Published on February 11th 2010 by Leon Shepherd

As I was compiling my top 10 list of comics, every comedian in the world popped into my head. So with such a huge list to choose from, I had to come up with a selection process to narrow the list down to ten.  The criteria for this list included being able to be funny on stage performing stand-up,  as well as being funny  on television  and in movies.  Other factors included were c.d. sales, and  longevity.  I’m sure there are some of you  who might feel that there is a name missing from the list,  or you might have a difference of opinion  regarding the order of the list.   If so, feel free to share your thoughts, comments and opinions.     


10. Sinbad 1956 –


I’m sure some of you may be saying, “Sinbad? How did he make the list?” Well, Sinbad made the list because of his ability to do something many comedians are unable to do, and that is to be clean and funny at the same time.  His bio: Funny man Sinbad has been in the comic business for over two decades now and is still going strong. Having toured the country several times over and appearing in stand up comedy venues all over the globe, Sinbad is a veteran to the game. His style, being based around that of clean humor, can be appreciated by audiences of all ages and still remains humorous without the ever popular sexual and fart preferences of most comics today. He remains snappy and quick witted throughout his entire performance and is certain to conjure laughs from all who view his routines. Sinbad is by no means just a comic, though. He has made appearances on Saturday Night Live on five separate occasions and hosted legendary comic shows like SNL and Show Time at the Apollo. He has acted in over 15 different movies, as well as performed roles in over 20 different television programs. That of which include The Redd Foxx Show, The Cosby Show, A Different World, The Sinbad Show, and Resurrection Blvd. The man is without a doubt, no mere rookie to the acting scene and is easily one of the most successful comedians of his generation.


9. Bernie Mac 1957 – 2008


Bernie Mac had a TV show that was original and different. Throughout his show he would look and talk straight into the camera, “America…”.  His bio: Bernard Jeffrey McCullough (October 5, 1957 – August 9, 2008), better known by his stage name Bernie Mac, was an actor and comedian. Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Mac gained popularity as a stand-up comedian. He joined comedians Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer, and D. L. Hughley as The Original Kings of Comedy. After briefly hosting the HBO show Midnight Mac, Mac appeared in several films in smaller roles. His most noted film role was as Frank Catton in the remake Ocean’s Eleven and the titular character of Mr. 3000. He was the star of The Bernie Mac Show, which ran from 2001 through 2006, earning him two Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. His other films included starring roles in Booty Call, Friday, The Players Club, Head of State, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Bad Santa, Guess Who, Pride, Soul Men, and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. Mac suffered from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease that produces tiny lumps of cells in the solid organs, but had said the condition was in remission in 2005. His death on August 9, 2008 was caused by complications from pneumonia.


8. Steve Harvey 1957 –



In addition to having a very funny show, “The Steve Harvey Show,” Harvey remains the best dressed out of all the comedians. His bio:  Broderick Steven “Steve” Harvey is an actor, comedian, entertainer, and radio personality. He is best known as the star of the WB sitcom The Steve Harvey Show, and as one of the four comedians featured in the Spike Lee film The Original Kings of Comedy. Currently, he is the host of The Steve Harvey Morning Show, a nationally syndicated radio program. He is also the author of Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment, which was released in March 2009. He began doing stand-up comedy in the mid-1980s, and was a finalist in Second Annual Johnnie Walker National Comedy Search in 1989, eventually leading to a long stint as host of It’s Showtime at the Apollo, succeeding Mark Curry in that role. His success as a stand-up comedian led to a starring role on the ABC show Me and the Boys in 1994. He would later star on the WB network show, The Steve Harvey Show, which ran from 1996 to 2002. While wildly popular in the African-American community (the show won multiple NAACP Image Awards), the show never achieved critical acclaim outside of the African-American community, a matter about which Harvey has often complained. On January 20, 2010, it was announced that Steve will begin hosting the game show Family Feud starting in September 2010.


