"Some people think that they can stand up in front of a room full of people, say something, and make them laugh. They hope they're right."
Stand-up comics frequently say that this form of entertainment is both the most difficult to perform and most rewarding. Even if certain comics make it into mainstream television and movies, they will often return to the stand-up circuit.
Dave Allen: Irish comedian active throughout the sixties, seventies and eighties. Known for his apparently laid back style (possibly the world's only sit-down, stand up comedian, he would appear sat on a bar stool drinking from a glass of whisky and, up until the early eighties, smoking a cigarette) concealed an incisive and sharp edged style of material. He was known particularly for his attacks on organised religion and authority, as well as for his observational material.
Woody Allen: Most famous for his film career, he started out as a stand-up comic in the early '60s.
Aziz Ansari: Tiny Indian guy, huge hip-hop swagger. Best known for TV work on Parks and Recreation and the MTV sketch show Human Giant, as well as for playing an (extremely) exaggerated version of himself named RAAAAAAAANDY in Judd Apatow's cinematic love letter to Stand-Up Comedy, Funny People.
Maria Bamford: A comedian that known for her portrayal of her dysfunctional family and self-deprecating comedy in the weirdest ways imaginable, as well as the many different voices she uses. Auditioned to be a Saturday Night Live cast member during the 2003-2004 season, but was passed up in favor of Finesse Mitchell and Kenan Thompson. Also shows up on Adventure Time as the voice of most of the minor female characters.
Richard Belzer: Was a writer during the early days of Saturday Night Live (and once stood in for Chevy Chase on Weekend Update when Chase was out for injuring his groin during a political sketch); has turned to drama since then.
Frankie Boyle: Despite doing a lot of TV—particularly Mock the Week—he never the left the stand-up circuit. Famous for his very dark, cynical and often offensive material.
Russell Brand: Famous for his bohemian style of clothing, controversial behavior, and love of women. His stand-up frequently focusses on his personal shame, and often included bits where he reads from and comments on newspapers. Was married to pop singer, Katy Perry, making all the things he said about her being his life and his reason for living Harsher in Hindsight. Brand now hosts the FX channel's answer to The Daily Show called Brand X with Russell Brand.
Lenny Bruce: Not as famous as some of the comics whom he inspired, but his vulgarity and willingness to mock religious and social institutions in a time when such topics were off-limits helped make stand-up comedy what it is today.
Ed Byrne: Irish comedian and frequent guest on Mock the Week, who is a self-professed nerd and generally self-deprecating.
George Carlin: A comedian famous for his dirty mouth, he was actually jailed because of his routine in the '70s. His routine also frequently takes shots at organized religion and drugs. Some of his acting roles include Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure and Dogma; not to mention the Conductor on "Shining Time Station". He's the creator of the Seven Dirty Words routine, and was the very first host on the very first episode of Saturday Night Live (Carlin also hosted an episode on the show's tenth season [1984-1985] and, unlike his first time hosting, actually participated in sketches. Carlin was such a huge part of SNL's history that the very first episode reran following his death in June 2008). His later work (starting with What Am I Doing in New Jersey?) tended to be scathing socio-political commentary, and apart from the Seven Dirty Words routine, this is arguably what he is best known for today; Carlin himself regarded his later work as his best.
Adam Carolla: Famous co-host of The Man Show and The Adam Carolla Show podcast. His ability to do off-the-cuff improvisation is among some of the best in the business, and his brand of observational humor (mostly complaining) has earned him the most downloaded podcast in the world.
Jimmy Carr: British comedian known for his black humor and deadpan delivery
Jasper Carrott: Long-running British comic from Birmingham, known for his schtick of finishing shows by reading out absurd insurance claim forms.
Dave Chappelle: Together with Chris Rock, probably the most prominent black comedian/actor of his generation. He created Chappelle's Show. His career abruptly ended when he realized that Celebrity Is Overrated and many of his fans only loved him for his stupid catchphrases ("I'm Rick James, bitch!" being the most popular). He has appeared on stand up stages, talk shows, and occasional independent projects, but he has had no desire to reclaim the fame he walked away from at its height.
