Top 10 Comedians Who Were on Star Search
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Jesse Singer
Searching for fame, these comedians appeared on "Star Search." For this list, we'll be looking at some of the biggest names introduced to us by Ed McMahon – before they were star comedians. Our countdown includes Sinbad, Norm Macdonald, Drew Carey, and more!
Top 10 Comedians Who Were on Star Search
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Comedians Who Were on Star Search.
For this list, we’ll be looking at some of the biggest names introduced to us by Ed McMahon – before they were star comedians.
Ed McMahon = https://youtu.be/jeWcrJCBHok?t=106
Who's your favorite comic on this list? Leave us a comment below.
#10: Ray Romano
Now everybody loves him, but years ago when he performed on “Star Search” the judges didn’t quite have the same affection for Ray Romano. Or, at least, they didn’t love him as much as whoever he went up against in the comedy category that episode. Unfortunately, there’s no video available of his performance online, but if it was anything like his first time on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”, we’re surprised he didn’t get the victory. Either way, having a great standup career and one of the most successful and acclaimed sitcoms of all time sure sounds like a win to us.
Once upon a time, Sinbad was known for his big pants, while Dennis Miller was known for his big hair. But that’s not the only way these two comedians intersect. Both of them also appeared on “Star Search” in the 1980s. In fact, they went up against each other in one episode, with big pants beating big hair, as Sinbad emerged victorious in that laugh battle. And Sinbad didn’t stop there. He went all the way to the finals that year, eventually losing the final competition to a guy named John Kassir - who might be best known as the voice of the Cryptkeeper in the “Tales from the Crypt” series.
#8: Martin Lawrence
“What's Happening Now!!” was a sequel to the 1970s show “What’s Happening!!” and ran for three seasons in the 80s. The show itself was pretty forgettable, but Martin Lawrence surely remembers it, given that his role in the third season was his very first acting gig. Now is about the time in the entry when you take a wild guess about how he was discovered. Of course, the producers saw him on “Star Search”! He had a rather successful run which saw him make it to, but lose in the finals. Lawrence would go on to plenty of victories throughout his career though, especially in the 90s with the major success of his sitcom “Martin” and the “Bad Boys” movies.
#7: Kevin James
While not everyone who appeared on “Star Search” went on to fame and fortune, those who did, for the most part, wouldn’t see it happen quite as fast as Kevin James did. Listen to this crazy timeline: In 1995, James went on “Star Search” and, naturally, performed his way to a few wins. The year later, he appeared in his first episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond”. Then, in 1998, “The King of Queens” premiered, which featured James in the main role. The show ended up running for over 200 episodes on CBS and turned the comedian into a household name.
#6: Drew Carey
Before he was telling us all that “Cleveland Rocks”, Drew Carey rocked his first performance on “Star Search” back in 1988 - scoring a perfect 4 out of 4 stars and beating out Drake Sather, a comedian going for his third win in a row. Carey didn’t fare as well in his second episode and ended up losing to Joe Yannetty. Still, we can probably all agree that Drew was the big winner in the end. After all, we don’t remember either Sather or Yannetty having their own sitcom or hosting one of the most iconic game shows of all time!
#5: Brad Garrett
Brad Garrett might be best known for playing Ray Romano’s quirky brother on “Everybody Loves Raymond”. Ironically though, when Romano’s TV sibling performed on “Star Search”, his stand-up got lots of love from everyone… which is not something we can say for Robert Barone. And Garrett didn’t just win once. No, he was only in his early 20s but he had multiple victories - including the championship show in 1984, which saw him becoming the first-ever grand champion winner in the comedy category. Should we mention he also took home $100,000?
#4: Norm Macdonald
Norm Macdonald first made a name for himself beyond the comedy clubs back in 1986 when he performed at the famous Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival, which earned him raving reviews. Unfortunately, he didn’t find the same kind of success a few years later when he went on “Star Search”, and represented his home country of Canada. Watching his performance today, it still holds up as quite funny, with that great Norm Macdonald edginess. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to earn him a win, but given the great things he went on to accomplish, we’d say he probably wasn’t too hung up about it.
#3: Rosie O'Donnell
Before she starred in the 1992 movie about a woman’s baseball league, Rosie O’Donnell was in a league of her own on “Star Search” back in the mid-80s. An encounter with Ed McMahon’s daughter at a comedy club got her on the show and she sure didn’t waste the opportunity. The future “Queen of Nice” wasn’t so nice to her competitors as she ended up winning five separate times! And, although she didn’t win the $100,000, she did have enough victories for Ed McMahon to invite her back and deem her part of the "Star Search" family.
#2: Dave Chappelle
Do you know who Lester Barrie is? If you said he was the guy who played the preacher in the 1996 comedy, “Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood”, you’d be right. Although, you also would’ve been correct to say he was the guy who defeated Dave Chappelle on “Star Search” back in ‘93. Chappelle was 19 years old and the youngest comedian in the show’s history. He had already secured two victories but, in his third appearance, Barrie got more stars. Either way, Chappelle has been hailed as one of the greatest stand-ups of all time, so all’s well that ends well, we guess!
#1: Adam Sandler
Adam Sandler had a successful run on “Saturday Night Live”, followed by a film career that has seen his movies rake in over $4 billion at the box office and earn him a net worth of around $480 million in 2022 alone. But, if this list has taught us anything, it’s that “Star Search” success or failure has very little to do with the outcome of one’s future career. And Sandler is, of course, no exception. His turn on the show back in the 1980s didn’t see him walk away victorious, but, you know, we think he did alright for himself.