The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary American Comedians of all time. This list of famous American Comedians is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of American Comedians.
With an HPI of 77.06, Robin Williams is the most famous American Comedian. His biography has been translated into 129 different languages on wikipedia.
Robin McLaurin Williams (July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014) was an American actor and comedian. Known for his improvisational skills and the wide variety of characters he created on the spur of the moment and portrayed on film, in dramas and comedies alike, he is regarded as one of the greatest comedians of all time. He received numerous accolades including an Academy Award, two Primetime Emmy Awards, six Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and five Grammy Awards. Williams began performing stand-up comedy in San Francisco and Los Angeles during the mid-1970s releasing several comedy albums including Reality ... What a Concept in 1980. and He rose to fame playing the alien Mork in the ABC sitcom Mork & Mindy (1978–1982). He made his first leading film role in Popeye (1980). Williams went on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting (1997). His other Oscar-nominated roles were for Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989), and The Fisher King (1991). Williams also starred in the critically acclaimed dramas The World According to Garp (1982), Moscow on the Hudson (1984), Awakenings (1990), Patch Adams (1998), One Hour Photo (2002), and World's Greatest Dad (2009). He also starred in box office family films such as Hook (1991), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Jumanji (1995), The Birdcage (1996), and the Night at the Museum trilogy (2006–2014). He lent his voice to the animated films Aladdin (1992), Robots (2005), Happy Feet (2006), and its 2014 sequel. On August 11, 2014, at age 63, Williams died by suicide at his home in Paradise Cay, California. His autopsy revealed undiagnosed Lewy body disease.
With an HPI of 66.81, Eddie Murphy is the 2nd most famous American Comedian. His biography has been translated into 96 different languages.
Edward Regan Murphy (born April 3, 1961) is an American actor, comedian, writer, producer, and singer. 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 Emmy Award and was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2015 and the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2023.Murphy has received Golden Globe Award nominations for his performances in 48 Hrs. (1982), the Beverly Hills Cop series (1984–present), Trading Places (1983), The Nutty Professor (1996), and Dolemite Is My Name (2019). He has also won numerous awards for his work on the fantasy comedy film Dr. Dolittle (1998) and its 2001 sequel. In 2007, Murphy won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of soul singer James "Thunder" Early in the musical film Dreamgirls.Murphy has worked as a voice actor, including roles playing Mushu in Disney's Mulan (1998), Thurgood Stubbs in the sitcom The PJs (1999–2001), and Donkey in DreamWorks Animation's Shrek series (2001–2010). In some films he plays multiple roles in addition to his main character; this is intended as a tribute to one of his idols, Peter Sellers. He has played multiple roles in Coming to America (1988), Wes Craven's Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), the Nutty Professor films, Bowfinger (1999), The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002), Norbit (2007), and Meet Dave (2008). He's recently starred in the comedy films Tower Heist (2011), Dolemite Is My Name (2019), Coming 2 America (2021), and You People (2023). In 2020, he won his first Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for hosting Saturday Night Live. Murphy's films have grossed over $3.8 billion ($6.5 billion adjusted for inflation) in the United States and Canada box office, and over $6.7 billion worldwide. In 2015, his films made him the sixth-highest grossing actor in the United States. As a singer, Murphy has released three studio albums, including How Could It Be (1985), So Happy (1989), and Love's Alright (1993). He also known for singing the hit song "Party All the Time" in 1985.
With an HPI of 64.90, Bill Cosby is the 3rd most famous American Comedian. His biography has been translated into 61 different languages.
William Henry Cosby Jr. ( KOZ-bee; born July 12, 1937) is an American comedian, actor, and media personality. He made significant contributions to American and African-American culture, and gained a reputation as "America's Dad" for his portrayal of Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show (1984–1992). He has received numerous awards and honorary degrees throughout his career, many of which were revoked following sexual assault allegations made against him in 2014. Cosby began his career as a stand-up comic at the hungry i nightclub in San Francisco during the 1960s. Throughout the decade, he released several standup comedy records which consecutively earned him the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album from 1965 to 1970. He also had a starring role in the television crime show I Spy (1965–1968) opposite Robert Culp. Cosby made history when he won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 1966, making him the first African American to earn an Emmy Award for acting. His acting career continued as he starred in the sitcom The Bill Cosby Show, which ran for two seasons from 1969 to 1971. In 1972, using the Fat Albert character developed during his stand-up routines, Cosby created, produced, and hosted the animated comedy television series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids which ran until 1985, centering on a group of young friends growing up in an urban area. Throughout the 1970s, Cosby starred in various films including Sidney Poitier's Uptown Saturday Night (1974), and Let's Do It Again (1975), and Neil Simon's California Suite (1978) alongside Richard Pryor. He also starred in the original cast of The Electric Company alongside Rita Moreno and Morgan Freeman from 1971 to 1973. He was also a popular spokesperson for advertising for decades, for various products including the Jell-O ice pop treats Pudding Pop. Beginning in the 1980s, Cosby produced and starred in the television sitcom The Cosby Show, which was rated as the number one show in America from 1985 through 1989. The sitcom highlighted the experiences and growth of an affluent African-American family. Cosby produced the spin-off sitcom A Different World, which aired from 1987 to 1993. He also starred in The Cosby Mysteries (1994–1995), the sitcom Cosby (1996–2000) and hosted Kids Say the Darndest Things (1998–2000). He then created and produced the animated children's program Little Bill (1999–2004). He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2002. Cosby has been the subject of numerous sexual assault allegations which became highly publicized in 2014, after Hannibal Buress brought them back into the public spotlight during a stand-up routine, prompting more women to come forward with accusations. Following the allegations, media organizations pulled reruns of The Cosby Show and other television programs featuring Cosby from syndication. In 2018, he was convicted of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand. He was imprisoned until the conviction was vacated in June 2021 by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, for violations of Cosby's 5th Amendment and 14th Amendment due process rights. Cosby’s legal issues have continued following his release from prison.
