The Top-25 Funniest Comic Performers Ever

George Carlin

Bob Newhart

Steve Allen

Phil Silvers

Art Carney and Jackie Gleason

Peter Cook

John Cleese

WC Fields

Jack Benny

Laurel and Hardy

Carol Burnett

Steve Martin

Eddie Murphy

Burns and Allen

Lucille Ball

Mae West

Buster Keaton

Bob Hope

Abbott and Costello

Charlie Chaplin

Grouch, Harpo and the other Marx Brothers

The Top 25 funniest performers ever

#25…George Carlin: Arguably the best stand-up comedian of all-time. He brilliantly satirized American culture, mixing his liberal social commentary with an often unapologetically coarse and dirty style of language. His penchant for obscenities was most evident in his trademark routine “Seven Dirty words”. No one was better at mocking the excesses of American culture than Carlin.

#24…Bob Newhart: He’s best known for his two highly successful, long-running sit-coms, The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart. His dead-pan, stammering delivery made almost everything he said funny. His gentle satire and wry wit pointed out the foibles and apprehensions that lay under the veneer of society.

#23…Steve Allen: A television pioneer who was instrumental in introducing the innovations of the talk-show genre, such as the man-on-the-street interviews which are still used today. He was the original host of the Tonight show. He was famous for the breezy, light-hearted way he’d address the audience as he played the piano. Allen was the author of over 50 books.

#22…Phil silvers: Although he appeared in many films (Such as It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) and TV shows, he reached the height of his fame on his popular 1950s sit-com, The Phil Silvers Show (Originally titled You’ll Never Get Rich). His aggressive, fast-talking style earned him the nickname “the King of Chutzpah”.

#21…Art Carney: He’ll be forever remembered as wacky, dim-witted sewer worker Ed Norton from The Jackie Gleason Show and The Honeymooners. His “Sheesh, what a grouch!” catchphrase became a popular, iconic line. Carney was an excellent all-around comic, as displayed in the many routines he did alongside Jackie Gleason on Gleason’s variety show. He turned out to be a good dramatic actor but he’ll always remain in our hearts as the cheerfully loony Ed Norton from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn NY.

#20…Peter Cook: One of the innovators of the British ‘satire boom’ of the 1960s. He frequently partnered up with fellow comedian Dudley Moore. The comic duo appeared together on stage (Beyond the Fringe), TV (Not Only but Also) and films (Bedazzled.) Cook always remained the more popular of the two. After the act broke up, Cook continued to perform his anti-establishment humor alone. He was once called “the funniest man to ever draw breath”.

#19…John Cleese: He was one of the creative minds behind two of the funniest TV shows ever. He co-created the classic sketch-comedy masterpiece Monty Python’s Flying Circus and also developed the hilarious sit-com Fawlty Towers. A brilliant writer, as well as a great comic (He wrote the script for the popular comedy film A Fish Called Wanda), he had a genius for physical comedy as well; which was best highlighted in his famous “Ministry of Silly Walks” sketch.

#18…WC Fields: One of the first huckster comedians. Fields mastered the art of making an unlikable character lovable. He played misanthropic and egotistical characters who somehow remained sympathetic, despite the fact that they hated children and puppies. His rambling, eloquent comic delivery is unique in the annals of comedy. He’s been one of the most frequently imitated people by comic impressionists over the years.

#17…Jack Benny: His career ran successfully from Vaudeville, through radio and into his greatest success on television. The Jack Benny Show remains one of the most beloved programs of the golden age of comedy. He portrayed a vain, penny-pinching miser who lied about his age (He forever maintained that he was 39) and played the violin badly. His signature phrase was an exasperated “Well!”

#16…Stan Laurel: One half of the beloved comedy duo Laurel and Hardy, Stan Laurel (along with his partner Oliver Hardy) gave birth to the movie comedy team. Stan Laurel was known for his childlike grin and exaggerated childish crying. His dim-witted character forever caused trouble for his partner. Despite portraying such a simple-minded role, Laurel was actually the brains behind the team, managing their careers.

