Most iconic comedians

For nearly 40 years, George Lopez has been making us laugh out loud with his jokes. In celebration of his 60th birthday on April 23, 2021, Wonderwall.com is taking a look at the most iconic comedians to ever hit Hollywood, starting with George. The Los Angeles-born funnyman grew a following after years of doing stand-up (he still tours today!) but became a household name thanks to his eponymous ABC sitcom, which ran for six seasons between 2002 and 2007. George will next appear in the films “Walking with Herb,” “The Faction of a Hitman,” “Whale Talk” and “Afterward.”

Keep reading to see which other comedians made our list…

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Gilda Radner made her mark as one of the original cast members on NBC’s long-running and critically acclaimed sketch-comedy series “Saturday Night Live.” The funnywoman, who earned an Emmy for her performances on “SNL” in 1978, turned her characters into a one-woman show that debuted on Broadway a year later. The Detroit native passed away from ovarian cancer in 1989 at 42, leaving husband Gene Wilder a widower. She posthumously received a Grammy Award for best spoken word album for “It’s Always Something” in 1990.

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Considered by many to be the best stand-up comedian of all time, Richard Pryor is truly a legend. The Illinois native made a name for himself with his sets across the nation featuring his uncensored and profound humor in the 1970s. He went on to release several acclaimed concert movies including “…Is It Something I Said?,” “Richard Pryor: Live in Concert,” “Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip” and “Richard Pryor: Here and Now,” and win five Grammys and one Emmy. Richard, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the 1980s, died in 2005 after suffering a heart attack.

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Carol Burnett has enjoyed a long and successful career that began with her work in cabaret shows in 1956. The hilarious comedian was a pioneer in the comedy business, starring on her own groundbreaking variety series, “The Carol Burnett Show,” in the 1960s and 1970s. Carol, who delivered television comedy specials for years, went on to find success on Broadway and give memorable performances in several films and shows including “Annie,” “Noises Off,” “Horton Hears a Who!” and “Mad About You.” More recently in 2018, she hosted the Netflix show “A Little Help with Carol Burnett.” She was honored with the inaugural Carol Burnett Lifetime Achievement Award in Television at the 2019 Golden Globes.

Jim Carrey got his big break on “In Living Color” in 1990 and solidified his comic success with roles in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” “Dumb and Dumber,” “The Mask” and “Liar Liar.” Never one to be put in a box, Jim has also found success with more serious roles — he earned Golden Globes for his work in 1998’s “The Truman Show” and 1999’s “Man on the Moon” as well as yet another Globe nod for his performance in 2004’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” He more recently brought his talents to television, earning his seventh career Globe nomination for his work on the since-canceled Showtime series “Kidding.”

We might consider Andy Kaufman to be one of the most iconic comedians, but he’d probably disagree with us. The New York City native described himself instead as a “song and dance man” and claimed he disliked telling jokes and engaging in comedy. Nevertheless, Andy was guaranteed to make you laugh during his impressive career, which included appearances on “Saturday Night Live” and “Late Night with David Letterman” in the ’70s and ’80s. He also starred on the critically acclaimed sitcom “Taxi.” Andy was at the top of his game when he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1983. He died the following year at 35. Jim Carrey portrayed Andy in 1999’s acclaimed “Man on the Moon.”

Chris Rock has truly done it all. The Brooklyn native has mastered not only comedy but also television, film and hosting, which have all contributed to his $100 million net worth. Chris first gained national attention when he starred on “Saturday Night Live” in the early 1990s. He went on to release two acclaimed stand-up specials, “Bring the Pain” and Bigger & Blacker,” in the ’90s before starring in a string of successful films such as “The Longest Yard,” the “Madagascar” film series and “Grown Ups.” Branching into television, Chris developed, wrote and narrated the award-winning sitcom “Everybody Hates Chris” and hosted the Academy Awards in 2005 and 2016. He released his first stand-up special in years, “Chris Rock: Tamborine,” on Netflix in 2018. More recently, he appeared on “Fargo.” He has two films on the way: “Spiral” and “I Am Maurice.”

During a time when female comedy stars were few and far between, Lucille Ball broke the mold and became America’s most recognizable comedic actress. The fiery redhead began her career as a model before starring in a string of self-produced, critically acclaimed sitcoms including “I Love Lucy,” “The Lucy Show,” “Here’s Lucy,” “Life with Lucy” and “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.” In addition to her acting and comedy career, Lucy was also a businesswoman. In 1962, she became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu Productions, which produced many popular TV shows including “Mission: Impossible” and “Star Trek.” After a long and successful career, Lucy died in 1989 at 77.

