Great classic comedians

by cookemd | created - 29 Dec 2011 | updated - 01 May 2013 | Public

Old and new

1. Stan Laurel

Actor | Pardon Us

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 ...

2. 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 ...

3. 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 ...

4. Harold Lloyd

Actor | The Sin of Harold Diddlebock

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 ...

5. 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 ...

6. Bud Abbott

Actor | Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein

Long acknowledged as one of the best "straight men" in the business, Bud Abbott was born William Alexander Abbott in Asbury Park, New Jersey, to Rae (Fisher) and Harry Abbott, who had both worked for the Barnum and Bailey Circus. He himself worked in carnivals while still a child and dropped out of ...

7. Lou Costello

Actor | Hold That Ghost

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 ...

8. 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...

9. Will Hay

Actor | Oh, Mr. Porter!

William Thompson Hay was probably one of the most versatile of entertainers. He was not only a character comedian of the first rank, but was also an astronomer of high repute - he discovered the spot on the planet Saturn in 1933 - and a fully qualified air pilot; he was once an engineer. Born at ...

10. Groucho Marx

Actor | A Night at the Opera

The bushy-browed, cigar-smoking wise-cracker with the painted-on moustache and stooped walk was the leader of The Marx Brothers. With one-liners that were often double entendres, Groucho never cursed in any of his performances and said he never wanted to be known as a dirty comic. With a great love...

11. Chico Marx

Actor | Duck Soup

As a kid trying to negotiate his way through various gang territories to a floating crap game or a new pool hall where he was not yet known as a hustler, Leonard (Chico) Marx learned to fake several accents. Because he later employed an Italian accent in the Marx Brothers' act, people assumed his ...

12. Harpo Marx

Actor | A Night at the Opera

With the big, poofy, curly red hair, a top hat, and a horn, the lovable mute was the favorite of the Marx Brothers. Though chasing woman was a favorite routine of his in the movies, Harpo was a devoted father and husband. He adopted the mute routine in vaudeville and carried it over to the films. ...

13. 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...

14. Eugene Levy

Actor | A Mighty Wind

Eugene Levy is an award-winning actor, writer, and producer. He has appeared in more than 60 motion pictures to date, eight of which having topped the $100M mark. The box office success of films such as Bringing Down The House, Cheaper By the Dozen 2, and Father Of The Bride Part II have ...

15. Dan Aykroyd

Writer | The Blues Brothers

Daniel Edward Aykroyd was born on July 1, 1952 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, to Lorraine Hélène (Gougeon), a secretary from a French-Canadian family, and Samuel Cuthbert Peter Hugh Aykroyd, a civil engineer who advised prime minister Pierre Trudeau. Aykroyd attended Carleton University in 1969, where...

16. John Belushi

Actor | Saturday Night Live

John Belushi was born in Chicago, Illinois, USA, on January 24, 1949, to Agnes Demetri (Samaras) and Adam Anastos Belushi, a restaurant owner. His father was an Albanian immigrant, from Qytezë, and his mother was also of Albanian descent. He grew up in Wheaton, where the family moved when he was ...

17. Jim Belushi

Actor | Red Heat

James Adam Belushi was born June 15, 1954, in Chicago, to Agnes Demetri (Samaras) and Adam Anastos Belushi, a restaurant owner. His father was an Albanian immigrant, from Qytezë, and his mother was also of Albanian descent. The third of four children - his brother was comedian John Belushi - he ...

18. George Formby

Soundtrack | Boots! Boots!

George Formby was the archetype "cheeky chappie" Northern British comedian. Trained originally as a jockey, he often appeared on horseback in his films. Best known for his buck-toothed grin and his ukelele.

19. Jay Leno

Producer | The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Jay Leno began his career in night clubs, where he worked 300 nights a year before hitting it big in 1992 with his own late-night talk show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (1992). By that time he had appeared on television, acted in a few films (American Hot Wax (1978)) but hit paydirt with his ...

