Even though their business is laughter, comedians live a life of frustration- until they make it. The late shows in scuzzy comedy clubs, taxing tour schedules, and heckling crowds all become worth it when these funny men and women eventually rake in the big bills.
Amy Schumer- $16 Million
Amy Schumer has recently found success after doing standup since 2004. She has a successful sketch comedy show called Inside Amy Schumer, as well as many stand-up specials, including one produced by HBO that was nominated for three Emmys.
Kristen Wiig- $16 Million
Like many comedians who start out as performers rather than stand-ups, Kristen Wiig began her career as an improviser with the famed Groundlings troupe in Los Angeles. She got so good that she eventually joined the cast of Saturday Night Live, where she was a member for over six years. She became a household name, and was cast in many movies that helped her fill her pockets. Some of the biggest were Bridesmaids, the Ghostbusters reboot, and will soon star with Jack Nicholson in a new film.
Amy Poehler- $18 million
Amy Poehler started her career in Chicago, the Mecca of improvisational comedy. She and others from her improv community brought New York City its own performance center, by founding the Upright Citizens Brigade (which has also expanded to California). As a comedic improviser, she was hilarious enough to be cast on Saturday Night Live, and despite joining right after 9/11, was able to still bring joy to somber New Yorkers. Eventually, she starred in her own Golden Globe-winning show Parks and Recreation.
Jack Black- $20 Million
Jack Black was a student who struggled with traditional book learning, but was great at drama. He decided to pursue acting, and found success, albeit in small roles in big movies with stars like Wesley Snipes, Jim Carrey, Gene Hackman, and Will Smith. Jack finally made his mark when he was in High Fidelity, giving him enough notoriety to star in main roles like Shallow Hal, and of course, the unforgettable movie, The School Of Rock. Black also performed music, as part of the duo Tenacious D.
Patton Oswalt- $14 Million
Patton Oswalt came on the comedy scene in the early 1990’s, and found enough success to be a writer for shows like MADtv. Most people probably know him as Spence Olchin from The King of Queens. Although some may say he is lucky to have a net worth of $14 million, he has suffered an unspeakable tragedy. His wife, journalist Michelle McNamara, who is the mother of his daughter, unexpectedly died in her sleep after 11 years of marriage. Patton is completing her true crime book for publication.
Chelsea Handler- $35 Million
Chelsea Handler’s career started with an unfortunate event- she got charged with a DUI. She told stories to others in trouble, and they thought she was funny, leading to her to pursue comedy. She was on multiple shows on E! network, including her own show The Chelsea Handler Show. Chelsea is a successful author who brought in a lot of money through her five New York Times bestsellers, but she probably made the most from her deals to make two shows with Netflix.
Adam McKay- $40 Million
Many of you will look at this guy, and wonder who he is. It is not surprising that you do not recognize this bespectacled man, but you will one-hundred percent recognize his work. He directed Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and its sequel, as well as huge non-comedic films like The Big Short. He was once a performer as well, with the original Upright Citizens Brigade improv troupe that included Amy Poehler. Now, this Academy Award winner is rolling in the big bucks.
David Spade- $40 Million
David Spade was on Saturday Night Live in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, which helps catapult him into a successful career in films. Two early ones were alongside the late Chris Farley: Tommy Boy and Black Sheep. He is also known for his other long-standing roles on television on Just Shoot Me! and Rules of Engagement. The more recent films Grown Ups and Grown Ups 2, despite disappointing the critics, has made hundreds of millions of dollars, and Spade now has an impressive $40 million net worth.
Stephen Colbert- $45 Million
We all remember Stephen Colbert from his journey as a Daily Show correspondent to having his own spin-off political show, The Colbert Report. After he got tired of pretending to be a conservative political correspondent, he got the offer of a lifetime- to replace David Letterman as the host of The Late Show. Since he earns $15 million a year as the host of the late-night talkshow, he has been able to amass an amazing net worth of $45 million.
