My 100+ Favorite or Most Admired Comedians

by fcullen | created - 19 Nov 2011 | updated - 18 Feb 2015 | Public

Comedians, male or female, appear on this list because I admire them (perhaps more than I enjoy them) or enjoy them (perhaps more than I admire them. I chose only those comedians I have watched extensively in movies (mostly) or on stage (less), seen on television or heard on old network radio. From what I have read that has been written by reliable witnesses or from the snippets of ancient films that I've seen, I am sure that my list should include Fred Stone (Montgomery & Stone), Dan Leno, Little Tich, Ernest Hogan, Joe Weber & Lew Fields, Flournoy Miller & Aubrey Lyles, Ned Harrigan & Tony Hart, and Bert Williams & George W, Walker (and Aida Overton Walker) at the least, among many others. But, as said, I've not seen them or seen enough of their work. With very few exceptions, all my favorite and admired comedians were/are adept at physical acting/clowning, and many were accomplished musicians--as instrumentalists, dancers and singers, which gives them an insurmountable edge over most stand-ups in my opinion. Yes, I have ranked the first 40 or 50 comedians in some degree of order (but the later additions are alphabetical). Perhaps it depends on a particular memory on a particular day or simply balancing the enthusiasm of my youth against the preferences of an older self. Lastly, I expect some readers will take issue with my selections, mainly because they omit a favorite of theirs. A favorite of theirs may also be a favorite of mine whom I neglected to recall, and so I'll add them to what will become, I'm sure, a 100 plus list. I'd like to read your comments, but IMDB will not allow me to read your comments unless I join Facebook. I refuse to join any social media: FB, Twits, etc. So if you'd like to comment directly to me, please e-mail me at, and I'll try to post your comments within my intro to my lists. Thank you.

1. Buster Keaton

Actor | The General

Joseph Frank Keaton was born on October 4, 1895 in Piqua, Kansas, to Joe Keaton and Myra Keaton. Joe and Myra were Vaudevillian comedians with a popular, ever-changing variety act, giving Keaton an eclectic and interesting upbringing. In the earliest days on stage, they traveled with a medicine ...

My favorite Keaton feature-length movies: The General, The Navigator, Sherlock Jr, Steanboat Bill Jr, The Cameraman, Parlor Bedroom & Bath,

2. Beatrice Lillie

Actress | Thoroughly Modern Millie

Dubbed "the funniest woman in the world", comedienne Beatrice Lillie was born the daughter of a Canadian government official and grew up in Toronto. She sang in a family trio act with her mother, Lucy, and her piano-playing older sister, Muriel. Times were hard and the ambitious mother eventually ...

Bea Lillie never made a film that showed her at her best. Are You There? (of which a 30-minute fragment can sometimes be found on VHS) is the most representative film of her work. It's a shame that her companion/agent turned down Mary Poppins, for Bea Lillie would have been perfect for that role. Bea has good scenes in Dr Rhythm and Thoroughly Modern Millie. On Approval may be her best film but it offers her in somewhat of a departure from her more bizarre and witty stage persona. Lady Peel (she was married to a British Knight) blended an ultra sophisticated manner with some outlaandishly eccentric physicality.

3. The Marx Brothers

Actor | Duck Soup

The Marx Brothers, Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo are a group of actors known for Duck Soup (1933), Animal Crackers (1930) Horse Feathers (1932) A Night in Casablanca (1946) A Day at the Races (1937) and A Night at the Opera (1935). They began their careers in Vaudeville, before becoming stars in ...

Groucho, Harpo & Chico: my favorite Marx Films (in order): Animal Crackers, Duck Soup, NIght at the Opera, Day at the Races & Night in Casablanca.

4. Charles Chaplin

Writer | The Great Dictator

Considered to be one of the most pivotal stars of the early days of Hollywood, Charlie Chaplin lived an interesting life both in his films and behind the camera. He is most recognized as an icon of the silent film era, often associated with his popular character, the Little Tramp; the man with the ...

I think the Mutual shorts show Chaplin at his best. Of his features I prefer Modern Times and (yes) Limelight, but most critics and fans will agree that Gold Rush and City Lights are better.

5. Harry Langdon

Actor | Tramp, Tramp, Tramp

Langdon first performed when he ran away from home at the age of 12-13 to join a travelling medicine show. In 1903 he scored a lasting success in vaudeville with an act called "Johnny's New Car" which he performed for twenty years. In 1923, he signed with Principal Pictures as a series star, but ...

His best features are 1) Tramp, Tramp, Tramp and 2) The Strong Man. I enjoy the quirky Hallelujah! I'm a Bum and most of Harry's short silent films, especially Saturday Afternoon (a silent with sidekick Vernon Dent) and many of his short talkies, especially The Head Guy (shows Harry dancing). Contrary to the lies about Langdon that Frank Capra spread (when Harry had to fire Capra, that soon-to-be-great director-but-venal-man sent a poison pen letter to every studio in Hollywood to try to destroy Langdon). Decades later, after Langdon's death, Capra used his autobiography to claim credit for inventing Harry's screen persona, but Langdon, like Keaton, was a vaudeville headliner with an already developed characterization when he came to Hollywood in 1925. Langdon had the misfortune to score in silent films just as sound was becoming feasible and studios dumped expensive silent stars for far less expensive hopefuls from Broadway. Still Harry's 1930s sound shorts for Hal Roach are delightful, and even in the last few years of his life, Langdon enlivened some cheaply-produced features like Misbehaving Husbands and his two films with another Roach alumnus, Charlie Rogers. In all, Harry Langdon made almost 100 films, about two dozen of them features and most of the them with sound.

