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Top 10 Comedy Actors of All Time

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Nathan Sharp These are the actors whose ability to make us laugh out loud has stood the test of time. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 comedy actors of all time. For this list, we're scouring Hollywood history to find the funniest comedic actors who ever graced a screen. Special thanks to our user NBACoDGaming for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Transcript
Script written by Nathan Sharp

Top 10 Comedy Actors of All Time


These are the actors whose ability to make us laugh out loud has stood the test of time. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 comedy actors of all time.

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 the final part of a series of videos spanning the decades.

#10: 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 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.

#9: Will Ferrell
1967-

Unlike many of the other comedians on this list, Ferrell came to comedy without a background in stand-up; but he definitely didn’t need one. Here are the facts: Will Ferrell was the #1 reason to watch “Saturday Night Live” until 2002 because he was capable of making almost any cast member break character with his impressions, original characters and general crazy antics. His first big post-SNL role in “Old School” has become mythical, and his run of late-2000s films could best be described as a cinematic master class for improvisational comics. He’s not your typical method actor, but he devotes himself fully to ridiculously absurd characters, and we love him for it.

#8: 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.

#7: Marx Brothers
Various

Chico, Harpo, Groucho: these three men changed the face of comedy in the United States at a time when “Hollywood” was still mostly an idea. Born and raised in The Big Apple to Jewish immigrants, the brothers toured America as a vaudeville act and transitioned from their emphasis on singing to a hysterical focus on comedy. Upon commanding the stages of Broadway with their free-form style, the Marx Brothers signed with Paramount Studios, and films like “A Night at the Opera” and “Duck Soup” became defining pieces of work in a blossoming industry.

#6: 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. His success would continue through the ‘90s and ‘00s, and is still a major comedic actor today.

#5: 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.

#4: Robin Williams
1951-2014

Already a comedic legend by 1990, this intellectual whirlwind brought unrivaled originality and energy to each and every role. One of the busiest actors of the decade, Robin Williams challenged both himself and audiences with dramedies like “The Fisher King” and “Patch Adams” while going all-out with pure comedies like “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “The Birdcage.” But it was in 1997 when he teamed up with a couple of aspiring filmmakers by the names of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck that he produced one of the finest performances of the decade; a role tinged with a little drama, a little comedy and tons of heart that earned him an Academy Award.

#3: Buster Keaton
1895-1966

Long before he became known as “The Great Stone Face,” a child named Joseph Keaton performed for his father’s traveling vaudeville show, which was co-operated by Harry Houdini. Just over fifteen years later, a chance encounter with Fatty Arbuckle led the seasoned performer to Hollywood, and the persona of “Buster Keaton” was born. His directorial innovations were legendary, but his straight-faced brand of humor made him the most famous American comic of his day. Part magician, part stunt guy and part leading man, Keaton transcended the perceived possibilities of film before the existence of “talkies.” We undoubtedly owe a lot to Buster and his blistering routines.

#2: Jim Carrey
1962-

After a few lukewarm big screen performances in the ‘80s, this innovative Canadian reinvigorated his screen presence by joining forces with the Wayans family on “In Living Color,” and all hell broke loose in the world of comedy because there was a new sheriff in town. With surreal characters like “Fire Marshall Bill,” Carrey transferred that boundless energy and creativity to cinema soon enough. With hits like “Dumb and Dumber,” “Ace Ventura” and “Liar Liar,” Carrey’s charisma was impossible to ignore, and with each remaining year of the decade, he cemented himself further as one of the most bankable comedy actors of the ‘90s and beyond.

Before we unveil our pick for the greatest comedy actor of all time, here are a few honorable mentions.

Jonah Hill
1983-

Jerry Lewis
1926-

Leslie Nielsen
1926-2010

Mike Myers
1963-

Chris Farley
1964-1997

Ben Stiller
1965-

#1: Charlie Chaplin
1889 - 1977

In 1913, this man was already a notable British performer when he arrived in America, but nobody knew that he was about to revolutionize the business side of Hollywood and the art of filmmaking. With his down-and-out character named “The Tramp,” Charlie Chaplin found a way to emotionally connect with audiences while simultaneously lifting their spirits. His roles were tinged with vulnerability, and as the years passed, his political consciousness proved just how powerful a muted voice could be. Even when sound trumped the idea of silent cinema, Chaplin continued to work on his own terms well into the 1950s. Chaplin is the first, the last, the everything when it comes to modern comedy.

Do you agree with our list? Who’s your pick for the greatest comedy actor of all time? With new top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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