Robin Williams was a master of comedy, improv, acting and everything in between. He began performing stand-up in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the mid-1970s and eventually got his big break on the sitcom “Mork & Mindy.” Robin went on to achieve critical and financial success with roles in “Dead Poets Society,” “Aladdin,” “Good Will Hunting,” “Hook,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Jumanji” and the “Night at the Museum” trilogy. The Chicago native was also highly decorated, winning one Oscar, two Emmys, seven Golden Globes, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and four Grammys. Sadly, Robin died by suicide in 2014. Posthumously, it was revealed he was suffering from Lewy body dementia, which led to his tragic passing.

Jerry Seinfeld is beloved by audiences thanks to his hilarious observational comedy, witty one-liners and, of course, his iconic self-titled TV show. The New York native, who has a net worth of $950 million, began performing stand-up in the 1970s but it was 1989’s “Seinfeld” that made him a superstar. The NBC sitcom, which Jerry co-created, produced and starred in, became one of the most influential and popular sitcoms of all time (76.3 million tuned in for the finale). Jerry went on to produce, co-write and star in 2007’s “Bee Movie” and create and host the series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” In 2017, he signed a deal with Netflix and released his first Netflix comedy special, “Jerry Before Seinfeld.” In 2020, Netflix released his first original stand-up special in more than 20 years, “23 Hours to Kill.”

Johnny Carson is best remembered as the host of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” which he led from 1962 to 1992. The 1987 Television Academy of Hall of Fame inductee was also no stranger to accolades — during his career, he received six Emmy Awards, the Television Academy’s Governor’s Award in 1980, a Peabody Award in 1985, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992 and a Kennedy Center Honor in 1993. Johnny passed away on March 19, 1999, at 79 after suffering a heart attack at his Malibu home.

If there’s one comic who’s guaranteed to leave you in stitches, it’s Dave Chappelle. The Washington, D.C., native made a name for himself starring in a number of comedy flicks and stand-up specials including “The Nutty Professor,” “Half-Baked,” “Dave Chappelle: Killin’ Them Softly,” “Undercover Brother” and “Dave Chappelle: For What It’s Worth.” In 2003, he debuted his own weekly sketch-comedy show on Comedy Central, “Chappelle’s Show,” which became a pop culture sensation. After a few years away, Dave solidified his comedy crown with four Netflix specials in 2017. In 2020, Dave earned a Grammy for best comedy album — his third consecutive win — for his stand-up special “Sticks & Stones.” In June that same year, he released “8:46” — a social commentary on the treatment of Black Americans.

Known for his offbeat, absurdist comedy, Steve Martin is one of the best. He began his career in the 1960s as a writer for “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” and was a frequent guest on “The Tonight Show.” By the 1970s, Steve was performing stand-up across the nation, filling venues to capacity. He went on to star in several successful films and shows in the ’80s and ’90s including “The Jerk,” “All of Me,” “Parenthood,” “The Pink Panther” and “Baby Mama.” The Emmy winner more recently starred in the Netflix special “Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life.” In early 2021, he was shooting the series “Only Murders in the Building” with Martin and Selena Gomez.

The success of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” has solidified Ellen’s legacy as a comedian. The Louisiana native got her start as a stand-up comic before landing the sitcom “Ellen” in 1994. The star — who made headlines when she came out as a gay woman in 1997 — went on to host her own award-winning eponymous talk show and star in blockbusters like “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory.” She’s now an author, production and record company owner, lifestyle brand creator and so much more, but she hasn’t forgotten her comedy roots. In 2018, ELlen — who’s won at least 30 Daytime Emmys and has more People’s Choice Awards than anyone else — starred in the Netflix stand-up special, “Ellen DeGeneres: Relatable.” Despite a rocky 2020 that saw her accused of perpetrating a toxic work environment, she continues to forge ahead with her hit talk show.

Eddie Murphy has mastered both stand-up and acting, making him one of the most versatile and profitable comedians around. In fact, Eddie’s films have grossed more than $6.6 billion worldwide. Originally from New York, he landed a role on “Saturday Night Live” in the 1980s and solidified his place in Hollywood with comedy specials “Delirious” and “Eddie Murphy Raw.” Eddie went on to dominate the film industry with several popular blockbusters such as the “Beverly Hills Cop” series, “Trading Places,” “Coming to America,” “The Nutty Professor,” the “Shrek” film series and “Dreamgirls.” In 2019, he starred in Netflix’s “Dolemite is My Name” and in 2021, he reprised his starring role in the sequel film “Coming 2 America.” In 2020, he won his first Emmy — for, in a full-circle moment, outstanding guest actor in a comedy series for his work guest hosting “SNL” in 2019. He has two movies in the pipeline — “Triplets” and “Beverly Hills Cop 4” — and has said he plans to return to the stand-up stand when the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Joan Rivers, who’s considered by many to be the funniest female comic ever, made a huge impact during her time in Hollywood. Known for her controversial comedic persona, Joan rose to prominence in the 1960s with appearances on “The Tonight Show,” “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Mike Douglas Show.” She went on to host her own late night and daytime talk shows in the ’80s and ’90s and became a pop culture icon in the 2000s thanks to her award show red carpet celebrity interviews. In the 2010s, Joan co-hosted the E! show “Fashion Police” and starred on the reality TV series “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?” with daughter Melissa Rivers. Joan unexpectedly died in 2014 at 81 following a minor throat surgery gone wrong.