#15…Oliver Hardy: The other half of the original comedy team Laurel and Hardy, Oliver Hardy was the member of the duo who had to take all the falls. His stupid partner continually caused him endless trouble, and Oliver ended up taking the lumps. For a very large man, he was adept at taking a fall. His catchphrase was “This is another fine mess you’ve gotten me into”.

#14…Carol Burnett: The queen of the comedy-variety show. The long-running Carol Burnett Show was one of the greatest examples of the variety genre. The show had a wonderful supporting cast but the anchor of all the weekly chaos was Burnett herself, who was brilliant at burying herself in whatever wacky guise the sketch required her to play.

#13…Steve Martin: His decades-long career has gone through many phases and he’s reinvented himself many times, but through it all, Steve Martin has remained a relevant figure in the world of comedy. After moving away from his early, absurdist style of humor, he won critical acclaim for films such as Roxanne; Parenthood; Planes, Train and Automobiles and Bowfinger.

#12…Jackie Gleason: One of the greats of the early days of television, Gleason starred in the popular comedy-variety show The Jackie Gleason Show and its spin-off, the Honeymooners. He is best remembered for playing loud-mouthed, bombastic bus driver Ralph Kramden, although he had a whole repertoire of recurring characters on his variety Show. He became an excellent dramatic actor but he will always be remembered and loved as comic pioneer of TV.

#11…Eddie Murphy: His career started with his meteoric rise to fame on Saturday Night Live but that was just the beginning. Murphy became one of the hottest film comedy stars of the 80s. His wildly popular Beverly Hills Cop was one of the top-ten most successful films of all-time when it came out. He later drifted away from the cool, edgy characters that made him famous and moved to family-friendly fare like The Nutty Professor and Dr. Doolittle. He’s had many ups-and-downs but he keeps coming back.

#10…George Burns: One of the fathers of the American sit-com, George Burns and his partner Gracie Allen made America love them for years, due to their popular The Burns and Allen Show during the golden age of TV. Burns specialized in playing the bemused narrator who made funny comments about the goings-on around him. Burns and Allen appeared in Vaudeville, radio and films before making their mark on the small screen. After his partner’s death, George Burns continued to make films, such as the Oh God movie franchise. He won an Oscar late in his career for The Sunshine Boys.

#9… Gracie Allen: One half of comedy duo Burns and Allen, Gracie Allen was second only to Lucille Ball as the Queen of the Golden Age of television. Along with her husband, they made their way from Vaudeville to television, mastering their comic repartee. Gracie played the ditzy, perky ‘dumb blond’ who baffled people with her illogical logic. Husband George could only play along with a bemused smile while Gracie related her bizarre stories. The show always closed with the famous scene where George told her to “Say goodnight, Gracie” and she replied “Goodnight Gracie.”

#8…Harpo Marx: One fourth of the iconic comedy team,the Marx Brothers; Harpo Marx was famous for never having uttered a word on screen. He always portrayed a silent imp with a talent for slight-of-hand, which he used for felonious ends. He played the harp (hence his name) and seemed to have an endless supply of useful items in his deep coat pockets. Harpo was the craziest of the crazy quartet.

#7… Lucille Ball: The queen of the small screen will forever be beloved by future generations for her marvelously silly performance on I Love Lucy, the most popular sitcom of the 1950s and the first mega-hit in TV history. Lucy became the first nationwide TV superstar. She later had other successful shows, including Here’s Lucy and The Lucy Show, but I Love Lucy remains her greatest legacy.

#6: Mae West: She brought sex into film. She was the originator of innuendo and double entendre. At a time when film censors frowned on any mention of sex, West filled her movies with blatantly sexual dialogue. Few people could deliver a line with equal measure of sexiness and humor as West did. Her legendary line “Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?” has reached iconic stature over the years.

#5…Buster Keaton: Known as “the great stone face” because of his deadpan style, Keaton was second only to Chaplin as the top comedian of the silent era. His gift for physical comedy was second-to-none, and the stunts he performed were as daring as they were funny. He took great physical risks for his art. No one could take a fall like Keaton. His characters embodied grace under pressure. The comic pinnacle of his brilliant career is The General, a masterpiece of comic timing.

