The 50 Greatest Comedians in the Last 50 Years

Jason Merritt-Getty

It’s tough to think that we’ve lost any of the 50 greatest comedians in the last 50 years, but it’s easy to see their impact. From the best known to the more obscure, comedians help to deal with the mess we call life.

Richard Pryor


Sure his comedy was offensive, but it got laughs, which is the point. The level of comedy that this man brought to the stage was great enough to keep his memory alive for many years to come.

George Carlin

Kevin Winter-Getty

Some of the greatest comedians only get better as they get older. George Carlin was one of those who continued to wow people with his insights every time he hit the stage.

Lenny Bruce


There are individuals in life that a great number of people will model themselves after. If you’ve never heard the term “the next Lenny Bruce” then you might not be a comedy fan.

Woody Allen

Andreas Rentz-Getty

Woody is kind of an acquired taste when it comes to humor, but he is a capable comedian. His role as one of the greatest comedians of all time learned, but still debatable.

Chris Rock

Jamie McCarthy-Getty

The guy is funny, without a doubt, but he’s a forceful type of funny that doesn’t relent. Age has mellowed him out a bit, but he’s still the jokester that a lot of people fell in love with.

Steve Martin

Cindy Ord-Getty

While his sense of humor is tough for some people to get, Martin is the kind of comedian who’s fun because he hearkens back to a different era. Plus, his sarcastic wit is a nice callback to when comedy was subjected to less criticism.

Rodney Dangerfield

Giulio Marcocchi-Getty

Amazingly, Rodney’s career didn’t take off until he was older. But when he did get popular he became an instant legend.

Bill Cosby

Mark Makela-Getty

Unfortunately like a few people from the past, his reputation has been tarnished. But in his heyday, Cosby was a king of comedy.

Roseanne Barr

Araya Doheny-Getty

Calling her one of the greatest comedians is a stretch. But the fact is that she did gather a rather impressive following over the years.

Eddie Murphy

Matt Winkelmeyer-Getty

Eddie Murphy hasn’t really gone soft with age, he’s simply evolved in a way that many actors do. Plus, he’s still every bit as funny as he was when his career was white-hot.

Johnny Carson

Vince Bucci-Getty

Just think of how many people tuned in every night to hear and see this man joke around. Those were the golden days of comedy for certain.

Jerry Seinfeld

Dia Dipasupil-Getty

The acerbic wit and sarcastic humor that he helped to create was a phenomenon to be fair. But these days it feels as though too many people try to pick it apart with a serious lack of understanding.

Robin Williams

Kevin Winter-Getty

The legend and greatest comedian doesn’t even cover it with this man. He was the type of actor and comedian that people couldn’t really bring themselves to hate, ever.

Bob Newhart

David Livingston-Getty

His level of comedy definitely had a more down-to-earth feel to it, but despite the slightly muted feeling, he was still popular back in the day. As he grew older it faded, but the memory remained.

David Letterman

Kevin Winter-Getty

You either like this man or can’t stand him. But regardless, he did create a fanbase that stayed loyal for years.

Ellen DeGeneres

Tasos Katopodis-Getty

To really see her greatest comedy you’ll need to hearken back to her earlier days. These days a lot of people don’t find her that funny, but she did earn her fame.

Don Rickles

Mark Mainz-Getty

Don was the kind of comedian who didn’t spare anyone. If he could make a joke out of it, he went for it and didn’t bother to warn people it was coming.

Jonathan Winters

Charley Gallay-Getty

Anyone who could keep up with Robin Williams in his prime earned the title of ‘great’ next to their name. Thankfully, Winters had his own reputation before meeting Williams, and it was fun to watch.

Bill Hicks


These days dark comedy doesn’t always get the laughs it used to. But Hicks was one of the best, and he made people laugh, so of course he’s worth mentioning.

Sam Kinison


Many people remember Kinison for being loud and obnoxious. But in between the yelling, there were plenty of jokes that made people roar with laughter.

Dennis Miller

Presley Ann-Getty

There are a lot of comedians who leaned into the sarcasm heavily and without reserve. For a while, Miller was a hot commodity.

Robert Klein

Brandon Williams-Getty

These days it’s easier to see Klein as a dramatic actor who’s done quite well. But a year ago his standup made it possible for him to move forward.

Steven Wright

Alex Wong-Getty

Initially one wouldn’t think that a lethargic act would work in comedy. But Steven and several others have made it work for them.

Red Foxx


Seriously, this guy could make a person laugh or cry depending on the context of his acting. But the laughter-inducing acts he put on are legendary.