With an HPI of 63.75, Adam Sandler is the 4th most famous American Comedian. His biography has been translated into 80 different languages.
Adam Richard Sandler (born September 9, 1966) is an American comedian, actor, screenwriter, producer, singer, and musician. Known primarily as a comedic leading actor in film and television, he has received various accolades, including nominations for three Grammy Awards, five Primetime Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Sandler was a cast member on the NBC sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live from 1990 to 1995. He then went on to star in numerous Hollywood films, cumulatively grossing over $2 billion at the worldwide box office. Sandler had an estimated net worth of $420 million in 2020, and signed a further four-movie deal with Netflix worth over $250 million.Sandler's comedic roles include Billy Madison (1995), Happy Gilmore (1996), The Waterboy (1998), The Wedding Singer (1998), Big Daddy (1999), Mr. Deeds (2002), 50 First Dates (2004), The Longest Yard (2005), Click (2006), Grown Ups (2010), Just Go with It (2011), Grown Ups 2 (2013), Blended (2014), Murder Mystery (2019) and Hubie Halloween (2020). He also voiced Davey, Whitey, and Eleanore in Eight Crazy Nights (2002) and Dracula in the first three films of the Hotel Transylvania franchise (2012–2018). Some of Sandler's comedies, such as Jack and Jill (2011), have been panned, resulting in nine Golden Raspberry Awards and 37 Raspberry Award nominations, more than any actor except Sylvester Stallone. However, Sandler has also received acclaim for his leading roles in drama films including Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love (2002), Mike Binder's Reign Over Me (2007), Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Stories (2017), the Safdie brothers' Uncut Gems (2019), and Jeremiah Zagar's Hustle (2022), with the latter three ranked as major career highlights.
With an HPI of 62.95, Steve Martin is the 5th most famous American Comedian. His biography has been translated into 54 different languages.
Stephen Glenn Martin (born August 14, 1945) is an American actor, comedian, writer, producer, and musician. He has won five Grammy Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, and was awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 2013. Additionally, he was nominated for two Tony Awards for his musical Bright Star in 2016. Among many honors, he has received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, the Kennedy Center Honors, and an AFI Life Achievement Award. In 2004, Comedy Central ranked Martin at sixth place in a list of the 100 greatest stand-up comics. The Guardian named him one of the best actors never to have received an Academy Award nomination.Martin came to public notice in the 1960s as a writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, for which he won a Primetime Emmy Award in 1969, and later as a frequent host on Saturday Night Live. In the 1970s, Martin performed his offbeat, absurdist comedy routines before sold-out theaters on national tours. Since the 1980s, having retired from stand-up comedy, Martin has become a successful actor, starring in such films as The Jerk (1979), Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982), The Man with Two Brains (1983), All of Me (1984), Three Amigos (1986), Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), L.A. Story (1991), Bowfinger (1999) and Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). He played family patriarches in Parenthood (1989), the Father of the Bride films (1991–1995), and the Cheaper by the Dozen films (2003–2005). Since 2015, Martin has embarked on several national comedy tours with fellow comedian Martin Short. In 2018, they released their Netflix special An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life for which they received three Primetime Emmy Award nominations. In 2021, he co-created and starred in his first television show, the Hulu comedy series Only Murders in the Building alongside Short and Selena Gomez where he earned three Primetime Emmy Award nominations, two Screen Actors Guild Award nominations, a Golden Globe Award nomination, and a 2021 Peabody Award nomination. In 2022, Martin and Short co-hosted Saturday Night Live together with Gomez making an appearance. Martin is also known for writing the book to the musical Bright Star (2016) and to the comedy Meteor Shower (2017), both of which premiered on Broadway; he co-wrote the music to the former. He has played banjo since an early age and has included music in his comedy routines from the beginning of his professional career. Since the 2000s he has increasingly dedicated his career to music, acting less and spending much of his professional life playing banjo, recording, and touring. He has performed with various bluegrass acts, including Earl Scruggs, with whom he won a Grammy for Best Country Instrumental Performance in 2002. His first solo music album, The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo (2009) received the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album.
