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Top 10 Comedy Actors of the 1970s

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Q. V Hough Deadpans, surrealists and scripted spoofs galore! Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Comedy Actors of the 1970s. For this list, we're scouring Hollywood history to find the funniest comedic actors who ever graced a screen. Special thanks to our user kenn1987 for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Q. V Hough

Top 10 Comedy Actors of the 1970s


Deadpans, surrealists and scripted spoofs galore! Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Comedy Actors of the 1970s.

For this list, we’re scouring Hollywood history to find the funniest comedic actors who ever graced a screen. We’re focusing on performers from both feature films and television, but have decided to exclude talk show hosts and voice actors. This is part of a series of videos spanning the decades.

#10: John Belushi
1949 - 1982

Born in Chicago, this energetic comedian rose to prominence at the famed Second City and became an original cast member of “Saturday Night Live” by 1975. His impressions were second to none, but it was his equally remarkable brand of physical comedy that led him to create “The Blues Brothers” with fellow cast member Dan Aykroyd. By the end of the decade, Belushi’s legacy was firmly cemented when he starred as Bluto Blutarsky in the John Landis classic “Animal House” and became the prototype for collegiate party animals for generations to come.

#9: John Ritter
1948 - 2003

As the son of a country music legend and an actress, John Ritter was born into a family of performers. After leaving school, he slowly worked his way up the comedic chain by landing television parts in iconic shows like “Hawaii Five-O,” “The Waltons, “M*A*S*H” and “The Bob Newhart Show” before snagging the role of his life as Jack Tripper on “Three’s Company.” With his screwball style of comedy, Ritter produced one of the most unforgettable characters of the ‘70s and closed off the decade by starring as President Chet Roosevelt in “Americathon.” Charming and uniquely gifted, John Ritter will bring a smile to anyone face’s with just the mention of his name.

#8: Woody Allen
1935 -

Born Allan Stewart Konigsberg, this Brooklyn-raised performer wrote comedy sketches for NBC as a teenager and hit the stand-up circuit throughout the ‘60s. By the mid-‘70s, Woody Allen had already directed, written and starred in a number of box office hits, but it was the cinema classics “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan” that established him as the quintessential quirk of mainstream comedy films. His frenetic, insecure manner of speech is often imitated, but never duplicated. He hustled his way to the top, and set the bar for all observational comics that would follow.

#7: Madeline Kahn
1942 - 1999

This former Broadway star was a Mel Brooks muse and a Bogdanovitch beauty. She made her feature debut at almost 30 years of age, and was so impressive in “What’s Up, Doc” that she was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance. Beautiful and with a natural knack for inciting laughter, Kahn reached the pinnacle of her career in a trilogy of mid-‘70s Mel Brooks films, including “Blazing Saddles,” for which she earned an Academy Award nomination. By the end of the decade, Kahn was going strong with “High Anxiety” and “The Cheap Detective,” thus securing her role as the most hilarious female actor of the decade.

#6: John Cleese
1939 -

This towering Brit began his career as a scriptwriter before establishing his own unique and wonderfully bizarre brand of comedy. After making numerous appearances on British television during the late-‘60s, he co-founded the comedy sketch group “Monty Python,” which led to a groundbreaking TV show and cult film series. In that show, as well in his other farcical creation “Fawlty Towers,” his black humor and stream-of-consciousness technique provided for spontaneous moments of comedic brilliance, and when combined with his remarkable scriptwriting and physical humor, Cleese was at the top of his game.

#5: Benny Hill
1924 - 1992

For almost seven decades, this English comedian kept folks cackling away, especially during his brilliant run on the small screen. Benny Hill not only starred in his own comedy program but also wrote voraciously throughout the ‘70s. His slapstick-style of humor and spectacular impressions inspired would-be performers half his age, and the closing “run-off” sequence became an integral part of pop culture. Hill thrived with his edgy comedy and innovative production techniques as he challenged viewer perceptions of what it meant to be politically correct.

#4: Richard Pryor
1940 - 2005

Inspired by Bill Cosby yet intrigued by the early ‘70s counterculture movement, Richard Pryor made a significant turn towards artistic independence in the early ‘70s. Though his television show was cancelled after only four episodes over creative differences, his more than 20 film credits of the decade established him as a true crossover star, with writing and starring credits in “Blazing Saddles,” and box office hits like “The Mack,” “Blue Collar” and “Silver Streak.” Pryor’s commanding stage presence influenced a young Eddie Murphy as well as many others, and he undoubtedly played by his own rules.

#3: Gene Wilder
1933 -

This icon of comedy made his film debut in the 1967 classic “Bonnie and Clyde,” and just one year later, he became one of the most prominent names in comedy by earning an Academy Award nomination for his work in Mel Brooks’ “The Producers.” That kicked off the ‘70s on the right foot, and soon came his iconic portrayal of Willy Wonka in Mel Stuart’s 1971 film, a trilogy of Mel Brooks collaborations and a burgeoning partnership with Richard Pryor that established Wilder as a legitimate box-office giant. He committed fully to his unforgettable characters, and his over-the-top hijinks kept audiences in stitches.

#2: Mel Brooks
1926 -

It’s one thing to write and direct legendary ‘70s films, a few of which are considered some of the funniest movies of all time; it’s quite another to consistently steal the show as well. Whether it was as Governor William J. Lepetomane in “Blazing Saddles” or Richard H. Thorndyke in “High Anxiety,” Mel Brooks was a master of farcical scenarios that often had viewers crying from laughter. Possibly even better known as a comedy director, his roles were few and far between; but when he did appear on camera, Brooks owned every minute. And that’s how you do it in show business.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Dom DeLuise
1933 - 2009
- Cheech & Chong
1946 - ; 1938 -
- Bob Newhart
1929 -
- Andy Kaufman
1949 - 1984
- Redd Foxx
1922 - 1991
- Carol Burnett
1933 –

#1: Peter Sellers
1925 - 1980

Over ten years after first appearing in the career-making role of the bumbling Inspector Clouseau in “The Pink Panther,” Peter Sellers reprised his iconic role twice during the ‘70s and displayed what it meant to truly be a comedic genius. From the walk to the talk, Sellers always brought a unique identity to his characters, and he book-ended his “Pink Panther” roles with equally extravagant performances in “The Optimists of Nine Elves” and “Being There.” With an uproarious contrast of highbrow characters and lowbrow humor, Sellers found a way to sell every aspect of his performance through extraordinary preparation and a natural gift for comedy.

Do you agree with our list? Who is your favorite comedy actor of the ‘70s? For more mind-blowing Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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