Billy Crystal- $45 Million
Billy Crytal is such a Hollywood staple that he has hosted the Oscars nine times. This was well earned, as the funnyman starred in massive hits such as City Slickers, Analyze This, and When Harry Met Sally. Crystal also won a Tony for his acting in his own one-man-show on Broadway. Crystal has amassed enough money through his successes in entertainment that he is actually the part owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, despite the fact that he is a huge Yankee fan.
Whoopi Goldberg- $45 million
One of the most incredible things about Whoopi Goldberg is that she is one of the rare performers who achieved EGOT status. This means she won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and a Tony award. It is no surprise that such award-winning work was rewarded with the massive net worth of $45 million. Goldberg is known by many for being a talking head on The View. Whoopi is extremely philanthropic and active politically, famously as part of the fundraiser show Comic Relief.
Melissa McCarthy- $50 Million
Melissa McCarthy first came to the public’s attention when she appeared in Gilmore Girls. She played Sookie St. James in both the original and its Netflix revival. After appearing on several network sitcoms, she hosted Saturday Night Live five times, and was so good at it, that she got the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. She and her husband invested in a production company called On the Day, which produced a McCarthy film Tammy, which made $80 million in profit.
Tracy Morgan- $50 Million
Tracy Morgan is a hilarious comedian who played a diva-ish, clueless version of himself on Tina Fey’s 30 Rock. It was easy for him to play the character, not only because it was based on him, but because he had real-life experience as an actor on Saturday Night Live. In 2014, he had an unfortunate traffic collision, that left him in an uncertain state. He was lucky that he did not suffer the fate of fellow passenger and comedian James McNair, who paid the ultimate price.
Jeff Dunham- $60 million
Jeff Dunham is unlike other comedians on this list, as he is not a classic comic or improviser, but a ventriloquist. He opens up his cases and takes out various dummies, and has been very successful with tag lines of his characters being repeated over and over again. Time magazine called his characters “politically incorrect, gratuitously insulting and ill-tempered.” He is regularly on the list for the top paid comedians, with six Comedy Central specials, and many sold out theater tours.
Tina Fey- $65 million
Tina Fey started in improv, and was so good that she was cast as a regular performer at Second City, the premier theater in Chicago. From there she was able to score a position on Saturday Night Live, where she started as a writer, and ended up as head writer and performer. Nobody can forget her amazing Sarah Palin impression. Tina Fey also wrote and starred in Mean Girls, which seems like it is one of the most quoted movies ever.
Chris Rock- $70 Million
Chris Rock is an amazing comedian whose raspy voice and opinions have had audiences laughing and him laughing to the bank. Rock’s standup usually contains some sort of refrain, that he touches upon, over and over, like a professor explaining the validity of his thesis. Rock moved from standup to his own TV show, and from there to films like Down To Earth and Head of State, the latter being an homage to Robert Redford’s The Candidate. Chris is a Hollywood staple, and has even hosted the Oscars.
Eddie Murphy- $75 Million
Eddie Murphy is one of the funniest people ever. His specials Raw and Delirious both feature Murphy in a leather jumpsuit, delivering classic bits that gave him the springboard to be a star on Saturday Night Live. However, many remember him as a movie star, who raked in the big bucks with huge successes like Coming to America, Beverly Hills Cop (all three), The Nutty Professor, and Shrek. Since then, he is focusing on raising his daughter Izzy, who was born in 2016.
Will Ferrell- $80 Million
Will Ferrell is an amazing man-child who is such an incredible comedic actor, that it is almost like he is never serious. Perhaps he is serious only when he is playing Alex Trebek on SNL‘s Celebrity Jeopardy, as the straight man to all the craziness of Burt Reynolds and Sean Connery. In 2011, Will won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Even then, he joked around about how his dream when he was a little kid was to sell insurance, rather than pursue comedic acting.