7. Flip Wilson 1933 – 1998


I’m sure many of you are saying, “Flip Wilson?” “Who is that?” Well, Flip Wilson was the very first black comedian with a very successful television show. His Bio:  Clerow Wilson Jr., known professionally as Flip Wilson, was an American comedian and actor. Time magazine featured his image on their cover and named him “TV’s first black superstar”. After years of bouncing from foster homes to reform school, 16-year-old Wilson lied about his age and joined the United States Air Force. His outgoing personality and funny stories made him very popular; he was even asked to tour military bases to cheer up other servicemen. Claiming that he was always “flipped out”, Wilson’s barracks mates gave him his famous nickname. During the 1960s, Wilson became a regular at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and was a favorite guest on The Tonight Show, Laugh-In, and The Ed Sullivan Show. In 1970, Wilson got his own television program, The Flip Wilson Show, debuting on NBC. He played host to many African-American entertainers, including The Jackson Five, and performed in comedy sketches. He greeted all his guests with the “Flip Wilson Handshake,” which started with hand slaps and progressed to hip-bumps. The Flip Wilson Show aired through 1974, generating high ratings and popularity among viewers and winning strong critical acclaim, with an unprecedented 11 Emmy Award nominations during its run, winning two. Wilson also won a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Television Series.


 6. Dave Chapelle 1973


Dave Chappelle is a very talented comedian and writer. His bio: David “Dave” Chappelle is a comedian, screenwriter, television/film producer and actor. In 2003, he became widely known for his popular sketch comedy television series, Chappelle’s Show. Comedy Central ranked him forty-third in its list of the 100 greatest stand-up comedians.  In 2003, Chappelle introduced his own weekly sketch comedy show on Comedy Central called Chappelle’s Show. The show parodied many aspects of American culture including racial stereotypes, politics and pop culture. Along with comedy skits, the show also featured musical performances by mostly hip-hop and soul artists. Chappelle’s pointed social and political commentary quickly helped the show garner critical and commercial success as well as controversy. Richard Pryor, one of Chappelle’s comedic influences, was a fan of the show and stated that he had “passed the torch” to Chappelle. Chappelle received two Emmy nominations for the show.


5. Redd Foxx 1922-1991


Funny comedian with a hit TV show, “Sanford and Son”, which ranks in the top ten as one of the funniest TV shows ever. His Bio: John Elroy Sanford better known by his stage name Redd Foxx, was a comedian and actor, best known for his starring role on the sitcom Sanford and Son. Foxx gained notoriety with his nightclub act (considered by the standards of the time to be raunchy). His stand-up performances were later released as “party” albums and became very popular. He was also one of the first black comics to play to white audiences on the Las Vegas Strip. Foxx used his starring role on Sanford and Son to help get jobs for his friends such as LaWanda Page, Slappy White, Gregory Sierra, and Noriyuki “Pat” Morita. In 1977, Foxx left Sanford and Son, after six highly successful seasons (and the show was canceled solely due to his departure) to star in a short-lived variety show, but by 1980 he was back playing Fred Sanford in a brief revival/spin-off, Sanford. Foxx appeared to be making a comeback with the 1991 series The Royal Family, in which he co-starred with his long-time friend Della Reese. On October 11, 1991, during a break from rehearsals for The Royal Family, he suffered a fatal heart attack on the set. Reportedly, co-star Della Reese and the rest of the cast and crew thought he was doing his classic “Elizabeth, I’m coming to join you!” fake heart attack routine he made famous on Sanford and Son, even going as far as collapsing to the floor, although that was not part of the usual shtick. However, this heart attack was real, and Foxx never regained consciousness. He was 68 years old.


4. Martin Lawrence 1965 –


The more I watch reruns of “ Martin,” the more I realize how funny and talented Martin Lawrence really is. His bio:  Martin Fitzgerald Lawrence is an actor, comedian, director, and producer. He came to fame during the 1990s, establishing a Hollywood career as a leading actor. Lawrence has acted in numerous movie roles and starred in his own television series, Martin, which ran from 1992 to 1997. Martin Lawrence was born in West Germany, where his American father, John Lawrence, served in the U.S. Military. Lawrence moved to Los Angeles and found his way to the legendary Kings Wood comedy club. Shortly after appearing at the Wood, he won a performance spot on Star Search, a popular show in the United States. He did well on the show and made it to the final round before ultimately losing. However, executives at Columbia TriStar Television saw Martin’s performance and offered him the role of “Maurice” on the television sitcom What’s Happening Now!!; this was his first acting job. Upon cancellation of that show, Lawrence found bit parts in various films and television roles. His breakthrough role was as Cee in the Spike Lee film Do the Right Thing. Other roles followed in films such as the House Party series and the Eddie Murphy vehicle Boomerang. During this period, entertainment mogul Russell Simmons selected him to host the groundbreaking series Def Comedy Jam on HBO. Def Comedy Jam gave many comedians (including Chris Tucker, Dave Chappelle, Bernie Mac and Cedric the Entertainer) mainstream exposure.