6. Stan Laurel

Actor | Sons of the Desert

Stan Laurel came from a theatrical family, his father was an actor and theatre manager, and he made his stage debut at the age of 16 at Pickard's Museum, Glasgow. He traveled with Fred Karno's vaudeville company to the United States in 1910 and again in 1913. While with that company he was Charles ...

Although Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy had solo movie careers before they were paired, they reached the top shlef of comedy as the team of Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy

7. Oliver Hardy

Actor | Sons of the Desert

Although his parents were never in show business, as a young boy Oliver Hardy was a gifted singer and, by age eight, was performing with minstrel shows. In 1910 he ran a movie theatre, which he preferred to studying law. In 1913 he became a comedy actor with the Lubin Company in Florida and began ...

Although Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy had solo movie careers before they were paired, they reached the top shlef of comedy as the team of Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy

8. Leon Errol

Actor | Higher and Higher

Leon Errol was born on July 3, 1881 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia as Leonce Errol Simms. He was an actor, known for Higher and Higher (1943), The Girl from Mexico (1939) and The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944). He was married to Stella Bertha Nelson (aka Stella Chatelaine, dancer). He died ...

In my opinion the most underrated and ignored of the great comedians. Born in Australia (given date is 1881, but 1876 or thereabout is more likely otherwise he would have graduated from pre-med school at age 16!), he wrote show, played Shakespeare and circus before he left for the USA in 1907 with his wife. In the USA he worked West Coast music hall, then managed and starred in burlesque troupe (Roscoe Arbuckle was one of his discoveries) before he joined the Ziegfeld Follies in 1911 and played in big-time vaudeville until the 1920s. He was the first big white star who chose to team with a black comedian (Bert Williams) in four editions of the Ziegfeld Follies 1912-13-14-15 (and was the only white pallbearer at Bert's funeral). Leon also staged four those editions of the Follies. Then, between 1911 and 1929, Leon Errol starred (and usually directed as well) 20 Broadway shows! Errol starred in seven silent films (leading ladies included Dorothy Gish, Nita Naldi, Dorothy Mackail & Colleen Moore), and after sound came in, he made over 100 shorts and about 60 features. Among his shorts, do not miss The Jitters (1938, RKO). When he died in 1951 (at age 75), he had signed to make a situation comedy series for TV. -- Frank Cullen

9. Sylvester Wiere

Actor | Road to Rio

Sylvester Wiere was born in Prague, in 1910, into a family having a long tradition in show business. He was the youngest of three brothers. In 1922, at the age of twelve, he and his brothers, Herbert Wiere and Harry Wiere, formed The Wiere Brothers comedy act and began performing in theatres and on...

of the Wiere Brothers

10. Harry Wiere

Actor | Road to Rio

Harry Wiere was born in Berlin, Germany in 1906, into a family having a long tradition in show business. He was the oldest of three brothers. In 1922, he and his brothers, Herbert Wiere and Sylvester Wiere, formed The Wiere Brothers comedy act and began performing in theatres and on stages. They ...

of the Wiere Brothers

11. Herbert Wiere

Actor | Road to Rio

Herbert Wiere was born in Vienna in 1909 into a family having a long tradition in show business. In 1922, he and his brothers, Harry Wiere and Sylvester Wiere, formed The Wiere Brothers comedy act and began performing in theatres and on stages. They came to America for the first time in 1935 and ...

of the Wiere Brothers

12. Bobby Clark

Actor | Kraft Television Theatre

Famed vaudeville comedian Bobby Clark was born in Springfield, Ohio on June 16, 1888. When he was 12 years old, Bobby and his classmate Paul McCullough created a tumbling act that they took on the road. The duo toured with a traveling minstrel troupe before joining a circus as clowns. The clown act...

of Clark & (Paul) McCullough

13. Ed Wynn

Actor | Alice in Wonderland

An old-fashioned comedian, who, by recommendation by his son Keenan Wynn, became one of the world's most beloved clowns, and one of the best actors of his time. He was born on November 9, 1886. He performed in the Ziegfeld Follies, and later had a son Keenan in 1916. He later wrote his own shows, ...

In his day (1920s-1930s) he was consider along with Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin as one of the USA;s three great comedians. Since then, most people would substitute Buster Keaton in Wynn's place. Ed Wynn was a top star of vaudeville, Broadway show and network radio, but not as successful in movies until his old age aand a new career in Disney films and with Jerry Lewis. At the same time, he, like oother older comedians (Milton Berle, Chico Marx, Buster Keaton, Bobby Clark and Bert Lahr) worked successfully in dramas as well as comedy. On Broadway he produced, wrote and starred in his shows. In the early days of television, Ed Wynn and Buster Keaton were the biggest stars to give TV a try. Both left their weekly shows after two years only because TV ate up their material faster than they could create it.

14. Mae West

Actress | I'm No Angel

Mae West was born 1892 in Queens, New York, to "Battling Jack" West and Matilda Doelger. She began her career as a child star in vaudeville, and later went on to write her own plays, including "SEX", for which she was arrested. Though her first movie role, at age 40, was a small part in Night After...