20. Jim Carrey

Actor | The Truman Show

Jim Carrey, Canadian-born and a U.S. citizen since 2004, is an actor and producer famous for his rubbery body movements and flexible facial expressions. The two-time Golden Globe-winner rose to fame as a cast member of the Fox sketch comedy In Living Color (1990) but leading roles in Ace Ventura: ...

'Man on the moon' great man

21. Tony Hancock

Actor | The Rebel

Tony Hancock was born in Birmingham, England, the son of John and Lillian Hancock. He was educated at Durlston Court, Swanage, and Bradfield College, Reading. He served in the R.A.F. (ground crew) during the war. In 1942 he was in the R.A.F. Gang Show. He was de-mobbed in 1946. He appeared at the ...

22. Peter Sellers

Actor | Being There

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...

23. Edgar Kennedy

Actor | Duck Soup

Edgar Kennedy, who was born on April 26, 1890, near Monterey, California, hit the road as a young man and traveled across the country, working in a succession of jobs. He became a professional boxer, claiming to have gone 14 rounds against The Manassas Mauler, Jack Dempsey.

In addition to his ...

24. James Finlayson

Actor | Pardon Us

Alongside Ben Turpin, diminutive Scots-born Jimmy Finlayson was, arguably, the most instantly recognisable of the many clowns of silent screen slapstick who made their living as comic foil to stars like Laurel & Hardy, or Harold Lloyd. The perpetually exasperated, squinting, bald-pated master of ...

25. 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...

26. Mike Myers

Actor | Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

Michael John Myers was born in 1963 in Scarborough, Ontario, to Alice E. (Hind), an officer supervisor, and Eric Myers, an insurance agent. His parents were both English, and had served in the Royal Air Force and British Army, respectively.

Myers' television career really started in 1988, when he ...

27. Charlie Hall

Actor | Beginner's Luck

Born in Birmingham, England, Charlie Hall was a member of the famed Fred Karno vaudeville troupe, which gave the world Charles Chaplin and Stan Laurel. Hall arrived in the U.S. in the early 1920s, after Chaplin and Laurel, and entered films playing a foil for many of the era's top comics. He is ...

28. 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 ...

29. Leo Gorcey

Actor | It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Leo Gorcey's parents were actor Bernard Gorcey (born 1888) who stood 4' 10", and Josephine Condon (born 1901), who stood 4' 11" and weighed 95 pounds; they worked in vaudeville in New York. In 1915, 14-year-old Josephine gave birth to Fred. In 1917, Leo was born, a large baby at 12 lb. 3 oz.; as an...

30. Sidney James

Actor | Carry on Again Doctor

The star of the Carry On series of films, Sid James originally came to prominence as sidekick to the ground breaking British comedy actor Tony Hancock, on both radio and then television. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa and named Solomon Joel Cohen, James arrived in England in 1946, second wife ...

31. Patsy Kelly

Actress | Rosemary's Baby

Patsy Kelly was born Bridget Sarah Veronica Rose Kelly on January 12, 1910, in Brooklyn, New York. She began performing in vaudeville when she was just twelve years old. Patsy worked with comedian Frank Fay and starred in several Broadway shows. She was discovered by producer Hal Roach who paired ...

32. Mack Sennett

Actor | The Ghost

Mack Sennett was born Michael Sinnott on January 17, 1880 in Danville, Quebec, Canada, to Irish immigrant farmers. When he was 17, his parents moved the family to East Berlin, Connecticut, and he became a laborer at American Iron Works, a job he continued when they moved to Northampton, ...

Great producer of comedy

33. Hal Roach

Director | One Million B.C.

Hal Roach was born in 1892 in Elmira, New York. After working as a mule skinner, wrangler and gold prospector, among other things, he wound up in Hollywood and began picking up jobs as an extra in comedies, where he met comedian Harold Lloyd in 1913 in San Diego. By all accounts, including his own,...

great producer of comedy, without roach and sennett, the world would be a sad place.