#4…Bob Hope: Possibly the most enduring comedy star ever, his career stretched form the 1920s through the 1990s. He moved from Vaudeville to radio, where he had a popular weekly radio show. By the 1940s, he was one of the most popular movies stars in the world, generally playing a vainglorious coward. He was a regular television presence from the late 1940s through his final TV appearance in 1996. He starred in many popular films over the decades, included his seven collaborations with singer/actor Bing Crosby, collectively known as the ‘Road Pictures’. He was very involved in the USO, entertaining troops in every war from WW2 through Operation: Desert Storm.

#3…Lou Costello: The comic half of the immensely popular comedy team Abbott and Costello, Lou Costello was a fireball of on-screen energy. He was a master at comic timing and expert at taking a pratfall. He and his partner Bud Abbott had an unequaled skill at back-and-forth banter. Their signature routine was the timeless baseball sketch “Whose on First?” From burlesque theaters, to radio to a hugely successful movie career, Lou and his straight-man partner Bud were the biggest comedy stars of the 1940s. Their 1950s television show The Abbott and Costello Show introduced a new generation of fans to their classic routines. Lou’s catchphrase was “I’m a bad boy!”

#2…Charlie Chaplin: The greatest of the silent clowns and the master of pathos, Chaplin’s body of work is unparalleled in the influence it had during his time. His famous “Little Tramp” character was the epitome of the downtrodden little man. No one could tug the heart-strings the way Chaplin could. Among his great classics were the Gold Rush, City Lights and Modern Times. He continued making films into the sound era, including his parody on Hitler, The Great Dictator.

#1…Groucho Marx: One fourth of the most innovative comedy team of the golden age of films, Groucho Marx was the anchorman of the Marx Brothers, handling the lion’s share of the comic duties. No one could ever deliver a comic lime the way Groucho could. His style was a mix of insults, non-sequiturs, self-deprecating quips and flights-of-fancy. His characters often confounded people as he trapped them in his web of non-linear logic. After the Marx Brothers had success on Vaudeville, Broadway and film, Groucho went solo and made the transition to radio with his popular game show, You Bet Your Life. The show was later transposed to television, where it ran for 15 years, gaining Groucho new legions of fans. In the mid-1970s, an elderly Groucho appeared in a sold-out, live show at Carnegie Hall. The show was so well received that it was released as a vinyl album and it won Best Comedy Album for the year, giving the great Groucho one last triumph in a long life full of comic high points.

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Comments 34 comments

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

Many I like here. Bob Newhart I first knew from the routines on LP records in the 1960's, they are still the best. Burns and Allen were really great together.Groucho is classic. I would have included Andy Griffith. His "What it was was football" on the comedy records of the sixties was great.


http://hubpages.com/author/gg.zaino/latest/ 5 years ago

Hey Rob, 'Happy New Year Bro' May it be prosperous and peaceful within.

Glad i finally stopped by. I always enjoy these wonderful articles. Just as the Comic Book piece made me smile

...you've brought me back through the years to reawaken fine memories. Another life for sure, even the recent past w/Carlin's passing.

Martin and Candy in 'Planes Trains and Automobiles' remains at the top of my list of great comedy/tragedy. A true Greek recital on life.

Peace Brother ~ greg


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Dahoglund; I loved those Bob Newhart records, too. I'm not familiar with Andy Griffith's football routine. I was actually considering his "Andy Griffith Show" co-star Don Knots for the list but I had to narrow it down and he didn't make the final cut.

Hi Greg;

Happy New year. Glad I could take you down memory lane.

Thanks to you both for commenting.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

You cdertainly picked the best of the best. Thank you for the memories.


Pinkchic18 profile image

Pinkchic18 5 years ago from Minnesota

This hub makes me want to go out and rent a bunch of old comedies! lol great job, these are some great comics.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Thanks HH. Glad I could bring back some pleasant memories.

