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 82.71, 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 best comedians of all time. Williams began performing stand-up comedy in San Francisco and Los Angeles during the mid-1970s, and rose to fame playing the alien Mork in the ABC sitcom Mork & Mindy (1978–1982).After his first starring film role in Popeye (1980), Williams starred in several critically and commercially successful films including The World According to Garp (1982), Moscow on the Hudson (1984), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989), Awakenings (1990), The Fisher King (1991), Patch Adams (1998), One Hour Photo (2002), and World's Greatest Dad (2009). He also starred in box office successes such as Hook (1991), Aladdin (1992), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Jumanji (1995), The Birdcage (1996), Good Will Hunting (1997), and the Night at the Museum trilogy (2006–2014). He was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting. He also received two Primetime Emmy Awards, six Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and five Grammy Awards. On August 11, 2014, at age 63, Williams committed suicide at his home in Paradise Cay, California. His widow, Susan Schneider Williams, as well as medical experts and his autopsy, attributed his suicide to his struggle with Lewy body disease.
With an HPI of 74.50, Whoopi Goldberg is the 2nd most famous American Comedian. Her biography has been translated into 83 different languages.
Caryn Elaine Johnson (born November 13, 1955), known professionally as Whoopi Goldberg (), is an American actor, author, comedian, and television personality. A recipient of numerous accolades, she is one of 16 entertainers to win an Emmy Award, a Grammy Award, an Academy Award and a Tony Award. Goldberg started 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 performance in the romantic fantasy film Ghost (1990) as an eccentric psychic, 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), and became the highest-paid actress at the time. In theatre, 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 television, Goldberg portrayed Guinan in the science fiction series Star Trek: The Next Generation. Since 2007, she has co-hosted and moderated the daytime talk show The View, for which she won a Daytime Emmy Award. She has hosted the Academy Awards ceremony four times.
With an HPI of 74.01, Eddie Murphy is the 3rd most famous American Comedian. His biography has been translated into 94 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 was ranked No. 10 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time.In films, 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 the Chinese dragon 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). As of 2016, 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.In 2015, Murphy was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In 2020, he won his first Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for hosting Saturday Night Live. As a singer, Murphy has released three studio albums, including How Could It Be (1985), So Happy (1989), and Love's Alright (1993).
With an HPI of 73.34, Bill Cosby is the 4th most famous American Comedian. His biography has been translated into 60 different languages.
William Henry Cosby Jr. (; born July 12, 1937) is an American stand-up comedian, actor, and author. 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. In 1976, he earned his Doctor of Education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, returning to the school after completing his Masters of Arts there in 1972. His dissertation discussed the use of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids as a teaching tool in elementary schools. Beginning in the 1980s, Cosby produced and starred in the television sitcom The Cosby Show, which aired from 1984 to 1992 and 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. During this time, Cosby gained a reputation as "America's Dad" for his portrayal of Cliff Huxtable. 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 (2000–2004). In 2014, Cosby became the subject of numerous sexual assault allegations which became highly publicized during the Me Too movement. In 2018, Cosby was convicted of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand. He was imprisoned until the conviction was vacated in 2021 by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for violations of Cosby's 5th Amendment and 14th Amendment due process rights.
With an HPI of 72.32, Adam Sandler is the 5th most famous American Comedian. His biography has been translated into 76 different languages.
Adam Richard Sandler (born September 9, 1966) is an American actor, comedian, and filmmaker. He was a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1990 to 1995, before going on to star in many Hollywood films, which have combined to earn more than $2 billion at the 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 Dracula in the first three films of the Hotel Transylvania franchise (2012–2018). While some of his comedic films, including Jack and Jill (2011), have been panned, resulting in Sandler receiving nine Golden Raspberry Awards and 37 Raspberry Award nominations, more than any actor other than Sylvester Stallone, he has received critical acclaim for his dramatic performances in the dramedy films Spanglish (2004), Reign Over Me (2007), and Funny People (2009). He has also been roundly praised for his appearances in auteur led films including Punch-Drunk Love (2002) by Paul Thomas Anderson, Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Stories (2017), and the Safdie brothers' Uncut Gems (2019).
