20 Of The Best Stand-Up Comedians Of All Time

Making people laugh can be a thankless and unforgiving professional choice, as most stand-up comedians in the world will tell you. Certain individuals, however, have dedicated their lives to the field and have managed to bring joy and laughter to millions of people. Their stand-up persona’s are electrifying, bringing crowds to tears with their powers of observation. Here is a list of some of the best stand-up comedians to have ever picked up a mic and dared to make people laugh.

Richard Pryor

Richard Pryor’s stand-up material managed to play jump rope with the fine line that separates tragedy and comedy. His personal experiences fueled his material in the most unorthodox fashion. As you listen to one of his stories unfold, you will remain arrested in a state of shock because of the gripping account, only to be released by the ounce of humor that makes life bearable, even in the most adverse conditions. He is truly the best stand-up comedian to have ever taken centre stage.

George Carlin

George Carlin had a masterful grip on the English language. He used this skill to help many generations unlearn all the nonsense that had been bearing down upon them because of society. His observations about religion and the human condition are insightful and searing. His body of work continues to be a source of inspiration for comedians across the planet.

Bill Hicks

Bill Hicks was an outlaw, an outsider, an outlandish character who was larger than life and it shone bright in his material. His hatred for the system and everything idiotic powered his stand-up right until the very end. His short and glorious life resembled that of his iconic influence ‘Jimi Hendrix’.

Louis C.K

Bitter, miserable and lonely! These are the words you would associate with Louis C.K’s life based on his stand-up material. His unapologetic take on everything in life, right down to annoying children and incompetent airlines, speaks of a greater truth, one that is buried deep down inside each of us. The only difference is, Louis C.K is not afraid to prop up those politically incorrect emotions and display them for the world to witness.

Doug Stanhope

Watching Doug Stanhope’s stand-up trajectory is like watching a reflection of the hopes and aspirations of anyone pushing to make a difference in the world. He moved from ‘giving a f**k to ‘Who gives a f**k’ in a matter of a decade. Can you really blame him though? As he points out, “People keep bringing up abortion, and I tell them.. didn’t I solve that one in my ’04 special’?”.

Chris Rock

Chris Rock may have a huge disparity between his stand-up person and his on-screen success, but that doesn’t take away the fact that he is one of the most talented comedians the world has ever seen. He drew inspiration from all the great comedians that came before him and converted that volume of work into something that will stand the test of time.

Steve Martin

If there is one thing we can draw from Steve Martin’s on-stage persona and his many successful comedy albums, it is that it takes a rare spirit to make people laugh with just a banjo and an arrow running through your head. Martin’s brand of silliness was incomparable and the joy he could impart using that silliness was indeed magical.

Dave Chappell

Before the rise of ‘The Chappell Show‘, Dave Chappell would regularly send crowds into a state of frenzy with his hilarious material about women, life and culture. He is now a television star but his roots remain firmly grounded to his time on stage.

Robin Williams

Some called him a genius, others called him a mad man, but there was no denying that there was no one out there quite like him. His energy and delivery was enigmatic, and even though he left the world on controversial terms, it is clear that no one will ever forget Robin Williams.

Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy’s film career appears to be winding down, which would make this the perfect time for him to take to the stage once again. He was a comedic genius when he first hit comedy clubs in the 80’s. Watching his unique brand on comedy once again could do him and the world a whole lot of good.

Roseanne Barr

She is undoubtedly one of the best female stand-up comedians of all time. Her success on stage led to bigger and better things in the form of a highly popular series ‘Roseanne’. Her material was brash and poignant in the same breath, making her a unique persona to watch on stage.

Eddie Izzard

He likes to cross-dress at times, he loves his history and his ramblings are wise and unconventional. There is nothing orthodox about the way Eddie Izzard goes about his comedic career and it is always a pleasure to watch.

Steven Wright

Steven Wright had a unique delivery style that set him apart from many comedians of his generation. His slow, dreary drawl almost had an air of mystery to it, allowing him to go for the kill with a highly unassuming closing line. He might have acted casual and nonchalant about nearly every topic he covered, but if you looked closer, the intensity was unmistakable.

Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg was at one point the most widely recognized comedian on the planet. Her charm, popularity, wit and delivery took her to the very top of the comedy mountain and she has managed to stay there for some time now.

Lewis Black

If he isn’t yelling, he is cursing, and if he isn’t cursing or yelling, he is probably making a very good point. Lewis Black may dislike his mainstream status, but his talent and timing have taken him there because of good reasons.

Sam Kinison

Sam Kinison was the anti-preacher. Although his style of delivery resembled that of a moving sermon, his content and intentions were unlike any pastor you would likely come across. He owned every stage he set foot on, becoming one of the most beloved stage personalities of his time.

Mitch Hedberg

Mitch Hedberg had attained cult status by the time he finally hung up his comedic boots, and rightfully so. His unique brand of surreal humor coupled with a masterful delivery style, that relied on quirky one-liners, were unlike anything ordinary audiences had come across.

Ellen DeGeneres

She is probably one of the most beloved stand-up comedians of all time. Ellen DeGeneres took all the love that was shone onto her and converted it into the ‘Ellen DeGeneres Show‘, where she continues to help and entertain people on a daily basis.

Bill Burr

Another comedian who is unforgiving in his material of choice and his delivery style, Bill Burr is a modern great who continues to churn out excellent comedy specials on a regular basis.

Woody Allen

Before Woody Allen the actor/writer/filmmaker, there was nine years of Woody Allen, the stand-up comedian. Most comedians carry their on-stage person to their on-screen roles and Woody Allen was no different. His biting observations and quirky personality remained a strong foundation for all the great work he was yet to do in cinema.