Kevin James- $80 Million
James first gained notoriety as a stand-up comic, after injuries forced him from pursuing wrestling and football. He is probably best known as the deliveryman Doug Heffernan from The King Of Queens. Kevin also starred in many movies, including alongside Will Smith in Hitch. Kevin also starred in, wrote, and produced Zookeeper, his 2011 film that was financially a huge success. Kevin frequently collaborates with his pal Adam Sandler in movies like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, and Sandy Wexler.
Jon Stewart- $80 Million
Jon Stewart started off as a standup comic, but eventually, through his role hosting The Daily Show, became a very serious voice in American society. Stewart became the go-to news anchor for many people, as the no-frills, comedic way he delivered the news was palatable and entertaining. Steward held the spot for 17 years as the “satirist-in-chief,” and in that time was able to take a whopping $80 million. Stewart has written many books, and has a new deal with HBO to create content.
Ricky Gervais- $80 Million
Ricky Gervais is an amazing character, because he started off in the public eye as a failed pop star. He then re-emerged later in his life, in middle age, in fact, with a pilot for a little show called The Office. The show exploded in popularity, and an American version popped up. Since then, Ricky has been a comedy idol. He is known for his no-holds-barred style, which was especially apparent in his acerbic jokes when he hosted the Golden Globe Awards.
Conan O’Brien- $85 Million
Conan O’Brien is one of the smartest men on television. He is a Harvard graduate and really found his footing on campus at Cambridge with the Harvard Lampoon, the school’s comedy publication. From there, he was able to earn a paycheck soon after University writing for The Simpsons, which assuaged his parents’ fears when he said he was interested in comedy. Now, despite the issue he has with his old network, Conan is going strong on TBS, and is beloved for his travel clips.
Bob Saget- $100 million
Bob Saget started off doing comedy on The Morning Program on CBS, but soon after got cast in the role he is still known for today in Full House. Although he is known as the wholesome father figure Danny Tanner, his true sensibility is far from that. Ironically, the subject of Saget’s comedy is quite adult in nature, and he is maximally foul-mouthed. Now, he collects more money by returning to the dad character on the Netflix spinoff Fuller House.
Mel Brooks- $100 Million
Mel Brooks is one of the funniest people ever. He made classic films such as Young Frankenstein, Spaceballs, and Blazing Saddles. You can get a sense of his worldview and a flavor for his comedy from his film History Of The World: Part I, where Moses quickly says there were 10 commandments, after dropping and breaking a tablet with the other five. Along with Whoopi Goldberg, Mel Brooks is an EGOT winner. He still meets regularly with Carl Reiner, comedy legend, to discuss ideas.
Sacha Baron Cohen- $110 million
Sacha Baron Cohen is one of the most remarkable people in comedy. He studied at Cambridge University, which is known to be one of the best in the whole world. Instead of becoming a researcher like his cousin, he decided to pretend to be a clueless Kazakh who wrestles metaphorically with concepts and literally with people for the entertainment value of everyone. Luckily, it paid off, and Cohen, through his escapades as Ali G, Borat, and Bruno, was able to net an amazing $110 million.
Martin Lawrence- $110 million
Martin Lawrence was a boxer before he decided to head into acting and comedy. After starring in some small roles in films, including in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, he got his big break as the host of Def Comedy Jam. Lawrence had his own sitcom after that on Fox, Martin, which ran for five successful years. Lawrence scored big at the box office with movies like Big Momma’s House and Bad Boys. These films plus other projects got him a nest egg of $110 million overall.
Kevin Hart- $120 million
Kevin Hart is an amazing comedian whose stories on paper do not seem to be so hilarious, but his delivery brings mundane ideas to life. Whether he is swinging his legs on a stool, or gesticulating like a rapper in a battle, he always has audiences in stitches. Kevin also has a huge understanding of branding, and he was able to score himself a big contract with Nike by marketing himself as a hard-working role model. The Nike Hustle Hart shoes alone contribute to his massive $120 million.