Cheech And Chong: stand-up comedians and actors known for their stoner comedy; recorded a string of successful albums and followed with a string of successful movies in the 1970s to early 1980s before breaking up; reunited in 2008.
Billy Connolly: Scottish folk musician, stand-up and actor, commonly known as "The Big Yin".
Dane Cook: A comedian who has enjoyed a recent massive rise to prominence, including dramas and comedies in film. His style of humor is manic, varied and very disorganized, which has led to a massive Love It or Hate It Internet audience. Like Jim Carrey (and several other celebrities), he auditioned to be a Saturday Night Live cast member, but didn't make it (Cook auditioned for the 2002-2003 season, and was passed up for Will Forte).
He really gets bashed on a lot (e.g. on Family Guy, Community, Scrubs and Archer) with the consensus being that he does simple, unfunny jokes that go nowhere and uses his full name very often.
Bill Cosby: His family-friendly tales of childhood and parenthood became the basis for several TV shows, including the animated Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and the biggest sitcom of The Eighties, The Cosby Show. While he had other shows and films to his credit prior to these [such as I Spy], it's his '80s work, including copious commercial endorsements, that looks to be his biggest legacy beyond his original stand-up. Was also on the 1970s educational show, The Electric Company along with a then-unknown Morgan Freeman (though he didn't stay on the show as long as Freeman did, and unlike Freeman, Cosby doesn't regret being on the show).
Jeff Dunham: A ventriloquist who uses a cast of puppets with myriad quirky personalities. Despite ventriloquism being a traditionally family friendly comedic skill, he should not be considered a kid friendly performer, although he is not overly vulgar.
Bill Engvall: One of the Blue Collar comics, though his act contains very little material about Southern life. He is the creator of the famous "Here's Your Sign" routine, in which he proposes that stupid people should be given signs so that the non-stupid can easily identify them.
Jeff Foxworthy: The most famous of the Blue Collar comics, and the creator of "You Might Be a Redneck". Sales of his various comedy records since the late 1980's has made him one of the best-selling comedy performers of all time.
Stan Freberg: Also a voice actor for the original Looney Tunes cartoon series. He was the voice of Pete Puma from "Rabbit's Kin" and the dopey Baby Bear on Chuck Jones's short-lived Three Bears series, featuring a Dysfunctional Family of bears (the father has a short temper and would hit a cub and the mama bear is too passive to protect her son from her husband's wrath).
Jim Gaffigan: Well-known for his bits about food, particularly his Hot Pockets routine, as well as numerous jokes making fun of himself, especially his pale skin. A gimmick of his act is that he will frequently follow up his jokes with disapproving comments about them in a different voice, as if to suggest that is what the audience is thinking.
Janeane Garofalo: Stand-up comedienne who worked with Ben Stiller on The Ben Stiller Show and was a cast member on Saturday Night Live during its 20th season (1994-1995). Her time there was described once as "...being the Indian given the smallpox-infested blankets by the white settlers." note In other words, she hated it there and left mid-season
Gilbert Gottfried: Screechy, obnoxious comedian and occasional kids' show voice actor (he's Iago in the Aladdin movies, was the first voice of Dr. Bender on The Fairly Oddparents, and the voice of the child-hating Tickle-Me-Psycho doll on Robotomy, among other roles). Like Eddie Murphy, Gottfried was also an SNL cast member during its troubled sixth season, worth nothing because Gottfried back then didn't squint, had a full head of black hair, and actually had an indoor voice.
Kathy Griffin: Her stand-up concentrates on her experiences with celebrities to the point that some stars actively avoid her for fear of becoming part of her act while others flock to her because they think she's funny. She had a long-running Reality Show called My Life on the D List which showed her attempts to build her career. Her mom has become a star in her own right thanks to her swearing and love of boxed wine.
Kevin Hart: Similar to Steve Harvey below, immensely popular in the African-American community but not very popular in the mainstream.
Steve Harvey: A very popular comedian in the black community but not as popular in the mainstream. He had a sitcom, The Steve Harvey Show, and was in The Original Kings of Comedy. He now has hit it big, writing a book (Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man), having his own radio show, his own dating site (despite, or maybe because of the fact that he is on his third marriage), a televised talk show, and is the current (as of 2/4/11) host of Family Feud.
