Funny business: As the AltCom Festival arrives at the Somerville Theatre, we look at the roots of the indie comedy boom. By Mike Miliard.
Patton Oswalt
Best known to the public as “Spence” on The King of Queens and the voice of Remy in Ratatouille, Oswalt’s true vocation is a stand-up, and he’s one of the best around. His wordy, hyper-intelligent routines — vacillating between the geekily self-deprecating and the viciously satirical — lay waste to America’s diseased political and pop-cultural climate. Favorite line: “Every time you eat a steak, a hippy’s hacky-sack goes in the gutter.”

Eugene Mirman
He’s parlayed the rigors of a Lexington High School education into a career as one of the wittiest and weirdest stand-ups and filmmakers around. He’s left us now for the bright lights of New York City, but still performs semi-regularly at the Union Square Roundtable. (Read more about it here.)

Emo Philips
He’s been regaling audiences with his garden-path sentences and provocative non-sequiturs — delivered in that inimitable slide-whistle voice — since the early ‘80s. As such, he’s something of a godfather to the current alternative-comedy scene. “One of my favorite comics growing up in Lexington was Emo Phillips,” says Mirman. “I used to listen to his records all the time.”

Todd Barry
His sotto-voce soliloquies are quietly devastating. Even if certain members of the Conan O’Brien message board and disgruntled audience members don’t always think so. (Not for nothing, his “Receipt Museum” at offers a trenchant sociological study of the plight of the modern consumer.)

The Walsh Brothers
By far, the best freeform stand-up/sketch-comedy/sleight-of-hand/storytelling sibling act ever to spring from the mean streets of Charlestown. (Read their blog, or Ted Drozdowski’s review of one of their recent shows.)

Morgan Murphy
Her mordant routines bring a much-needed female voice to the party, whether she’s mocking Paris Hilton or wearing a fake moustache in a duet with Aimee Mann.

Jim Jeffries
Jeffries, an Aussie, is probably hoping Somerville audiences — unlike those in Manchester, England — don’t leap to the stage and punch him repeatedly without provocation.

doktor cocacolamcdonalds
From the UK, this “One Man Rock Opera” with a keytar and a faceful of makeup, is utterly sui generis. “All I’ll say about him,” says AltCom organizer Brian Joyce, “is everywhere he’s gone, he’s usually the one that people are left talking about.”

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