3. Eddie Murphy 1961 –


Without a doubt one of the most talented and funniest comedians to ever appear on screen. His bio:  Edward ReganEddieMurphy (born April 3, 1961) is an actor, voice actor, film director, producer, comedian and singer. He is the second-highest grossing actor in motion picture history. He was a regular cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1980 to 1984, and has worked as a stand-up comedian. He was ranked #10 on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time. He has received Golden Globe Award nominations for best actor in a comedy or musical for his performances in Beverly Hills Cop, Beverly Hills Cop II, Beverly Hills Cop III, Trading Places, and The Nutty Professor. In 2007, he won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of soul singer James “Thunder” Early in Dreamgirls, and received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the same role. Murphy is expected to begin work on Beverly Hills Cop IV sometime in the near future. Murphy recently told The Sun Online that “the new script is looking good”. The New York Daily News is reporting that The Trump Heist, an all-black heist movie, will star Murphy as the leader of a crew of con artists who land jobs at Donald Trump’s Trump Tower so they can steal from its residents. Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and Chris Tucker are reportedly in consideration to join the cast.


2. Bill Cosby 1937 –

One of the most successful stars in the entertainment industry, Bill Cosby proved that he could be successful without using vulgarity. His Bio: William Henry “Bill” Cosby, Jr. (born July 12, 1937) is a comedian, actor, author, television producer, musician and activist. A veteran stand-up performer, he got his start at various clubs, and then landed a starring role in the 1960s action show, I Spy. He later starred in his own series, The Bill Cosby Show, in 1969. He was one of the major characters on the children’s television show, The Electric Company, for its first two seasons, and created the humorous educational cartoon series, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, about a group of young friends growing up in the city. Cosby has also acted in a number of films. During the 1980s, Cosby produced and starred in what is considered to be one of the decade’s defining sitcoms, The Cosby Show, which aired eight seasons from 1984 to 1992, and is still seen in syndication. The sitcom highlighted the experiences and growth of an upper-middle-class African American family. He also produced the hit sitcom, A Different World, which became second to The Cosby Show in ratings. In the 1990s, he starred in Cosby, which aired from 1996 to 2000, and during the show’s last two seasons, hosted Kids Say the Darndest Things. His good-natured, fatherly image has made him a popular personality and garnered him the nickname of “America’s Dad”. He has been a sought-after spokesman over the years, and has endorsed a number of products, including Jell-O pudding, Kodak film, Ford, Texas Instruments, and Coca-Cola.


1. Richard Pryor 1940 – 2005

Richard Pryor is the funniest comedian I have ever seen. I was fortunate to see Pryor perform live twice. And I must say the experience is something I will never forget. Pryor had the audience laughing non-stop for 90 minutes. As I looked around, people in the audience, myself included, were bent over clutching their stomachs from Pryor’s jokes and facial expressions; while others were wiping tears from their eyes from laughing so hard. Richard Pryor is without a doubt the funniest comedian that ever lived. His Bio: Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor III (December 1, 1940 – December 10, 2005) was a stand-up comedian, actor, and writer. Pryor was known for uncompromising examinations of racism and topical contemporary issues, which employed colorful, vulgar, and profane language and racial epithets. He reached a broad audience with his keen observations and storytelling style. He is widely regarded as one of the most important stand-up comedians ever. Jerry Seinfeld called Pryor “The Picasso of our profession”; Bob Newhart has called Pryor “the seminal comedian of the last 50 years.”[ His body of work includes the concert movies and recordings Richard Pryor: Live and Smokin’ (1971), That Nigger’s Crazy (1974), Is It Something I Said? (1975), Bicentennial Nigger (1976), Richard Pryor: Live in Concert (1979), Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip (1982), and Richard Pryor: Here and Now (1983). He also starred in numerous films as an actor such as Superman III (1983) but was usually in comedies such as Silver Streak (1976), but occasionally in dramatic roles, such as Paul Schrader’s film Blue Collar (1978). He collaborated on many projects with actor Gene Wilder. Pryor won an Emmy Award in 1973, and five Grammy Awards in 1974, 1975, 1976, 1981, and 1982. In 1974, he also won two American Academy of Humor awards and the Writers Guild of America Award.  In 2004, Pryor was voted #1 on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time. On December 10, 2005, Pryor suffered a cardiac arrest in Encino, California. He was taken to a local hospital after his wife’s attempts to resuscitate him failed. He was pronounced dead at 7:58 AM. His widow Jennifer was quoted as saying, “At the end, there was a smile on his face.”