Steve Harvey- $120 million
Steve Harvey has been a hugely popular figure in culture for many years. It all started with standup comedy, which eventually led him to have a successful sitcom, The Steve Harvey Show, where he played a teacher named Mr. Hightower, who mentored students through comical issues. The show was popular for six years, and has led to him being a host for his own morning show, talk show, as well as Family Feud. Harvey has five Emmy awards and $120 million to show for himself.
Ray Romano- $130 million
Ray Romano has a very distinctive voice that many like to make fun of. However, it is Ray who has the last laugh, as his sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond, got him a net worth of $130 million. Also, his voice was used in the Ice Age franchise, which netted him a pretty penny as well. Relatively recently, he appeared in the Kumail Nanjiani film The Big Sick, where he played the father of a girl in a coma. Romano showed masterful acting chops.
Rowan Atkinson- $130 Million
Rowan Atkinson is one of the biggest characters ever. Most know him as Mr. Bean, whose comedy is so appealing in many countries as the seemingly paradoxical intelligent slapstick are not communicated through words. This allows for broad appeal. It makes sense that Atkinson could come up with such a smart idea- he was an electrical engineer before he became the star of movies like Johnny English. All the big name movies and TV shows he was in netted him $130 million.
Steve Martin- $130 Million
Steve Martin outlines his early life where he started doing comedy in his book, Born Standing Up, which is a must-read for many up and coming comics. Martin did not immediately go into comedy- he was interested in magic, and was a balloon animal maker, and also worked as a “cast member” at Disneyland. You can see the influence into his comedy, as he uses music and props, and is more of a variety show than orthodox stand-up.
Dan Aykroyd- $135 Million
In the 1980s, Dan Aykroyd was one of the biggest comedic movie stars. He was half of the Blues Brothers, and was also in Ghostbusters. Aykroyd was hilarious in Spies Like Us, with a famous scene where he tries to cheat on his test still giving people laughs today. He fared better than his “brother” John Belushi, who unfortunately passed away young. Dan instead used his notoriety to found the House of Blues chain of music venues, as well as a vodka brand.
Drew Carey- $165 Million
After being in the Marine Corps, Drew Carey decided to head to the library to find some books on joke writing. He must have found some good stuff, because he was able to win open-mic competitions, and worked his way to being a bona fide standup comedian. His talent was eventually noticed, and he starred in his own sitcom, which he was handsomely compensated for. Drew eventually became a lovable host, first of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and then of The Price Is Right.
Seth MacFarlane- $200 Million
Seth MacFarlane is best known as the creator of Family Guy and American Dad!, but he has been involved in many Hanna-Barbera projects like Johnny Bravo and Dexter’s Laboratory. Seth had been drawing comics since he was a little kid, and was publishing his cartoons in the local paper even before he reached age 10. Seth almost lost his life on September 11th, but luckily he was late to the gate of one of the ill-fated planes. Seth also made movies like Ted and its sequel.
Jay Leno- $350 Million
Jay Leno’s net worth blows many of these other comics out of the water. Jay is a household name, and for many, a voice of a generation. His bobble-headed, lispy ways have been charming late-night audiences for quite some time. Jay worked his way up from standup comic to host of one of the most popular talk shows ever. Jay spends his money on his high priced, rare, and vintage cars. He is a collector and sometimes racer of these vehicles.
Ellen Degeneres- $360 Million
Starting out as a humble standup comic, Ellen Degeneres has truly “made it,” with a $360 million net worth. Ellen got her big break by appearing on the Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. She got a sitcom, called Ellen, that ran for many years. However, her big bucks come from the fact that she writes books, and also runs a record company, lifestyle brand, and a production company. These business moves have probably been the key to Ellen’s deep pockets.
Adam Sandler- $360 Million
Although people love to hate him, Adam Sandler is wildly successful, both as an actor, and as a money maker. The funny-voiced Saturday Night Live star moved to the big screen, where his movies all put together have made billions of dollars. Many 1990s comedy classics like Happy Gilmore (with the iconic scene where Adam has fisticuffs with Bob Barker), Billy Madison, and Big Daddy. Adam is actually quite a talented actor, as he showed in Punch Drunk Love, the Paul Thomas Anderson movie.
