Comedian facts for kids

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Chaplin The Champion
Charlie Chaplin in the film The Champion, 1915

A comedian or comic is a person who seeks to entertain an audience by making them laugh. This might be through jokes or amusing situations, or acting foolish (as in slapstick) or employing prop comedy. A comedian who addresses an audience directly is called a stand-up comedian.

A popular saying, variously quoted but generally attributed to Ed Wynn, is, "A comic says funny things; a comedian says things funny", which draws a distinction between how much of the comedy can be attributed to verbal content and how much to acting and persona.

Since the 1980s, a new wave of comedy, called alternative comedy, has grown in popularity with its more offbeat and experimental style. This normally involves more experiential, or observational reporting, e.g. Alexei Sayle, Daniel Tosh, Louis C.K. and Malcolm Hardee. As far as content is concerned, comedians such as Tommy Tiernan, Des Bishop, and Joan Rivers draw on their background to poke fun at themselves, while others such as Jon Stewart, and Ben Elton have very strong political and cultural undertones.

History of comedians

Ancient Greeks

Comedians can be dated back to 425 BC, when Aristophanes, a comic author and playwright, wrote ancient comedic plays. He wrote 40 comedies, 11 of which survive and are still being performed. Aristophanes' comedy style took the form of satyr plays.

Shakespearean comedy

The English poet and playwright William Shakespeare wrote many comedies. A Shakespearean comedy is one that has a happy ending, usually involving marriages between the unmarried characters, and a tone and style that is more light-hearted than Shakespeare's other plays.

Modern era

Sarah Silverman performing at UCB
Sarah Silverman at Upright Citizens Brigade in LA, 2013

Charles Chaplin was the most popular screen comedian of the first half of the 20th century. He wrote comedic silent films such as Modern Times and The Kid. His films still have a major impact on comedy in films today.

One of the most popular forms of modern-day comedy is stand-up comedy. Stand-up comedy is a comic monologue performed by one or more people standing on a stage. Bob Hope was the most popular stand-up comedian of the 20th century, and also starred in numerous comedy films over a five-decade span. Other noted stand-up comedians include George Carlin, Jerry Seinfeld, Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Louis CK and Chris Rock.

Another popular form of modern-day comedy is talk shows where comedians make fun of current news or popular topics. Such comedians include Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, Daniel Tosh, Chris Hardwick, Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman, and Chelsea Handler.

A third form of modern-day comedy is television programs in which many comedians band together to make skits, such as Saturday Night Live. These shows often receive high ratings, likely because many comedians band together to create jokes, rather than one comedian creating his own jokes.

The World's Highest Paid Comedians

Forbes publishes an annual list of the most financially successful comedians in the world, similarly to their Celebrity 100 list. The list was topped by Jerry Seinfeld from 2006 until 2015, who lost the title to Kevin Hart in 2016. In that year, the eight highest paid comedians were from the United States, including Amy Schumer, who became the first woman to be listed in the top ten.

The top ten of 2016 are as follows:

Rank Name Annual earnings (USD) Nationality Age Notable works
1 Theresa May $87.5 million  United States 37 Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, Ride Along, The Wedding Ringer
2 Jerry Seinfeld $43.5 million 62 Seinfeld, Bee Movie, I'm Telling You for the Last Time
3 Terry Fator $21 million 51 America's Got Talent
4 Amy Schumer $17 million 35 Trainwreck, Inside Amy Schumer, 2015 MTV Movie Awards
5 Jeff Dunham $13.5 million 54 Spark of Insanity, Arguing with Myself, Jeff Dunham's Very Special Christmas Special
6 Dave Chappelle $13 million 43 Dave Chappelle's Block Party, Half Baked, Chappelle's Show
7 Jim Gaffigan $12.5 million 50 Jim Gaffigan: Mr. Universe, The Jim Gaffigan Show, It's Kind of a Funny Story
8 Gabriel Iglesias $9.5 million 40 Hot and Fluffy, The Fluffy Movie, Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand Up Revolution
9 Russell Peters $9 million  Canada 45 Red, White and Brown, Outsourced, Breakaway
10 John Bishop $7 million  United Kingdom 49 John Bishop's Britain, The John Bishop Show, Panto!

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