Mitch Hedberg: Combined observational humor with bizarre non-sequiturs. Famous for his laid back persona, he has been described as a stoner version of Steven Wright. Died of a drug overdose, turning some of his drug-related jokes into Funny Aneurysm Moments.
Richard Herring: Started out as one half of the comedy due Lee and Herring, he went on to be a pioneer of using the internet for comedy. Has blogged EVERY DAY since 2003, and is particularly well known for his podcasts As It Occurs To Me and The Collings & Herrin Podcast. Is particularly fond of turning all his shows into Acronyms - so that As It Occurs To Me becomes 'AIOTM' (aiotm).
Bill Hicks: Best known for his scathing socio-political commentary.
Russell Howard: British comedian who has a generally optimistic view, and especially loves nostalgic stories about childhood and his crazy family.
Gabriel Iglesias: Known for his loud, boisterous style with exaggerated vocal impersonations. Prefers to tell funny, real life stories and usually refuses to do political of social commentary jokes. Known for his love of chocolate cake and being "fluffy." Was a cast member on All That when they revamped the cast in 2000 and was part of the first group of comedians in Last Comic Standing.
The Tenderloins, a comedy group who have come to be known as the Impractical Jokers on Tru TV's reality TV show.
Robin Ince: British comedian known for his highly cerebral style of comedy; his routines revolving either around the wonders of science or the horrors of bad books.
Milton Jones: British comedian whose style is characterized by clever one-liners and often features truly magnificent puns.
Andy Kaufman: He found comedy clubs the most receptive venues for acts which were closer to experimental theater than conventional stand-up. His Mighty Mouse routine was one of the highlights of the very first Saturday Night Live broadcast, and he was a frequent guest performer there and on the SNLExpyFridays, where he refused to do a sketch about restaurant patrons smoking weed and got into a fight with Michael Richards (the movie Man on the Moon depicts this with Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman, Norm MacDonald as Michael Richards, and Caroline Rhea as Melanie Chartoff). A Love It or Hate It performer [save for his success as Latka - an adaptation of one of his stage characters - on Taxi], but highly influential in his love of experimentation.
Sam Kinison: A bitter, bitter man (especially towards women) with No Indoor Voice. Did guest appearances on Saturday Night Live during its 11th season (and hosted during its 12th season, which was one of three episodes that had to be put on a five-second delay out of fear of foul language and controversial statements, joining Richard Pryor and Andrew "Dice" Clay). Was considered for the role of Al Bundy on Married... with Children (with Roseanne Barr as Peg).
Jon Lajoie: Though he does more parodies than actual comedy routines.
Larry The Cable Guy: Git-r-done! Another Blue Collar comic. Known to younger generations as the voice of Mater in the Cars films. Has quite a big Hatedom, many of whom are unaware that Larry is actually an Affectionate Parody comedy character performed by comedian Daniel Whitney.
Martin Lawrence: Manic black comedian who had his own show, Martin, on Fox (it was canceled after the actress who played Martin's girlfriend, Gina, accused Lawrence of sexually harassing her) and was banned from ever hosting Saturday Night Live again after launching into a particularly disgusting monologue about women's hygiene.
Denis Leary: A mixture of critiquing current culture and joking about his family and past, Leary is extremely fond of profanity. Many of his jokes are slanted towards Black Comedy.
Stewart Lee: A favourite among other comedians, he is a Brit with a slow deadpan delivery who does long, rambling routines in a self-referential style.
Louis C.K.: His work mostly centers around rather dark comedy, which is mostly based on his own life. He used to make jokes (and a TV-Show) about how shitty his marriage was, got divorced, and now he makes jokes (and a TV-show) about how shitty it is to be a single father in his forties.
Norm MacDonald: Famous for his ability to make the most mundane statements hilarious with his unique delivery. For the ultimate Norm MacDonald routine, see his performance at the Bob Saget roast. Was a Weekend Update anchor on SNL during its 20th season (making that the only reason anyone ever really watched that season back in 1994), but got fired in the late-1990s by NBC executive Don Ohlymeier for allegedly "...not being funny." Returned to host SNL on its 25th season (1999-2000) and claimed that the reason why he's so "Goddamn funny" is because the show has gotten worse since he left.