David Letterman- $400 million
David Letterman hit the scene first as a personality on the radio, as an anchor and weatherman! Letterman started doing comedy in Los Angeles at the world-famous Comedy Store, where his talents were noticed. Eventually, through his positive interactions as a guest on Johnny Carson’s show, Letterman proved he was ready to host Late Night. Letterman did the show for many years, finally stopping in 2015. Letterman took his $400 million dollar fortune, grew out a beard, and enjoyed being retired.
Matt Stone and Trey Parker- $400 million
Matt Stone and Trey Parker were a creative match in heaven. They both loved silly voices and crazy ideas, and they put together a funny video called The Spirit of Christmas, which they animated themselves. The cartoon went viral before there was even an internet that could support such a rapid spread, and it became a little show called South Park. Eventually, as they got more sophisticated, the animation got better, and Matt and Trey looked beyond animation. Their Broadway show, The Book Of Mormon, was hugely successful.
Matt Groening- $500 million
Matt Groening was a cartoonist who was contacted by The Tracey Ullman Show, as they wanted to turn his characters into animated cartoons. Eventually, these shorts became more popular than the whole show, and they started their own program, called The Simpsons. The show has been on the air since 1989 non-stop! The amount of money from the branding and licensing The Simpsons characters is huge. Matt also created Futurama, a show that has been on and off the air.
Larry David- $800 million
Larry David came from a background that was so middle class, that his mother thought that Larry ending up as a postman would be the best he could do. In fact, David did drive a limo and did other various jobs until landing a spot as a cast member on Fridays, ABC’s answer to Saturday Night Live. Eventually, Larry actually moved to SNL, but only ever got one sketch on the air. No matter- the determined comic genius ended up creating Seinfeld, and still stars on Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Jerry Seinfeld- $870 million
Seinfeld is such a household name, as he is now a rich and famous comedian. It is important to note though, that Jerry did not grow up wanting much, but the residuals and royalties he makes from the syndication of Seinfeld catapulted him to the very heights of wealth. Jerry, of course, started his career as a standup, snippets of which can be seen at the beginning of the show. Since the end of the show, he lent his voice to Bee Movie.
Kathy Griffin- $20 million
Kathy Griffin is a comedian who regularly makes appearances on roasts. Kathy is known to be something of a low-level celebrity, and she decided to take it all in stride by having a reality show that portrayed her life called Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. She has tons of standup specials recorded, and, in fact, is a world record holder for how many she has out there. She has been successful, winning a Primetime Emmy as well as a Grammy.
Dave Chappelle- $45 million
Dave Chappelle started doing comedy very early on in his life. Eventually, he ended up having success in small film roles such as Robin Hood: Men In Tights (which was made by comedy legend Mel Brooks), and You’ve Got Mail, as the coworker and friend of Tom Hanks’ character. Dave’s big success comes from his sketch TV show, Chappelle’s Show, which had incredibly innovative sketches that people still refer to this day. Dave deserves every penny of the $45 million.
Jim Carrey- $150 million
The incredible impressionist, actor, and comedian Jim Carrey has done well for himself. It is 100% deserved, as he has brought so many amazing blockbusters to life. Just to name a few: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, Liar Liar, The Truman Show, and Dumb And Dumber. Carrey is known to be a silly person, but he is also a serious actor, as we have seen in films like Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. Carrey has struggled with mental issues, but nothing that $150 million can’t fix.
Robin Williams- $150 million
Robin Williams was one of the quickest and funniest minds out there. He was funny, endearing, and played in many iconic films, such as Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Good Will Hunting. Williams actually studied at the Juilliard School, the premier performing arts institution in the world. This is how he had such range to play funny people, but also twisted characters, like in One Hour Photo. All of Williams’ work got him $150 million. However, his multiple breakups and divorces caused him to lose around $100 million of it.