All the people on this list are hilarious comedians. But beyond that, this is a diverse list of people with different styles who approach comedy from various angles.
Many of the popular comedians listed below worked their way up through the stand-up circuit and eventually landed shows on Comedy Central.
Funniest Stand-up Comedians of All Time
Let’s take a look at some of the funniest stand-up comedians of all time.
The hippie sage, the M.I.T.-level linguist, the First Amendment activist, the undisputed champion gadfly of stand-up—George Carlin was all this and much more. Like Pryor, Carlin went through an early “square” phase that seemed mainstream-friendly to a fault. Then he grew a beard, found drugs, and then found his voice, crafting brainy polemics that poked and prodded listeners out of their socially complicit comfort zones.
Watch Jammin’ in New York or Carlin at Carnegie Hall—hell, watch or listen to nearly any one of his nearly two dozen specials—and you’ll witness rapid, virtuosic rants full of sophisticated wordplay and potent hypotheticals. Carlin was the ultimate thinking man’s comic, demanding that his audiences fight from underneath the mountain of bullshit heaped upon them by clergymen, politicians, and advertisers.
And his defence of free speech and his contempt for those who would abuse words led to legendary bits, including “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” which, changing norms or not, still feels remarkably relevant today. Carlin
Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor was an American stand-up comedian, social critic, and actor. He was best known for his uncompromising examinations of racism and topical issues, which employed profanity and vulgarity. Pryor is widely regarded as one of the best comedians in history.
One of the finest comedians of all time, Robin Williams began his career as a stand-up comedian and soon moved to act in television and films. Though widely recognised for his comedic skills, the immensely talented Williams proved his versatility by taking up and successfully performing more serious roles in films like Good Will Hunting and The Fisher King.
His reputation has been damaged lately by some unpleasant material on gender, even if the 2017 Netflix specials in question went on to be the channel’s most-watched comedy specials of all time. But for years, you’d have struggled to find a more authoritative standup worldwide than Dave Chappelle. Live performance aside, he entered the big league with Chappelle’s Show, the trailblazing sketch series that made a whole new kind of merry with race, politics, and pop culture.
Its status—and Chappelle’s no-compromise reputation—were secured when the star mysteriously quit the programme mid-recording in 2006, triggering a seven-year sabbatical from showbiz.
Edward Regan Murphy (born April 3, 1961) is an American actor and comedian. He rose to fame on the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, for which he was a regular cast member from 1980 to 1984. Murphy has also worked as a stand-up comedian and is ranked No. 10 on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time.
Murphy has received a Grammy Award and an Emmy Award and was honoured with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humour in 2015 and the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2023.
Chris Rock was already a star at the turn of the millennium, but the 21st century turned him into a megastar. His first two standup specials since 2000, Never Scared and Kill the Messenger, are full of trademark Rock fury, but the third, last year’s Tamborine, is quieter and more humane. Plus, during this time, he made Everybody Hates Chris, Top Five, and The Motherfucker With the Hat.
That Chris Rock is one of the funniest people alive goes without saying. The scary thing is that, after 30 years in the business, he might be getting better.
Louis C.K. was born on September 12, 1967, in Washington, District of Columbia, USA. He is a writer and producer, known for Louie (2010), American Hustle (2013), and Horace and Pete (2016). He was previously married to Alix Bailey.
For many, Jerry Seinfeld was their first exposure to stand-up comedy, that’s how influential his 1990s sitcom Seinfeld was. By picking up on the most absurd details from day-to-day life and putting them under the microcosm of his comedic lens, Seinfeld has developed a style of stand-up comedy that’s not just ridiculously successful but damn near impossible to emulate despite its simplicity.
Since the show wrapped up, his TV appearances have thinned out, but Jerry still manages to sell out arenas. Perhaps his most interesting venture of late has been the web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, an informal interview hangout with some of the biggest names in comedy.
For a time, Steve Martin’s brand of giddy irony made him the single most in-demand comic in the country. Wiggling and jiggling, with a banjo on his belly and a fake arrow through his head, this wild-and-crazy guy made arena crowds lose their minds. In his cartoonish man-boy persona, Martin swung from gag to gag, playing with props, getting happy feet, and dipping into topics like travel (“It’s like those French have a different word for everything!”) and relationships (“I like a woman with a head on her shoulders. I hate necks”).
The results were big, call-and-response parties, an escapist whimsy not unlike the balloon animals he’d try to make onstage. As his excellent memoir Born Standing Up attests, Martin found it difficult to keep up with the demands of fans and arena tours – but his work remains a high-water mark for sweet, wacky, playful absurdity with a lot of showmanship behind it.
Bill Burr is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor, and podcaster. He is best known for playing Patrick Kuby in the crime drama series Breaking Bad (2008) and creating and starring in the Netflix animated sitcom F Is for Family (2015). In 2008, Burr’s voice was featured in the game Grand Theft Auto IV.
Rodney Dangerfield was an American stand-up comedian, voice artist, actor, and producer. Dangerfield is best recognised for his catchphrase “I don’t get no respect” and his monologues on that theme.