Pinkchic: Always a pleasure to hear from you. Those old comedies were timeless. I feel like renting them again, too.


Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 5 years ago from Scotland

Amazing list. Gracie Allen is the only one I've never seen. I love all the rest. Where would we be without them?

I would post a vote for Spike Milligan too :-) Great to see Bob Newhart in there, the 'Driving Instructor' sketch had me howling the first time I heard it.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Shinkicker;

Spike Mulligan was brilliant. There are several people who were on the border of making it to my top 25, such as Jimmy Durante and Peter Sellers. Maybe I should have done a top 50.

If you ever get a chance to see some of the old Burns and Allen sketches, you'll see how funny Gracie Allen was.

Thanks for reading and commenting.


jeanine 5 years ago

I love everyone of these comics... somehow I always lean to Richard Pryor, lenny Bruce, and Red fox for what they attempted to do in moving the bar of what could be done... I love that about those guys... they seemed so different...I actually think Tom Hanks is funny... enjoyed the read...


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Jeanine; Pryor, Bruce and Fox were all great. I could have made this a top 100 list because there are so many great screen clowns.

Thanks for stopping by my hub,

Rob


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England

"Go! And never darken my towels again!"

I totally agree with your number one Rob, I'm a huge fan of the Marx bros, particularly Groucho. I'm planning to watch a bunch of their movies at xmas. I have them all on DVD. Fave is Duck Soup followed by Night at the Opera.

Never been much of a Chaplin or Laurel and Hardy fan, Buster Keaton is my silent movie hero.

Bob Hope is another top fave. The Monty Python gang too.

A fun hub. Voted Up.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Steve; The Marx Brothers are the greatest of all time in my book. There's no one like Groucho. Bob Hope is awesome, too. If you like Buster Keaton, you should give chaplin another chance because they were both legends of the silent era.

Good to hear from you,

Rob


Jeanine 5 years ago

My fav marx brothers moment is in a film, I don'yt know the name but it's funny... they have crashed a party and chico or one of the lesser known brothers is playing piano... this snobby chick says... mmm ah mmm what is the first number... he's looks up at her and says the first number is the number....1...I just laughed and laughed when I was a kid and still do each time I see it on a late night channel.... I love Groucho though, he was a sensual little man... and very funny... maybe it was that cigar of his...lol...lol...


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Well, I love most of these but cannot order them numerically. I would likely list my favourites alphabetically. A lot of the ones you have near the 25 number, I would put higher-in the middle. I'm surprised you put Costello here, but not Abbott. My list would not have Murphy, Marx, or Silvers. Instead, they would be replaced with Bud Abbott, Victor Borge, and Rich Little.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Hmmm. Another thought...where to put Jon Stewart? I seem to left out Richard Prior too...

I double clicked this so I deleted the duplicate.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Jeanine; That scene was from their first film "the Coconuts". The snobby lady was Margaret Dumont, who was in most of their films. They were brilliant and way ahead of their time. (I did a whole hub on them if you're interested.)

Trivia fact. Groucho was actually jealous of his brother Chico because Chico was morepopular with women than Groucho was. Apparantly, when they used to travel during their vaudeville days, Chico was scoring with the ladies constantly and Grooucho was envious because he was less successful. (Chico's stage name--which is pronounced 'Chicko', not 'Cheeko' as most people assume--came from the fact that he was such a "chick magnet", hence the name Chico.)

Rob


jeanine 5 years ago

I'm with you Flora on Victor Borge, I laugh every time...also I'm showing my age, but Pearl Bailey, Moms mabry, and that guy who did all the cartoon characters, Cleghorn leghorn and yosemite Sam... the little rascals were funny to me... Andy Griffith and Don knotts... Jerry lewis...

and Rob, now that I think of Chicko, playing that piano... he was kinda cute...lol.. Oh my... lol... time to make the coffee...lol...


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Flora; Victor Borge was another guy who just missed the list by a hair. I enjoy his work immensely. As for Bud Abbott, he was content to be a straight-man most of his career and let Lou get the laughs, so I don't think he's quite as funny as the other people on this list, but in collaboration with Costello, they there amazingly funny.

