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Variety Power of Comedy Honorees Talk Making 'Meaningful' Comedy

For the second year in a row, Variety’s Power of Comedy Awards, which recognize comedic achievements across stand-up, film, TV and digital platforms, will be presented at the SXSW Comedy Festival. This year’s event will take place March 8 at Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater.

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Pamela Adlon

Comedy Director

“Discomfort breeds comedy,” says Adlon, the Emmy-winning star of FX’s hit comedy series “Better Things,” which she directed and co-created with her agile feminist voice. “Darkness needs light. The laughter is in the unexpected, the feeling is in the transition.” While “Better Things” marked the longtime actor’s successful shift into showrunning and producing, the SXSW-premiering “Babes” starring Ilana Glazer, Michelle Buteau and Hasan Minhaj, is about to launch her into the world of feature films as a debuting director. And it is laced with many of Adlon’s signature thematic interests, including motherhood and modern-world femininity. “I was born to guide and protect heart and humor,” says Adlon, who leads her own all-female production house, Slam Book Inc. “And I live to hear people say, ‘That shit is funny.’”

Samantha Bee

Samantha Bee
Samantha Bee


Comedy Innovator

As the first woman to host a late-night series for a major network, with TBS’ “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee,” “The Daily Show” vet needs no introduction. With her unapologetic voice and fearless takes, she rejuvenated the field of satirical political commentary and broke many a glass ceiling for women. The two-time Emmy winner’s first national tour — “Your Favorite Woman: The Joy of Sex Education” — was extended last year, and she hosts a podcast called “Choice Words With Samantha Bee,” continuing to innovate through her documentary-focused production company, Swimsuit Competition, co-founded by “Full Frontal” producer Kristen Everman. “Thank you for this honor,” Bee tells Variety. “It’s a dream to be recognized for my years of service packing righteous feminist outrage into digestible six-minute clips for an unsuspecting public.”

Cazzie David

Cazzie David
Cazzie David


Breakthrough Artist

At just 30 years of age, actress, writer, director and creator David has already signed her name under the award-winning web series “Eighty-Sixed” and appeared in a variety of TV shows, most recently in “The Umbrella Academy” on Netflix. Now, she is ready to make her directorial debut in the SXSW-premiering subversive comedy “I Love You Forever,” alongside Elisa Kalani. “Given my upbringing, it was nearly impossible for me to break through into comedy,” cheekily remarks David, the daughter of a certain “Seinfeld” creator with the same last name. “Against all odds, I managed to do it and I am thrilled to be recognized for it.”

Hannah Einbinder

Comedy Actress

This year’s comedy actress recipient was selected as one of Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch in 2021, shortly after her TV debut in the Max comedy “Hacks” as the show’s no-nonsense, exiled TV writer Ava Daniels. Before that, Einbinder was a coveted name in the stand-up world, perfecting her comedic timing and working her way towards that breakthrough role that earned her two Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. “For me, comedy is about giving people relief from their troubles,” Einbinder tells Variety via email. “It’s definitely not about proving to your middle school bullies that you actually are cool and funny and not annoying. You hear that, Sarah W.? I don’t think about you at ALL. I’m OVER IT.”

Nick Kroll and Andrew Rannells

Nick Kroll and Andrew Rannells
Nick Kroll and Andrew Rannells


Comedy Duo

As multi-hyphenate artists and comedians, Kroll and Rannells each have storied careers of their own: The former created his own Comedy Central series and starred in the likes of “Sausage Party” and “Bob’s Burgers,” while the latter headlined hit “The Book of Mormon” during its initial Broadway run. Elsewhere, the delightfully raunchy Netflix show “Big Mouth” united them as voice actors. Now, the two are co-leads in Brian Crano and David Joseph Craig’s SXSW-premiering genre comedy, “I Don’t Understand You,” playing a hapless couple on a lost-in-translation voyage to Italy. The pair cracked wise about the award, noting: “We have been a comedy duo for almost this whole award, so this honor means that much more to us as a duo.”

John Leguizamo

John Leguizamo
John Leguizamo


Comedy Actor

Through a wide-ranging resumé, Leguizamo has been putting his stamp on comedy ever since he kick-started his career as a stand-up comic in the ’80s. With both Emmy and Tony Award wins, credits including “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything!” and one-man stage shows such as “Mambo Mouth,” “Spic-O-Rama” and “Freak,” Leguizamo is a true multi-hyphenate who will be at SXSW with the title role in “Bob Trevino Likes It” opposite Barbie Ferreira. “I’ve never been afraid of going after the harder laugh, because jokes can still be meaningful,” Leguizamo says. “As a Latino, our comedy has always been visceral, emotional and dangerous, because that was our day-to-day experience in America. My goal has always been to show the world the hilarious personalities that populate my culture, but are rarely seen in movies, on TV or stage.”

Lilly Singh

Lilly Singh
Lilly Singh


Comedy Crossover

First known by the pseudonym Superwoman, Canadian artist and comedian Singh has been dominating the YouTube world since 2010. She became the first person of Indian descent to host a major network late-night show with “A Little Late With Lilly Singh” at NBC, published a bestseller titled “How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life,” helmed and appeared in various TV and feature projects including “A Trip to Unicorn Island” and received several accolades. With the SXSW-premiering “Doin’ It,” Singh is once again in full force as a writer, star and executive producer. “I was totally out of my comfort zone making this film but was motivated by the desire to bring a perspective I’ve never seen to life on screen,” Singh says. “Stories shape our culture and therefore I’m a big believer that films can do more than just entertain.”

Robbie Praw

Robbie Praw
Robbie Praw


Comedy Champion

Few executives have advanced comedy in recent years as fiercely as Praw, the VP of stand-up and comedy formats at Netflix. Under his leadership, the streamer has embraced a diverse talent slate, crafting the Netflix Is a Joke festival in 2022. The signer of comedy icons such as Jerry Seinfeld in addition to breakthroughs stars like Ali Wong, Praw has constructed a hub at Netflix, which has won 12 Primetime Emmys for its sketch shows and stand-up specials. “This means a lot to me because we see the power of comedy every day at Netflix,” Praw tells Variety. “Our members love all things comedy and stand-up, so much so that we were inspired to start an entire festival dedicated to the genre.”

Jaboukie Young-White

Jaboukie Young-White
Jaboukie Young-White


Comedy Connoisseur

A quick glance at his long resumé, and it seems like the young actor, writer and stand-up comedian — a 2018 Variety 10 Comics to Watch honoree — has done it all: from “Only Murders in the Building” to “The Daily Show” (where he was a correspondent from 2018- 2021), to raunchy studio comedies like “Rough Night” to TV’s “Big Mouth,” “BoJack Horseman,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and more. “‘Comedy Connoisseur’ sounds like something Oscar Wilde would’ve been arrested for,” Young-White says. “But here I am, getting an award for it. I’ve been told that the non-connoisseur honorees are all amazing, but I’ll be the judge.”