With an HPI of 71.24, Steve Martin is the 6th 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. Over his distinguished career he has earned five Grammy Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, and was awarded an Honorary Academy Award at the Academy's 5th Annual Governors Awards in 2013. 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.Martin came to public notice in the 1960s as a writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and later as a frequent host on Saturday Night Live. In the 1970s, Martin performed his offbeat, absurdist comedy routines before packed houses on national tours. Since the 1980s, having branched away from 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), Three Amigos, Little Shop of Horrors (both 1986), Roxanne, Planes, Trains and Automobiles (both 1987), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), and L.A. Story (1991). He has also starred as the family patriarch in Parenthood (1989), the Father of the Bride films (1991–1995), and the Cheaper by the Dozen films (2003–2005). In 2021, he co-created and starred in a Hulu comedy series Only Murders in the Building. Martin is also known for writing the book and lyrics to the musical Bright Star (2016), and the comedy Meteor Shower (2017) both of which premiered on Broadway. While he has played banjo since an early age, and included music in his comedy routines from the beginning of his professional career, he has increasingly dedicated his career to music since the 2000s, acting less and spending much of his professional life playing banjo, recording, and touring 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 71.04, Ellen DeGeneres is the 7th most famous American Comedian. Her biography has been translated into 70 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 and has hosted her syndicated television talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, since 2003. 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 Pixar animated films Finding Nemo (2003) and Finding Dory (2016); for 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 30 Emmys, 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 70.53, Dick Van Dyke is the 8th most famous American Comedian. His biography has been translated into 42 different languages.
Richard Wayne Van Dyke (born December 13, 1925) is an American actor, comedian, writer, singer, and dancer, whose award-winning career has spanned seven decades in film, television and the theatre. 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), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), and in the comedy-drama The Comic (1969). He made memorable 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 motion pictures 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). Van Dyke is the recipient of five Primetime Emmys, a Tony, and a Grammy Award, and was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1995. He received the Screen Actors Guild's highest honor, the SAG Life Achievement Award, in 2013. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard and has also been recognized as a Disney Legend. In 2021, Van Dyke was honored with the Kennedy Center Honors.
With an HPI of 70.09, Chevy Chase is the 9th most famous American Comedian. His biography has been translated into 41 different languages.
Cornelius Crane "Chevy" Chase (; born October 8, 1943) is an American comedian, writer and actor. Born into a prominent family, he had a variety of jobs before moving into comedy and started acting with National Lampoon. 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 writer, he earned three Primetime Emmy Awards out of five nominations.Chase had his first leading film role in the comedy Foul Play (1978), earning two Golden Globe Award nominations. He is further known for his portrayals of Clark W. Griswold in five National Lampoon's Vacation films and Irwin "Fletch" Fletcher in Fletch (1985) and its sequel Fletch Lives (1989). Other prominent titles include Caddyshack (1980), Seems Like Old Times (1980), Modern Problems (1981), Spies Like Us (1985), Three Amigos (1986), Man of the House (1995), 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 the character Pierce Hawthorne on the NBC comedy series Community from 2009 to 2014.
With an HPI of 70.08, George Carlin is the 10th most famous American Comedian. His biography has been translated into 75 different languages.
George Denis Patrick Carlin (May 12, 1937 – June 22, 2008) was an American stand-up comedian, actor, social critic, and author. Regarded as one of the most important and influential stand-up comics of all time, he was dubbed "the dean of counterculture comedians". He was known for his dark comedy and reflections on politics, the English language, psychology, religion, and taboo subjects. His "seven dirty words" routine was central to the 1978 United States Supreme Court case F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation, in which a 5–4 decision affirmed the government's power to censor indecent material on the public airwaves. The first of Carlin's 14 stand-up comedy specials for HBO was filmed in 1977. From the late 1980s, his routines focused on sociocultural criticism of American society. He often commented on American political issues and satirized American culture. He was a frequent performer and guest host on The Tonight Show during the three-decade Johnny Carson era and hosted the first episode of Saturday Night Live in 1975. His final comedy special, It's Bad for Ya, was filmed less than four months before his death from cardiac failure. In 2008, he was posthumously awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. In 2004, he placed second on Comedy Central's list of top 10 American comedians. In 2017, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him second (behind Richard Pryor) on its list of the 50 best stand-up comedians of all time.His film roles included a taxi driver in Car Wash, Frank Madras in Outrageous Fortune, Rufus in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, Eddie Detreville in The Prince of Tides, Cardinal Ignatius Glick in Dogma, Architect in Scary Movie 3, and Bart Trinké in Jersey Girl. He did voice-over roles as Zugor in Tarzan II, Fillmore in Cars, and narrated the first four seasons in the American dub of the British children's television show Thomas & Friends.
Pantheon has 77 people classified as comedians born between 1888 and 1990. Of these 77, 58 (75.32%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living comedians include Whoopi Goldberg, Eddie Murphy, and Bill Cosby. The most famous deceased comedians include Robin Williams, George Carlin, and Joan Rivers.
1955 - Present
1961 - Present
1937 - Present
1966 - Present
1945 - Present
1958 - Present
1925 - Present
1943 - Present
1929 - Present
1945 - Present
1962 - Present
1965 - Present
1951 - 2014
1937 - 2008
1933 - 2014
1949 - 1984
1940 - 2005
1926 - 2017
1911 - 1989
1888 - 1964
1957 - 2008
1948 - 2003
1916 - 1987
1936 - 2017
Which Comedians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 19 most globally memorable Comedians since 1700.