30 Greatest Comic Actors in Film

by peacham | created - 18 Jun 2013 | updated - 28 Jun 2013 | Public

A list of performaers who are known as geniuses in the field of comedy.

1. 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 ...

2. 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 ...

3. Jack Benny

Actor | The Jack Benny Program

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...

4. Peter Sellers

Actor | Being There

Often credited as the greatest comedian of all time, Peter Sellers was born Richard Henry Sellers to a well-off acting family in 1925 in Southsea, a suburb of Portsmouth. He was the son of Agnes Doreen "Peg" (Marks) and William "Bill" Sellers. His parents worked in an acting company run by his ...

5. Madeline Kahn

Actress | Paper Moon

Madeline Kahn was born Madeline Gail Wolfson on September 29, 1942 in Boston, Massachusetts, to Freda (Goldberg) and Bernard B. Wolfson, a garment manufacturer. She was of Russian Jewish descent. Madeline began her acting career in high school and went on to university where she trained as an opera...

6. Al Shaw

Actor | The King and the Chorus Girl

Al Shaw was born on June 1, 1902 in Poland as Albert Schultzman. He was an actor, known for The King and the Chorus Girl (1937), The Last Express (1938) and I Live for Love (1935). He was married to Victoria Berkowitz. He died on March 13, 1985 in Westminster, California, USA.

7. Sam Lee

Actor | Detective Lloyd

Sam Lee was born on July 12, 1891 in Newark, New Jersey, USA as Samuel Levy. He was an actor, known for Detective Lloyd (1932), The King and the Chorus Girl (1937) and The Last Express (1938). He died on January 9, 1980 in Los Angeles County, California, USA.

8. 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 ...

9. Bill Murray

Actor | Lost in Translation

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, ...

10. George Burns

Actor | Oh, God!

George Burns was born on January 20, 1896 in New York City, New York, USA as Nathan Birnbaum. He was an actor and producer, known for Oh, God! (1977), The Sunshine Boys (1975) and Going in Style (1979). He was married to Gracie Allen and Hannah Siegel. He died on March 9, 1996 in Beverly Hills, Los...

11. 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 Gracie Allen Murder Case (1939) and The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (1950). She was married to George Burns. She died ...

12. 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 ...

13. 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 ...

14. Chevy Chase

Actor | Caddyshack

Chevy Chase was born Cornelius Crane Chase in Lower Manhattan, New York, to Cathalene Parker (Browning), a concert pianist and librettist, and Edward Tinsley "Ned" Chase, an editor and writer. His parents both came from prominent families, and his grandfathers were artist and illustrator Edward ...

15. Gene Wilder

Actor | Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Gene Wilder was born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Jeanne (Baer) and William J. Silberman, who manufactured miniature whiskey and beer bottles. His father was a Russian Jewish immigrant, while his Illinois-born mother was of Russian Jewish descent.

Wilder caught his first big break ...

16. Carol Burnett

Actress | Annie

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...

17. Paul Lynde

Actor | Bye Bye Birdie

Paul Lynde was born in 1926 in Mount Vernon, Ohio (one of six children and the middle of four boys). His father was a local police officer and the sheriff of the Mount Vernon Jail for two years. Lynde got his inspiration to become an actor at the age of four or five after his mother took him to see...

18. John Ritter

Actor | Sling Blade

Jonathan Southworth Ritter was born in Burbank, California, on September 17, 1948. He was the son of legendary country singer/actor Tex Ritter and his wife, actress Dorothy Fay. The couple married in 1941 and had their first child, Tom Ritter, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. John was ...

19. 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 latter he adapted for the stage with John Du Prez as Monty Python's Spamalot, winning the Tony ...

20. Jackie Gleason

Actor | The Hustler

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 ...

21. 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,...

22. 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...

23. 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, ...

24. Bob Newhart

Actor | Newhart

Bob Newhart was born on September 5, 1929 in Oak Park, Illinois, USA as George Robert Newhart. He is an actor and writer, known for Newhart (1982), The Rescuers (1977) and Elf (2003). He has been married to Ginny Newhart since January 12, 1963. They have four children.

25. Ethel Merman

Actress | It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Born in the Astoria section of Queens, New York City, Ethel Merman surely is the pre-eminent star of 'Broadway' musical comedy. Though untrained in singing, she could belt out a song like quite no one else, and was sought after by major songwriters such as Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. Having ...

26. Lucille Ball

Actress | I Love Lucy

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 ...

27. Hans Conried

Actor | Peter Pan

Hans Conried was born in Baltimore and raised both there and in New York City. He studied acting at Columbia University, and played many major classical roles onstage. After having been a member of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre Company, he was heard as Prof. Kropotkin on the radio show "My Friend ...

28. Dick Shawn

Actor | It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

One-of-a-kind nightclub comedian/singer Dick Shawn (ne Richard Schulefand) was as off-the-wall as they came and, as such, proved to be rather an acquired taste. Way ahead of his time most say, it was extremely difficult indeed to know how to properly tap into this man's eclectic talents. Shawn ...

29. Redd Foxx

Actor | Sanford and Son

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 ...

30. 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...



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