Mae West and her character of Diamond Lil were one and the same in every movie and every stage appearance she made. Only her closest friends saw much beyond the image she sold. Like other great comedians, she wrote most of her material, all her plays and much of her movie scripts. She was barely five feet tall but she wore high platform shoes. Hollywood make-up men said her skin was so fine that she needed only the barest apllication of makeup (false eyelashes were another matter). Her comedic technique included 'working slower' than the other cast members. Seldom did she work fast (one rare occasion was in Go West when she was preparing to sing opera). Mae was well-liked by stage and film crews for her professionalism, even temper and consideration of their talents and work. Her boyfriends remained friends and spoke highly of her even when she turned them in for newer models.

15. W.C. Fields

Actor | It's a Gift

William Claude Dukenfield was the eldest of five children born to Cockney immigrant James Dukenfield and Philadelphia native Kate Felton. He went to school for four years, then quit to work with his father selling vegetables from a horse cart. At eleven, after many fights with his alcoholic father ...

16. Bert Lahr

Actor | The Wizard of Oz

Fittingly known to be a "Leo" for his horoscope, Bert Lahr is always remembered as the Cowardly Lion in (and the farmer "Zeke") The Wizard of Oz (1939). But during his acting career, he has been known for being in burlesque, vaudeville, and Broadway.

Dropped out of high school at the age of fifteen ...

17. Bill Irwin

Actor | Rachel Getting Married

Bill Irwin was born on April 11, 1950, in Santa Monica, California, to Elizabeth (Mills), a teacher, and Horace G. Irwin, an aerospace engineer. He is the oldest of three children, and is of English, Irish, and German descent. Irwin spent a year in Belfast, Northern Ireland, as an exchange student....

18. Martha Raye

Actress | McMillan & Wife

Known as "The Big Mouth" and considered the female equivalent to Bob Hope, Martha Raye was an American icon in her own right.

She was born Margy Reed in Butte, Montana, to Maybelle Hazel (Hooper) and Peter Reed, Jr., vaudeville performers. She had Irish, German, and English ancestry. Raye made her ...

19. The Ritz Brothers

Soundtrack | Behind the Eight Ball

They followed in the huge clown shoes of the Marx Brothers and stumbled a bit in doing so, but the Ritz Brothers slapstick trio (comprised of Al Ritz, Jimmy Ritz and Harry Ritz) were troupers all the way as they did their part in helping American audiences forget about the Depression and World War ...

20. Jimmy Savo

Actor | Merry-Go-Round of 1938

Jimmy Savo was born on July 31, 1892 in New York City, New York, USA as James Vincent Sava. He was an actor, known for Merry-Go-Round of 1938 (1937), CBS Television Workshop (1952) and Girl in the Case (1935). He was married to Lina Farina Vecchi, Frances Victoria Browder and Joan Franza. He died ...

21. Harold Lloyd

Actor | Safety Last!

Born in Buchard, Nebraska, USA to Elizabeth Fraser and 'J. Darcie 'Foxy' Lloyd' who fought constantly and soon divorced (at the time a rare event), Harold Clayton Lloyd was nominally educated in Denver and San Diego high schools and received his stage training at the School of Dramatic Art (San ...

22. Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle

Actor | Leap Year

Roscoe Arbuckle, one of nine children, was the baby of the family who weighed a reported 16 pounds at birth. Born in Smith Center, Kansas, on March 24, 1887, his family moved to California when he was a year old. At age eight he appeared on the stage. His first part was with the Webster-Brown Stock...

23. Sid Caesar

Actor | Grease

Comedian, saxophonist, composer, actor and musician, he performed within the orchestras of Charlie Spivak, Shep Fields and Claude Thornhill as saxophonist. Later, as super-hip jazz musician "Cool Cees" in television skits, he played tenor saxophone, and sang with the satirical trio "The Hair Cuts" ...

24. Imogene Coca

Actress | National Lampoon's Vacation

Imogene Coca is best remembered for playing opposite Sid Caesar in the live 90-minute Your Show of Shows (1950), which ran every Saturday night in regular season on NBC from February 1950 to June 1954. Their repertoire of comedy acts included the very memorable, hilarious, timeless and ...

25. Chic Johnson

Actor | 50 Million Frenchmen

Chic Johnson was born on March 5, 1896 in Chicago, Illinois, USA as Harold Ogden Johnson. He was an actor, known for 50 Million Frenchmen (1931), Hellzapoppin' (1941) and Ghost Catchers (1944). He was married to Catherine Valentine Creed. He died on February 26, 1962 in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

26. Ole Olsen

Actor | 50 Million Frenchmen

Ole Olsen was born on November 6, 1892 in Peru, Indiana, USA as John Sigvard Olsen. He was married to Eileen O'Dare and Lillian Clem. He died on January 26, 1963 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.

27. Charlotte Greenwood

Actress | Oklahoma!

Charlotte Greenwood was born Frances Charlotte Greenwood on June 25, 1890, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was a sickly child and her father left the family when she was very young. Charlotte grew into a healthy, six foot tall woman. She started her career dancing in vaudeville where she became ...

28. Joan Davis

Actress | Hold That Ghost

Widely popular comedienne appeared in some movies and on radio in the 40s and on early television. She starred in the popular television series, I Married Joan (1952), with Jim Backus as her husband and her real-life daughter, Beverly Wills as her sister.

