The dictionary says a comedian is (I'm paraphrasing here..):
  1. Someone who gets paid to tell jokes or perform various comedy acts like juggling, magic, impersonations, ventriloquism, wearing a bag on their head and acting like an idiot, or pretty much anything that makes someone laugh; preferably at least the person who paid in the first place.
  2. Someone who performs on stage or before a camera in something called a comedy which is a kind of show that at least made the guy who wrote it laugh if nobody else.
  3. Someone who writes stuff that at least he thinks is funny.
  4. Someone who tries to be amusing in one way or another, whether he's successful or financially lucrative at it or not.
  5. A clown. Someone who dresses up in a flashy costume with makeup on their face and pretends to be someone they're not in order to make people laugh.

So by the preceding definitions, that means I'm a comedian. I think I'm funny occasionally. I've had people tell me I'm funny. I've even been paid to be funny. However, I'm not paid to be funny now, which probably means I'm not that funny, but anyway I'm probably a comedian. This probably means you are too. If you've ever told a joke to somebody and they laughed, you're a comedian. If you laughed, you could still be a comedian, but people will laugh at you when you call yourself one, which I guess would then make you a comedian. So everybody's a comedian. Now I couldn't list everybody in the following list of comedians on Everything2. Well I could but it would take a very long time. And I gotta pee soon so I'm just gonna stop with the list I got. I mean, Keanu Reeves makes me laugh but that's usually when I notice he's actually trying to act. I don't think that counts. So I'm not gonna list everybody anyway. So anyway the list below consists of every comedian I could think of, and a few that I couldn't. I know I probably forgot to include your favorite comedians, and if that's the case just let me know and I'll add him or her.. or it to the list. Some of the people listed below actually have write-ups here at E2. Those who don't? Well obviously they weren't funny enough to anyone in here to get a write-up, but you can do something about that if you know who they are.

    Comedians: International Treasures
  1. Bud Abbott
  2. Dan Ackroyd
  3. Don Adams
  4. Jason Alexander
  5. Gracie Allen
  6. Tim Allen
  7. Steve Allen
  8. Woody Allen
  9. The Amazing Johnathan
  10. Louie Anderson
  11. Rowan Atkinson
  12. Lucille Ball
  13. John Belushi
  14. Jack Benny
  15. Milton Berle
  16. Elayne Boosler
  17. Victor Borge
  18. Peter Boyle
  19. Matthew Broderick
  20. Albert Brooks
  21. Mel Brooks
  22. Lenny Bruce
  23. George Burns
  24. Brett Butler
  25. Sid Caesar
  26. Carrot Top
  27. John Candy
  28. Capitol Steps
  29. Drew Carey
  30. George Carlin
  31. Jim Carrey
  32. Johnny Carson
  33. Dana Carvey
  34. Graham Chapman
  35. Chevy Chase
  36. Margaret Cho
  37. Anthony Clark
  38. Andrew 'Dice' Clay
  39. John Cleese
  40. Bobby Collins
  41. Billy Connelly
  42. Peter Cook
  43. Tommy Cooper
  44. Bill Cosby
  45. Lou Costello
  46. Dave Coulier
  47. Billy Crystal
  48. Mark Curry
  49. Jane Curtain
  50. Rodney Dangerfield
  51. Ellen Degeneres
  52. Dom DeLuise
  53. Danny DeVito
  54. Jeff Dunham
  55. Bill Engvall
  56. Chris Farley
  57. Marty Feldman
  58. W. C. Fields
  59. Durwood Fincher
  60. Michael J. Fox
  61. Jeff Foxworthy
  62. Redd Foxx
  63. Al Franken
  64. Gallagher
  65. Tiny Garland
  66. Janeane Garofalo
  67. Jackie Gleason
  68. Whoopi Goldberg
  69. Jeff Goldblum
  70. Bobcat Goldthwait
  71. Gilbert Gottfried
  72. Kelsey Grammer
  73. Tom Green
  74. David Alan Grier
  75. Kathy Griffin
  76. Phil Hartman
  77. Buck Henry
  78. John Henton
  79. Bob Hope
  80. Eric Idle
  81. Eddie Izzard
  82. Victoria Jackson
  83. Richard Jeni
  84. Penn Jillette
  85. Spike Jones
  86. Terry Jones
  87. Madeline Kahn
  88. Gabe Kaplan
  89. Andy Kaufman
  90. Garrison Keillor
  91. Laura Kightlinger
  92. Laurie Kilmartin
  93. Sam Kinison
  94. Alan King
  95. Bill Kirchenbauer
  96. Ernie Kovacs
  97. Lisa Kudrow
  98. Martin Lawrence
  99. Cloris Leachman
  100. Denis Leary
  101. Tom Lehrer
  102. Carol Leifer
  103. Jay Leno
  104. David Letterman
  105. Jerry Lewis
  106. Richard Lewis
  107. Wendy Liebman
  108. Rich Little
  109. Robert Llewellyn
  110. Julia Louis-Dreyfus
  111. William H. Macy
  112. Kathleen Madigan
  113. Bill Maher
  114. Howie Mandel
  115. Dean Martin
  116. Steve Martin
  117. Chico Marx
  118. Groucho Marx
  119. Harpo Marx
  120. Zeppo Marx
  121. Paul Mazursky
  122. Norm McDonald
  123. Kevin Meaney
  124. Dennis Miller
  125. Larry Miller
  126. Dudley Moore
  127. Dylan Moran
  128. Rick Moranis
  129. Garrett Morris
  130. Jim Morris
  131. Eddie Murphy
  132. Bill Murray
  133. Bob Nelson
  134. Bob Newhart
  135. Larraine Newman
  136. Leslie Nielsen
  137. Conan O'Brien
  138. Rosie O'Donnell
  139. Catherine O'Hara
  140. Michael Palin
  141. Pat Paulsen
  142. Minnie Pearl
  143. Emo Philips
  144. John Pinette
  145. Joe Piscopo
  146. Paula Poundstone
  147. Richard Pryor
  148. Caroline Quentin
  149. Gilda Radner
  150. Paul Reiser
  151. Michael Richards
  152. Don Rickles
  153. Chris Rock
  154. Paul Rodriguez
  155. Ray Romano
  156. Rita Rudner
  157. Mark Russell
  158. Bob Saget
  159. Adam Sandler
  160. Jerry Seinfeld
  161. Garry Shandling
  162. Pauly Shore
  163. Sinbad
  164. Red Skelton
  165. Yakov Smirnoff
  166. Cathy Sorbo
  167. Ben Stein
  168. Ray Stevens
  169. Jon Stewart
  170. Ben Stiller
  171. Pam Stone
  172. Rip Taylor
  173. Teller
  174. Judy Tenuta
  175. Dave Thomas
  176. Fred Travalena
  177. Chris Tucker
  178. Tracey Ullman
  179. Brian Unger
  180. Dick Van Dyke
  181. Jerry Van Dyke
  182. Jimmie Walker
  183. George Wallace
  184. Damon Wayans
  185. Shawn Wayans
  186. Gene Wilder
  187. Robin Williams
  188. Michael Winslow
  189. Jonathan Winters
  190. John Witherspoon
  191. Steven Wright
  192. Weird Al Yankovic
  193. Henry Youngman
  194. Bob Zany
  195. Joel Zimmer

