10 Comics to Watch: Brett Gelman

How the character comic became Ferrell's fave

Hannibal Buress | Deon Cole | Lucas Cruikshank | Garfunkel & Oates
Brett Gelman | Chris Gethard | The Imponderables | Kyle Kinane
Chelsea Peretti | Jack Whitehall

Brett Gelman brought his brand of comedy to Los Angeles in a roundabout way. After graduating from the North Carolina School of the Arts with a degree in drama, the Chicago native migrated to Gotham to pursue a career on Broadway. Then he found the Upright Citizens Brigade.

Over the next eight years, Gelman flexed his comedic chops at UCB, bringing life to many of the characters he’s known for today. His portrayal as one half of the rap duo Cracked Out was a viral hit, but it was his performance art parody “One Thousand Cats” that caught the eye of Funny or Die.

“Brett is on track to becoming one of the best in the biz. You can take that to the bank!” offers Will Ferrell, who insisted that “Cats” run unedited on HBO’s “Funny or Die Presents” (where longer sketches are cut for TV).

With similar encouragement coming from Hollywood, Gelman decided to make the move west in 2008. He’s been busy ever since.

This year he makes an appearance in the Adam McKay-helmed “The Other Guys,” and “Zombieland” director Ruben Fleischer is writing a role for him in next year’s “30 Minutes or Less.” “I’ve been a fan of Brett’s since Cracked Out,” says Fleischer. “I’m excited to work with him.”

And starting this fall, Gelman stars opposite Chris Elliott on one of Cartoon Network’s forays into live-action programming with the comedy “Eagleheart.”

But while film and television are calling, Gelman remains true to what got him there: He performs weekly at UCB with the improv group Death by Roo Roo and can be found making stars such as Elizabeth Banks and Ed Helms extremely uncomfortable in his series of “Mr. Celebrity” shorts for Funny or Die — the kind of thing that could come back to haunt him as soon as fans start to recognize his face.