There’s nothing quite as fun as sitting down with your significant other or friends and family and watching a good stand-up act but with so many comedians out there it can be easy to miss out on some of the amazing ones. This is by no means a definitive list, just some of my personal favorites and legends that have left a huge impact on the comedy world to this day.
George Denis Patrick Carlin was born on May 12, 1937 in New York City and would have a very long successful career. In my personal opinion he is not only the best comedian of all time, he is the most important one. More like a philosopher or prophet than a comedian he would often leave you thinking and thinking after hearing his views on everything from politics to religion. George Carlin has had 14 HBO specials, has appeared on countless talk shows over the decades and hosted the first ever episode of Saturday Night Live in 1975. Carlin passed away on June 22, 2008 of cardiac arrest but left a lasting mark and will always be the best in my book.
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Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor was born on December 1, 1940 in Peoria, Illinois. He would become known for his highly offensive yet highly intelligent humor, touching on subjects such as racism and politics. Comedy Central gave him the number 1 spot on their all time greatest stand-up comedians list and in 2017 Rolling Stone listed him as number 1 on their list of the 50 best stand-up comics of all time. Pryor passed away in 2005 at the age of 65 from a heart attack.
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Edward Regan Murphy was born on April 3, 1961 in Brooklyn, New York and would go on to find huge success as a stand-up comedian. He would be a regular cast member on SNL in the early 80’s and comedy specials such as RAW made him a household name by the time the 90’s rolled around and he would also star in countless movies including 48 hours, Beverly Hills Cop and The Nutty Professor. If you’ve ever seen him play Buckwheat from The Little Rascals on SNL then you know why he’s on this list, regardless of some troubles he’s had in years past the man is a comedy genius.
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Samuel Burl Kinison was born on December 8, 1953 in Yakima, Washington and would eventually become a comedy legend. One thing not a lot of people realize about Sam Kinison was that he was a Pentecostal Preacher before he was a comedian and he brought some of that preaching type intensity into his comedy and made it his brand. He was loud and intense and screamed a lot and people loved him for it. Kinison would pass away in 1992 due to a vehicular accident but would leave behind a lasting legacy.
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Born Jacob Rodney Cohen on November 22, 1921 in Deer Park, New York he would later be known by his stage name Rodney Dangerfield. The comedy legend would become known for his self hatred and one liners such as “I get no respect” and would become a frequent guest on many talk shows. He also found his way into the movie business with roles in films like Caddyshack and Natural Born Killers. Dangerfield passed away on October 5, 2004 due to complications from a surgery.
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Andrew Dice Clay
Andrew Clay Silverstein was born on September 29, 1957 in New York City, New York and would become known by his stage name and on-stage tough guy persona Andrew Dice clay. He was the first ever comedian to sell out Madison Square Garden two nights in a row and would even star in his own movie The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. He is still active in the stand-up world today and recently released his own podcast titled I’m ova’ Hea, Now.
Buy The Day The Laughter Died here https://amzn.to/360Y9lL
William Henry Cosby Jr. was born on July 12, 1937 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and for most of his career would be known for his role on The Cosby Show and would be loved by many right up until the point where he was convicted of sex crimes and put in jail for them.He started his career as a stand-up comedian and I questioned whether I should even add him to this list but felt it would be wrong to leave him off of it as he had such a huge impact on so many other comedians and the comedy world in general and regardless of the man he really is, The Cosby Show was such a big part of so many people’s lives.
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Phyllis Ada Diller was born on July 17, 1917 in Lima, Ohio and although not as many people know who she is these days she is very important as far as stand-up goes as she was the first female stand-up comedian in history, paving the way for many more hilarious women. she had a long and successful career , working on over 40 films over five decades in the business Diller passed away in 2012 from natural causes.
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Christopher Julius Rock was born on February 7, 1965 in Andrews, South Carolina. He found great success in the stand-up comedy world and was probably responsible for the resurgence of stand-up fans back in the 90’s. On top of his hilarious stand-up specials he was also a cast member of SNL in the early 90’s and would end up being in numerous movies including Down To Earth and Dogma. He also wrote and starred in his own sitcom Everybody Hates Chris from 2005-2009. He has won 4 Emmy Awards and 3 Grammys and recently released a new stand-up special on Netflix titled Tamborine.
Buy Chris Rock: Roll With The New here https://amzn.to/2Jk8M9E
Sarah Kate Silverman was born on December 1, 1970 in Bedford, New Hampshire. Known for her comedy focusing on taboo and controversial topics. she’s probably my favorite female comedian as of right now, she did the voice for the little girl in Wreck It Ralph and it’s one of the movies me and my son watch together most. Apart from her awesome stand-up act she was also a writer and performer on SNL and starred in her own series The Sarah Silverman Show, which ran for 3 years. She has won 2 primetime Emmys and wrote an autobiography in 2010 titled The Bedwetter.
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David Khari Webber Chappelle was born on August 24, 1973 in Washington D.C. and would end up taking the comedy world by storm at a young age. I feel like although his stand-up was great all along that it was the movie Half-Baked that really put Dave Chappelle on the map. He would go on to star in his own comedy series Chappelle’s Show which was wildly successful and put him at the very top of the comedy industry. He took a break after his show ended but has returned with a vengeance and is back on top with two new recent Netflix specials.
Buy Chappelle’s Show: The Complete Series here https://amzn.to/2MMzgCZ
Caryn Elaine Johnson was born on November 13, 1955 in New York City, New York and would later be known by her professional name Whoopi Goldberg and although these days she is mostly known for her roles in film and as a talk show host she started her career as a stand-up comedian and a really good one at that. She is one of few entertainers that have won an Emmy,Grammy,Tony and Academy Award and was the second black woman to win an Academy Award for acting. She is currently a host on the talk show The View and has been since 2007.
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Steven Alexander Wright was born on December 6, 1955 in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is not known anywhere near as much as he should be. His unique deadpan delivery has a certain perfection about it and I could literally listen to him tell jokes for hours on end and be entertained. He was ranked the 15th best comedian of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.
Buy Steven Wright: When the Leaves Blow Away here https://amzn.to/2pOoeE9
Ellen Lee Degeneres was born on January 26, 1958 in Metairie, Louisiana and is perhaps best known for her talk show but she started out as a stand-up comic and was known for her clean and family-friendly style of comedy which was quite different from most comedy styles at the time. she has hosted the Emmys, Grammys and Academy Awards and has won 30 Emmys and 20 People’s choice Awards.
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Mitchell Lee Hedberg was born on February 24, 1968 in Saint Paul, Minnesota and would end up known for his surreal and deadpan humor and delivery. He was kind of like watching that one stoner friend everyone has that thinks they’re funny except Hedberg was a genius when it came to comedy. Tragically he would die from a drug overdose in 2005 cutting short what certainly would have been a brilliant career.
Buy Mitch Hedberg: Mitch All Together here https://amzn.to/2W8KAMH
Lewis Niles Black was born on August 30, 1948 in Washington D.C. and is known for his anger fueled comedy and his unapologetic views on politics. He had his own series on Comedy Central titled Lewis Black’s Root of All Evil and has made regular appearances on The Daily show for years now.
Buy Lewis Black: Black to the Future here https://amzn.to/2MLirrG
I could probably go on forever with this list as there are so many talented comedians out there but I’ll stop here and write a part 2 at some point to include some of the comedians I missed. A few other really talented stand-up comics worth checking out are Jim Gaffigan, Whitney Cummings, Kevin Hart and Bill Burr, If I left your favorite off the list I apologize but these are just my personal picks.
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