. Zach Galifianakis

    Interestingly enough, Ken isn’t the only NC comics who had their breakout role in The Hangover. Longtime funnyman Zach Galfianakis hails from Wilkes County and is an alum of North Carolina State University (his “one man wolfpack” monologue suddenly makes a lot of sense now).

    When performing on stage, Zach is known for incorporating music into his stand-up. This helped set him apart when he was coming up in the scene. Another outlet for Zach’s unique brand of comedy also came from his immensely popular webseries, Between Two Ferns.

    Don’t let his disheveled presentation and flighty demeanor fool you – Zach Galifianakis is a comedy workhorse who has expertly honed his craft, to the point where his name is now as well-known as it is hard to spell. And as a way of giving back to the state that made him, Zach has been known to donate much of his money and time to many NC-based food banks.

  • 5. Jerrod Carmichael

    His name may not be as instantly recognizable as that of his contemporaries on this list, but make no mistake: Jerrod Carmichael is every bit as hilarious and talented.

    Jerrod grew up in Winston-Salem, and incorporates much of his early childhood experiences into his stand-up. While his account of growing up poor in North Carolina isn’t always flattering towards his home state, it provides an honest and unflinching perspective that he’s able to seamlessly navigate toward uproarious laughter from the crowd.

    Jerrod’s relaxed, easygoing stage presence makes him an easily accessible personality to even the most casual of stand-up enthusiasts. After years of cutting his teeth on the road, Jerrod was finally able to bring his stylistic wit to a bigger audience when he hosted Saturday Night Live in the spring of 2022. His episode was one of the most critically well-received of that entire season, with his performance being lauded as one of the best first-time hosting gigs in recent memory.

    Jerrod has certainly done North Carolina proud, and I believe his star has only just begun to shine. I look forward to seeing him star in The Hangover X in 2037.

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