With the death of George Carlin, I felt the time was right
to evaluate his influence on current comedians and the mark
he made as an entertainer. But then I realized the his style
of comedy was one of personal choice and the audience’s own
taste. So I decided to list my personal preferences on who
were my own Top Ten Comedians and why I felt they ranked so
high on my own list.
#1 Milton Berle. Always funny, always fast on his feet.
If he didn’t have the right joke, he steal one. He was
a true comedian. He had vaudeville roots, conquered burlesque,
won over radio and then mastered TV. He ran the spectrum for a
comedian of his era. His influence? The borsht belt comedians
of the 50s and 60s. IE.. Jackie Mason, Rodney Dangerfield,
Shecky Greene, Jan Murray, Don Rickles, etc…
#2 Steve Martin. His silly stand-up routines and comedy persona
of the 1970s awoke a brand new nightclub, stand-up comedy craze.
If you have visited a comedy club in the last 20 years, it was
because of Steve Martin. Influence on Bob Nelson, Sam Kinison,
Carrot Top and most of the 10000s of comedians who have tried
open mike night.
#3 Bob Hope. Brought joy to thousands of TV, film and radio fans.
But really was the ambassador to the USO where troops loved his
commitment to bringing home to them, wherever they were.
#4 Richard Pryor. Opened the door for comedians like Eddie Murphy,
Dave Chapelle, Martin Lawrence.
#5 Sid Caesar. His show of shows brought us the talents of people
like Nat Hiken (Sgt. Bilko), Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, and even typist
Woody Allen. He proved that a great writing corps conquers all.
Influence can be seen on Saturday Night Live.
#6 Dave Chapelle. He could have been lost in a pool of Eddie Murphy,
Martin Lawrence and Chris Rock type Def Jam comedians, but he is
funny. Genuine funny.
#7. Ernie Kovacs. Off the wall. His influence can be seen with
Laugh-in, Letterman show, Steve Allen show and even Saturday Night
#8 Jeff Foxworthy. Come up with one solid comic idea and milk it
to death. You might be a Red Neck, but you are riding his coattails
if you are Bill Engvall, Ron White, Tim Wilson, Tim Cavanaugh and
even Mr. Git-er-Done.
#9 Jonathon Winters. Improv master at his best. Pick up an item and run.
Influence can be seen on his protege, Robin Williams.
#10 Red Skelton. What people missed when it came to one of his live
performances is a clown, a mime, and a master comedian. TV could not
capture the heart and soul of his live performances.
The rest fall into clumps:
60s Stiller and Meara, Burns and Shreiber
70s Richard Pryor, Robert Klein, George Carlin, Cheech and Chong
80s Robin Williams, Seinfeld, Leno, Degeneres Steven Wright,
90s Sandler, Farley, Spade and Mike Myers.
2000 Mitch Hedeburg, Brian Regan
Your list will differ from mine. But I believe I have listed a good
point of reference for everyone interested in the world of comedy.