In many ways, the late Mitch Hedberg was inimitable. Giggling and happy-go-lucky, his genial stoner-dude persona was entirely charmed by the whimsical little absurdities he stumbled upon. Jokes like “When I was a boy, I laid in my twin-size bed and wondered where my brother was” or “Every book is a children’s book if the kid can read” gave you only a sense of Hedberg’s wonderful efficiency.
He also paid a high degree of attention to syntax, and while some of his jokes bordered on dad material (“Is a hippopotamus just a cool potamus?”) But it was all just a way for him to show his audiences that they should be looking through the groovy, rose-coloured lenses he had on seemingly all the time. And his hit-to-miss ratio was off the charts.
If you’ve been following American pop culture in the last decade, it’s almost impossible that you haven’t heard of Kevin Hart. The man is everywhere, from starring in box office juggernauts like Ride Along and Get Hard to highly rated TV shows like Real Husbands of Hollywood to hosting The MTV Video Music Awards, the BET Awards, and most recently The Comedy Central Roast of Justin Bieber.
Though his film and TV credentials have brought him a lot of fame, Hart continues to hit the stage, selling out arenas on gargantuan comedy tours which boast of rock concert production values.
Hailed as the ‘everyman’ comic, Jim Gaffigan’s comedy is largely observational, clean, and revolves around topics that are easily relatable with a heavy predilection towards food and parenting. Although he began doing stand-up in the late eighties, it wasn’t until his first appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman in 1999 that his career took off.
Incidentally, Letterman is also one of Gaffigan’s comedy idols. Since then, Gaffigan has been nominated twice for a Grammy in the category of Best Comedy Album, has authored two books, and is the creator of an autobiographical sitcom called The Jim Gaffigan Show currently on air.
Don Rickles is a rare comic who found his voice by actually ignoring his material. In the late Forties, the man also known as “Mr. Warmth” and the “Merchant of Venom” discovered that his audiences connected more to the ad-libs he used to shut down hecklers than the jokes he’d written. Since then, the quick, sharp, and unpredictable Rickles has plowed into his audiences, picking up on cues large and small and delivering little barbs (“It’s over, I’m a friend”) to his targets.
Eventually, his wicked wit hit their most important target in Frank Sinatra, who championed the comedian to famous friends and got him started in Vegas. With that wide, jack-o-lantern mug and a torrent of rapid-fire gags, Rickles created a template that insults comics have referred to since the 1950s. This is how you do it right: hockey pucks.
Lewis Niles Black is an American author, comedian, social critic, and actor. Black hosted the Comedy Central series Lewis Black’s Root of All Evil. He is also known for his Back in Black commentary segment.
The great comedian Ricky Gervais is an English actor, comedian, musician, and producer. He worked initially in the music industry, attempting a career as a pop star in the 1980s with Seona Dancing and working as a manager before he turned to comedy.
Steve Wright was born on December 6, 1955, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. He is an actor and producer, known for Natural Born Killers (1994), Reservoir Dogs (1992), and So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993).
William Melvin “Bill Hicks” was an American comedian, satirist, and musician. Hicks’s material includes a wide range of religion, politics, and philosophy. He has also criticised superficiality, consumerism, mediocrity, and banality within the media and popular culture.
The great William Henry “Bill Cosby” is a stand-up comedian, actor, and activist. Cosby is considered one of the 25 best comedians of all time.
Canadian-American actor Jim Carrey worked as a janitor and a stand-up comedian at clubs and on stage before entering films and television. His big Hollywood break came with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, which catapulted him to comedy star status. His later films, like The Truman Show and Bruce Almighty, proved his versatility and won him critical and commercial success.
Norman Gene, known as Norm Macdonald, is a Canadian comedian, writer, producer, and actor. He made his appearance on shows such as The Drew Carey Show and NewsRadio. Comedy Central named him #85 on the five-part miniseries 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time.
The Chitlin Circuit allowed black audiences to connect to black performers in their raw and unhinged states, and without it, the world might not know Redd Foxx. With a gravelly rasp, this comic delivered his sex jokes like someone’s flask-sipping, dirty-mouthed uncle. Foxx could sling one-liners like, “The definition of indecent: When it’s in long, and it’s in hard, and it’s in deep, it’s in decent,” or “If the pilgrims had been chasing bobcats instead of turkeys, we’d all be eating pussycat on Thanksgiving.”
The so-called “King of the Party Records” made dozens of records for several labels, jump-starting the production of comedy albums by making them something both naughty and hip. But for all the profanity, Foxx was also a crusader for racial equality; his breaking down of walls between black and white culture made way for Richard Pryor, who benefited from the older comedian’s fight against prejudice. That, and his peerless way with the word “motherfucker.”
Bernard Jeffery, known as Bernie McCullough, was an American stand-up comedian, voice actor, and actor from Chicago. Mac has appeared in many films in smaller roles. One of his most notable film roles was as Frank Catton in the remake of Ocean Eleven.
George Roberts, popularly known as Bob Newhard, is an American comedian and actor. Newhart came to prominence in the 1960s with his album of comedic monologues, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart. The album was a worldwide bestseller and reached number one on the Billboard pop album chart.
How many of these comedians did you expect to appear on this list of the funniest stand-up comedians of all time? Leave a comment below.