Truly classic, test-of-time humor. Politically agnostic.
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 Motor Company executive from Indiana...
“ The greatest improvisational comedian ever. No one has every been able to equal his free association ranting. They have to be recorded and played back with the pause button to simply be able to follow the words and it takes the rewind button to grasp the depth of the connections, the outrageous puns, the impersonations, accents and asides. There has never been a more purely talented and naturally gifted comedian. ” - joebanks2002
World-famous, widely popular American humorist of the vaudeville stage and of silent and sound films, Will Rogers graduated from military school, but his first real job was in the livestock business in Argentina, of all places. He transported pack animals across the South Atlantic from Buenos Aires to South Africa for use in the Boer War (1899-1902)...
“ Even after nearly 100 years Will Rogers is still not dated or tired. His jokes ring true. Rogers natural grace and good humor is obvious in his delivery and stage presence. He defines kindness and taste while skewering his subjects with remarkably insight and telling observations. He may not have met a man he didn't like, but it's more likely he never met a man who didn't like him, so why should he have bothered? ” - joebanks2002
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 a key influence on their careers...
“ Sadly Richard Pryor's infamous off-stage activities dominate his life story and detract from the brilliance of his talent. His stories were masterpieces and his jokes were always hysterical. As a stand up comedian he was hypnotic as the quality of the material he delivered was always perfectly presented with his incredible face. He could deliver a joke and then ride it for five minutes and take it to a new dimension all without saying a word, as his expressions told a whole new story in a whole new language. A truly unique man. ” - joebanks2002
The son of a saloonkeeper, Jack Benny (born Benny Kubelsky) began to study the violin at the age six, and his "ineptness" at it 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 and joined vaudeville...
“ The absolute master of deadpan. Benny created a role and stayed perfectly in character for nearly a century. He used that role to perfection as every eye roll, and double take was loaded with a droll, "can you believe this" expression that he had carefully taught the audience to look for. His natural ease and good nature was obvious in the joy his fellow performers took in being with him: he always brought out the best in others. His talent carried from stage to screen to TV and he was always funny. ” - joebanks2002
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 to the US in 1908...
“ Like Benny, Hope was another performer who created a role, stuck to it for his entire career and used his personna as a springboard for his jokes: From the golf club, to his ski-jump nose to his patented look of bemused astonishment, Hope's audiences knew exactly what every nuance of expression meant. And he new how to use it to perfection, with uncanny timing and skill.
None of which would have made any difference if Hope was not always, without fail, hysterical. Even when it seemed he told the rare clunker, he could make a bombing joke funnier than a good one with his talent for ad lib and his reliance on his well known stable of gags. You almost wondered if he told the bad jokes on purpose (wouldn't surprise me).
In an era of nearly unprecedented political division in this country, Hope could make everyone laugh. Watch him entertaining the troops in Vietnam: everyone from the draftees to the officers are laughing together. ” - joebanks2002
From the late 1940s through 1961, he was the highly successful host of You Bet Your Life
a quiz show on radio and television. His son, Arthur Marx
, is a successful writer of biographies and TV scripts. Arthur complained about his father always being "on". If he asked Groucho about something serious or personal, Groucho would reply with one-liners.
Totally unique and hysterically funny, he made chaos and anarchy worthwhile. Throughout his career there is a constant reliance on irreverence and contempt for authority that gives him an almost philosophical bent, hard as that is to say in light of the terrible puns, blatant slapstick, cheap sight gags (and really superb ones too) and vaudeville cornball. Groucho, in spite of himself, wrote all of his jokes to hit many levels.
Watch him on "You Bet Your Life". He'll tell a joke to a contestant, or toss off a bad pun and you can see him just wait and watch to see if they can catch all the double meanings he's thrown in. His knowing smirk and sly smile is worth it's weight in gold. ” - joebanks2002
Jonathan Harshman Winters III was born on November 11, 1925 in Dayton, Ohio. His father, also Jonathan, 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 grandmother. There his mother remarried and became a radio personality...
“ In many ways an older version of Robin Williams on Ritalin, Winters is still a totally different animal. He has a slower, more controlled pace of his over-sized imagination. And while remarkably quick on his feet and a brilliant ad-libber, he doesn't use or need the velocity of rapid fire jokes.
He was the first to create an insane world of fully formed characters, and have them each speaking seriously as citizens of that world letting their own weirdness produce the comedy. There really is no one like him. ” - joebanks2002
Born and raised by his mother in Manhattan, New York City. His parents divorced when he was two months. His mother (as well as his father) worked in marketing, where they met. The long hours the mother worked left the young George by himself for long hours every day, providing him (in his own words)...
“ Truly an icon, Carlin was really the first of his kind: the protest comic. In the sixties Carlin went from being a straight-laced, mildly funny stand-up comic in a cheap suit and narrow tie to being the humorous conscience of a generation. His humor gained in social awareness and funniness as he appeared to grow as a person and reach deeper insights. Looking deeper made George Carlin funnier. ” - joebanks2002
Elizabeth Stamatina Fey was born in 1970 in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, just west of Philadelphia, to Xenobia "Jeanne" (Xenakes), a brokerage employee, and Donald Henry Fey, who wrote grant proposals for universities. Her mother is Greek, born in Piraeus, while her father had German, Northern Irish, and English ancestry...
