Stand-up comedians come and go, with many failing to leave their mark on the profession. As with anything, the best of the best have risen to become icons. While some have long since passed, others are still playing to sell out crowds. Check out our list of the top comedians to have ever graced a comedy club stage (in no particular order).
1) George Carlin
The comedian gained a reputation for saying the things no one else would. His “seven dirty words” became more than just a routine caused a case about indecency that would eventually go to the supreme court.
2) Richard Pryor
Richard Pryor is considered by many to be one of the best, if not the best, stand-up comedian. He reached audiences with concert movies that would run throughout the ‘70s. Many people also know his work in films starring alongside Gene Wilder.
3) Jerry Seinfeld
Jerry Seinfeld made himself known the comedy club circuit, but he really made a contribution to comedy with his series Seinfeld. The show used Seinfeld’s routines as a weekly intro and outro to the show. The show would set off a frenzy of similarly themed shows from other comedians, but none matched Seinfeld’s success.
4) Steve Martin
Martin started out as a comedy writer and saw his work as a comedian take off during the ‘70s. Regular appearance on The Tonight Show helped him gain a spot among SNL’s most famous cast of performers. After the series, he began appearing in films and saw success taking over Spencer Tracy’s role in Father of the Bride.
5) Chris Rock
Speaking of SNL, Chris Rock is another stand-up comedian who established himself on the series. His take on current issues along with a classic style that brought to mind the work of Richard Pryor Rock also had his own popular HBO series which brought to life characters such as Pooty Tang.
6) Robin Williams
Before he was The Genie or Mrs. Doubtfire, Robin Williams made his name with stand-up comedy. Frenetic and full of energy, his performances had audiences asking for more. Even as a film star, the comedian would return to his roots for charities and Comic Relief special events.
7) Joan Rivers
In a world dominated by male comedians, Joan Rivers made the industry all her own. Her stand-up routines were always razor sharp and fearless. The comedian also made sure that no was safe in her routines, even herself; the jokes were constantly biting. A reputation for being one of the best helped her land a coveted spot as The Tonight Show’s guest host. It was a title she transitioned to her own short lived talk show. She would continue performing until her death in 2014.
8) Dave Chappelle
Like others on the list, Chappelle really hit success with a popular comedy series. The Chappelle Show was a definitive comedy series that ranks among the best ever. Outside of TV, the comedian’s stand-up routines have been topical, blunt, and hilarious.
9) Mitch Hedberg
Mitch Hedberg was building up to his own successful career when he passed away in 2005. The comedian’s humor set him apart from other contemporaries. His routines avoided the usual news related jokes and focused more on the humorous observations that anyone could relate to.
10) Don Rickles
Don Rickles made his name with deprecating comedy routines which made every audience member fair game. He was also known to viewers of late night TV as he told stories of his friendships with famous Hollywood legends.
11) Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy is another comedian whose lineage directly traces to Richard Pryor. The direct style of delivery and adult material have Murphy a fan following that only grew during his time at SNL. He also built a successful career on a cast of characters such as those found in the hilarious Coming to America.
12) Ellen DeGeneres
DeGeneres was a favorite in comedy clubs when she got her own sitcom. A positive, self-deprecating comedian, she went on to make TV and comedy history when announcing she was gay. The goodwill and positive approach to topics helped her establish a popular talk show.