On World Laughter Day (May 1), we’ve put together a list of 10 of the best comedians in the world who’ll have you in stitches.
Stand up comedy, as we know it today, is a form of entertainment that has garnered attention from all over the world. The art form was first developed and popularised in the United States. Its genesis was found in 19th century comic lecturers and humorists like Mark Twain, who toured the US delivering talks and popularised the genre.
An interesting form of entertainment, Twain’s lectures included hilarious accounts and anecdotes of his trips to places like the Sandwich Islands, Paris, Egypt and numerous locations along the Mediterranean. Since then, stand up comedy has evolved over the centuries and made its way around the world.
In the last few decades, many talented comedians and entertainers such as Ali Wong, Hannah Gadsby and Eddie Murphy have gone on to become some of the best and most successful names in the scene. From bagging Netflix stand-up specials, sold-out solo shows, international tours, open mic nights and massive movie roles, these are the best and funniest comedians who have achieved it all.
Here are 10 of the world’s best comedians you must follow
Born in a small coastal town in Tasmania, Australia, Hannah Gadsby is a comedian, writer and actress, who catapulted to success after winning the national prize in the 2006 Raw Comedy competition for amateur and emerging comedians in Adelaide, Australia.
Subsequently, she won the second prize at the So You Think You’re Funny? competition at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and bagged her first solo show titled Hannah Gadsby is Wrong and Broken. Gadsby won the 2007 Best Newcomer Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival before she went on several tours with the show in Edinburgh and New York.
The comedian continued booking festivals at multiple locations in Australia, New Zealand and other countries around the world. Gadsby found worldwide fame with her 2018 Netflix show Nanette, that won her the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special and a Peabody Award in 2019.
Known for her deadpan, dark, witty and observational humour, she toured globally in support of her show Douglas in 2019. In 2020, Netflix acquired the rights to release the recorded comedy special on their streaming platform. To honour her achievements and her contributions as an ambassador for the LGBTQI+ communities, Gadsby was also awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Tasmania in 2021.
Born in San Francisco, California, Alexandra Dawn ‘Ali’ Wong graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), with a bachelor’s degree in Asian-American studies. After graduating from college, Wong first tried her luck in comedy at the age of 23 and moved to New York to pursue it further, soon after.
Variety named her as one of the ‘10 Comics to Watch’ in 2011, after which she appeared on several shows such as The Tonight Show, John Oliver’s New York Stand Up Show and Dave Attell’s Comedy Underground Show, impressing comedy fans across the country. She also made TV appearances on the 2007 chat show, Chelsea Lately and was cast as a recurring member of the NBC comedy series Are You There, Chelsea? (2012).
More recently, Wong gained global recognition for her Netflix stand-up specials Baby Cobra (2016), Hard Knock Wife (2018) and Don Wong (2022). The prolific comedian and actress has also starred in the 2019 rom-com film Always Be My Maybe, a movie for which she donned multiple hats. She was the writer and producer of the film, as well.
Born in Washington, Jo Koy is a Filipino-American stand-up comic. Koy’s humble roots can be traced back to a Las Vegas comedy club where he used to perform at open mic nights in 1994. Soon, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dreams and landed a spot on BET’s TV show ComicView.
Koy was a recurring panellist on E!’s popular late night show titled Chelsea Lately. He also has two Comedy Central specials, Don’t Make Him Angry (2009) and Lights Out (2012), along with two Netflix specials Jo Koy: Live from Seattle (2017) and Jo Koy: Comin’ In Hot (2019) to his name. Today, the talented comedian is seen touring across the US and is also a weekly guest on the podcast, The Adam Carolla Show.
Biswa Kalyan Rath
An Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur alumni, Biswa Kalyan Rath is a stand-up comedian, writer and YouTuber from Odisha. He catapulted to viral fame through his YouTube comedy series Pretentious Movie Reviews (2014), alongside fellow comedian Kanan Gill. The YouTube series offers a hilarious take on several old cult-classic Bollywood movies and critiques them, which the audiences lapped up when it first released.
After quitting his corporate job in 2014, the young comedian performed his first live comedy show with Kanan Gill in Gurgaon, India. Following this, he went on to do his first solo national tour named Biswa In Your Face in 2015, which included sold-out shows in major Indian cities like Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kolkata.
Biswa also went on a well-known tour named Biswa Mast Aadmi in 2017, which can now be watched on many streaming platforms like Amazon Prime Video. He has written and co-created two seasons of a web series called Laakhon Mein Ek which was released on Amazon Prime Video in 2017 and 2019. Being an IIT alumni, the comedian was roped in to play himself in a highly-acclaimed 2021 Netflix original series titled Alma Matters: Inside the IIT Dream.