With an HPI of 62.57, Whoopi Goldberg is the 6th most famous American Comedian. Her biography has been translated into 86 different languages.
Caryn Elaine Johnson (born November 13, 1955), known professionally as Whoopi Goldberg (), is an American actor, comedian, author, and television personality. A recipient of numerous accolades, she is one of 17 entertainers to win the EGOT, which includes an Emmy Award, a Grammy Award, an Academy Award ("Oscar"), and a Tony Award. In 2001, she received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Goldberg began her career on stage in 1983 with her one-woman show, Spook Show, which transferred to Broadway under the title Whoopi Goldberg, running from 1984 to 1985. She won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album for the recording of the show. Her film breakthrough came in 1985 with her role as Celie, a mistreated woman in the Deep South, in Steven Spielberg's period drama film The Color Purple, for which she won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. For her role as an eccentric psychic in the romantic fantasy film Ghost (1990), she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and a second Golden Globe Award. She starred in the comedy Sister Act (1992) and its sequel Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993), becoming the highest-paid actress at the time. She also starred in Jumpin' Jack Flash (1986), Clara's Heart (1988), Soapdish (1991), Ghosts of Mississippi (1996), and Till (2022). She also is known for voicing roles in The Lion King (1994), and Toy Story 3 (2010). On stage, Goldberg has starred in the Broadway revivals of Stephen Sondheim's musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and August Wilson's play Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. She won a Tony Award as a producer of the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. In 2011 she received her third Tony Award nomination for the stage adaptation of Sister Act (2011). On television, Goldberg portrayed Guinan in the science fiction series Star Trek: The Next Generation (1988-1993), and Star Trek: Picard (2022). Since 2007, she has co-hosted and moderated the daytime talk show The View, for which she won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show Host. She has hosted the Academy Awards ceremony four times.
With an HPI of 61.80, Ellen DeGeneres is the 7th most famous American Comedian. Her biography has been translated into 73 different languages.
Ellen Lee DeGeneres ( də-JEN-ər-əs; born January 26, 1958) is an American comedian, television host, actress, writer, and producer. She starred in the sitcom Ellen from 1994 to 1998, which earned her a Primetime Emmy Award for "The Puppy Episode". She also hosted the syndicated television talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show from 2003 to 2022, for which she received 33 Daytime Emmy Awards. Her stand-up career started in the early 1980s and included a 1986 appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. As a film actress, DeGeneres starred in Mr. Wrong (1996), EDtv (1999), and The Love Letter (1999), and provided the voice of Dory in the Disney/Pixar animated films Finding Nemo (2003) and Finding Dory (2016); for Finding Nemo, she was awarded the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress, the first time an actress won a Saturn Award for a voice performance. In 2010, she served as a judge on the ninth season of American Idol. She starred in two television sitcoms, Ellen from 1994 to 1998 and The Ellen Show from 2001 to 2002. During the fourth season of Ellen in 1997, she came out as a lesbian in an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Her character, Ellen Morgan, also came out to a therapist played by Winfrey, and the series went on to explore various LGBT issues, including the coming-out process. In 2008, she married her longtime girlfriend Portia de Rossi. DeGeneres has hosted the Academy Awards, Grammy Awards, and the Primetime Emmys. She has authored four books and started her own record company, Eleveneleven, as well as a production company, A Very Good Production. She also launched a lifestyle brand, ED Ellen DeGeneres, which comprises a collection of apparel, accessories, home, baby, and pet items. She has won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, 20 People's Choice Awards (more than any other person), and numerous other awards for her work and charitable efforts. In 2016, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In January 2020, DeGeneres received the Carol Burnett Award at the Golden Globes for her work on television, becoming the first recipient after its inaugural namesake Carol Burnett.
With an HPI of 61.62, Dick Van Dyke is the 8th most famous American Comedian. His biography has been translated into 43 different languages.
