Poll: Who's your favorite stand-up comic of all time?


Image Credit: Eric Leibowitz/FX; David LaChapelle; Andrew Eccles

As any entertainer will attest, making someone laugh is always harder than making someone cry. It takes an entirely different skill set and taps into an entirely different, and arguably, more complicated psyche. (What makes one person roll with delight could make another roll their eyes with disgust.) Of course, if you’re one of the great stand-up comics, you can accomplish both: Making your audience laugh so hard they cry.

Then again, having to choose your favorite stand-up comic of all-time might be just as difficult a task. Do you go with the rule-breakers of comedy who not only made you laugh, but made you think and often called for — and often effected — social change? Do you pick a mainstream comic who can finely pinpoint all those funny little quirks of everyday life through observational comedy? Or is it a no-brainer to pick the class clown that plays up the silly side in of all of us?

While each of these comedian/comediennes below is a rule-breaker (George Carlin, Louis C.K., Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, Lewis Black, Eddie Murphy, Sarah Silverman, Dave Chappelle, Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks, Eddie Izzard), a keen observer (Bill Cosby, Mitch Hedberg, Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, Bob Hope, Jeff Foxworthy, Wanda Sykes, Patton Oswalt, Joan Rivers) and a class clown (Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, Dane Cook, Kathy Griffin) in their own right, we want you, EW.com readers to pick which comic crosses all boundaries and is the funniest — and your favorite — stand-up of all-time. Watch some classic clips (just a heads up, some are VERY NSFW) from each of these comedians:

Lewis Black: He’s one angry guy. Of course, that’s what makes him so damn funny. Whether he’s ranting on The Daily Show or for a comedy special, fans will shout his praises from the rooftops:

Lenny Bruce: A transcendent satirist, Bruce seemed to find trouble wherever he went, but in turn, found a devoted following that still praise his unconventional humor:

George Carlin: To many, Carlin was more than a comedian. He was a prophet and a poet. And the guy definitely had a thing or two to say about “stuff”:

NEXT: The second coming of Carlin?

Comments (408 total) Add your comment
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  • Jim

    Brian Regan

    • That Man

      Not to be racial, but everyone knows the best comics are black. The rest are an afterthought.

      • amy

        That’s not true! Comedy know no color. George Carlin was hilarious! Please don’t turn this into a race thing! There are/were great comics of different races!

      • That Man

        No, Amy. All the best were and are black. Typically a D list black comic is funnier than an A list white comic. It’s shameful that Chuck Nice is struggling while Done Cook thrives.

      • Tre

        @Amy: Please don’t feel the trolls.

      • Dennis OMalley

        Pray for Patrice Oneal, who suffered a stroke last week

      • Pattyl

        What a racist. Stupid people think black people are funny because they can’t say any thing with the “F” word. The ONLY black that was funny without swearing is Bill Cosby. NO ONE can come close to the best…..Bob Hope.

      • @ Pattyl

        That’s not true. There are a lot of African-American comedians who are funny and don’t overly swear. You’ve fallen victim to an old stereotype.

      • Squishmar

        Pattyl… don’t forget Henny Youngman. “Take my wife… please!”

      • Reality

        True. Someone needs to point out the difference between how white people dance and black people dance. Thank god for black comedians.

      • AZWIldcatman

        NO ONE is funnier than Robin WIlliams for standup. George Carlin is right up there too.
        To say only black comedians are funny: Lets see any of them do a routine without cuss words. Not one could or has (except Bill Cosby, a Comic Legend).
        Take out the swearing, they got nothing.

      • Mel Wilder

        Humor knows no color, funny is funny, both Richard Pryor and George Carlin were the kings of stand up, why must this be a race thing?

      • The Real Truth!

        the only thing gayer than Chuck Nice is Anal Intercourse!

      • yaosan

        The fact that you put Sarah Silverman on this list is ignorant and disgusting.BTW,I wanna share a good news to you.My best friend ,she just has announced her wedding with a millionaire man who is a businessman
        !they met via Millionaireloving.C óM ..it is the largest and best club for rich people and their admirers to chat online. …You do not have to be rich or famous. ,but you can meet one , It’s worthy a try,Maybe you wanna check it out or tell your friends!

      • Capt. Obvious

        @AZWIldcatman, I thought it was hilarious how you said no black comedian is funny without swearing (which pretty much every comedian does), and then you followed that statement by saying George Carlin is the best. You really have to do your research about Carlin’s most popular routine . . . about curse words. Lol! Also, I rank Bill Cosby and Sinbad among the best African-American comedians ever. Guess what they have in common? I’ll give you a hint: the OPPOSITE of the two white comedians you just said were the best. That’s right! They DON’T curse. Why is this a race thing?

      • @That Man

        Your That Man who dissed Samuel L Jackson the other day! Police! Police!