34. Frankie Howerd

Actor | Up Pompeii

Francis Alick Howerd, who grew up to become popular British comedian Frankie Howerd, was born in 1917 and first set foot on stage at age 4. A Sunday school teacher as a teen, his father, who died in 1934, had been an Army man for most of his life. Not long after Frankie was invited to audition for ...

35. Eric Morecambe

Writer | The Morecambe & Wise Show

Eric Morecambe was born on May 14, 1926 in Buxton Street, Morecambe, Lancashire, England as John Eric Bartholomew. He was a writer and actor, known for The Morecambe & Wise Show (1968), Night Train to Murder (1984) and The Intelligence Men (1965). He was married to Joan Morecambe. He died on ...

36. Ernie Wise

Writer | The Morecambe & Wise Show

Ernie Wise was born on November 27, 1925 in Bramley, Leeds, Yorkshire, England as Ernest Wiseman. He was a writer and actor, known for The Morecambe & Wise Show (1968), Night Train to Murder (1984) and Two of a Kind (1961). He was married to Doreen Blythe. He died on March 21, 1999 in Wexham, ...

37. 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 ...

38. 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 ...

39. Charley Chase

Actor | Sons of the Desert

While Charley Chase is far from being as famous as "The Big Three" (Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd) today, he's highly respected as one of the "greats" by fans of silent comedy.

Chase (real name Charles Parrott) was born in Maryland, USA, in 1893. After a brief career in vaudeville,...

40. Larry Fine

Actor | The Three Stooges Meet Hercules

Larry began performing as a violinist at a young age. During his teenage years, he earned his living as a singer and boxer. At 18, Larry began working vaudeville with "The Haney Sisters and Fine" and in 1925, he joined Ted Healy and Moe Howard in the act that would eventually become The Three ...

41. Joe DeRita

Actor | The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze

Born into a show business family, DeRita began performing at the age of 7. He played the Burlesque circuit until 1942 when he went to headline in California stage shows. He toured with Randolph Scott and Bing Crosby for the USO during World War II. Joe made his film debut in "The Doughgirls" (1944)...

42. Tommy Cooper

Actor | The Plank

After leaving the army Tommy Cooper took up show business in 1947 and so started his long career of comedy derived around visual humour, magic tricks that didn't work and his trademark red fez, a prop that started from his days in the army. The BBC described him as an "Unattractive young man with ...

43. 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.

44. Norman Wisdom

Actor | The Early Bird

Norman Wisdom has become the great British clown very much in the mould of Charles Chaplin with his "little man" in the ill fitting suit and cloth cap. His character is "everyman", much put upon but struggling through to a (usually) happy ending. He was brought up in an orphanage after his mother ...

45. Lee Evans

Actor | Le cinquième élément

In 2014 Whilst being interviewed by Jonathon Ross on his show, he announced his immediate retirement from Stand Up and Touring after the premature death of his manager from a heart attack. He is now determined to spend more time with his wife Heather and daughter Molly, or Little Mo as he calls her.

46. 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 ...

47. Harry H. Corbett

Actor | Carry on Screaming!

Harry H Corbett (he added the "H" to avoid being confused with Sooty's friend) was born in Burma in 1925. His father was an officer in the army. His mother died when he was very young and he moved to England as a child and was brought up in Manchester by an aunt.

After his war service, he joined a ...

48. Benny Hill

Soundtrack | The Benny Hill Show

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 ...

49. Dick Emery

Actor | Yellow Submarine

In the 1960s and 1970s, Dick Emery was one of the most successful comics on the box. He was voted BBC TV Personality of the Year, thanks to creations such as his toothy vicar, sex-starved spinster Hettie, crusty old Lampwick, outrageously camp Clarence, who coined the phrase: "Hallo honky tonks". ...

50. 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 ...

51. Harry Corbett

Writer | Sooty

Harry Corbett was born on January 28, 1918 in Bradford, Yorkshire, England. He is known for his work on Sooty (2011), Sooty: Learn the Alphabet (2015) and The Sooty Show (1968). He was married to Marjorie Corbett. He died on August 17, 1989 in Child Okeford, Blandford Forum, Dorset, England.