One of the original “Kings of Comedy,” Bernie Mac, was laugh-out-loud hilarious. The Chicago native, who died at 50 in 2005 from complications of pneumonia, first achieved fame as a stand-up comedian, appearing on “Def Comedy Jam” in the ’90s. After briefly hosting the HBO show “Midnight Mac,” Bernie went on to appear in “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Mr. 3000,” “Booty Call,” “Friday,” “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” “Bad Santa,” “Guess Who” and “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.” He also starred on an acclaimed eponymous TV show, earning himself two Emmy nominations.

He was known for his black comedy, and George Carlin was one of the best comics to ever do it. He filmed 14 stand-up specials during his career, repeatedly appeared on “The Tonight Show” and even inspired a U.S. Supreme Court case with his “seven dirty words” comedy routine. George continued to work and entertain well into his 70s. His final HBO special, “It’s Bad for Ya,” was filmed less than four months before his 2008 death from cardiac arrest.

Comedian Dana Carvey has been in the game for more than four decades! The Missoula, Montana, native earned critical acclaim for his performances as a cast member on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” from 1986 to 1993. In his final year on the sketch-comedy series, he earned a Primetime Emmy for individual performance in a variety or music program. He’s also appeared in popular films like 1986’s “Tough Guys,” 1990’s “Opportunity Knocks” and the “Wayne’s World” film franchise, which is based on one of his best known “SNL” characters. More recently, he voiced Pops the basset hound in 2019’s “The Secret Life of Pets 2.”

Known her one-liners, Wanda Sykes first came to fame as a writer on “The Chris Rock Show” in the late ’90s. She made a name for herself on the stand-up stage, starring in “Tongue Untied,” “Sick & Tired” and “I’ma Be Me.” The hilarious Virginia native has also appeared in films and TV shows including “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Evan Almighty,” “Rio,” “Ice Age: Continental Drift” and “Ice Age: Collision Course.” In 2019, Wanda starred in “UglyDolls.” In 2021, she’ll appear on the Netflix series “The Upshaws.”

We have Redd Foxx to thank for some of the best comedy we’ve ever heard. The St. Louis native gained notoriety for his raunchy act while performing in nightclubs in the 1950s and 1960s. By the 1970s, he was starring on his own super-successful sitcom, “Sanford and Son,” which earned him a Golden Globe. Known as the “King of the Party Records,” Redd performed on more than 50 comedy albums in his lifetime. He died in 1991 at 68 after suffering a heart attack.

Rodney Dangerfield is so iconic, he has his own catchphrase — “I don’t get no respect!” He began his career doing stand-up and gained notoriety on late night talk shows throughout the 1960s and 1970s. He eventually landed his own headlining act in Las Vegas and starred in “Caddyshack,” “Easy Money” and “Back to School.” Rodney tried serious acting in the ’90s, starring in “Natural Born Killers,” but primarily stuck to his comedy roots. The New York native died in 2004 after suffering a heart attack.

Known as the first modern stand-up comedian, Mort Sahl was a pioneer of comedy. His style focusing on social satire and political commentary was groundbreaking when he debuted it in the 1950s. He achieved international success, touring across the nation to sold-out crowds. By the 1970s, Mort had become a veteran comedy icon. The Canadian star inspired many who followed in his footsteps including George Carlin and Lenny Bruce. Now in his 90s, Mort continues to perform small shows every so often.

Bill Burr is truly one of the best stand-up comics to ever take the stage. Unlike many of his fellow comedians, Bill has focused almost exclusively on stand-up, releasing six stand-up specials over the years. He’s often referred to as a “comedian’s comedian.” Bill has also dabbled in television, appearing on “Chappelle’s Show” and creating and starring on the Netflix animated sitcom “F is for Family.” In 2021, he’ll appear in the movie “The Guilty” followed by “Hate to See You Go,” which is slated to debut in 2022.

Hailed as “The King of Comedy,” Jerry Lewis had an illustrious career as a funnyman. Remembered for his bold comedic style, the New Jersey native was one of the best known comedians in the 1950s and 1960s. Over the course of his career, Jerry explored all kinds of comedy from co-founding comedic duo Martin and Lewis with “The King of Cool,” singer-actor Dean Martin, to making his debut as a solo comic with 1957’s “The Delicate Delinquent.” He was also a noteworthy philanthropist who raised awareness of muscular dystrophy and faithfully hosted telethons to help those with the condition. In 2017, Jerry passed away at 91.



























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