“ Who doesn't love Tina Fey? Brilliantly insightful, hysterically funny and occasionally far off the deep end into a totally weird, skewed, perspective you simply didn't see coming and leaves you in tears. Her satire always treads the funny side of uncomfortable, her characters are real and believable lunatics, her dialog is witty and sharp and yet she always manages to remain anchored with the ability to play her insecurities as the focus of her humor. No one wears her neuroses better. ” - joebanks2002
Jon Stewart was born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz in New York City, New York, to Marian (Laskin), a teacher, and Donald Leibowitz, a physics professor. His family is Ashkenazi Jewish (from Austria, Ukraine, Poland, and Belarus). Stewart moved to Lawrenceville, New Jersey during his childhood. He graduated from the College Of William And Mary in Williamsburg...
“ Probably the smartest person on this list, Stewart manages to combine spot-on political commentary, wicked satire, superb interview skills, and pure goofiness. He always does his homework and has usually put such forethought into his material that he is often brilliantly insightful, actually giving a nuanced view from an unexpected perspective. He is often extraordinarily kind and gentle with those whose views one would expect him to savage, yet he clearly does not suffer fools gladly (hello Tucker Carlson) and will not spare those who he believes have caused harm (hello CNBC). Stewart is clearly the foremost political satirist of the day. ” - joebanks2002
Johnny Carson, the legendary "King of Late Night TV" who dominated the medium's nether hours for three decades, was born in Corning, Iowa, but moved with his family to nearby Norfolk, Nebraska when he was eight years old. It was in Norfolk, where he lived until he was inducted into the US Navy in 1943...
“ While everyone recognizes that Carson made himself part of the furniture of the American home, its easy to forget how extraordinarily talented he was. Carson allowed himself a stable of cliched gags and skits as he got older that were as comforting to some as they were embarrassing to others. But it doesn't change the fact that he was a brilliant mimic and a master comic with impeccable timing. There has never been anyone as quick on his feet in an interview. ” - joebanks2002
“ There is no one like Steven Wright. No one comes close and no one, really, has ever tried to imitate him (and no one should). The brilliant metaphysical twists in his short one-liners are priceless and his morbid delivery is hysterical. Everything he writes should be etched in stone. ” - joebanks2002
Bill Cosby is one of the world's most well-known entertainers and comedians. William Henry Cosby, Jr. was born on July 12, 1937, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Anna Pearl (Hite), a maid, and William Henry Cosby, Sr., a U.S. Navy sailor. After tenth grade, Cosby joined the Navy and completed high school through a correspondence course...
“ Bill Cosby is the best storyteller there is. No one has ever equaled his impeccable timing and delivery. There is a comforting warmth and familiarity that he carries over into all his projects, from stand-up to sitcom. ” - joebanks2002
Often credited as the greatest comedian of all time, Peter Sellers was born to a well-off English acting family in 1925. His mother and father worked in an acting company run by his grandmother. As a child, Sellers was spoiled, as his parents' first child had died at birth. He enlisted in the Royal Air Force and served during World War II...
“ While not truly a comedian, Peter Sellers had one of the most brilliant comic minds of any actor. His performance(s) in Dr. Strangelove remain the most brilliant example of a single actor playing multiple roles ever, with three of the funniest characters in movie history. Yet Inspector Clouseau was an even more popular, and even funnier, character and Chance the Gardener remains unique. ” - joebanks2002
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 toothbrush mustache, bowler hat, bamboo cane, and a funny walk...
Don Rickles was born May 8, 1926 in New York. After the Golden Era of Hollywood ended, Don Rickles is one man still living to tell his tales. One of the most respected talents in entertainment, Rickles got his start in the night clubs, toiling for over 20 years, until 1958, when Don made his film debut in Run Silent Run Deep
The woman who will always be remembered as the crazy, accident-prone, lovable Lucy Ricardo was born Lucille Desiree Ball on August 6, 1911 in Jamestown, New York. Her father died before she was four, and her mother worked several jobs, so she and her younger brother were raised by their grandparents...
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 show that included family friend...
Billy Crystal was born on March 14, 1948 in Long Beach, Long Island, New York. He is the youngest of three sons born to Helen (Gabler) and Jack Crystal. His father was a well-known concert promoter who co-founded Commodore Records and his mother was a homemaker. His family were Jewish immigrants from Russia...
Redd Foxx began doing stand-up comedy on the infamous "Chitlin' Circuit" in the 1940s and 1950s. Foxx was one of the premier "blue humor" comedians. Blue humor was very dirty, too dirty for white audiences. For years his party albums were not available in white record stores. In the 1960s his records became available...
Edward Regan Murphy was born April 3, 1961 in Brooklyn, New York, to Lillian, a telephone operator, and Charles Edward Murphy, a transit police officer who was also an amateur comedian and actor. After his father died, his mother married Vernon Lynch, a foreman at a Breyer's Ice Cream plant. His siblings are Charlie Murphy
and Vernon Lynch
Timothy Allen Dick was born on June 13, 1953, in Denver, Colorado, USA, to Martha Katherine (Fox) and Gerald M. Dick. His father, a real-estate salesman, was killed in a collision with a drunk driver while driving his family home from a University of Colorado football game, when Tim was eleven years old...
