10. Bill Cosby – Bill Cosby was funny, and not the family-friendly type of funny that you hear with the Huxtable family on the Cosby Show, but the real funny that you can only hear in nightclubs with other adults. He released Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow…Right in 1963 and was soon on his way to stardom. More so, Bill Cosby was transcendent. He paved the way for comedians like Seinfeld and Tim Allen.
9. Don Rickles – Don Rickles was one of the first insult comics. He opened for all the big acts of his era and was known for roasting every one and anyone near him. This started from his early days when hecklers interrupted him. The insults caught on and Rickles quickly added them into his performances. He was a brilliant comedian and his timing was impeccable.
8. Steve Martin – Steve Martin was the first big comedian to cross over into popular culture. He started as a writer and took his slapstick/improvisational act to large television audiences like The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and across the nation.
7. Robin Williams - Yes, the guy from Patch Adams and Mork and Mindy was actually funny at one time. An Evening with Robin Williams and his earlier Off the Wall were comedic genius. His style was flow of conscientiousness meets a speed addict. And he influenced a lot of the comics that started during his stand up career.
6. Chris Rock – Chris Rock is one of the best comics of this generation. He wields observational and satirical humor better than all his contemporaries and most of his comedy forefathers. Rock’s real gift is posing serious social and political questions while making an audience laugh at the truth in his statements.
5. Lenny Bruce – Bruce is the progenitor to comedians as we know them today. He is considered by many to be the first “dirty” comic and was harassed and arrested because of it. Among the best punchlines I’ve heard from Bruce are ‘to’ is a preposition, ‘come’ is a verb, and that the sexual content of ‘come’ is so common and meaningless that if someone hearing it becomes upset,” he probably can’t come.”
4. Eddie Murphy – Eddie Murphy is a comedic genius. Raw and Delirious are two of the best stand up routines of this generation. Murphy rants about everything from growing up poor to very well-endowed, men on vacations. He did impressions ranging from his mother, to Bill Cosby, to Richard Pryor. He may be the most talented comic ever.
3. Rodney Dangerfield – He was all slapstick and one-liners, but no one did either better than Rodney Dangerfield. If you love physical comedy like the Three Stooges, he’s your guy. If you like your comedy mean and spiteful, he would insult himself and then you. He had older men saying, “I don’t get no respect,” for the longer part of a decade. Despite this, he’s still #3.
2. George Carlin – Carlin is one of the best to ever touch a mic onstage. He won five Grammy’s for his comedy albums. He had the rare gift for putting social commentary into perspective for his audience and the rarer gift of being funny while doing it. Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words” is still the standard for comedians today.
1. Richard Pryor – Richard Pryor is the best comedian that ever lived. He did characters like “Mudbone”, he did impressions, and most importantly, he gave people the truth. When a comedian gets their audience to laugh at their most personal, intimate failures, he connects with them and transcends comedy. Pryor talked candidly about many things the audience could relate to or had heard in the news, including but not limited to, water splashing his butt in the restroom and burning himself with his own crackpipe. He always connected with his audience and he always gave the crowd what they wanted, the truth.