Since 2006, Jerry Seinfeld has seemed the insurmountable King of Comedy. His combined pretax earnings over the last 10 years top $900 million, and year after year he has claimed the top spot on our list of the world’s highest-paid comedians.
No longer: For the first time since FORBES started delving into the money of the funny business, someone other than Seinfeld has taken the title of the top-earning joker. Between June 2015 and June 2016, Kevin Hart made $87.5 million—over $30 million more than Seinfeld’s $43.5 million. That haul also earned Hart sixth place on the Celebrity 100, FORBES’ annual list of celebrity money-makers.
Combined, the world’s 10 highest-paid comedians made $233.5 million over our scoring period, prior to taxes and management fees. Their earnings came from touring, endorsements, films, DVD sales, TV specials and paid appearances. FORBES’ earnings estimates are based on data from Pollstar, Box Office Mojo and IMDB, as well as interviews with agents, managers, lawyers and industry insiders
The reason for Hart’s dominance is simple: He tours like no other comedian. In the 12-month period, Hart played over 100 shows with an average gross of over $1 million at each stop. And these shows aren’t at dingy comedy clubs; Hart played stadiums and arenas, including Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center. Because the stand-up comedian’s set requires little more than a stool, water bottle and microphone, he takes home a larger cut of that gross than most rock stars would.
“He is a comedian, of course, but he is drawing crowds that you would typically only see for musician,” says Gary Bongiovanni, editor of Pollstar. “Only a few comedians [are] capable of playing sports arenas the way that Kevin Hart does.”
To pad his tour earnings—which make up the overwhelming majority of his eight-figure haul—Hart took to both the big and small screens, starring in the films Central Intelligence and Secret Life of Pets, and shooting commercials for Hyundai , Foot Locker and H&M.
Hart isn’t the only one to have a big year. Amy Schumer debuts on our ranking in fourth place with earnings of $17 million. Not only is she the only female comic on this year’s list, Schumer is also the only woman to ever make the highest-paid comedians list—a big first as women have historically faced difficulty being taken seriously in the funny business.
While she made millions from touring —most of her tour was a co-bill with Aziz Ansari, who didn’t make the list—she also has her Peabody and Emmy-winning Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer, an $8 million book deal for The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo and commercial work to thank for big payday.
Amy Schumer had a big year: winning an Emmy, publishing a book and becoming the first woman to ever make the list of top-paid comedians.
Still, as the only woman on the list, there is clearly work to be done, something which Schumer often discusses.
“I feel like there won’t be enough change … until there’s no wage gap, and until someone says ‘You’re my favorite comic,’ not ‘You’re my favorite female comic,’ she said on NPR last month. So she has taken to making sexism in the entertainment industry a common subject of her work. In one of her show’s famous skits with Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Patricia Arquette, the women celebrate Louis-Dreyfus’ “last f**kable day,” or the last day Hollywood would find her young enough to play an attractive love interest.
The writers of her show are also mainly women, not only giving women a voice, but also allowing audience members to become familiar with other female comedians who may one day make it big.
Jim Gaffigan is the other newcomer on this year’s list, thanks to a world tour and lucrative endorsement deals.
Jim Gaffigan joins Schumer as a newcomer on the list with earnings of $12.5 million. Though his Contagious tour wasn’t quite as big as Hart’s What Now? tour, Gaffigan managed to pull in impressive audiences around the world, playing shows all over the country, as well as in Oslo and Helsinki. He fattens up his paycheck with his role as Colonel Sanders in KFC commercials and as the stereotypical dad in Chrysler minivan spots.
Comedy veterans round out the list. Dave Chappelle, who had his first film role in over a decade in Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, almost doubled his earnings, going from $7.5 million last year to $13 million this year. And Russell Peters managed to tour his way to $9 million, padding his earnings with private performances for Saudi princes.
When Charles Lamb said that that a laugh is worth a hundred groans, he may have been onto something, but perhaps it’s worth is closer to a million dollars.
Date Posted: Wednesday, September 28th, 2016 , Total Page Views: 574
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