Joan died of a sudden heart attack in 1961. ...

29. Bette Midler

Soundtrack | The First Wives Club

Multi Grammy Award-winning singer/comedienne/author Bette Midler has also proven herself to be a very capable actress in a string of both dramatic and comedic roles. Midler was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on December 1, 1945. She is the daughter of Ruth (Schindel), a seamstress, and Fred Midler, a ...

30. Lou Costello

Actor | Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein

Lou Costello was born Louis Francis Cristillo in Paterson, New Jersey, to Helen (Rege) and Sebastiano Cristillo. His father was from Calabria, Italy, and his mother was an American of Italian, French, and Irish ancestry. Raised in Paterson, Costello dropped out of high school and headed west to ...

31. Mantan Moreland

Actor | Charlie Chan in the Secret Service

Although his brand of humor has been reviled for decades, black character actor Mantan Moreland parlayed his cocky but jittery character into a recognizable presence in the late 1930s and early 1940s, appearing in a long string of comedy thrillers . . . and was considered quite funny at the time!


32. Max Wall

Actor | Jabberwocky

Max Wall was born on March 12, 1908 in Brixton, London, England as Maxwell George Lorimer. He was an actor and writer, known for Jabberwocky (1977), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and Little Dorrit (1987). He died on May 22, 1990 in London.

Bizarre, nearly ghoulish appearance, bizarre sense of comedy. Eccentric comedy dancer, physical comedian and character actor.

33. Kaye Ballard

Actress | The Girl Most Likely

Singing funny girl Kaye Ballard was born to perform...and perform she did, in a career spanning eight decades. With a strong comedy background and tunnel mouth to rival Martha Raye, the broad and bouncy trouper drew laughs on the musical stage, in night clubs, in recordings and on TV. As the ...

34. Dusty Fletcher

Actor | Killer Diller

Dusty Fletcher was born on July 7, 1900 in El Dorado, Arkansas, USA as Clinton Fletcher. He died on March 15, 1954.

Dusty was a star comedian of black revues and vaudeville. His few films include the short "Open the Door Richard" and the features-length Killer Diller and Boardinghouse Blues.

35. Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson

Actor | It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

The son of a minstrel and circus tightrope walker, Eddie Anderson developed a gravel voice early in life which would become his trademark to fame. He joined his older brother Cornelius as members of "The Three Black Aces" during his vaudeville years, singing for pennies in the hotel lobby. He ...

36. Jack Benny

Actor | The Jack Benny Program

The son of a saloon keeper, Jack Benny (born Benny Kubelsky) began to study the violin at the age six, and his "ineptness" at it, would later become his trademark (in reality, he was a very accomplished player). When given the opportunity to play in live theatre professionally, Benny quit school ...

His great strenths were his judgment of what was funny, his modest artitic ego and his common sense. He assembled a top flight supporting cast of comedians and stooges for whom he largely played straightman. His characterization gradually changed over the decades, as he aged, from sophistoicated ladies man to egotistical and stingy patsy. His most suitable medium was network radio where his excellent creative crew (including Mel Blanc) used sound to better effect than any other comedy show.

37. Edgar Bergen

Actor | Fun & Fancy Free

Edgar Bergen was born on February 16, 1903 in Chicago, Illinois, USA as Edgar John Berggren. He was an actor, known for Fun and Fancy Free (1947), The Muppet Movie (1979) and Letter of Introduction (1938). He was married to Frances Bergen. He died on September 30, 1978 in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

What was more unlikely than the great success of a ventriloquist Edgar Bergen on sightless network radio? Fortunately, Bergen's skill was not as a technician but as a comedy writer and staightman for his most successful comedy partner, the brash, sophisticated and wise-beyond-his-years wooden vent doll, Charlie McCarthy, that Bergen voiced. Bergen's top skills were writing clever comedy dialogue and seemingly overlapping his dialogue as himself and his dialogue as Charlie. His act worked best in radio and nightclubs. Film never quite knew how to stage his (or any vent's act until Jay Johnson's on TV's "Soap").

38. Fanny Brice

Actress | Be Yourself!

Fanny Brice was a popular and influential American comedienne, singer, theatre and film actress, who made many stage, radio and film appearances but is best remembered as the creator and star of the top-rated radio comedy series, The Baby Snooks Show. Thirteen years after her death, she was ...

A shrewd comedian and excellent pop singer, she was one of many female comedians who performed what the Brits lovingly call a "grotesque'. But while some women comedians capitalized on their height (Charlotte Greenwood & Edna Mae Oliver) or lack of it (Daphne Pollard), their avoidupois (Marie Dressler & Trixi Friganza) or lanky appearance (Nellie Wallace & Joan Davis), Fanny's burlesk of vamps, ballerinas, torch singers was done with a wink---she didn't let the audience forget that she was a attractive woman burlesking glamor and high art.

39. Joe E. Brown

Actor | Some Like It Hot

Joe E. Brown happily claimed that he was the only youngster in show business who ran away from home to join the circus with the blessings of his parents. In 1902, the ten-year-old Brown joined a circus tumbling act called the Five Marvellous Ashtons that toured various circuses and vaudeville ...