Richard Wayne Van Dyke (born December 13, 1925) is an American actor, entertainer and comedian. His award-winning career has spanned seven decades in film, television, and stage. Van Dyke is the recipient of five Primetime Emmys, a Golden Globe, a Tony, and a Grammy Award. He was into the Television Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012 and has also been recognized as a Disney Legend. He was honored with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 2013 and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2021.Van Dyke began his career as an entertainer on radio and television, in nightclubs, and on the Broadway stage. In 1961, he starred in the original production of Bye Bye Birdie alongside Chita Rivera, a role which earned him the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. Carl Reiner then cast him as Rob Petrie on the CBS television sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–1966), which made him a household name. He went on to star in the motion picture musicals Bye Bye Birdie (1963), Mary Poppins (1964), and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), and in the comedy-drama The Comic (1969). He made guest appearances on television programs Columbo (1974) and The Carol Burnett Show (1977), and starred in The New Dick Van Dyke Show (1971–74), Diagnosis: Murder (1993–2001), and Murder 101 (2006–08). Van Dyke has also made appearances in the films Dick Tracy (1990), Curious George (2006), Night at the Museum (2006), Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014), and Mary Poppins Returns (2018).
With an HPI of 60.47, Chevy Chase is the 9th most famous American Comedian. His biography has been translated into 42 different languages.
Cornelius Crane "Chevy" Chase (; born October 8, 1943) is an American comedian, actor and writer. He became a key cast member in the first season of Saturday Night Live, where his recurring Weekend Update segment became a staple of the show. As both a performer and a writer, he earned three Primetime Emmy Awards out of five nominations and two Golden Globe Award nominations.Chase's early roles include the romantic comedies Foul Play (1978) and Seems Like Old Times (1980) opposite Goldie Hawn. He portrayed Clark W. Griswold in five National Lampoon's Vacation films including Vacation (1983), European Vacation (1985), Christmas Vacation (1989), and Vegas Vacation (1997). He also played Irwin "Fletch" Fletcher in Fletch (1985) and its sequel Fletch Lives (1989). He also starred in Caddyshack (1980), Spies Like Us (1985), Three Amigos! (1986), and Hot Tub Time Machine (2010). He has hosted the Academy Awards twice (1987 and 1988) and briefly had his own late-night talk show, The Chevy Chase Show (1993). He played Pierce Hawthorne on the NBC sitcom Community from 2009 to 2014.
With an HPI of 60.36, Lucille Ball is the 10th most famous American Comedian. Her biography has been translated into 59 different languages.
Lucille Désirée Ball (August 6, 1911 – April 26, 1989) was an American actress and producer. She was nominated for 13 Primetime Emmy Awards, winning five times, and was the recipient of several other accolades, such as the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award and two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She earned many honors, including the Women in Film Crystal Award, an induction into the Television Hall of Fame, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors, and the Governors Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Ball's career began in 1929 when she landed work as a model. Shortly thereafter, she began her performing career on Broadway using the stage name Diane (or Dianne) Belmont. She later appeared in films in the 1930s and 1940s as a contract player for RKO Radio Pictures, being cast as a chorus girl or in similar roles, with lead roles in B-pictures and supporting roles in A-pictures. During this time, she met Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz, and they eloped in November 1940. In the 1950s, Ball ventured into television, where she and Arnaz created the sitcom I Love Lucy. She gave birth to their first child, Lucie, in 1951, followed by Desi Arnaz Jr. in 1953. They divorced in March 1960, and she married comedian Gary Morton in 1961.Ball produced and starred in the Broadway musical Wildcat from 1960 to 1961. In 1962, she became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu Productions, which produced many popular television series, including Mission: Impossible and Star Trek. After Wildcat, she reunited with I Love Lucy co-star Vivian Vance for The Lucy Show, which Vance left in 1965. The show continued, with Ball's longtime friend and series regular Gale Gordon, until 1968. Ball immediately began appearing in a new series, Here's Lucy, with Gordon, frequent show guest Mary Jane Croft, and Lucie and Desi Jr.; this program ran until 1974. Ball did not retire from acting completely, and in 1985 she took on a dramatic role in the television film Stone Pillow. The next year she starred in Life with Lucy, which, unlike her other sitcoms, was not well-received; it was cancelled after three months. She did not appear in film or television roles for the rest of her career and died in April 1989 from an abdominal aortic aneurysm and arteriosclerotic heart disease at the age of 77.
Pantheon has 77 people classified as comedians born between 1888 and 1990. Of these 77, 57 (74.03%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living comedians include Eddie Murphy, Bill Cosby, and Adam Sandler. The most famous deceased comedians include Robin Williams, Lucille Ball, and George Carlin.
1961 - Present
1937 - Present
1966 - Present
1945 - Present
1955 - Present
1958 - Present
1925 - Present
1943 - Present
1929 - Present
1947 - Present
1962 - Present
1954 - Present
1951 - 2014
1911 - 1989
1937 - 2008
1956 - 2022
1933 - 2014
1888 - 1964
1949 - 1984
1940 - 2005
1926 - 2017
1948 - 2003
1957 - 2008
1936 - 2017
Which Comedians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 20 most globally memorable Comedians since 1700.