        Actually, you’re right, except for Daniel Tosh. He’s pretty damn funny.

      • That Man

        That black comedians can’t be funny without cursing is a tired, old stereotype. And anyway, who says the cursing is even being used as a yard stick? That’s like saying ok blondes are hotter than brunette but they have to dye their hair.

      • Z

        wow, you are so wrong here. i would personally say it the other way. the funniest comics are white and there are the rare black comedians who are funny for my personal taste. even the ones that are considered great, like chris rock and richard pryor, don’t do anything for me and are mostly overly crude and go for more of a shock value.

      • Tom

        Jim Gaffigan (AKA The Palest Man Alive) is hilarious…Your point is rediculous.

      • @Tom

        Like your spelling?

      • Tom

        None of those losers.. that is for sure!

    • strickens girl

      I love Brian Regan!

      • Gene R Hall

        Johnny Carson Was Best Ever Tahats My Take On Comedy.Thanks

    • DLT

      He really is the epitome of hyperbole. LOVE HIM!

    • Abby

      I LOVE Brian Regan!!!! He’s my favorite. Great, clean comedy. I’m always in stitches when I watch his videos. I’ve also recently gotten into Mike Birbiglia, but he’s nowhere near Regan.

    • Brock

      Daniel Tosh, Mitch Hedberg, and Jay Mohr

      • Tom

        Epic Lameness.

    • Mo

      You too!

    • Ken

      Where are Sam Kinison and Steven Wright on this list? Seriously. You have unbelievable hacks such as Ellen DeGeneres, Jeff Foxworthy, and Dane Cook on this list, yet you omit some of the greatest and most original comedians of all-time? Just goes to show how poor the writing staff of EW is these days.

      • Shemale

        Yes, I think this list was thrown together last night. Two great comics were left off.

      • @Ken

        SK does NOT hold up well with time, SW, is somewhat better, but still isn’t that great.

      • PN

        Ellen DeGeneres, Jeff Foxworthy and Dane Cook are funny standup comedians, but they’re a little too current–they started in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Give me 20 more years and I’ll put them on the all time list with Richard Pryor,George Carlin , Eddie Murphy, Roseanne Barr and several others.

      • Squishmar

        PN– both Ellen AND Jeff Foxworthy are OLDER than your “all-timer” Eddie Murphy.

      • litahknows

        THANX!! Finally, someone sticks in Steven Wright! He and Richard Pryor take the cake. We stole Pryor’s album, “Was it something I said?”, from the garbage can after my parents caught us listening to it. Mudfoot, anyone. Saw Wright in Vegas a few year back, almost ended up on the floor.

    • jenny

      brian regan! i’ve seen all the ones mentioned but no one even comes close…….

    • LeeLee

      How could they miss Robin Harris and Sam Kinisen?

      • Tom

        Because they never liked Sam. He was just too honest sometimes.

    • Jono

      Agree. Brian Regan FTW. Plus he’s clean, which in my opinion takes more talent. Anyone can be vulgar and get laughs from a drunken audience. Regan is clever and won’t make you blush if watching with your parents or kids.

    • Matt

      Rodney Dangerfield still getting no respect, I tell ya.

      • Tom

        Perhaps the best evar…

      • Tk

        I’ve got respect for Rodney.
        Where’s the love for Bob Newhart? The first time I heard his stand-up was when my high school driver’s ed teacher played “Driving Instructor” for the class before he let us get in the car.

      • Buzz

        I will definitely show some love for Newhart. Still funny and still going strong.

    • DW

      I can’t believe that you overlooked Margaret Cho!

      • Tom

        Why didn’t they mention Jim Carey?

      • Squishmar

        I don’t know that Jim Carrey ever did stand-up.

      • Tk

        @Squishmar: The first time I saw Carrey on TV (pre-In Living Color), he was doing a stand-up routine that included “face” impressions. It was amazing. He shouted out a name and then twisted his face to look exactly like that person. Strangely enough, Carrey is funnier when he doesn’t talk too much.

      • Squishmar

        Wow. He must have been young. I know in “Bruce Almighty” when he does Clint Eastwood, he does look exactly like him before he ever says a word. His face must be made of Silly Putty.

  • Clete

    George Walker Bush

    • yeah..

      How original and funny the millionth time.

    • MJ

      I love your comment…

    • Tom


  • Pede

    George Carlin. No contest, may he RIP.

    • Dee


      • justjack


    • HC

      No one can touch Carlin. Case closed.

      • That Man

        The arrogance. The case is hardly closed.

      • Mich

        Yes, the case is closed and locked. Carlin rules. Have a nice day.

      • anon

        The case is not closed. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Grow up.

      • Tre

        “Grow up.” Really. You must be one very scary third-grade teacher.

