Orlando Comedians Guide: Standout Stand-ups
Not a comprehensive list, but a growing list!
This list is not comprehensive, but these Orlando-based and Orlando-originating comedians have talent for miles and demand an audience.
Comedian: Blake Butler
Backstory: He started fresh out of high school, and now at age 24, Butler is five years into his comedy career and hosting a room at The Falcon in Thornton Park every Tuesday at 9 p.m.
Highlights: Butler’s engagement as a comedian is boundaryless. His crowdwork is jaunty and unsettling, in a good way. Jokes can take any turn, making his sets unpredictable even though the core ideas carry over from set to set. This is a thrilling ride – you should go see him.
Where you can see him: He hosts at the Falcon, and is a steady presence at our local open mics and showcases. You can also find him performing in our east coast beach towns.
Backstory: Cece wanted to be a comedian for more than three decades, and in November 2014 when she saw Marlon Wayans at the Orlando Improv, a phone number for comedy classes flashed on the screen behind him. She signed up and the rest is history.
Highlights: Cece’s comedy is personal – she tells her own life stories to stoke laughter and joy. Creating connection and community is her vibe.
Where you can see her: She’s a regular at Harry Buffalo, Night Shade Lounge, Beau Monde, Copper Rocket, and Orlando Meats.
Comedian: Joe Censabella
Backstory: At age 8 he got hooked on George Carlin, and as a teen, Censabella watched Dane Cook. Another ten years would pass before he did his first open mic on June 28, 2017, at the Orlando Improv. Those felt like the longest three minutes of his life, but four years later, stand-up is his central focus.
Highlights: Censabella meanders naturally through jokes about relationships, family, and random observations of the strange things people do. His podcast with Jake Ricca, Cup of Jokes, is blowing up right now.
Where you can see him: Hosting at Harry Buffalo through the month of August, and regular spots at The Improv and Bull & Bush.
Comedian: Sean Finnerty
Backstory: Sean Finnerty is back in O-Town, the birthplace of his comedy, after a stints in New York and Los Angeles. He did his first set, which he describes as horrible, eight-and-a-half years ago at a now-defunct bar called Tom & Jerry’s that was once on Lee Road. Finnerty hosted at Gregory’s Comedy Club in Cocoa Beach for about a year and a half, and worked rooms all over Florida. Three-and-a-half years into his career, he was featuring frequently throughout the Southeast, and then moved to Queens.
Highlights: These days, Finnerty tours the nation. His goofy takes on the silly things people do and his riffs about domestic experiences are exceptionally charming, especially since they are delivered in his musical, lilting Irish brogue.
Where you can see him: Because he’s so busy on the road, you’ll have to catch him when you can. Finnerty headlines at the Orlando Improv when he’s here.
Comedian: Jimmy Fontaine
Backstory: Fontaine was deployed overseas in Kosovo when he decided to grab the mic at the base event center, where the troops spent their free time doing karaoke, bingo, flag football, and basketball. That 2012 set was a hit and while he didn’t stick with it at the time, he circled back around to comedy as a Fullsail student.
Highlights: He covers everyday life, especially the odd things that happen to him – and Fontaine goes out of his way to make his comedy accessible to all audiences. Fullsale was not a waste of time. Fontaine is a director at Funny Not Famous, a comedy show taped live for television at Afro TV on International Drive on Tueday nights. You would be remiss not to snag your free tickets.
Where you can see him: He tours in the Southest and frequents Orlando open mics.
Comedian: Ryan Holmes
Backstory: Holmes was going to be a lawyer. A pre-law major at UCF, his plans were mapped out for him, but a car accident turned out to be the perfect inflection point. He chose a different path: comedy. Talk about a silver lining on a catastrophe.
Highlights: Holmes is a bright shining light on the stage, but his day job eats up most of his time. Awake at 4 a.m. each day, Holmes airs on the tremendously popular Real Radio radio show, Monsters in the Morning.
Where you can see him: You’ll have a better chance hearing him: Monsters is live on 104.1 weekdays from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Comedian: Christophe Jean
Backstory: The Tampa native’s English degree from the University of Central Florida helps explain Jean’s wordiness and thinkiness.
Highlights: In Jean’s 15 Second Podcast, launched in April 2021, he routinely does one of two things: (a) purposefully embodies poor character, possibly to shine a light on societal ills but probably just because it’s fun, or (b) cooks up outlandish accusations about his interviewee’s character, for similar reasons. The podcast is wickedly funny and you should watch it.
Where you can see him: He’ll make appearances at most of the nightly open mics, and he recently opened at Orlando Improv and Comedy at the Kingdom. There are countless headlining gigs in his future. Jean has earned a reputation as one of Orlando’s top comedic writers.
