There’s a long history of people who got their start in stand-up comedy only to find another gear and level of artistry once they turned to filmmaking, including Mike Nichols, Woody Allen, Albert Brooks, Elaine May and more. Here are some of the most recent to branch out.
Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None” isn’t entirely autobiographical, but it’s wholly an expression of his love of food, culture, European cinema and the finer things in life. His real-life parents even star on the show.
He’s most well known for his “WTF” podcast, but Marc Maron also had a show called “Maron” that ran for four seasons on IFC that hemmed closely to his experience as a stand-up comedian and explored his neuroses in ways he’s come to be known for on-stage and in his monologues opening “WTF.”
Still just 27 but a comedian for over a decade, Burnham directed and wrote the 2018 preteen coming-of-age story “Eighth Grade.” But he has a knack for doing it all, as he’s also a songwriter, an actor most notably in “The Big Sick” and a poet.
After first having Louis C.K.’s name all over the first season of “Better Things,” Pamela Adlon has made the excellent “Better Things” entirely her own, going to surprising places in her stories about being a working, single parent of three girls.
Woody Allen has been a prolific filmmaker for so long that it’s almost easy to forget that he gained fame as a stand-up as far back as the mid 1960s.
It’s possible Donald Glover would’ve never been able to make the video for “This is America” as Childish Gambino if it weren’t for exploring his style, his roots, and the stranger side of his personality as the creator of his groundbreaking series “Atlanta.”
Jordan Peele’s today one of the hottest directors in Hollywood after his debut feature “Get Out.” He’s currently working on his follow-up “Us” starring Elisabeth Moss and Lupita Nyong’o.
Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer
The women of “Broad City” got their start doing improv and stand-up when they met at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in 2006.
Mindy Kaling developed her stage name and her persona through her early stand-up before evolving into a writer and director, first on several episodes of “The Office” and then as a writer and producer on her own show “The Mindy Project.”
Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome
Though it’s not what you think of when you imagine a personal, auteur-driven show, Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome’s period-piece “Another Period” is perfectly weird in a way that only they could imagine.
Tig Notaro’s “One Mississippi,” which she co-created along with Diablo Cody about a woman reeling from the loss of her mother and her own failing health, stems directly from a legendary stand-up set Notaro gave called “Live” where she learned and revealed she had been diagnosed with cancer.
Though now tainted because of his sexual misconduct allegations, Louis C.K.’s show “Louie,” which he often directed, wrote, produced and even edited, set the stage for what a comedian auteur show could look like and the TV deals that many of those same stars pursued.
It’s been over 10 years since Albert Brooks directed a film, but he was considered one of the sharpest comedic directors of the ’80s with classics like “Defending Your Life,” “Lost in America” and “Modern Romance.”
Jerry Lewis was already a star when he teamed up with Dean Martin back in his club days, but he became a legend and an idol among French film aficionados when he directed a string of movies in the ’60s, including movies like “The Bellboy” and “The Nutty Professor.”
After teaming up with Elaine May for their satirical improvisational duo, Nichols helped usher in a new age of Hollywood with his films “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “The Graduate.”
Judd Apatow started doing stand-up when he was just a teenager and became a junkie of comedy. But he found his stride working with the funniest people around on film and making movies that defined middle-aged man-children of the 2000s.
Before “Young Frankenstein” and “The Producers,” there was “The 2000-Year-Old Man” that shot Mel Brooks to fame along with his partner Carl Reiner.
Bobcat Goldthwait’s high-pitched voice and pointed commentary proved to perfectly translate to behind the camera for Goldthwait’s often cynical black comedies like “World’s Greatest Dad” and “God Bless America.”
Before he became Saul Goodman, Bob Odenkirk directed several features, including the modest and award-winning “Melvin Goes to Dinner” based on a play by Michael Blieden.
Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks teamed up in the early stages of their career, but whereas Brooks went for broad genre parodies in his movies, Reiner favored irreverent, slapstick humor in films like “The Jerk” and “All of Me,” helping to launch Steve Martin’s career as a movie star.
It looked like Chris Rock might’ve exclusively turned to filmmaking after a long hiatus from stand-up, directing three films including most recently the loosely autobiographical festival darling “Top Five.” But Rock returned to stand-up with a special this year, “Tamborine.”
Though “The Carmichael Show” is a more traditional three-camera sitcom rather than the typical auteurist dramedy, Jerrod Carmichael’s show draws heavily from his stand-up and improves upon it, with each episode focused on having a conversation around a single topic.
Mike Nichols gets more of the love as a filmmaker following their stint as Nichols & May, but Elaine May deserves equal credit for directing the screwball classic “The Heartbreak Kid” and the messy, yet ambitious “Ishtar.”
Another alum of the UCB Theatre, Julie Klausner is the mind behind Hulu’s “Difficult People” along with Billy Eichner and the head writer on Eichner’s “Billy on the Street.”