I can't concieve of a 'funniest' list that didn't have the Marx Brothers on it, but to each their own.

Rob


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Jeanine; Mel Blanc did the voices for all the Loony Toons characters. He was hilariously funny. I didn't even think of him when I was making this list but in retrospect, I should have considered him. Don Knots was another guy who barely missed the final cut. There are so many funny people, I could have made this list a lot longer. I just didn't have the time when I did this.

Rob


jeanine 5 years ago

well it's a great list and a good read... thx again...


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Speaking of George Carlin--my PBS station is re-airing his Mark Twain tribute later this week.

BTW-Borge is the only comic I have ever seen perform live.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

....as always a most definitive and world class hub by you - and I always enjoys your 'lists' but hey where is your former President on this list - George Bush Jr. lol lol - and naturally another fine hub by you which will be posted to my FACEBOOK page with honor and a direct link back here....

lake erie time 12:38pm

and you said you didn't understand my last piece - well most of my so called funny pieces are just pure ad-lib, meaning they could go anywhere as I am writing them and I am a very fast writer as that one was written up for better or for worse in about 25 minutes - lol


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

Hey Rob! What a fun hub! I like your list, I agree with Marx being #1 but Carlin at #25? Hmmm. Also Benny Hill is missing, he was one heck of a funny man! Outstanding shout-out to all the talent listed. Voted UP among others!!


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Epigram; Bush is in a category all by himself!!!

I liked your last poem. It wasn't a criticism. I don't always 'get' poetry. No reflection on you.

Thanks for the facebook shout-out,

Rob


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

..actually Sir Rob I am not a graduate of Poetry school - I am not a big fan of the genre myself - lol - I am just trying to subvert it , dismantle and play with its traditions - I am quite sure that the secret poe-tree soceity here at Hubland hold me in their disdain which is fine by me because I am a bit of a rebel and anarchist at heart - and I think creativity in writing should be allowed to go in whatever direction it wants.

lake erie time 5:23pm


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

...well I don't know if you're on Facebook Sir Rob but your posted top 25 comedians hubs is quite a success and is fueling much debate - some of the lady facebookers who are also hubbers too say where are the ladies on this list - lol - my name is Colin Stewart at FB with this same picture - lake erie time 8:30pm


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Sunshine; Was Carlin to high or too low in your estimation? Benny Hill was a funny guy, too. I really should have made this a top 50 or top 100 because there are so many guys who I didn't include.

Thanks for the comments,

Rob


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Epi/colin; I am on Facebook and I'll have to check your page out. Thanks for incuding the link.

I did have some women on the list (Lucy, Mae West, Gracie Allen, Carol Burnett) but it is a heavily male list. Maybe I'll do a best female comedians hub.

Are you a Scot, Colin? My family came from Scotland.

Thanks, as always, for the comments,

Rob


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

Carlin should be in the Top 10:)

Check out Colin's Facebook link, you'll enjoy the comments! You could do a list of all women, there are many!


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

...wow thanks for dropping by Rob's hub SUNSHINE 625 you're a real hub gem and a true Facebook friend to both Rob and me ........ yes Rob actually my middle name is Scott - believe it or not - Colin Scott Stewart and my parents were born in Stirling (the town of Braveheart and Mel Gibson, lol, sorry William Wallace) but my dad left when he was 2 to travel to Canada with his family to live and then returned during the war on leave (World War II) back to Stirling and met my mum - she came over here as a war bride -how romantic.

lake erie time 2:00pm


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon

this is a really good list, though i feel Sam Kinison should be on it and George Carlin should be higher


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi PDX; a lot of people seem to agree with you that Carlin should have been higher. I'll know better next time.

Thanks for reading,

Rob


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon

well, it's about what you think is right, better to have integrity!


jimmy26 3 years ago

What no Jerry Lewis? Seems odd that you have all these great teams and no Lewis? Good list though, I would only disagree with a few. And Murphy is the Kind of Comedy!

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