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Top 10 Comedy Actors of the 1980s

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by QV Hough They're the amusing artists of the affluent '80s. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Comedy Actors of the 1980s. 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 QV Hough

Top 10 Comedy Actors Of the 1980s


They're the amusing artists of the affluent '80s. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Comedy Actors of the 1980s.

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: Billy Crystal
1948 -

In 1984, this proud New Yorker joined the most famous comedy troupe of the Big Apple. While he only spent one season with “Saturday Night Live,” his portrayal of a high-brow talk show host paved the way for a series of hysterical hosting gigs for “Comic Relief,” and a couple of iconic ‘80s films in “Throw Momma from the Train” and “When Harry Met Sally.” Of course, it was his 1984 appearance in “This Is Spinal Tap” that introduced Crystal to a larger audience. With a brilliant gift for gab, this man could transform any conversation into comedy.

#9: Lily Tomlin
1939 -

Truly a versatile performer, this veteran comedienne once appeared as a bearded soul singer named Pervis Hawkins on “Saturday Night Live.” Millennials may know Lily Tomlin as Miss Frizzle on “The Magic School Bus” or – more recently – as Jane Fonda’s co-star in “Grace and Frankie;” however back in 1980, those two veteran actresses were already doing comedic work in the film “9 to 5.” Although Tomlin only starred in a handful of big screen flicks throughout the decade, her exuberant portrayals of surreal characters made her not only one of the most relevant comedy actors of the ‘80s, but also one of the most endearing.

#8: John Candy
1950 - 1994

Not a single year passed during the ‘80s without this colossal performer appearing large and in charge on the big screen. At only 29 years of age, John Candy nabbed a role in John Landis’ 1980 classic “The Blues Brothers,” and by the following year, his “Stripes” character Dewey Oxberger established a new pedigree for cinematic dimwits. His larger-than-life persona allowed for creative flexibility, as he could play a menacing relative or an easy-going character doomed to suffer. There was only one John Candy, and just his very presence on screen made us smile.

#7: Tom Hanks
1956 -

Years before this guy began taking home Oscars and huge paychecks, he was just a lanky bosom buddy lookin’ for a good time. But after the success of his ABC hit, Hollywood noticed Tom Hanks’ unique combination of quirkiness and leading man charisma. Armed with a natural wide-eyed presence and contagious laugh, he became the perfect fit for a variety of grown up, coming-of-age stories. Hanks was the movie star we all wanted to hang out with, and we seemed to be sharing the small treasures of life along with his magical characters.

#6: Chevy Chase
1943 -

While the ‘80s were jam-packed with a vast array of hilarious comedy actors, the central chapter belonged completely to this former “Saturday Night Live” star. His overly confident characters seemed to know something we didn’t, as they bordered the line between genius and pure lunacy. Clark Griswold became one of the most iconic buffoons of the decade, and Chase’s brilliant comedic timing made him an undeniable box office star. His roles were filled with social detachment, which made his films such a joy to watch.

#5: Dan Aykroyd
1952 -

Upon leaving “Saturday Night Live” in 1979, this Canadian teamed up with the late John Belushi for a classic ‘80s flick steeped in style and loaded with laughs. Maybe it was the voice that hooked viewers, or perhaps the incredible hair, but regardless, Dan Aykroyd torched the ‘80s with his complete command of deadpan comedy. He brought the douchey Roman Craig to life opposite John Candy in “The Great Outdoors,” and – proving he could write as well as perform – his turn as one of the “Ghostbusters” defined a spectacular era of comedy.

#4: Steve Martin
1945 -

Has there ever been a comedian more suave than Steve Martin? Well, he would probably tell you “no” - because he’s awesome like that. He was a wild and crazy guy that always knew when to push a little harder for laughs without losing his audience. Martin maintained a steady presence in mainstream films throughout the decade, but it was roles in movies like “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” “Roxanne” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” that highlighted his comedic flexibility. And of course, he slayed the “Saturday Night Live” stage several times during the same brilliant run.

#3: Leslie Nielsen
1926 - 2010

This salt and pepper Canuck was dead serious about making viewers cackle thanks to his deadpan delivery. Leslie Nielsen began the decade by transitioning from dramatic roles to comedy spoofs like 1980’s “Airplane!,” and the result was simply phenomenal. Nielsen capitalized on his new comedic persona by taking on the role of Detective Frank Drebin for the short-lived “Police Squad” sitcom, which led to the 1988 release of “The Naked Gun.” That’s the movie franchise that cemented Nielsen’s place as the ultimate straight-faced comedy actor of the ‘80s.

#2: Bill Murray
1950 -

While many actors fit comfortably into a particular genre of comedy, this man blurred the lines of laughter and drama with his own expressive style of performing. Born and raised in Chicago in a family of artists, Bill Murray had already established his polished comedic presence on SNL when he was cast as Carl Spackler in “Caddyshack,” and his success in early ‘80s classics foreshadowed the future dramedies that would define his career. With an unequaled ability to improvise, Murray not only brought out the best in his fellow actors, but also kept audiences gasping at his astounding range and talent. There’s the Bill Murray way, and then there’s everything else.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Rodney Dangerfield
1921 - 2004
- Rick Moranis
1953 -
- Tracey Ullman
1959 -
- Dudley Moore
1935 - 2002
- Jim Varney
1949 - 2000

#1: Eddie Murphy
1961 -

In a time when veteran white actors were displaying their comedic expertise on “Saturday Night Live,” a teenaged African-American comic from Brooklyn became the shining star. Characters like Buckwheat and Mr. Robinson opened up a culture dialogue in America while simultaneously reviving the NBC show, and when Eddie Murphy left to pursue a film career, his balls-out style of comedy made him one of the most successful stars of the ‘80s. He connected with audiences by highlighting taboo subjects, and successfully transferred his stand-up act to the big screen.

Do you agree with our list? Who is your favorite comedy actor of the ‘80s? For more mind-blowing Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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