Although critics do not include him in their articles about the "great clowns," it is fair to say, given the number of films he made in the late 1920s. throughout the 1930s and the first half of the 1940s, and the huge cumulative box office his movies earned for Warner Brothers, that Joe E. Brown probably ranks as the most popular comedian of the Hollywood Studio talkie era. And few comedians come out of retirement so successfully that their final major film is regarded their best ("Some Like It Hot")?

40. Carol Burnett

Actress | The Carol Burnett Show

The entertainment world has enjoyed a five-decade love affair with comedienne/singer Carol Burnett. A peerless sketch performer and delightful, self-effacing personality who rightfully succeeded Lucille Ball as the carrot-topped "Queen of Television Comedy," it was Burnett's traumatic childhood ...

The last of the female physical and musical comedians, her TV variety show series (1967-78) mainstained a high level of comedy and musical numbers for its entire run.

41. George Burns

Actor | Oh, God!

George Burns was an American actor, comedian, singer, and published author. He formed a comedy duo with his wife Gracie Allen (1895-1964), and typically played the straight man to her zany roles. Following her death, Burns started appearing as a solo performer. He once won an Academy Award for Best...

Burns made his earliest success as the straighman to comic partner Graice Allen then, after her death, reinvented his character as a wise, randy elder statesman of stand-up comedy and comedy actor. He ranks as one of the top straightmen along with Bud Abbott and Moe Howard. Was in great demand for comedy concerts and Vegas-style shows almost until his death at 100 years of age. A success in every branch of showbiz from vaude to films, radio-TV, nightclubs and recordings.

42. Gracie Allen

Actress | A Damsel in Distress

Gracie Allen was born on July 26, 1895 in San Francisco, California, USA as Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen. She was an actress, known for A Damsel in Distress (1937), The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (1950) and The Gracie Allen Murder Case (1939). She was married to George Burns. She died ...

43. Eddie Cantor

Soundtrack | Kid Millions

Singer, songwriter ("Merrily We Roll Along"), comedian, author and actor, educated in public schools. He made his first public appearance in Vaudeville in 1907 at New York's Clinton Music Hall, then became a member of the Gus Edwards Gang, later touring vaudeville with Lila Lee as the team Cantor &...

Many comedians and critics do not credit Cantor for his comedic gifts but categorize him as a song-&-dance man. That is likely because off-stage in the company of other comedians, Cantor wasn't funny. Neither were Charlie Chaplin or Ed Wynn. Also, by the time Cantor starred on TV in the 1950s, he was no longer the "Apostle of Pep." But watch any of his 1930s mvies he made for SAm Goldwyn, and you see an inventive comedian at work in well-made films. His schlemiel with chutzpah characterization presaged Danny Kaye's schnook and Woody Allen's sexually-stirred nerd.

44. John Cleese

Actor | A Fish Called Wanda

John Cleese was born on October 27, 1939, in Weston-Super-Mare, England, to Muriel Evelyn (Cross) and Reginald Francis Cleese. He was born into a family of modest means, his father being an insurance salesman; but he was nonetheless sent off to private schools to obtain a good education. Here he ...

45. Michael Palin

Actor | Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Michael Palin is an English comedian, actor, writer and television presenter. He was one of the members of the comedy group Monty Python.

After the Monty Python television series ended in 1974, the Palin/Jones team worked on Ripping Yarns, an intermittent television comedy series broadcast over ...

46. Tim Conway

Actor | 30 Rock

Funny man Tim Conway was born on December 15th, 1933 in Willoughby, Ohio, to Sophia (Murgoiu) and Daniel Conway, a pony groomer. He was a fraternity man at Bowling Green State University, served in the army, and started his career working for a radio station.

Conway got into comedy when he started ...

47. Dudley Moore

Actor | Arthur

Dudley Moore, the gifted comedian who had at least three distinct career phases that brought him great acclaim and success, actually started out as a musical prodigy as a child. He was born in Dagenham, Essex, England, in 1935, to working class parents, Ada Francis (Hughes), an English secretary, ...

48. Peter Cook

Actor | The Princess Bride

One of four stars of the London and New York revues Beyond the Fringe and Beyond the Fringe (with Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett, and Dudley Moore). Later created scatological comedy routine "Derek & Clive" with Moore.

49. Phyllis Diller

Actress | A Bug's Life

Diller put out an autobiography in 2005 in her late 80s, and entitled it "Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse", which pretty much says it all when recalling the misfit life and career of the fabulous, one-of-a-kind Phyllis Diller. It may inspire all those bored, discouraged and/or directionless ...

50. Rosetta Duncan

Actress | It's a Great Life

Composer, songwriter ("Rememb'ring") and entertainer, one of The Duncan Sisters. She played Topsy in the Broadway musical "Topsy and Eva" for which she wrote songs. With her sister, she also appeared in "Doing Our Bit", "She's a Good Fellow", and "Tip Top", and also in vaudeville. Joining ASCAP in ...

51. Jimmy Durante

Actor | It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

First wife Jeanne died in 1943. Wed second wife, Marjorie Little after 16 year courtship when she was 39 and he 67 Marjorie Little had been the hatcheck girl at the Copacabana. Durante and his second wife adopted a baby girl, Cecelia Alicia on Christmas day 1961. Durante doted on "CeCe" until his ...

52. Stepin Fetchit

Actor | Judge Priest

Stepin Fetchit remains one of the most controversial movie actors in American history. While he was undoubtedly one of the most talented physical comedians ever to do his shtick on the Big Screen, achieving the rare status of being a character actor/supporting player who actually achieved superstar...

