As any entertainer will attest, making someone laugh is always harder than making someone cry. It takes an entirely different skill set and taps into an entirely different, and arguably, more complicated psyche. (What makes one person roll with delight could make another roll their eyes with disgust.) Of course, if you’re one of the great stand-up comics, you can accomplish both: Making your audience laugh so hard they cry.
Then again, having to choose your favorite stand-up comic of all-time might be just as difficult a task. Do you go with the rule-breakers of comedy who not only made you laugh, but made you think and often called for — and often effected — social change? Do you pick a mainstream comic who can finely pinpoint all those funny little quirks of everyday life through observational comedy? Or is it a no-brainer to pick the class clown that plays up the silly side in of all of us?
While each of these comedian/comediennes below is a rule-breaker (George Carlin, Louis C.K., Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, Lewis Black, Eddie Murphy, Sarah Silverman, Dave Chappelle, Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks, Eddie Izzard), a keen observer (Bill Cosby, Mitch Hedberg, Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, Bob Hope, Jeff Foxworthy, Wanda Sykes, Patton Oswalt, Joan Rivers) and a class clown (Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, Dane Cook, Kathy Griffin) in their own right, we want you, EW.com readers to pick which comic crosses all boundaries and is the funniest — and your favorite — stand-up of all-time. Watch some classic clips (just a heads up, some are VERY NSFW) from each of these comedians:
Lewis Black: He’s one angry guy. Of course, that’s what makes him so damn funny. Whether he’s ranting on The Daily Show or for a comedy special, fans will shout his praises from the rooftops:
Lenny Bruce: A transcendent satirist, Bruce seemed to find trouble wherever he went, but in turn, found a devoted following that still praise his unconventional humor:
George Carlin: To many, Carlin was more than a comedian. He was a prophet and a poet. And the guy definitely had a thing or two to say about “stuff”:
Dave Chappelle: Chappelle enjoyed a staggering rise to fame via the brilliant Chappelle’s Show, but his decision to step out of the spotlight has left a tremendous void in the comedy world ever since. At least we’ll always have re-runs and his stand-up specials:
Louis C.K.: The second coming of Carlin? From his groundbreaking sitcom Louie to his already-classic talk show appearances (like this one), many are would argue that pound-for-pound, Louis C.K. is the best working comic today:
Dane Cook: Hey, even frat boys need a comic. Cook answered their call:
Bill Cosby: That rare comic beloved by parents and their children alike. His spot-on observations about family life didn’t just ring true in his sitcoms, but his stand-up as well:
Rodney Dangerfield: No respect? Hardly. Dangerfield’s down-on-his-luck routine made him one of the most respected comedians of all-time:
Ellen DeGeneres: It’s no surprise that DeGeneres has touched a nerve with viewers to become the queen of daytime talk. The funny lady was making people laugh with her relatable stories for years as a stand-up:
Jeff Foxworthy: You might be a redneck if you appreciate Foxworthy’s famous “You might be a redneck” routine:
Kathy Griffin: Hollywood, beware. If you meet the no-holds-barred Griffin, she’s likely going to talk about you in her act:
Mitch Hedberg: Comedy fans are still reeling from the loss of Hedberg, a comedian that practically re-defined not so much the punchline, but its gut-busting delivery:
Bill Hicks: Another comedian taken long before his time, Hicks was the quintessential dangerous comedian. Like Carlin, he often spoke uneasy truths that resonated in both the audience’s laughter and contemplative silences:
Bob Hope: The comedian set the gold standard for comedy and why laughter means as much to us here as it does to the troops serving abroad:
Eddie Izzard: The British comic’s sense of humor may not translate to everyone, but his worldwide admiration and sold-out tours would say otherwise.
Steve Martin: Martin is one wild and crazy guy. In fact, his off-beat sense of humor helped propel his classic comedy albums to platinum status. He may have traded balloons for a banjo, but the guy is still as charming and silly as ever:
Eddie Murphy: The soon-to-be Oscar host never really held back when he ruled the comedy scene in the ’80s. Even if he leaves some of his more un-PC humor behind, let’s hope, at the least, he brings back that Raw outfit:
Patton Oswalt: You may know him as the voice of Remy from Ratatouille, but for a generation of young comedy fans, he’s the freshest, most original stand-comic out there.
Richard Pryor: Often heralded as the greatest stand-up of all time, Pryor was daring, relevant, groundbreaking, and brilliant as during his prime:
Joan Rivers: Can we talk? The iconic comedienne can for hours on stage and boy, does she have some bitingly funny things to say:
Chris Rock: Sorry, Ned Flanders, but this is definitely no Christian Rock concert. The brutally honest Rock tells it like it is… and then some:
Jerry Seinfeld: What’s the deal with Seinfeld? Well, his stand-up act only helped serve as the basis for one of the greatest sitcoms of all time:
Sarah Silverman: The comedienne may look like the girl next door, but she definitely doesn’t talk like her.
Wanda Sykes: Sykes is one of the rare modern female comics that’s outspoken without being offensive. Often used as comedic support on series like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Sykes takes center stages and dominates during her own shows:
Robin Williams: The man of a thousand voices, Williams brings his manic manor to the stage for mile-a-minute imitations and zingers. Just try and keep up:
Take the poll below and let us know your pick. If your favorite wasn’t mentioned (like Greg Giraldo or Sam Kinison or Paula Poundstone or Aziz Ansari or Jim Gaffigan or Martin Lawrence or Maria Bamford or Jackie Mason or Mike Birbiglia or Demetri Martin or Margaret Cho any other beloved comics), sound off in the comments section.