Entertainment | Comments (23)

23 Responses to “Top 10 Comedians”

  1. Shack Says:

    Essentially agree but Bernie Mac is too low and Cedric The E. should be listed

    Hon. Mention would be Robin Harris

  2. Trisha Says:

    Great selection but you should have put both Flip Wilson and Redd Foxx much higher on the list. Flip Wilson should have gotten bonus points for his Geraldine character…..tooo funny.

  3. Shack Says:

    Just realized this list is sexist. There are and have been several GREAT COMEDIENNES starting with the Great Jackie Moms Mabley-a female equivalent to Redd Foxx in substance and style! There are others as well W. Goldberg, Monique, Adele Givens, Wanda Sykes but Moms had them all beat. Seemingly knocks your boy Sinbad out of the TT. This especially when there are other younger ones Hugley, Mark Cooper., B. Bellamy, Bruce Bruce, T. Davidson etc. As discussed we must remember Dick Gregory!
    Knowing you, you’re working on a female TT

  4. Leon Says:

    The female comediennes are in a catergory of their own.

  5. Grapevine Grady Says:

    What? No Chris Rock, you’ve got to be kidding.

  6. Leon Says:

    Chris Rock’s blatant overuse of the n-word is not humorous.

  7. Shack Says:

    Leon – We know how you feel about that word and both GG and I are with you on that but they all use it (except your boy SB)!

    I agree with GG – C. Rock is probably the funniest & most popular comedian in the world and
    believe it or not, there are several who are worse.

    Not asking you to accept it but there are some things/people that just have to be overlooked. But we realize you you can’t/won’t. Its Your site

  8. Leon Says:

    1) No, not all comedians use it.
    2) Because others use it, does that make it acceptable/ok?
    3) Overlook the use of a word that was used to demean and berate our forefathers?
    4) Overlook a word that has hatred and racism connected to it?
    5) Overlook it because he’s Chris Rock?

    No, I don’t think so!

  9. shack II Says:

    Estimate around 85-90% do unfortunately and singling out one when several listed above as well as many other high profile comedians currnetly use it (some much more than CR)is not fair. You’re “splitting hairs!”
    This isssue is addressed somewhat in the Why We Laugh-Black Comedians on Black Comedy which I found was produced by Robt.Townsend. Stance is quite comendable but we’ll t agree to disagree on this one..

  10. Shack Says:

    Point of clarification – I am in disagreement on the omission of CR in the Top Ten. Not your stance on the use of the n-word…

  11. rod moore Says:

    you say no chris rock because he used the n word but you put richard pryor at the top and his career was built around the word. that n crazy, bicentennial n, n this, n that. practice what you preach. yes he stopped using the word later but the cow was already out of the barn.

  12. Shack Says:

    Rod – Are you related to a guy named Roderick? Just kidding – Good hearing from you my long lost brother!

    Thanks for agreeing with Grady (GG) and myself that Chris Rock belongs on this list. (Although I commend the rationale) our boy Leon can be so stubborn. How can you have Dave Chappelle and his use of that word and not CR?

    Roy has commented previously so now that we have you, all we need is Paul and we’ll have a clean sweep with B.O.S.S. participation on the blog!

    Anyway, will look forward to your future comments on BlackTopTens.

  13. rod moore Says:

    Just playing the devils advocate. How can you dismiss one but not the other. Did he not watch The Chapelle Show? Did he catch Richard at the end when he stopped using the n word & not before. Seems to be splitting hairs.

