You are here

Best Comedians of All Time

Robin Williams

Robin Williams was an American stand-up comedian and actor. Starting as a stand-up comedian in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the mid-1970s, he is credited with leading San Francisco's comedy renaissance. After rising to fame as Mork in Mork & Mindy (1978–82), Williams established a career in both stand-up comedy and feature film acting. He was known for his improvisational skills. On August 11, 2014, Williams committed suicide by hanging at his home in Paradise Cay, California. His wife attributed his suicide to his struggle with Lewy body dementia.

Robin Williams

Richard Pryor

Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor (December 1, 1940 – December 10, 2005) was an American stand-up comedian, social critic, and actor. Pryor was known for uncompromising examinations of racism and topical contemporary issues, which employed colorful vulgarities and profanity, as well as racial epithets. He reached a broad audience with his trenchant observations and storytelling style. He is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential stand-up comedians of all time: Jerry Seinfeld called Pryor "The Picasso of our profession" and Bob Newhart heralded Pryor as "the seminal comedian of the last 50 years". Dave Chappelle said of Pryor, "You know those, like, evolution charts of man? He was the dude walking upright. Richard was the highest evolution of comedy." This legacy can be attributed, in part, to the unusual degree of intimacy Pryor brought to bear on his comedy. As Bill Cosby reportedly once said, "Richard Pryor drew the line between comedy and tragedy as thin as one could possibly paint it."

Pryor won an Emmy Award (1973) and five Grammy Awards (1974, 1975, 1976, 1981, and 1982). In 1974, he also won two American Academy of Humor awards and the Writers Guild of America Award. The first-ever Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was presented to him in 1998. He was listed at Number 1 on Comedy Central's list of all-time greatest stand-up comedians.

Richard Pryor

George Carlin

George Carlin (May 12, 1937 – June 22, 2008) is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential stand-up comedians: One newspaper called Carlin "the dean of counterculture comedians." In 2004, Carlin was placed second on the Comedy Central list of "Top 10 Comedians of US Audiences" compiled for an April 2004 special. From the late 1980s, Carlin's routines focused on sociocultural criticism of American society. He often commented on contemporary political issues in the United States and satirized the excesses of American culture. His final HBO special, It's Bad for Ya, was filmed less than four months before his death. In 2008, he was posthumously awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

George Carlin

Bill Hicks

Bill Hicks (December 16, 1961 – February 26, 1994) was an American stand-up comedian, social critic, satirist, and musician. His material, encompassing a wide range of social issues including religion, politics, and philosophy, was controversial, and often steeped in dark comedy. He criticized consumerism, superficiality and banality within the media and popular culture, which he characterized as oppressive tools of the ruling class that keep people "stupid and apathetic". Hicks died of pancreatic cancer on February 26, 1994 in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the age of 32. In subsequent years his work gained a significant measure of acclaim in creative circles—particularly after a series of posthumous album releases—and he developed a substantial cult following. In 2007 he was voted sixth on Britain's Channel 4 list of the 100 Greatest Stand-Up Comics,[2] and rose to number four on the 2010 list.

Bill Hicks