Bob Hope


There are a lot of iconic names in Hollywood and Bob Hope is one of those that people will remember for a long time. They might not know everything about the man, but they know he was famous.

Ray Romano

Matt Winkelmeyer-Getty

In a big way, Ray Romano became famous for acting like the type of character that a lot of people can relate to. The blue-collar comedy he specialized in is still popular and still easy to take.

Jay Leno

Paul Morigi-Getty

It’s fair to say that he has just as many detractors as fans, but he’s taken it all in stride. He did have one of the hottest shows on TV for quite some time.

Jack Benny


It’s interesting to think of his beginning and where he ended up. From playing the violin to making people laugh, he had a great career.

Milton Berle

Kevin Winter-Getty

One can’t help but think of how some old men were revered simply for one reason or another. But Berle was one of those who might have been controversial but was still funny.

Gary Shandling

Alberto E. Rodriguez-Getty

In his heyday Shandling was funny, but as time went on and he didn’t appear to change people forgot about him a bit. The fact is that he’s still amusing, but he did broaden his career in a few ways.

George Burns


Remember what I said about funny old men? George Burns managed to step on a few toes in his time, but he still made people laugh.

Albert Brooks

Charley Gallay-Getty

For someone who looks and sounds kind of plain and operates on what could be called dad humor, Brooks is still a skilled comedian. He made a reputation that managed to turn a few heads.

Andy Kaufman


Many times it appeared that Kaufman was more interested in annoying the hell out of people to get a laugh. Hey, it worked.

Buddy Hackett


You can see the inspiration that Hackett created in a lot of comedians who came after him. His physical style and goofy faces were the basis for many different acts.

Phyllis Diller


Eccentric is a great word to use for Diller since she was a wild woman on stage and thankfully so. This is a big way to prove that women can be funny since she was one of a kind.

Jim Carrey

Vittorio Zunino Celotto-Getty

Depending on where you started watching him determines what you think of this man. If you saw him on the show In Living Color then you managed to watch him rise to the heights before he changed things up.

Martin Lawrence

Kevin Winter-Getty

Having his own show helped Martin stand out in a big way since his standup wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as memorable as it could be. At this point though a lot of people remember him for Bad Boys.

Bill Maher

Vivien Killilea-Getty

The deadpan manner that Maher uses on his show is still amusing. But it’s fair to say that he’s pushed his career forward without worrying about what others think.

Billy Crystal

Paul Morigi-Getty

The ultimate level of sarcasm that this comedian has presented is hard to take in some instances. But overall, he’s one of the greatest comedians since he’s had a ton of staying power over the years.

Mort Sahl


Some comedians can poke fun at politics and other such matters, and fall flat. Mort didn’t fall at all, he said what he wanted to and that was awesome.

Jon Stewart

Michael Loccisano-Getty

Sarcasm set on high is a good way to describe Stewart. When he first took on his duties on The Daily Show, it was weapons-grade and absolutely great.

Flip Wilson


Here’s yet another comedian who became the gold standard for many people. When one reaches that status they’re legendary, not just great.

Dave Chappelle

Don Arnold-Getty

Who thinks it’s his own show or Half-Baked that Chappelle will be most remembered for? It’s probably both since he’s been great for a long time.

Joan Rivers

Larry Busacca-Getty

Something about this woman just pulled people in, and a big part of it was her mouth and quickly it could run. Hey, it was an honor to watch and listen to her.

Richard Lewis

Ethan Miller-Getty

Out of all the comedians out there, this guy feels underrated since he was rather funny. He’s been a part of several productions that were easy to laugh at in a good way.

Adam Sandler

Alberto E. Rodriguez-Getty

Ah yes, the man-child who was criticized when he turned into a serious actor. He’s still great, and even his shift to the dramatic hasn’t changed that.

Tim Allen

Frazer Harrison-Getty

Home Improvement made his fame in a big way, but it’s not where he stopped. The Santa Clause movies were gold, at least to a point.

Freddie Prinze


A lot of people probably think about his son when they hear this name. But in his day, Freddie Prinze was quite entertaining.

Denis Leary

Jamie McCarthy-Getty

Why is he one of the greatest comedians? Simple, he was around and doing his thing when MTV was still a music channel, and he knocked his act out of the park.

Damon Wayans


Hearken back to In Living Color and you’ll understand why his name is on this list as one of the greatest comedians. Homey the Clown and many other great roles helped to highlight why he’s so insanely funny.


Leave a Reply