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Top 10 Comedians Who Died Too Soon

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Scott Varnham They burst onto the comedy scene full of life, and sadly left us too soon. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Comedians Who Died Too Soon. For this list, we'll be considering not just stand-up comics, but those comedians who made their careers on the big and small screens as well. Special thanks to our user Doctor Drummer and MafiaGuy22 for submitting the idea on our Interactive Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Top 10 Comedians Who Died Too Soon

They burst onto the comedy scene full of life, and sadly left us too soon. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Comedians Who Died Too Soon.

For this list, we’ll be considering not just stand-up comics, but those comedians who made their careers on the big and small screens as well.

#10: Sam Kinison

First up is a young comedian who started his career as a Bible-thumping preacher in Oklahoma before turning his anger and passion to comedy. You don’t have to watch many shows before you start to appreciate Sam Kinison’s intense performance style and trademark scream. However, in 1992, the stand-up comedian and actor was preparing for a sold out show when a drunk driver plowed into his car. He sadly and tragically died from his injuries a few minutes later, though his wife,who was in the car with him, would survive him.

#9: Andy Kaufman

Our next choice made his name as a deeply unconventional comedian after some of his stand-up performances were broadcast on “Saturday Night Live,” before he made appearances on shows like “Taxi” and “Late Night With David Letterman.” His routines were all about subverting audience expectations and he loved performing pranks. One of his most well known achievements is performing an incredibly good Elvis impression in his Foreign Man persona. According to legend, this was the King of Rock and Roll’s favorite – so that’s gotta be worth something. Unfortunately, kidney failure caused by lung cancer would take his life in 1984. Unless you believe the conspiracy theories…

#8: Mitch Hedberg

Known for his vast arsenal of one-liners, Mitch Hedberg was set to take the world of comedy by storm when he died of a drug overdose in 2005. His somewhat free form and improvisational style meant that he had no issues with trying out new material during recorded shows and making fun of his own jokes when they didn’t work. Even though Hedberg didn’t leave us much material, what we do have is hilarious to watch.

#7: Bill Hicks

Our next pick is highly regarded not just by fans, but also by his peers. One of the truly angry comedians, one of Bill Hicks’ favorite standup themes was to contrast what humanity was capable of with what it actually was doing. His fierce passion burned through in every sentence and helped shape his routines into moments that could have you dying with laughter through his sheer conviction alone. Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer would take his life in 1994 when he was just 32.

#6: Gilda Radner

This comedienne and actress was known for the many popular characters she created for “Saturday Night Live.” In these roles, she specialized in broad and obnoxious parodies of television stereotypes such as annoying advice specialists and news anchors. These characters allowed Gilda Radner to create hilarious and accurate caricatures that helped cement her place in the world of comedy. When she died from ovarian cancer in 1989, her husband Gene Wilder helped to set up a cancer foundation in her name so that her legacy would live on.

#5: John Belushi

Everybody needs somebody to make him or her laugh, and for many people that person was John Belushi. Notable for his riotous antics both on and off screen, the “Animal House” star always brought a heaping dose of raw and vital energy to his roles. And that’s exactly what made him one of the most interesting aspects of any film he was in. His early death at the age of 33 from a drug overdose didn't detract from the fact that he achieved more in 10 years than many others do in 50.

#4: Phil Hartman

Though Phil Hartman had been an “SNL” mainstay for years and even made an appearance in films like “Three Amigos” and “Jingle All The Way,” viewers will really know him for his voices on “The Simpsons.” You may remember him from such roles as Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz, which – with help from his distinctive tone – became two of the show’s standout characters and fan favorites. Out of respect, these characters were retired from the show following Hartman’s murder by his wife in 1998. This made for a fitting tribute for a life tragically ended.

#3: John Candy

Anyone who is a fan of ‘80s and ‘90s films will recognize our next choice. John Candy starred in beloved ‘80s films like “Spaceballs,” “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” and “Uncle Buck.” Every role that he took, he filled with contagious humor and energy. Candy could take the most terrible jokes and deliver them in a way that made you laugh anyway, and despite his death of a heart attack in 1994, he will be fondly remembered as one of the most lovable comedians of his day.

#2: Chris Farley

Mainly known for playing people that are overweight in his many “SNL” appearances, what a lot of people miss about Chris Farley is that he was capable of creating distinct and memorable characters that went well beyond his appearances on the sketch comedy show. Some, like his motivational speaker Matt Foley, were invited to feature on shows like “Late Night with Conan O'Brien.” It is this talent for creating such hilarious characters that will see him remembered by fans of comedy for years to come, despite his untimely death at age 33 of a drug overdose.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- John Pinette
- Patrice O'Neal
- Lenny Bruce
- Bernie Mac
- John Ritter
- Greg Giraldo

#1: Robin Williams

Nobody else comes close to the comedy chops of this legend. His skill with voices, his remarkable improv abilities and his extensive acting range all place Robin Williams firmly in the world’s hearts and made it that much more painful when he committed suicide at age 63. But the most truly surprising thing about our top comedian was his skill at dramatic roles. Robin Williams’ warmth and ever-present humor made the viewer really care about what happened to his character in films like “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Patch Adams,” and it’s thanks to those kinds of performances that he’ll be remembered forever.

Do you agree with our list? Which comedian do you think died too soon? For more interesting top 10s, published every day, be sure to subscribe to


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