I’m of the opinion that there is nothing better than a night of comedy. Nothing soothes the soul and calms the troubled waters of life (at least temporarily) than a good belly laugh delivered by a funny comedian. Whether on video, television, or at a live performance, a funny comedian will consistently work their craft, bring us to tears, and remind us that life doesn’t have to permanently suck! And when it comes to choosing a funny comedian act, my tendency is to reach back in time for some classic humor.
Truth be told, I prefer those hilarious comedians of yore who transcended race, gender, and age. These masters of the genre consistently delivered their own brand of entertainment: the laugh-out-loud, help-I-can’t-breath kind of fun that has stood the test of time.
Here are my choices for the top six comedians of all time:
Funny Comedian #1: Jack Benny:
Benny is considered to be the godfather of the genre. He was famous for his comic timing and his ability to get laughs from a pregnant pause or a single expression, such as his signature exasperated “Well!” His programs on radio and television were tremendously popular from the 1930s to the 1960s, and were a foundational influence on comedians of the next generation. Dean Martin, on the celebrity roast for Johnny Carson in November 1973, introduced Benny as “the Satchel Paige of the comedy world.”
Funny Comedian #2: Jonathan Winters – Winters got his start as a guest star on Arthur Godfrey’s, Jack Paar’s, and Steve Allen’s shows. Later he would make his mark with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. His comedy style worked perfectly in television, movies, and books, stemming from the bizarre characters he created from his own imagination. Although he is getting on in years (at this writing he is still with us), his videos continually prove to be popular on YouTube. Through the miracle of technology, a new generation of fans are getting introduced to this funny comedian.
Funny Comedian #3: Bob Hope:
Bob Hope was an American comedy icon throughout the 20th century. He starred in vaudeville, and later moved on to Broadway, and then eventually conquered radio, television and movies. However, he may be most famous for his unceasing work on behalf of the US Armed Forces and his numerous USO tours. He literally entertained millions of American military personnel throughout his illustrious career. In 1996, the U.S. Congress honored Bob Hope by declaring him the “first and only honorary veteran of the U.S. armed forces.” Hope was truly an American hero, along with being one of America’s most successful funny comedians. Even while dying, Bob Hope was ever the comic. According to one of Hope’s daughters, when asked on his deathbed where he wanted to be buried, he told his wife, “Surprise me”.
Funny Comedian #4: Bill Cosby:
Cosby, more than any other funny comedian, was (and still is) successful with all types of media. And he found success while consistently yielding a human perspective to his routines. Considering his modest beginnings, and his childhood growing up in the projects of Philadelphia, it’s no surprise he brings a different style to his comedy. He’s adept at storytelling, and has been able to make his tales funny in varied mediums such as cartoons, television shows, movies, and books. It was Cosby who broke the TV color barrier with his character on I Spy in the 1960s. Later he would become the first and most successful Black comedian to star in (and wield control) of his own sitcom. His comedic style seems to make everyone laugh, irrespective of skin color.
Funny Comedian #5: Phyllis Diller:
Diller is one of those rare women who raised five children, and still was able to make history in the man’s world of stand-up comedy. She wrote her own material, and effectively presented it for over 40 years! It’s impressive to realize that she was able to be funny even while championing causes for children, cancer, and other philanthropic ventures. As of this writing, she is still with us, although she has retired from personal appearances.
Funny Comedian #6: George Carlin
Born during the Great Depression and coming of age during the hippie movement, this high school dropout never fit into the mainstream. His style of dress and his routines always defied the norm and he initially experienced significant struggles because of it. His famous Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television and his appearance as the first guest on Saturday Night Live marked him as an unpredictable comedian and began a long line of “firsts” for this man of talent. Awarded the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize in 2008, one week before his death, he was the first to receive the award posthumously.
In the interest of space, I left several funny comedians off of this list. Names such as Red Skelton, Joan Rivers, and Lenny Bruce should be considered worthy of inclusion on any list of funny comedians.