Comedian: Lesley Jo
Backstory: Lesley Jo did her first set at Drunken Monkey in 2016, and got hooked on the rush. A close friend of hers had passed away, and since he had always encouraged her to do comedy, that first set was a tribute to him.
Highlights: Bursting with sharp, vibrant humor, Leslee talks a lot about life as a single woman, emphasizing the foibles and awkwardness of dating. Stand-up is her mainstay, but she also hosts comedy shows throughout Central Florida.
Where you can see her: She hosts at Celery City Craft Beer Garden in Sanford and at Orlando Meats in Winter Park, weaving her humor into the opening comments and comedian introductions. You can occasionally see her set at the Copper Rocket open mic on Thursday nights.
Comedian: David Jolly
Backstory: They say laughter is the best medicine, and it’s true. The Florida native did not always have a reason to smile. Surviving the broken foster care system as a child and fighting through a coma in 2010, Jolly harnessed his inner strength and channeled it through comedy.
Highlights: Jolly is boundless in his pursuit of the funny, not only delivering comedy but personifying it with every interaction. It is an extra special treat to see him host a mic. He leaves it all on the mat. There’s no on/off button for Orlando comedian David Jolly. A fountain of funny in all situations, Jolly’s minutes behind the mic are an extension of his round-the-clock boisterous antics.
Where you can see him: Jolly is a touring comedian and a frequent opener in Orlando. Catch him at open mics four nights per week.
Comedian: Jarri Knows
Backstory: Like so many Orlando comedians, Knows did his first set at Austin’s in Winter Park. The coffee shop has been a talent incubator for years, and for Knows that journey began in 2012.
Highlights: Knows was this year’s winner of Ken Miller’s March Madness Comedy Tournament, and he’s been steady rocking the mic since then, appearing at open mics and showcases every week. His boyish charm and big fan base keep the laughs alive.
Where you can see him: Find him at comedy showcases at The Abbey and Tuesdays at Night Shade Lounge.
Comedian: Preacher Lawson
Backstory: When as a teenager Lawson told his mom he wanted to be a comedian, she tried reverse psychology and gave him a big thumbs up. It didn’t work, and now that more than a decade has passed, Lawson and his mom tour together – she’s a stand-up, too. By 2015, the younger Lawson won Funniest Comedian In Florida and in 2017 was a finalist on America’s Got Talent.
Highlights: Lawson’s high-energy, over-the-top positive physical comedy has been a mainstay, but changes are afoot. Every moment of every day, he is picking over ideas for bits and developing them. Look for his act to get more personal and intimate in the next year. Plus, the outrageously fit comedian has plans to combine his comedy and athleticism.
Where you can see him: Orlando’s best-known comedian, Lawson moved to Los Angeles five years ago, although he comes back to Orlando regularly. Catch him when you can.
Comedian: Vanessa Marie
Backstory: The mom of three did her first set at Fat Fish Blue in May of 2019. She was three years deep into homeschooling, and perhaps needed an outlet.
Highlights: Parenting is hard. It takes guts to go up to the mic and spill the beans about those trevails, but Vanessa Marie is doing it, with her children’s’ blessings. Finding the funny in domestic life is a skill she has honed, touching on family mealtime conversations, intimate moments with her husband, and kids’ antics around the house.
Where you can see her: She’s a trooper! Vanessa Marie makes the rounds at all of O-Town’s open mics and is opening at several showcases in August.
Comedian: Ken Miller
Backstory: Miller has been a telecommunications engineer in the consumer sector for 16 years. Previously, he was a military engineer, working in the White House and traveling with the president — first Bill Clinton, then George W. Bush — to establish their communications hub wherever they were in the world. That put Miller in 42 states and 9 countries (he even spent a night in Russia’s presidential palace). All of that worldly experience, plus raising two children, broadened Miller’s view of the world and of life, nurturing his comedic mind.
Highlights: Grand Prize winner of the international 2019 Steve Harvey Stand-Up Spotlight and host of Real Laughs on Real Radio 104.1, Miller is one of the most captivating comedians to call Orlando home.
Where you can see him: Miller is a headliner with several shows per week and venues near and far.
Comedian: Wil Milz
Backstory: Milz danced on Broadway as a teen, went on to earn his master’s degree in history from Cornell University, and tried his hand at teaching before making the switch to entertainment.
Highlights: As a comedy host, Milz (a.k.a. King Dirtbag) owns the room, metaphorically speaking, by walking the line between creating a safe space and pushing boundaries. He is larger than life, and that makes his room magnetic.
Where you can see him: Tuesday nights at Night Shade Lounge. He’s the host with the most!
Comedian: Billy Myers III
Backstory: Myers toured as a singer and guitarist with several rock bands for twenty years, and picked up the stand-up habit in Daytona in 2015.
