13 Comedians Who Are Laughing Their Way To The Top Of The Highest-Paid List


13 Comedians Who Are Laughing Their Way To The Top Of The Highest-Paid List

We all know people with great sense of humor, and can crack a funny joke or two on any given day.

But not many people have what it takes to turn their ability to make a room laugh into a lucrative career.

Humor is a coveted trait, and this is why we love celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Jim Carrey, and Jerry Seinfeld.

Comedy comes naturally to them, and even on our low days, they're able to make us laugh our heads off long enough to forget our problems.

These beloved humorists are not only loved by many, they also cash in a lot of money for using their talents to keep us entertained.

Ellen DeGeneres

It really does pay to be funny, just ask Ellen. The talk show host started out as a stand-up comedian, booking gigs at local cafes and bars.

In the 80s, she started to perform nationally, and was subsequently named Showtime's "funniest person."

Ellen DeGeneres
Architectural Digest

She eventually made it into Hollywood and landed her own sitcoms Ellen and The Ellen Show, before hosting her own daytime talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2013.

She also has a number of business ventures, as well as a large real estate portfolio.

Now, her total net worth is estimated to be around $400 million.

Surprisingly, she still didn't cut the top 10.

Steve Harvey

Steve is hilarious just as much as he's inspirational. Before getting his big break as an MC on Showtime at the Apollo in the 80s, the funnyman was homeless and living out of his car.

"It was so disheartening," Harvey recalls. "A week is really the maximum you can do. This was three years! It was rock bottom. But even in my darkest days I had faith it would turn around."

It took a while, but Steve got his life together and he has been since been a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment world.

Steve Harvey

He left stand-up comedy behind to star in his own self-titled sitcom in the 90s.

These days, he's a movie star, TV and radio host, author of multiple self-help books, five-time Emmy winner, owner of a production company, and a co-founder of a non-profit organization.

Thanks to his business ventures, Steve reportedly has a net worth totaling over $100 million.

Jimmy Fallon

When Jimmy took over The Tonight Show in 2014 his popularity increased and so did his salary.

His first big break came when he was hired by Saturday Night Live. After leaving SNL, Jimmy had a short-lived acting career before landing his own show, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, in 2009.

Jimmy Fallon

On top of being an Emmy Award-winning TV host, Jimmy is now also an author with five books under his belt. He also released two comedy albums, and earned a Grammy Award for the most recent one titled Blow Your Pants Off.

The late-night host went from being a college dropout earning $7.50 per set doing stand-up comedy in Los Angeles, to making around $16 million a year now.

You were probably thinking "that's a lot of money" looking at these figures, but believe it or not, these comedians haven't even made nearly as much as those who cracked the top 10 list.

Let's see where the rest of your favorite comedians rank!

10. Sebastian Maniscalco

Sebastian is the only newcommer on this list, which says a lot about the year he had been having.

The stand-up comedian moved to Los Angeles in 1998 in hopes of finding success as a comedian, and he actually did!

He went from working as a waiter at the Four Seaons Hotel in Beverly Hills, to getting his own special, Sebastian Live.

Sebastian Maniscalo
Pace Vegas

He became a fixture on Showtime, where his next three specials aired. In addition to performing on several television programs, Sebastian also appeared in a few films, including The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature and The House.

Playing over 100 gigs in the last 12 months made him $15,00,000 richer and put him in the tenth spot on this list.

He currently has a show on Sirius XM and recently published his memoir Stay Hungry.

9. Jeff Dunham

Dunham is no stranger to being on this list, he's one of the few comedians that didn't necessarily need Netflix's help to rake in extra cash.

The hilarious ventriloquist is reportedly America's top-grossing stand-up act, and it's been that way for a number of years.

Jeff Dunham
The Comic's Comic

He embarked on two tours, Perfectly Unbalanced and Passively Aggressive, in the last two and a half years, appeared in several television shows and films, and starred in the Netflix special Jeff Dunham: Relative Disaster.

All in all, Jeff made $15,500,000 in 2017 alone.

8. Terry Fator

If you love watching talent competitions, then you'll very likely recognize Terry Fator.

Terry, also a ventriloquist, made a name for himself when he was crowned winner of season two of America's Got Talent.

In addition to the one million dollar prize he received, winning the show helped him book a $100 million five-year residency contract at The Mirage in Las Vegas.

Terry Fator

To think that he had almost given up on his dream of making it big in showbiz just before auditioning for AGT.

"It wasn't easy trying to keep going all these years, and by the time I was in my late 30s, I wasn't sure it was ever going to happen," Terry said.

These days, Terry is living out his biggest dream while getting paid at least $18.5 million per year.