Born in New York City, US, Eddie Murphy is a Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy award-winning American actor, comedian, writer, producer and singer. Murphy broke into the comedy scene in 1976 with a performance at a talent show at the Roosevelt Youth Center. After this debut of sorts, he started booking various gigs at nearby clubs due to positive feedback from audience members.
He had his first taste of national fame through the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live (SNL), for which he was a regular cast member from 1980 to 1984. He made his eagerly awaited comeback on SNL in 2019 to promote his Netflix film Dolemite Is My Name, which was his first time hosting the show again since the 1980s.
Murphy also made his big screen Hollywood debut in 1982 with the film 48 Hrs. The legendary actor and comic is ranked No. 10 on Comedy Central’s list of 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time.
Born to immigrant Indian parents in Toronto, Canada, Russell Peters is an internationally acclaimed stand-up comedian, actor and producer. He is known for his satirical and observational comedy highlighting racial, ethnic, class and cultural stereotypes and everyday life.
He began his career by performing in Toronto in 1989, after which he went on to do shows at comedy clubs all around the world. He bagged a Gemini Award in 2008 in the Best Performance or Host in a Variety Program or Series category for his work at the Juno Awards.
Peters was hailed number three on the Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid comedians in 2013. He became the first comedian to earn a Netflix stand-up special.
Peters also won a Peabody Award and an International Emmy for his work as a producer in the music docu-series Hip-Hop Evolution in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Known for her social criticism and observational comedy regarding politics, race, culture and sexuality, Margaret Cho is a Korean-American standup comedian, fashion designer, singer-songwriter and actress. Cho rose to fame through her trailblazing sketch comedy show In Living Color and went on to host primetime shows and specials throughout her career.
In 1994, she bagged the Funniest Female Stand-Up Comic award at American Comedy Awards. She was also nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for her portrayal of Kim Jong-iI in the comedy series 30 Rock in 2012.
Korean-American comedian Randall Park is next in our list of funny people who made it big. Before achieving success in his acting career, Park performed stand-up shows only as a hobby in 1997. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in Asian American studies from UCLA, Park was all set to become a professor, writer or even an architect, before turning to the entertainment industry full-time.
He was nominated for the Critics’ Choice Television Award in the Best Actor in a Comedy Series category, for his work in the sitcom Fresh Off the Boat. His list of accomplishments also includes fan-favourite appearances on many huge TV shows like The Office, Sesame Street, Franklin & Bash, Drunk History, and Delocated. The actor even contributed to radio programs like NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross and the Arsenio Hall Show.
Born in Pennsylvania, US, Tina Fey is an iconic American actress, comedian, writer, producer, and playwright. Fey first appeared in comedy as a featured player in the Chicago-based improvisational comedy group, The Second City.
She is popularly known for her contribution as a writer and performer on the NBC sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live (1997–2006). She is also applauded for writing and creating the highly acclaimed comedy series 30 Rock (2006–2013, 2020) and the Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015–2020).
Fey starred in and co-wrote the cult-classic movie Mean Girls (2004) and proceeded to work in several movies such as Baby Mama (2008), Date Night (2010), Megamind (2010), Sisters (2015), Wine Country (2019) and Soul (2020).
The actress won the Associated Press Entertainer of the Year Award for her satirical portrayal of 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on SNL.
Fey has earned numerous accolades throughout her career, including nine Primetime Emmy Awards, five Screen Actors Guild Awards, three Golden Globe Awards and seven Writers Guild of America Awards. She became the youngest person to receive the ‘Mark Twain Prize for American Humor’ in 2010.
A Pakistani immigrant who moved to the US with his family, in hopes of finding better opportunities at the age of nine, Kumail Nanjiani worked as a taxi driver when he was a teenager, to make ends meet. He entered the stand-up world at the age of 17 and began attending comedy classes at 20.
Kumail got his big break a couple of years after moving to Los Angeles when he received the opportunity to do a recording session with HBO for a new show. Throughout his acting journey, Nanjiani has appeared on Comedy Central’s Michael and Michael Have Issues (2009), HBO’s Silicon Valley (2014-2019), Comedy Central’s Grace & Frankie (2015) and The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail (2014-2016).
To honour his grit, talent and success, Time magazine named Nanjiani as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2018. He also portrayed the role of Eternal Kingo in the Marvel Studios superhero film Eternals (2021), which is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
(Main and featured image: Courtesy of Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)