The best comics know the job consists of more than making crowds laugh.
Whether through developing sitcoms, a transition to writing, or just selling out stadium shows, the richest comedians can rake in serious dough. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
Anyone close to me knows I'd rather watch a stand-up special from one of my favorite comedians than most blockbuster films. Thus, it's no secret I think the talented men and women who make us laugh day after day deserve to make as much as any other entertainer at the top of their game.
Nevertheless, I have to admit I wasn't quite prepared for just how much the richest comedians earn from their craft. This is not a comprehensive list, but I tried to include more than only the top tier top earners. Sure, they're here. However, I also wanted to recognize some of the lesser known names who have found an incredibly loyal fan base.
Some of these comedians are clean-cut with a mass appeal. Others are edgy and divisive. To rank among the richest comedians, however, you've got to do whatever you do better than anyone else. Here's hoping you enjoy learning about these funny folks as much as I did!
1. Sebastian Maniscalco
I'm starting my look at some of the richest comedians with Sebastian Maniscalco for a couple of reasons. First of all, he was the only newcomer on the 2017 list of the 10 top earners in the trade. Secondly, I just think he's flat-out one of the funniest acts touring today.
I've felt this way since I first discovered him with 2012's "What's Wrong With People?" His exaggerated mannerisms and voices were the icing, but they only serve to sweeten what are undeniably hilarious jokes. Maniscalco discusses his life on stage, focusing heavily on the many things that he just doesn't understand. One thing he obviously does get, however, is the business of comedy.
What I love most about this Chicago native and son of Italian immigrants is that he earned his fame through sheer commitment to stand-up. While we don't hold it against anybody else on this list for taking opportunities that come along, Sebastian Maniscalco tours in the triple digits of day in a given year. He obviously loves what he does -- and so do his fans! So much so, that he brought home about $15 million last year.
2. Kevin Hart
Kevin Hart is a name you see everywhere -- for good reason. He is a master at the subtle art of making diverse crowds laugh uncontrollably. Whether in a major motion picture or hosting what I thought was the season's funniest episode of "Saturday Night Live," the man owns an audience. If that wasn't enough, he paid his dues for years on stage, working a grueling stand-up schedule that continues to this day.
Some of Hart's recent films include "Jumanji" and the kid-friendly "Captain Underpants." He's also got a streaming comedy platform that's currently growing by leaps and bounds. And if you're active on social media, you've probably come across one of his posts on Instagram. He boasts more than 52 million followers after all, so his pictures get around.
All of that hard work combined makes him one of the richest comedians working today. Last year, the Philadelphia native earned an estimated $32.5 million. We're sure that Kevin Hart laughs all the way to the bank!
3. Amy Schumer
One of the richest comedians regardless of gender, Amy Schumer was the first woman to crack the top 10. She parlayed the success of her Comedy Central series, "Inside Amy Schumer," to become a household name. She's still known for the edgy humor that defined her early stand-up work. But now, there's some maturity and social awareness that gives her performances even more depth.
Schumer sinks her jokes by relying on her shockingly relevant takes on everything -- from dating and body image to drinking and even more somber topics such as her father's struggle with Multiple Sclerosis. Her self-depreciating humor and accessibility have made Amy Schumer a quick hit and rising star.
Oh, and she's hardly limited to the stage anymore -- or even television. Schumer juggles a Netflix special, a book, movies, and several endorsement deals in addition to longer term projects. All that adds up to about $37.5 million in earnings for the Manhattan-raised funny woman in 2017.
4. Jim Gaffigan
Another one of my all-time favorite stand-up comics is featured here on our list. In my opinion, Jim Gaffigan deserves to be one of the richest comedians for his sheer originality. The fact that he can spend ten minutes riffing on cake -- or Hot Pockets, or bacon, etc. -- without getting the slightest bit stale is an incredible feat. Sure, there are many food-related topics. Yet no matter how much he hammers a subject, he'll leave you wanting more.
Jim Gaffigan has certainly made his mark on stage through the comedy club circuit and in stadiums. He's got a line of comedy specials that will rival any of his peers. When he's not talking food, he'll weave tales about his personal life -- including his family back home in Indiana.
Gaffigan's had a starring or supporting role in several hit TV shows and movies. Even still, stand-up remains his bread and butter. He earned more than $30 million in 2017, aided in large part by the pay day from his latest Netflix special. That's certainly some funny money!
5. Chris Rock
I wasn't surprised to see Chris Rock on the list of richest comedians. After all, he's been working for decades since he started on "Saturday Night Live" in the 1980s. However, when I saw how high he ranked and how much he pulled in last year, I'll confess to being a bit shocked.
The South Carolina-born funny man was raised in Brooklyn and has been making people laugh ever since. It's been several years since I'd seen him in a film, though, and I wondered where the $57 million he earned last year came from. I should've guessed: Netflix.
The fearless comic has resurfaced with a pair of streaming stand-up specials and has negotiated quite a combined paycheck for his return to the stage. He's also been touring again, which helped his rise up the ranks of the richest comedians working the circuit. He might be older than when he was at his stand-up peak in the '90s, but he hasn't missed a beat. Chris Rock still has plenty to say, and you're going to want to hear it.
6. Jerry Seinfeld
Of course he's on the list -- it's Jerry Seinfeld. No one has ever been able to turn a flourishing stand-up career into the juggernaut that he has formed. It's been 20 years since "Seinfeld" left the air. (Can that be right?!) But it's still in syndication and its iconic catch phrases are still common in our cultural parlance. Born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, Seinfeld is now synonymous worldwide with the quintessential sitcom.
Jerry Seinfeld did not rest on his laurels, though. He's gone on to develop a brand new concept for a show, which is still contracted to produce new episodes. "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" aired its first episodes in 2014 and is exactly the premise you'd expect from its title, and every bit as funny as the man behind the idea.
Additionally, he's cemented his spot at the top of the richest comedians list by keeping up a steady schedule of tour dates. Admittedly, it's got to be pretty easy when you sell out arenas just by announcing a new show. He's been a steady presence on the list of richest comedians for decades. After falling off the top spot in recent years, though, he's back after raking in serious money from new projects. In 2017, he earned about $69 million.
Aside from a fat bank account, the richest comedians all have one thing in common: they're hilarious.
Of course, that's not to say each of these comics appeal to every audience -- far from it. Still, regardless of how broad or narrow each of these comedians' fan base is, it's deep enough to support them where it counts. Kevin Hart fans will be the first in line when his next movie hits theaters. Jerry Seinfeld can sit in a car with his buddies and maintain a hit series. Heck, Jim Gaffigan could scrawl a manifesto about kettle corn and it would be an instant best seller.
Comedy is often a very personal art form. Those who do it well aren't afraid to be vulnerable in front of an audience and reveal a piece of who they truly are. Thereby I have respect for all the men and women brave enough to face a crowd with the noble goal of making them smile. If only for a few moments, comedians are able to bring light to audiences far and wide. But as with any profession, a select few are able to rise to the top. At least in a financial sense, this list is about those people.
I hope you enjoyed this list. Maybe you found it informative. Maybe seeing one of the names reminded you of a punchline you'd forgotten. Either way, if you like this article, please share it with your friends who love to laugh.
Did your favorite make it onto my list of the richest comedians? Let us know who makes you laugh in the comments section below.
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