7. Jim Gaffigan

Known for his minimal use of profanity, Jim owes his success to his Grammy-nominated comedy specials, including Mr. Universe, Cinco, and Obsessed.

He also starred in a TV series based on his life called The Jim Gaffigan Show, and published two books, Food: A Love Story (2014) and a memoir titled Dad is Fat (2013).

Jim Gaffigan
Beijing Kids

Jim's brand of comedy earned him roles in dozens of films and television shows.

However, his income boost of $30.5 million is all thanks to his most recent Netflix special, Cinco.

6. Kevin Hart

Over the years, Kevin Hart has mastered the art of stepping out of his comfort zone and it has been paying off extremely well, both in terms of popularity and income.

Kevin has amassed a huge fan base, and he's always giving them what they want. From stand-up comedy specials, to live tours, and movies, Kevin has been on a roll.

His most recent film, a remake of Jumanji, was a box-office hit, and he is slated to appear in more films later this year.

Kevin Hart

Kevin scored endorsement deals from brands like Nike and Tommy John, and is currently working on launching a streaming service called Laugh Out Loud.

It's no wonder the comedian almost broke into the top five with $32.5 million in earnings.

For the first time ever, the Forbes list included a woman, and it's someone you probably weren't expecting.

5. Amy Schumer

Amy Schumer made history by being the first woman to ever make this Forbes list.

Schumer graduated with a degree in theatre before moving to New York City, where one of her first jobs was acting in the Off-Off-Broadway play Keeping Abreast.  

She didn't start doing stand-up shows until 2004, but by 2007, she was given her big break when she appeared in the NBC show Last Comic Standing.

Amy Schumer

She continued to collaborate with Comedy Central while appearing in shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, as well as a few independent movies.

However, her real rise to fame happened with the release of her 2015 comedy special, Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo. She has since starred in movies, authored a memoir, embarked on a sold-out world tour, and made her Broadway debut alongside actor Steve Martin in Meteor Shower.

So how much did the top-paid female comedian make? $37.5 million!

4. Dave Chappelle

A comedy veteran, Dave Chapelle took a hiatus from telling jokes for years, but he proved why he is one of the world's most popular comedians with his recent comeback.

It's very likely that the comedy genius has been getting royalties from his previous work, but it definitely doesn't match the amount of money he made through his three specials.

Dave Chappelle

Prior to walking away from his Comedy Central series, Chapelle's Show, Dave was performing stand-up comedy while starring as a supporting character in box office hits like The Nutty Professor, You've Got Mail, and Blue Streak.

When he finally returned 12 years later, he appeared on SNL, which earned him an Emmy Award, before making us all laugh again in his Grammy-winning Netflix specials.

Both specials, The Age of Spin and Deep in the Heart of Texas, are reportedly the streaming platform's most-watched stand-up specials ever, and helped him walk away with $47 million.

3. Louis C.K.

Louis C.K. stirred up a lot of controversy when it was revealed that he masturbated in front of women without consent.

He ultimately acknowledged that the allegations against him are true and issued a statement of apology confirming that was going "step back" from his career.

Still, he managed to find himself in the top three on this list.

Louis CK

Louis already pocketed his eight-figure check from Netflix for his two comedy specials before going on a break.

He also raked in money from the movies he worked on, like The Secret Life of Pets, and shows he co-created for FX, Baskets and Better Things.

Despite all the negative press, Louis' account saw a $52 million increase.

2. Chris Rock

Chris is another comedian who rose to fame in the 80s. He also has his roots in stand-up comedy, but eventually branched out to television in the early 90s.

He appeared on Saturday Night Live, starred in numerous films and television shows, and also played key roles behind the camera.

He's credited as the executive producer for several shows from the early 90s onward, including The Chris Rock Show, The Hughleys, Good Hair, and Everybody Hates Chris.

Chris Rock

He stepped out of the spotlight for a while, which is why he hasn't appeared on this list in a while.

However, as soon as he struck a record-breaking deal with Netflix, he was back at the top. He reportedly made $57 million in 2017 alone.

1. Jerry Seinfeld

Leading the pack is the King of Comedy Jerry Seinfeld.

Not only did the star of the 90s sitcom Seinfeld able to still sell out live shows, he is also the brain behind several hit TV shows and movies, and the author of two books.

Jerry Seinfeld
Paste Magazine

He created the NBC show The Marriage Ref, which lasted for two seasons, but he found lasting success with his web show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

On top of it all, Jerry also signed a new deal with Netflix, and is consistently making millions from Hulu for Seinfeld streams.

How much did the richest comedian in the world earn in a year? $69 million!

Which one of these comedians make you laugh the most? Let us know!

Blair isn't a bestselling author, but she has a knack for beautiful prose. When she isn't writing for Shared, she enjoys listening to podcasts.