Brooklyn-born Buddy Hackett was known mainly as a nightclub comic, especially in Las Vegas, where he first performed in 1952 and wound up being one of the biggest headliners in that city's history. Hackett always referred to himself as a "saloon comic" and preferred the intimacy of his stage act--where he would often bring members of the audience up on stage with him--to films and television...
Milton Berle was born Milton Berlinger on July 12, 1908, in New York City. He was educated at New York Professional Children's School and began performing at age 5. His first stage appearance was in "Florodora" in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He appeared at the Palace Theater in New York in 1931, then in nightclubs and theaters...
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 was often tormented for his height...
Carl Reiner is a legend of American comedy, having achieved great success as a comic actor, a director, producer and recording artist. He has won nine Emmy Awards, three as an actor, three as a writer and two as a producer. He also won a Grammy Award for his "2,000 Year Old Man" album, based on his comedy routine with Mel Brooks
Comedian, actor, composer and conductor, educated in New York public schools. He was a master of ceremonies in amateur shows, a carnival barker, daredevil driver and a disc jockey., and later a comedian in night clubs. By the mid-1950s he had turned to writing original music and recording a series of popular and best-selling albums with his orchestra for Capitol Records...
Dave Chappelle's career started while he was in high school at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC where he studied theatre arts. At the age of 14, he began performing stand-up comedy in nightclubs. Shortly after graduation, he moved to New York City where he quickly established himself as a major young talent...
Denis Leary was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts, the son of Nora (Sullivan) and John Leary, Irish immigrants who had grown up together. His mother was a maid and his father was an auto mechanic. After a childhood in the 1960s, Leary went to Emerson College in Boston, where he tried his hand at acting and writing...
Stephen Tyrone Colbert (pronounced "col-BEAR") was born on May 13, 1964 in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. He is the son of Lorna Elizabeth (Tuck) and James William Colbert, Jr., a doctor and medical school dean at Yale, Saint Louis University, and MUSC. He is the youngest of eleven children, and is of Irish Catholic background...
Bill Murray is an American actor, comedian, and writer. The fifth of nine children, he was born William James Murray in Wilmette, Illinois, to Lucille (Collins), a mailroom clerk, and Edward Joseph Murray II, who sold lumber. He is of Irish descent. Among his siblings are actors Brian Doyle-Murray
, Joel Murray
Christopher Julius Rock was born in Andrews, South Carolina and raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York. He is the son of Rosalie (Tingman), a teacher and social worker for the mentally handicapped, and Julius Rock, a truck driver and newspaper deliveryman, whose own father was a preacher. Rock has been in stand-up comedy for several decades...
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 that set the stage for her comedy...
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 (who hit him on the head with a shovel)...
Rowan Sebastian Atkinson was born on 6 January, 1955, in Consett, Co. Durham, UK, to Ella May (Bainbridge) and Eric Atkinson. His father owned a farm, where Rowan grew up with his two older brothers, Rupert and Rodney. He attended Newcastle University and Oxford University where he earned degrees in electrical engineering...
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 death.
As might be said for the late and great comedians Harvey Korman
and Madeline Kahn
, it seems that Mel Brooks
was the only director on the planet who knew how to best utilize this funnyman's talents on film. Brooks once quipped that, whenever he hired Dom DeLuise for one of his films, he would...
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 made his American radio debut on the Bing Crosby show...
By August of 1994, Craig Ferguson was established as one of Great Britain's leading comedians - he had just had huge success at the Edinburgh Festival. In January 1995 he moved to Los Angeles where he now works as an actor-writer-director-producer-creator.
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 break into the movies...
Foxworthy was born Jeffrey Marshall Foxworthy in Atlanta, Georgia on September 6, 1958. He followed in his father's footsteps working for IBM in Georgia, but on a dare from friends, he did a few minutes of comedy at an Atlanta comedy club. A few months later, Foxworthy quit his job and started on the stand-up comedy road...
Rodney Dangerfield was born Jacob Cohen on November 22, 1921 in Deer Park, Suffolk County, Long Island, New York. He was the son of Dorothy "Dotty" (Teitelbaum) and Phillip Cohen, who performed in vaudeville under the name Phil Roy. His father was born in New York, to Russian Jewish parents, and his mother was a Hungarian Jewish immigrant...
He was born Alfred Hawthorn Hill. It was his grandfather who introduced him to Burlesque Shows and the theatre from where the young Benny Hill was to draw much of his comic inspiration. After his national service with the army during WW2, Benny came to London, adopted the stage name Benny Hill (in homage to his all time favourite comedian Jack Benny
) and began appearing in variety shows...
A career of seven decades of snappy, irreverent one-liners put Henry "Henny" Youngman at the top of most comedians' list of favorite showmen. Born in London, England, and moving to the United States when he was a baby, Youngman started his professional career as a printer in a small store. Naturally funny...