  14. Leon Says:

    Concerning Dave Chapelle you might have a point.
    But you proved my point concerning Richard Pryor. Regardless of where Richard Pryor was in his career, the point is when Pryor realized it was a word he shouldn’t use, he stopped using it. C Rock knows it’s a word he shouldn’t use, but he continues to use it. Very sad. And by the way, have u heard of the movies, “Good Hair”, “I Think I Love My Wife”, “Head of State”, “Pootie Tang”, and “CB4″? Not too many have either. These are Chris Rock movies that bombed.

  15. Shack Says:

    Alright here we go again – Lets not talk about movies that BOMB since we all know who the King is. With the exception of Dreamgirls, E.Murphy’s movies ARE ALL BOMBs except the first few and the Nutty Prof (X2)/Dolittle crap! P. Nash, Metro, Dave need I say more!

    The bomb factor has nothing to do with the gretness of the comedian. Look at Richard P.s movies. Stand Up is the True Measure here!

    Cannot deny CRs greatness with extremely selective criteria thats not been applied to the other comedians…in this instance D. Chappelle. You would have had to hear all interviews and thoughts on the n word from those on the list since its not clear if they share CRs sentiments. Until that happens, this is SPLITTING HAIRS – BIG TIME!!

    Shack Rests

  16. rod moore Says:

    Yes Leon he did stop using it but as my beautiful smarter half Christina once told me “Just because you stop stealing does’nt change the fact that you stole.” The list is the funniest not the comedians that share my beliefs views &opinions or the ones that are politically correct or the ones that dont use words i dont like its the funniest. I love Richard hes the greatest comedian ever but you brought up the n word that he used liberally. The list should be free of personal bias & focus on worthiness & merit only.

  17. rod moore Says:

    Bombs? SURELY YOU JEST. You talk about bombs but Martin Lawrence is on the list & he has more bombs than a small country! If the military could somehow use them as weapons the war in Iraq would have been over in 15 minutes.

  18. Shack Says:

    Think were all saying the same thing. Great comedians are not judged by their movies but mainly how funny they are during stand up routines and/or on their TV Show.

  19. Shack Says:

    Just thought of something else – Both Eddie and Martin were in the movie “Life” which was an interesting movie because I don’t think it did well at the box office. When I watched it on cable I was impressed especially because it also had Bernie Mac if I’m not mistaken.

    This leads me to an interesting point. It takes a lot for a movie to be successful and I think you can make a case for bias and a movie not being succesful just because it stars Black people.

    WFs (That’s White Folks)can put out something ridiculous and it will be a blockbuster. You put Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller or “one of them” in a movie and everyone goes to see it and these guys aren’t nearly as funny (nor have as much talent) as the three I reference above.

    Any Thoughts Black Top Tenners?

  20. KItwana Says:

    I do believe this list is incomplete without Paul Mooney, and Robert Townsend.

  21. Leon Says:

    Kitwana, both are very funny.
    Thanks for sharing!

  22. Straaw Says:

    Yeah! Chris Rock does belong on the list. Yeah I don’t like his use of the word, but he covers topics that most comics don’t. Clever takes too. Steve Harvey definitely does not belong on this list. He definitely gets props for having an angle and an opinion, but that’s off stage. On it, he’s limited and has borrowed too many others material. Not even in the top 20, unless u based on it on his success. Dave Chappelle does use it almost as much as Chris Rock. Dick Gregory deserves strong consideration. Martin Lawrence definitely should not be ahead of Redd Foxx. By no means. Robert Townsend was not that much of a comic. More of a comedic actor. Damon Wayans was hot at one point, but fell off. Paul Mooney has brought up some good points, but he’s a complainer;no solutions. at one point Darryl Heath had some clever stuff. Don’t know what happened. Franklin Ajaye deserves some strong consideration. Rich is the King. Bill and Eddie are legit. Bernie had attitude but material was limited. Robin Harris the same thing, alot of old jokes. How much Credence to we put in the movies or their stand up act? What about Chris Tucker?

  23. Leon Says:

    Straaw… I strongly considered putting Chris Tucker on the list because of his movies. Funny Voice, great delivery & clean humor. But I wasn’t sure of his stand-up skills.