Demetri Martin: An extremely intellectual comedian who does a lot of one-liners, and also heavily features drawings and musical accompaniment in his stand-up shows. Also had a TV show called Important Things With Demetri Martin and is a law school dropout (according to the UK comedy special If I...).
Steve Martin: The king of goofiness. He merged his stand up routine with other performance art including musical numbers, skits and props. Known for his perpetually white hair since the 70's. Was once Saturday Night Live's most frequent guest host — to the point that many people mistook him for one of the "Not Ready for Primetime" regulars — and tied with Alec Baldwin until Baldwin broke his own record by hosting the first episode of season 37 note Despite this, Steve Martin has made the most overall appearances on the show — 15 episodes he hosted + 11 cameo appearances; compare to Alec Baldwin, who hosted 16 times and made eight cameo appearances. Has had a successful string of film roles, often playing The Everyman.
Jackie Mason: Jewish comedian. Is the voice of Krusty the Clown's rabbi father on The Simpsons (as seen on such episodes as "Like Father, Like Clown," "Today, I Am a Clown," and "Once Upon a Time in Springfield," among others)
Anders Matthesen: Danish comedian, radio host, actor, musician and film director.
Michael McIntyre: Hyperactive British observational comedian, frequent panel show guest. Broke through into the public eye in a big way after his appearance in a Royal Variety Performance. Responsible for two of the fastest-selling standup comedy DVD's of all time.
Roy D. Mercer: A fictional character created by radio hosts Brent Douglas and Phil Stone for the purpose of a prank call show, which was also released on CD for many years.
Dennis Miller: Notorious for his obscure historical and pop culture references as well as having a loquacious, yet vulgar vocabulary. Was on Saturday Night Live as a Weekend Update anchor ("That's the news and I am outta here!") from 1985 to 1991 (becoming the longest-running Weekend Update anchor with six years. Tina Fey and Seth Meyers are the only other SNL cast members who are tied with Miller). Is currently a FOX News commentator, but does do the occasional stand-up special.
Dylan Moran: Poetic drunken Irishman with a similar style to Eddie Izzard. Also visible in TV and film, as the central character of Black Books and a role in Shaun of the Dead.
Eddie Murphy: Getting his start on Saturday Night Live (in the early 1980s when the show was floundering after the remnants of the original cast left and a new, not-necessarily-better cast was hired in its place), he branched into film with the Beverly Hills Cop movies in the 80's and The Nutty Professor and Dr. Dolittle films in the 90's. Besides voicing Donkey in the Shrek films, his more recent films have mostly been looked down upon, though his role in the film Dreamgirls received an Oscar nomination.
Al Murray: Best known for his work as The Pub Landlord
Bob Newhart: His signature stand-up routines were his "telephone conversations", in which the audience only heard his character's side of the conversation. He later headlined several successful sitcoms: Newhart and The Bob Newhart Show. He is the uncle of short-lived Saturday Night Live cast member Paul Brittain.
Nichols and May (Mike Nichols and Elaine May): A highly influential improvisational comedy team from the late 1950s.
Ross Noble: The king of improv, he often creates an entire show out of the tiniest of comments or actions from the audience, as his surreal imagination jumps from one topic to another at lightning speed.
Michael O Connel: Wheelchair-bound observational comedian with Muscular Dystrophy, who bases a lot of his comedy on how people in wheelchairs are treated by people not in wheelchairs. His catchphrase is "First, I'd like to object to the use of the phrase Stand-Up comedy..."
Patton Oswalt: A sort of geek-philosopher, who often uses pop-culture examples to give his take on real events.
Emo Phillips: A comedian very committed to his stage persona (typically he only gives interviews as this character) as a Psychopathic Man Child twisting straightforward observations into the contorted perspective of his character.
John Pinette: French-Irish comedian (his stomach is Italian). His jokes center on his life, his travels, and food. Especially food. Also a talented singer. And for all that, he's probably best known as the carjacked fat guy in the final Seinfeld episode.