Highlights: Billy is a yeller and screamer, and that’s his charm. No need for a microphone for this guy — he’s got the volume covered. He thinks of himself as a cacophony of noise that’s occasionally coherent enough for the stage. We think he’s brilliant. If you’re lucky, you’ll catching him telling “the egg jok” – it’s a 10-minute doozy that will either horrify or delight you.
Where you can see him: Open mics at Grumpy’s, the Falcon, and Broken Strings are his jam, and he also features regularly on showcases.
Backstory: She’s been doing mics for three years, but took a big break during the pandemic. Read is performing steadily now, her set growing stronger every time.
Highlights: Off-stage, Read is all smiles and cuteness. On-stage, she has created a character with a monotone voice and flat affect. It works! Read pokes fun at her romances with self-deprecating cynicism that hurts so good.
Where you can see her: Find her at open mics all over town. She’s a regular at Harry Buffalo and Bull & Bush.
Comedian: Jake Ricca
Backstory: Almost four years ago, Jake Ricca waltzed into Austin’s Coffee in Winter Park and delivered his first set. “I got very lucky on my first one. Well, from what I remember. I could have been delusional, but it wasn’t booze. People were like telling me after, ‘Good set.’”
Highlights: Ricca is a craftsman, perfecting his set with surprising layers and texture that evolve rapidly over time. He’s got a fresh take on bathroom humor, and thank goodness for his dad, who provides endless fodder for Ricca’s stand-up. Ricca is a bold force in comedy, with die-hard fans and almost 115K followers on YouTube.
Where you can see him: A ubiquitous presence at area open mics, Ricca is also in the spotlight at showcases locally and out of town. Online, his YouTube channel and podcast Cup of Jokes are compelling.
Comedian: DJ Santana
Backstory: This middle school social studies teacher was looking for an outlet, and in May 2019 he found it: up at the mic. His first set at Fat Fish Blue – the Orlando Improv’s open mic – was hard, and loved the challenge.
Highlights: Santana has substantive material that starts with real-life experience, and he extrapolates from there. He’s tackling comedy as a craft, and while he plays an ignorant redneck character on stage, there’s intellectual horsepower behind the scenes.
Where you can see him: Grumpy’s Underground is a favorite, but there isn’t a mic in town where he hasn’t made his mark.
Comedian: Heather Shaw
Backstory: First, Shaw has 1.5 million TikTok followers, and she only launched her channel in November 2020. Second, she is happy and anxiety-free, killing off the notion that comedy emerges from the crucible of pain and suffering.
Highlights: Shaw bears an uncanny resemblance to Jim Carrey and many of her bits are flawless impressions of the star, who she has jokingly referred to as her long-lost father. But there is much more to her than all that. She is
Where you can see her: Right now, because she just moved, you’ll have to fly to Austin, Texas, to see her live, but she does make the rounds in Orlando on occasion. And then there’s her endless stream of hilarious TikToks.
Comedian: Vince Taylor
Backstory: Taylor is a natural-born, charismatic entertainer who has been touring comedy clubs and festivals nationwide for more than a decade, appearing on BET’s Black College Tour and coveted by cruise ships as an on-board comedian.
Highlights: Taylor is bold, creative, and unforgettable as a stand-up comedian, and as a comedy host cleverly weaves his humor into his hosting gigs without completely stealing the spotlight from the comedians taking the mic. It’s a delicate balance that he has all figured out.
Where you can see him: he’s currently hosting Wednesdays at the Dreams Lounge and Thursdays at Bronze Kingdom. He’s the headliner at the Orlando Improv on August 22.
Comedian: Dewayne Williams
Backstory: You could say Williams did his first set at Austin’s Coffee House, but growing up in Louisiana, he was the class clown. His funny take on life stuck, and it’s hard to imagine him anywhere but the stage. Williams moved to Orlando and works as a performer at Universal Studios, and over the past four years has won credibility as a comedian to be reckoned with.
Highlights: You may have seen the exuberant Williams in a series of comedic television commercials for Universal. What started as a one-off turned into a series, and he’s currently enjoying a run as the face of the theme park. His mass appeal serves him as an actor and comedian, so he’s frequently booked for shows near and far.
Where you can see him: He features, drops into open mics like Harry Buffalo and Beau Monde, and opens regularly for Ken Miller.
Comedian: Captain Wright
Backstory: Wright kicked off his comedic start at an open mic in 2019 at Fat Fish Blue. At the ripe young age of 17, the Winter Park High School student displays impressive mastery and it should only go up from here. He’s a natural!
Highlights: Wright’s deadpan take on teenage relationships, everyday experiences, and life in Orlando mixed with the occasional unexpected zinger has audiences rolling. His crowd work is A+!
Where you can see him: Wright hits the mic at all the open mics in town and occasionally shows his face at a showcase.