53. Billy Gilbert

Actor | His Girl Friday

The son of singers in the Metropolitan Opera, Billy Gilbert began performing in vaudeville at age 12. He developed a drawn-out, explosive sneezing routine that became his trademark (he was the model for, and voice of, Sneezy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)). Gilbert's exquisite comic ...

54. Eric Sykes

Actor | Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

'Eric Sykes' started as a radio scriptwriter but he soon found he could perform as well as write. The slight handicap of being very hard of hearing doesn't interfere with his wonderful comic timing. The spectacles he wears have no lenses but contain a bone conducting hearing aid.

55. Spike Milligan

Actor | The Bed Sitting Room

Spike was born an 'Army Brat', the son of an Irish Captain in the British Raj in India. Educated in a series of Roman Catholic schools in India and at Lewisham Polytechnic in England, he spent his formative years playing the fool and playing the trumpet in local jazz bands.

He joined the British ...

56. Paul Reubens

Actor | Pee-wee's Playhouse

Paul Reubens was born Paul Rubenfeld on August 27, 1952 in Peekskill, New York, to Judy (Rosen), a teacher, and Milton Rubenfeld, a car salesman who had flown for the air forces of the U.S., U.K., and Israel, becoming one of the latter country's pioneering pilots. Paul grew up in Sarasota, Florida,...

Better known as Pee Wee Herman,

57. Bob Hope

Actor | The Ghost Breakers

Comedian Bob Hope was born Leslie Townes Hope in Eltham, London, England, the fifth of seven sons of Avis (Townes), light opera singer, and William Henry Hope, a stonemason from Weston-super-Mare, Somerset. His maternal grandmother was Welsh. Hope moved to Bristol before emigrating with his parents...

Based on the final half of his career it's hard to justify Hope's inclusion on this list, but judging him by his best work in an overexposed career on Broadway, Hollywood, radio & TV (His 1930s and early 1940s movies, his partnership with Bing Crosby in some of the Road movies and, expecially, his masterful hosting of the Academy Awards on about 20 occasions. Ar his peak, he was a masterof light comedyand song & dance, and was credible in physical comedy.

58. Curly Howard

Actor | Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise

Jerome "Curly" Howard, the rotund, bald Stooge with the high voice was the most popular member of The Three Stooges. His first stage experience was as a comedic conductor for the Orville Knapp Band in 1928. Curly joined The Three Stooges in 1932, replacing his brother Shemp Howard. He made more ...

59. Moe Howard

Actor | The Three Stooges Meet Hercules

Moe Howard, the "Boss Stooge" and brother of Stooges Curly Howard and Shemp Howard, began his acting career in 1909 by playing bit roles in silent Vitagraph films. At 17 he joined a troupe working on a showboat and also appeared in several two-reel comedy shorts. In 1922 he, brother Shemp and Larry...

What must presage any evaaluation of the Three Stooges is that they were forced (for twenty years and until old age) to grind out film comedy at a pace and with a budget that did not allow for decnet scripts, production or editing and were usually helmed by bottom-of-the-barrel directors. Moe Howard was not only a good comedian with excellent timing and an original characterization (a bully only a trifle smarter than Curley, Shemp or Larry), he was one of the finest straightmen in the business. He could also work solo, as he did later in his career doing stand-up.

60. Shemp Howard

Actor | Scrambled Brains

Shemp Howard was born Samuel Horwitz in Brooklyn, New York, USA. He was also the brother of fellow stooges Moe Howard and Curly Howard. Larry Fine was not related to any of the other stooges.

When not working with The Three Stooges, Shemp made a lot of feature film appearances, such as The Bank Dick...

A nervous and gentle man, Shemp Hpoward was uncomfortable as one of Ted Healy's Stooges and Healy's roughhouse style, and Shemp went solo and supported comedians such as W. C. Fields, Olsen & Johnson and Abbott & Costello. When his brother Moe later pulled out of Healy's act and formed The Three Stooges, brother Jerry (as Curly) became the third Stooge (along with Moe and Larry Fine). When Curly became too ill to work, Shemp loyally gave up his lucrative solo career to rejoin Moe and Larry as the Third Stooge.

61. Willie Howard

Actor | The Smart Way

Willie Howard was born on April 13, 1886 in Neustadt, Germany as Wilhelm Levkowitz. He was an actor, known for The Smart Way (1937), How to Go to a French Restaurant (1941) and Playboy Number One (1937). He was married to Emily Miles. He died on January 14, 1949 in Paramus, New Jersey, USA.

62. Eric Idle

Actor | Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Eric Idle is an English comedian, actor, author, singer, playwright, director, and songwriter. Co-creator of Monty Python on TV, stage, and five films, including The Life of Brian and The Holy Grail, which he later adapted for the stage with John Du Prez as Monty Python's Spamalot, winning the Tony...

63. Andy Kaufman

Actor | Taxi

Referred to by some as a dadaistic comedian, Andy Kaufman took comedy and performance art to the edges of irrationality and blurred the dividing line between reality and imagination. Born in New York City on January 17, 1949, the first son of Stanley and Janice Kaufman, Andy grew up on New York in ...