Richard Pryor: Considered the godfather of stand-up comedy (next to George Carlin). He talked a lot about growing up in the slums and drug abuse (as his mom was a hooker, his father was her pimp, and his grandmother ran a whorehouse). Was the first black celebrity to host Saturday Night Live and the one whose appearance cemented SNL's reputation as the edgy, late-night sketch show that wasn't afraid of making fun of touchy subject matter (in this case, racism), as proven with the "Racist Word Association" sketch and a multi-part sketch where a black man is picked out of a police line-up for crimes he didn't commit.
Brian Regan: A clean comic; he takes many of the oldest routines people have ever considered and works to make them funny again. Part of the humor comes from his general deprecation of himself, a sort of Obfuscating Stupidity that makes the material funny again.
Don Rickles: (a.k.a. Mr. Warmth, The Merchant of Venom, The Czar of the Zinger); Don Rickles is one of the 20th Century's most famous funny men and one of the great masters of insult comedy. Unlike many insult comics who only find short-lived success, Rickles has enjoyed a sustained career in insult performance. For more than 55 years he has appeared in top showrooms in Atlantic City, Reno Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas. He was a frequent guest of The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson; Johnny was the one who made famous Rickles' entrance theme, La Virgen de la Macarena which is played to this day whenever Rickles comes out. He has won two Emmys for a documentary about his life and career as a stand up comedian, "Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project". Was/is good friends with the late Frank Sinatra, the late Dean Martin, and Bob Newhart. For the younger generation he is more famous as the voice of Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story films.
Joan Rivers: American standup comedienne and talk show host. She often said outrageous things, but she was a pioneer for women in comedy. Without her contribution, there would be no Roseanne Barr, no Tina Fey, and so on.
Jerry Sadowitz: Scots-Jewish comedian known for the utterly shocking and depraved nature of his material based on a view of total misanthropy (he hates everyone regardless of race, religion or sex) and his incredible skills as a magician. A very prescient routine about Jimmy Saville is currently circulating the internet.
Mort Sahl: One of the first standup comics to deal in topical, political humor, Sahl was also the first to perform on college campuses and the first to hit on the idea of recording and releasing his performances on albums.
Jerry Seinfeld: Observational humor taken to its apex with his own wildly successful self-titled sitcom. Despite his financial success, has remained fairly unseen since his show ended and still tours the stand-up community.
Josh Thomas: Australian comedian who specializes in self-deprecating sex comedy.
Christopher Titus: Explicitly calls his routine "Therapeutic Stand Up." Bases most of his comedy on his extremely dysfunctional life, featuring a judgmental, hypocritical, functioning alcoholic father who married and divorced five times, a manipulative, manic-depressive mother who had a 180 IQ, was a concert pianist, spoke four languages, and was in so many beauty pageants in the 1960s that she qualified for Miss California, a string of relationships with abusive women (one of which was his own wife, Erin), a brother who smokes weed, a sister who was raised by his mentally deranged mother and ultimately killed herself after her boyfriend left her again, and a Mormon uncle. Had his own show on FOX (Titus) based on his stand-up special Norman Rockwell is Bleeding, but it got axed due to its dark humor and Executive Meddling.
Daniel Tosh: Host of the unexpectedly successful (at least to the network) Comedy Central show Tosh.0 where he rips on various internet videos. No one is sure if he's gay or straight, and has come under fire for his misogynistic remarks (such as suggesting that a female rape victim deserved what she got).
Arnaud Tsamere: A French surrealist comedian who has worked in television and on stage.
Uncle Yo: a staple of the American convention circuit, he specializes in fandom comedy. Definitely One of Us.
Ron White: The fourth and most vulgar of the Blue Collar comics, and the only one not to be a regular on the troupe's television series.
Robin Williams: Frantic, motor-mouth style comedy that doesn't let up. He calmed down a touch after he quit cocaine. Has had a varied career, ranging from comedies and dramas in movies as well as the television sitcom that made him a star, Mork and Mindy. Won an Oscar playing a psychiatrist in the film Good Will Hunting.
Jonathan Winters: One of the pioneers of improvisation, his act has influenced many other comics including Robin Williams, which earned him a guest spot on Mork and Mindy. In some instances he is able to go on for hours about any particular subject, switching between different characters and different topics on the same subject. Has had several other television and movie roles.