By Kyle Anderson
Updated June 29, 2012 at 01:00 PM EDT
John Mulaney
Credit: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/Getty Images

This week’s cover star Louis C.K. is often referred to as a comedian’s comedian, the kind of guy who considers the stand-up form sacred and takes his form and craft very seriously. In carving out his own personal area of the comedy world (one worth millions of dollars without a short term loan), he has not only cast himself as a singularity but also paved the way for a new wave of dynamic stand-ups who have thrived in today’s multi-platform environment mostly by tapping into their purest selves — just like Louis did.

So take a look at these five comics, all of whom seem ready to break out at a moment’s notice. You may not know them now… but you will.

John Mulaney

As a writer for Saturday Night Live, Mulaney co-created Stefon, Bill Hader’s trend-hunting nightlife correspondent on Weekend Update.

Obsessions: Pop-culture nostalgia; run-ins with New York weirdos; Law & Order

Key Bit: Gags about airlines are a dime a dozen in comedy clubs, but Mulaney’s extended absurd riff about airport woes dials up the silliness to excellent effect.

Find Him: Both of his albums, 2009’s The Top Part and 2012’s New In Town, are excellent, and his awesome Tumblr mixes observational comic bits with strangely sweet diversions — like when he took photos as all the Friday Night Lights filming locations on a recent trip to Austin.

Jen Kirkman

Though she left the show for a while to write for the canceled sitcom Perfect Couples, Kirkman has a regular gig sitting on the panel on Chelsea Lately.

Obsessions: Marriage; self-help books; the possibility that she’ll accidentally murder her friends

Key Bit: In one of Kirkman’s bluest riffs, she discusses how difficult it can be to simply have a good time by yourself.

Find Her: Stay tuned to her official site for regular updates. In addition to Chelsea Lately, she also is a guest of Paul F. Tompkins on his podcast every month, where she tells an extended story about all manner of her indignities. She also keeps a pretty funny Twitter, and can be endlessly enjoyed as Frederick Douglass’ tipsy biographer on the best episode of Funny Or Die’s Drunk History.

Tig Notaro

Her deadpan style has recently led to a spin through the NBC comedy block — last season, she guested on both The Office and Community. She also used to show up regularly on The Sarah Silverman Program.

Obsessions: Her Mississippi upbringing; babies taking showers; Taylor Dayne

Key Bit: It’s a long listen, but Notaro’s surreal encounters with singer Taylor Dayne are mind-blowing.

Find Her: She co-hosts her weekly podcast Professor Blastoff, a fascinating hour that covers funny personal stories as well as deeper conversations about philosophy and science (after you listen to the Taylor Dayne bit above, be sure to listen to the podcast episode that features a guest appearance by Dayne herself). Pick up her stand-up album Good One and follow her updates at her official site.

Hannibal Buress

You know that tinfoil-hatted homeless guy who sometimes shows up on 30 Rock? He also happens to be one of the sharpest stand-ups on the circuit (and was one of that show’s most vital writers).

Obsessions: Casual racism; college; groceries

Key Bit: Buress loves rap music, and in two minutes he skewers an accidentally hilarious Odd Future song and the ridiculousness of Young Jeezy’s approach to real estate.

Find Him: His new album Animal Furnace is out now. Catch him on The Eric Andre Show on Adult Swim, follow him on his Tumblr and on Twitter.

Matt Braunger

If you recognize Braunger, then you probably are one of the few people who watched the accidentally brilliant final season of MadTV.

Obsessions: Clever T-shirts; growing up in Portland (“It’s nothing but burned-out hippies and murderous lumberjacks”)

Key Bit: Braunger’s last trip to his home state of Arkansas yielded a whole series of thrills and nightmares.

Find Him: His tiger-centric official site keeps track of his live dates and video. Check out his upcoming Comedy Central special Shovel Fighter, which airs on July 14 (with the album of the same name out three days later). And his Twitter is refreshingly honest—he recently went on a rant about how upset he is that the past two pilot seasons have been so disastrous for him.

Episode Recaps

30 Rock

30 Rock

Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan star in the Emmy-winning comedy. You want to go to there.

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