64. Danny Kaye

Soundtrack | The Danny Kaye Show

Danny Kaye left school at the age of 13 to work in the so-called Borscht Belt of Jewish resorts in the Catskill Mountains. It was there he learned the basics of show biz. From there he went through a series of jobs in and out of the business. In 1939, he made his Broadway debut in "Straw Hat Revue,...

65. Tim Conway

Actor | 30 Rock

Funny man Tim Conway was born on December 15th, 1933 in Willoughby, Ohio, to Sophia (Murgoiu) and Daniel Conway, a pony groomer. He was a fraternity man at Bowling Green State University, served in the army, and started his career working for a radio station.

Conway got into comedy when he started ...

66. Jerry Lewis

Actor | The Nutty Professor

Jerry Lewis (born March 16, 1926) was an American comedian, actor, singer, film producer, screenwriter and film director. He is known for his slapstick humor in film, television, stage and radio. He was originally paired up with Dean Martin in 1946, forming the famed comedy team of Martin and Lewis...

When he joined his one-time singer-straightman partner, the duo of Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis immediately caught the public's fancy and they zoomed to the top. Lewis was fresh, exciting and disciplined. When the tram split, it was assumed that Martin would sink and Lewis would continue his rise to fame/ Wrong. Instead Lewis had trouble fining his role as asolo while Martin became more famous and successful. Lewis' solo screen personality became goofy and overbearing (and his movies were slackly paced) while his TV and live stage persona went Las Vegas-y, a pose that suited Martin but seemed smarmy for Lewis. Later in life, Lewis reclaimed himself professionally as a bizarre older comedian--sort of a six-foot eccentric, and became a credible straight actor.

67. Steve Martin

Writer | Roxanne

Steve Martin was born on August 14, 1945 in Waco, Texas, USA as Stephen Glenn Martin to Mary Lee (née Stewart; 1913-2002) and Glenn Vernon Martin (1914-1997), a real estate salesman and aspiring actor. He was raised in Inglewood and Garden Grove in California. In 1960, he got a job at the Magic ...

68. Mike Nichols

Director | The Graduate

He, along with the other members of the "Compass Players" including Elaine May, Paul Sills, Byrne Piven, Joyce Hiller Piven and Edward Asner helped start the famed "Second City Improv" company. They used the games taught to them by fellow cast mate, Paul Sills 's mother, Viola Spolin. He later ...

69. Elaine May

Actress | Small Time Crooks

Elaine May was born on April 21, 1932 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA as Elaine Iva Berlin. She is an actress and writer, known for Small Time Crooks (2000), A New Leaf (1971) and Primary Colors (1998). She was previously married to David L. Rubinfine, Sheldon Harnick and Marvin May.

70. Polly Moran

Actress | Politics

She was one rowdy, no-holds-barred entertainer. Comedienne Polly Moran was considered second only to perhaps Louise Fazenda as Mack Sennett's funniest lady during her silent-era heyday. Born in 1883, Polly was made for vaudeville, touring all over the world, notably Europe. Sennett snapped her up ...

71. Zero Mostel

Actor | The Producers

Zero Mostel was born Samuel Joel Mostel on February 28, 1915 in Brooklyn, New York, one of eight children of an Orthodox Jewish family. Raised in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the young Zero, known as Sammy, developed his talent for painting and drawing at art classes provided by the ...

72. Mabel Normand

Actress | Mickey

Mabel Normand was one of the comedy greats of early film. In an era when women are deemed 'not funny enough' it seems film history has forgotten her contributions. Her films debuted the Keystone Cops, Charlie Chaplin's tramp and the pie in the face gag. She co-starred with both Chaplin and Roscoe "...

73. Richard Pryor

Actor | Superman III

Highly influential, and always controversial, African-American actor/comedian who was equally well known for his colorful language during his live comedy shows, as for his fast paced life, multiple marriages and battles with drug addiction. He has been acknowledged by many modern comic artist's as ...

Richard Pryor should be higher on this list becaused he was one of the great monologists, asmportant or more sothan Lenny Bruce. But his films, with a few exceptions like Jo Jo Dancer Your Life Is Calling, were more silly and run-of-the-mill than daring. Post-WWII African American performers appeared suave & intelligent or swaggerly aggressive.Pryor married the old-style nervous ineffectual but hollow braggart of old-school black comics with the observation comedy of the new.

74. Martin Short

Actor | The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

Martin Short was born on March 26, 1950 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada as Martin Hayter Short. He is an actor and writer, known for The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006), Inherent Vice (2014) and ¡Three Amigos! (1986). He was previously married to Nancy Dolman.

One of the more recent of physically adept comedians who also has vocal and acting ability, Short never got the starring feature film roles that allowed him full play in a lead role (Three Amigos was a debatable exception). Mostly, he was hired in films as a supoporting comedian to bring life to a film starring less funny comedians. On Broadway he a few starring oppotunities in the Goodby Girl and Little Me. The latter was a revival of a show that originally starred Sid Caesar in multiple madcap comedy roles, the type of feat that Bert Lahr mastered. In Short's generation of comedians it's diffuclt to think of anyone but him capable of that feat.

75. Phil Silvers

Actor | It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Phil Silvers was born on May 11, 1911 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA as Philip Silver. He was an actor, known for It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963), The Phil Silvers Show (1955) and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966). He was married to Evelyn Patrick and ...