You're still here? It's over. Go home.

Following his sitcom's curtain call, Jerry Seinfeld had an HBO special, made a few American Express commercials, and then disappeared from the public eye for a while. Since then, he's gone back to the trenches, doing standup comedy alongside fresh-faced kids half his age in small venues, and rewriting his act from scratch. This is the subject of Comedian (2002), a documentary that follows Seinfeld from club to club as he plies his trade.

Although there's a fair amount of standup in the film, what's interesting is not so much Seinfeld's material, which will be familiar territory for most, but the conversations that occur offstage and in between performances, in semi-dark booths or backstage. Seinfeld chats it up with several other well-known comedians, among them Chris Rock, Colin Quinn, Jay Leno and Gary Shandling. In these exchanges we hear them interacting as normal, albeit famous people; it's here that the performer's carefully constructed mask comes off and we learn, if we didn't know already, that standup comedy is all blood, sweat, and tears, with only fleeting moments of comfort and self-confidence.

After one show he declares that he "hates it," but clearly something is driving him to do it, night after night. What exactly he gets out of this love/hate relationship is unclear, especially to Seinfeld himself, but his vague expository monologues seem to hint at a desire to prove himself, to achieve something irrefutable.

As Jerry Seinfeld continues his quest for a lasting legacy (or whatever it is he's after), the film simultaneously follows the story of Orny Adams, a young up-and-comer working some of the same clubs as Seinfeld. Adams is the perfect counterpoint to Seinfeld's laid-back, established, older comedian: brash, insecure, and thoroughly obnoxious. He obsesses over every last detail of his act, and is thrown off by the slightest modifications to it (as when The Tonight Show requests that he substitute "psoriasis" for "lupus" in one bit. He afterwards complains that he had to tell a "joke [he] had never told before.") He also obsesses over what others think of him, and whines constantly about how unhappy he is and how much time he's wasted on this, even though his career is starting to take off. Others, including Seinfeld, try to dissuade him of this approach, telling him to just settle down and enjoy the ride, and his response is typically hostile. After one well-meaning associate delivers a variation on this message and leaves the room, Adams, grinning with incredulous outrage, declares, "What a cocksucker!"

Adams' neurosis thankfully doesn't come through much onstage; in fact he's quite funny at times, but it's clear that in the consuming effort to be funny he has made himself a miserable, indeed humorless man. By the time he gets on The Tonight Show, which for any young comedian should constitute a huge break, Adams seems on the brink of despair, and perhaps insanity.

The last portion of the film is devoted to Seinfeld, who is on a pilgrimage to see Bill Cosby, whom Chris Rock has informed him does "two and a half hours of killer material." Seinfeld himself is currently working up to doing 45 minute sets, and is amazed and probably a little awed by this information. Seinfeld's interview with Cosby is somewhat of a letdown (I was actually hoping to see some of Cosby's "killer material") but it's still a fitting note to end on.

There are so many priceless little scenes in this film which illuminate the strange world standup comedians live in, a world somehow more primal, less tame and forgiving, than those of other performance arts. Every time you take the mic it's do-or-die; no amount of fame can conceal the odor of a poor act. The audience is a ruthless, wild beast, and it can smell your fear.

One scene in particular struck me as almost defining the film. In it, Seinfeld flounders on stage, losing his train of thought. He halts abruptly mid-anecdote, consults first the floor and then his notes with a sort of unhurried detachment, all while the audience squirms in near-silence. He murmurs that he's "forgotten where [he] was going with that," and gets a respectful little chuckle. After a few more seconds of futile rumination, a woman calls out, "Is this your first gig?" and everyone laughs and begins to applaud. Seinfeld sort of wakes up, realizing the bomb has exploded whether he likes it or not, no amount of calm can put out these flames, and he just has to start talking again. Speaking over the applause that is not for him, he manages a clumsy rebuttle, segues into the next joke, and the show goes on.

All quotes should be taken as paraphrase, as they were reconstructed from memory.

Co*me"di*an (?), n. [Cf. F. com'edien.]

1.

An actor or player in comedy.

"The famous comedian, Roscius."

Middleton.

2.

A writer of comedy.

Milton.

 

© Webster 1913.

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