      • Winnie

        It’s [each voting individual’s] favorite, not ‘best’. There can be a difference. Carlin is amazing and definitely one of the best, if not the best , but he’s not the answer to this question for me, personally.

      • Brenda


      • Tom

        George was great. Sometimes.. And sometimes no.

    • SaraS

      No way – Bill Cosby wins.
      A few years back Bill came to my college and did TWO AND A HALF HOURS of stand-up (and sit-down) and my stomach hurt so much from laughing at the end. He came for parent’s weekend and the great thing is, he incorporated a lot of topical stories of college kids and their parents – he obviously didn’t phone it in.
      He was awesome.
      EW: really, a clip from the 1990s of Dane Cook? His last two specials haven’t been stellar but at the top of his game, he was uproariously funny. What about the couple’s fight, or the one friend that nobody likes?
      My votes for funniest (granted, as a 28-year-old):
      1. Bill Cosby
      2. Chris Rock
      3. Jerry Seinfeld

      • tommymommy

        Love your list! I would add Roseanne Barr and Bernie Mac. They make me laugh so hard.

      • HDBailey

        George Carlin was the best.

      • Tom

        Jerry was a flat hack who never made me laugh even once. I watched plenty of his shows, and I wish I had those hours back now. God, were they bad.

    • diane

      It will always be Carlin

  • Diane

    John Pinette

    • Lara

      John Pinette, yes! Comedians who are rude, vulgar or profane? I say “nay nay”!!

    • lisa

      Get out of the line.

  • Real Critic

    The fact that you put Sarah Silverman on this list is ignorant and disgusting.

    • Jim

      Your inability to recognizae that someone other than you can enjoy something you don’t is ignorant and disgusting.

      • sternum

        jim-1, real critic- 0

      • harry

        I nominate Jim as the best comic of all time

  • Mary

    Bill Hicks was the man.

    • Tay

      Hicks was great. No doubt. I also nominate Marc Maron.

      • Tom

        Shhhhh… We don’t want them to discover Hicks.. He was special.

      • Esox

        Marc Maron? Johnny B. Badd did comedy as well as wrestle? Didn’t know that.

  • Jose

    Dave Chappelle: I can watch For What It’s Worth every single day

    • anonymous

      “Killing Em Softly” is my SHIZ!! I damn near have it memorized. Dave Chappelle is a GENIUS.

    • D money

      Wanda Sykes is the best comedian

    • Liz Lemon

      I LOVE Dave Chapelle! Also, Eddie Murphy!

    • Tom

      One person you are never going to see on a list like this is Dane Cook. He sucked.

  • Christian

    At least you recognized that you didn’t include Sam Kinison when you should have, but where’s the Steven Wright love? Or Gallagher?!? (OK, the last one is pushing it)

    • Squishmar

      I said in my comment that I’ve actually seen both of them live. And while Steven Wright is one of my all-time favorites, Gallagher was actually very funny (surprisingly). More than just smashing watermelons.

      • brian

        Steven Wright is a very good choice but your addition of Gallegher suggests you don’t know what ‘funny’ means.

      • Squishmar

        Have you ever seen him live? I was not a fan but was in Vegas and got the tickets free from my hotel where he was playing. It turned out to be much funnier than I had expected. But Steven Wright was incredible live as was George Carlin and Jerry Seinfeld. Robin Williams was a lot of fun live too.

    • justjack

      Also Richard Lewis. Hilarious.

  • TL

    Steven Wright.

    • LeeLee

      Ha!! Yes! I would definitely swap some of these out for Steven Wright.

  • dublin04

    Carlin w/out a doubt. RIP George!

  • Stacie

    Such a good list! Hard to pick just one, but I said Robin Williams because his energy is a force of nature. Eddie Izzard is my 2nd choice, then Louis CK, then Mitch Hedburg.

    • DE

      Robins Williams’ album “Reality: What a Concept” will always be a classic. Eddie Izzard’s “Dressed to Kill” show (“Cake or death?”) is hysterical.

      • B

        Cake or Death still kills me. In fact the whole Dressed to kill show is so fracking funny I had to watch it a few times to see the whole thing. George Carlin And Robin Williams are my 1 and 2 followed Eddie as 3

  • Moderation

    I’ve been listening to Richard Pryor for over thirty years and I still laugh. I can ran numerous entire bits through my mind and laugh. He was a genius. A m*o*t*h*e*r*f*u*c*k*i*n*g* genius.

  • matt

    Andy Kaufman

  • Glenn

    Brian Regan

  • dharma swan

    Hands down, Eddie Murphy. Hope he does standup again.

    • geoff

      Brian Regan!!!

      • dharma swan

        I do like Brian Regan as well but Eddie will always be my favorite!

    • LOL

      George Carlin is # 1.

    • Liz Lemon

      Agreed! There are very few who top Eddie.

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