76. Red Skelton

Writer | The Red Skelton Show

The son of a former circus clown turned grocer and a cleaning woman, Red Skelton was introduced to show business at the age of seven by Ed Wynn, at a vaudeville show in Vincennes. At age 10, he left home to travel with a medicine show through the Midwest, and joined the vaudeville circuit at age 15....

77. Joe Smith

Actor | The Heart of New York

Joe Smith was born on February 16, 1884 in New York City, New York, USA as Joseph Isaac Sultzer. He was an actor, known for The Heart of New York (1932), Manhattan Parade (1931) and Jamboree! (1957). He was married to Mabel Miller and Sara C. Raynor. He died on February 22, 1981 in Englewood, New ...

78. Charles Dale

Actor | Manhattan Parade

Charles Dale was born on September 6, 1881 in New York City, New York, USA as Charles Marks. He was an actor, known for Manhattan Parade (1931), A Nag in the Bag (1938) and Two Tickets to Broadway (1951). He was married to Molly Cahill. He died on November 17, 1971 in Teaneck, New Jersey, USA.

79. Terry-Thomas

Actor | It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

One of Britain's most beloved eccentric comedians, the irrepressible, gap-toothed Terry-Thomas was born Thomas Terry Hoar-Stevens in Lichfield Grove, Finchley. He was the son of Ellen Elizabeth (Hoar) and Ernest Frederick Stevens, a fairly well-to-do London businessman. He was afforded a private ...

80. Ian Carmichael

Actor | I'm All Right Jack

Unassuming, innocent-eyed and always ingratiating, Brit comedy actor Ian Carmichael was quite the popular chap in late 50s and early 60s film. He was born in Hull, Yorkshire, England on June 18, 1920, the son of Arthur Denholm Carmichael, an optician, and his wife Kate (Gillett). After receiving ...

81. Lily Tomlin

Actress | Nashville

Lily Tomlin was born September 1, 1939 in Detroit, Michigan, to Lillie Mae (Ford) and Guy Tomlin, who moved to Michigan from Paducah, Kentucky, during the Great Depression. Her mother was a nurse's aide and her father was a factory worker. She graduated from Cass Technical High School in 1957, and ...

82. Ben Turpin

Actor | Yankee Doodle in Berlin

First of all, the cross-eyed comedian of silent days was not born that way. Supposedly his right eye slipped out of alignment while playing the role of the similarly afflicted Happy Hooligan in vaudeville and it never adjusted. Ironically, it was this disability that would enhance his comic value ...

83. Al St. John

Actor | Billy the Kid Trapped

Al St. John was born on September 10, 1893 in Santa Ana, California, USA as Alfred St. John. He was an actor and director, known for Billy the Kid Trapped (1942), Outlaws of the Plains (1946) and The Fighting Vigilantes (1947). He was married to Flo-Bell Moore, Yvonne June Villon Price Pearce (...

84. Dick Van Dyke

Actor | Mary Poppins

Dick Van Dyke was born Richard Wayne Van Dyke in West Plains, Missouri, to Hazel Victoria (McCord), a stenographer, and Loren Wayne Van Dyke, a salesman. His younger brother is entertainer Jerry Van Dyke. His ancestry includes English, Scottish, German, Swiss-German, and Dutch. Although he'd had ...

85. Nancy Walker

Actress | Rhoda

They say big things often come in small packages, and never was that saying more true than when sizing up the talents of that diminutive dynamo Nancy Walker. Born Anna Myrtle Swoyer in Philadelphia on May 10, 1922, she lived a born-in-a-trunk existence as the daughter of vaudevillian Dewey Barto (...

86. Robin Williams

Actor | Mrs. Doubtfire

Robin McLaurin Williams was born on Saturday, July 21st, 1951, in Chicago, Illinois, a great-great-grandson of Mississippi Governor and Senator, Anselm J. McLaurin. His mother, Laurie McLaurin (née Janin), was a former model from Mississippi, and his father, Robert Fitzgerald Williams, was a Ford ...

87. Flip Wilson

Writer | Flip

Flip Wilson was born on December 8, 1933 in Jersey City, New Jersey, USA as Clerow Wilson. He was a writer and actor, known for Flip (1970), The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh (1979) and The Six Million Dollar Man (1974). He was married to Cookie Mackenzie and Lovenia Patricia (Peaches) Wilson. He died...

88. Jonathan Winters

Actor | It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Jonathan Harshman Winters III was born on November 11, 1925 in Dayton, Ohio. His father, Jonathan Harshman Winters II, was a banker who became an alcoholic after being crushed in the Great Depression. His parents divorced in 1932. Jonathan and his mother then moved to Springfield to live with his ...

89. Victor Borge

Actor | Higher and Higher

Pianist, composer, songwriter, entertainer and actor, educated at Borgerdydskolen and the Conservatory of Copenhagen. He studied with Egon Petri and Frederic Lammond. His concert career began in 1922, and he performed in a musical revue in 1934, and in films by 1937. Arriving in the US in 1940, he ...

90. Dana Carvey

Actor | Wayne's World

One of SNL's most talented alumni, comedian Dana Carvey reigned supreme during his six-season run creating some of the show's most memorable characters, including "Church Lady", "Garth" of Wayne & Garth fame, Grumpy Old Man and bodybuilding "Hans" of Hans & Franz notoriety. So it is quite ...

Recently Viewed