The age of Ayo Edebiri

From "The Bear" to "TMNT" and "Bottoms," 2023 belongs to the 27-year-old comedian

Ayo Edebiri
"Bottoms" continues a massive year for the break-out star of "The Bear."
(Image credit: Amy Sussman / Getty Images)

If you've watched a new movie or TV show in 2023, there's a good chance Ayo Edebiri was in there somewhere.

The 27-year-old comedian has only been acting professionally for a handful of years, but she has quickly taken over Hollywood. Her latest project is the raunchy comedy "Bottoms," and fans should expect to see a lot more of her in the coming years. So how did Edebiri become such a star so quickly, and where's she headed next?

The early years

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Edebiri's parents are both immigrants, as her mother is from Barbados and her father is from Nigeria. She studied at New York University, originally planning to become an English teacher, but eventually shifting gears to study dramatic writing. "I did my student teaching, and did you know that teenagers are really scary, and they will tell you when you're not a good English teacher?" Edebiri joked on "The Daily Show." "So I was like, 'Hm, maybe change careers?'"

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Even before that, though, Edebiri tried out for improv groups on campus, as she planned to perform comedy at night while teaching. While at NYU, Edebiri met Rachel Sennott, who convinced her to try stand-up, as she recalled to Nylon. Edebiri also told Rolling Stone she was inspired by seeing "a lot of Black women around me" making a career out of comedy while she was interning at the Upright Citizens Brigade, so she decided to pursue comedy while planning to return to teaching if it didn't work out.

Early on, she recalled to Collider, Edebiri was cold-calling and emailing people "non-stop" looking for a job while still in college, including "The Affair" star Maura Tierney. In 2018, Edebiri co-authored a New Yorker humor piece with Olivia Craighead (with whom she also launched the "Iconography" podcast), titled "So You Want to Date a New York Museum," which led Edebiri's manager to find her and come see her perform, per The Hollywood Reporter. After graduating, Edebiri worked as a production assistant on Comedy Central's "Broad City."

Breaking in

In 2019, Edebiri performed stand-up for Comedy Central's "Up Next," which she told Forbes was the first time she saw her comedy gain online traction. "The video came out and I immediately spiraled and every hour was checking YouTube comments," she said. She also began landing TV writing jobs, including on the short-lived NBC sitcom "Sunnyside." In 2020, Edebiri collaborated with Sennott to create the Comedy Central digital series "Ayo and Rachel Are Single," and she was hired to write for Netflix's animated series "Big Mouth."

But "Big Mouth" soon turned into an unexpected acting gig, and major break, for Edebiri. Amid 2020's racial justice protests, Jenny Slate, a white actress, announced she would no longer voice the biracial character Missy, and Edebiri was tapped to replace her. Similarly, Edebiri was hired as a writer for Apple's series "Dickinson," only to be cast in the show as Hattie, a role created just for her. She told W Magazine she was hired for the writing job after admitting in her interview that she thought the way Black characters were handled in the first season was "a little off," and the creator agreed. Edebiri additionally wrote for FX's "What We Do in the Shadows," earning a Writers Guild of America Award nomination.

Breaking out

Edebiri's career exploded in 2022 when she played sous chef Sydney on "The Bear." The FX show, which follows the staff of a Chicago sandwich shop, was created by Christopher Storer, who worked with Edebiri on "Dickinson." Storer "had this innate feeling that this was her role," "The Bear" showrunner Joanna Calo recalled to Bustle.

Adding authenticity to her performance, Edebiri noted to Today that she had previously "worked in restaurants for five or six years in New York," and she further prepared for the show by training with real chefs. After the series became a hit, Edebiri joked on "The Late Show" that "this has been the first year that my parents aren't actively worried about me." The role has earned Edebiri an Independent Spirit Award win and Emmy nomination.

Since then, Edebiri's career has continued to skyrocket. In 2023, she has already had a guest role on "Abbott Elementary," voiced characters in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem" and "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse," starred in her "Bear" co-star Molly Gordon's film "Theater Camp," and appeared in "History of the World, Part II," "Clone High," "Black Mirror," "I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson," and the second season of "The Bear." She has teamed back up with Rachel Sennott on the raunchy comedy "Bottoms," in which two high schoolers start a fight club to help them hook up with cheerleaders.

What's next?

Still to come from Edebiri this year is a performance in "The Sweet East," which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. And in 2024, she's making her Marvel debut in "Thunderbolts" opposite Florence Pugh and David Harbour, though her role has been kept under wraps.

"I'm excited [for 'Thunderbolts'] because I don't know; and to me, that's cool," Edebiri told Backstage. "If I don't know what I'm going to learn, that's the best possible scenario for me."

Clearly, the age of Ayo is just beginning.

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.