The 10 Funniest Comedians Who Died Before Their Time

The premature passing of 44 year old comedian Greg Giraldo caught everyone by surprise yesterday. Today we honor him and 9 other comedians who left us before their time on Earth was up. Unlike these comedians who had their time, we hoped the joke tailors on this list could’ve given us more comedic gold in their golden years.

Greg Giraldo (1965-2010)

Born in the Bronx, raised in Queens, this graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law was a regular panelist on Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn and made appearances on Letterman, Conan, Stern, and Opie & Anthony. You might’ve seen him as a judge on Last Comic Standing and doling out put downs  on Comedy Central’s roasts of numerous celebrities.


Bill Hicks (1961-1994)

Bill Hicks was a little before my time since I was, like, eight years old when he died. Still after listening to some of his material, such as the above video, it is apparent that he was the resident deep thinking comic of the early 1990’s. Like the disgustingly intelligent smart asses that like to sit around and wax on about a Greener America while smoking his 18th cigarette of the night. You either vibe with this guy or brand him douche. Luckily, Hicks was more the former than the latter.


Mitch Hedberg (1968-2005)

Observational humor. Jerry Seinfeld rode that wave to a successful and, in my opinion, grossly overrated sitcom that runs even to this day. I mean seriously. What is the DEAL with seeing things? You see them and THEN they’re there. It’s CRAZAAAAAAY. Anyway if “Seinfeld” allowed its namesake to play it safe with things like “The Marriage Ref” and “Bee Movie”, then observation is what secured Mitch Hedberg a place in the cult comic hall of fame. With an unassuming hipster look and that little something special (weed), Hedberg became the comic that 18-24 year old’s will now swear by.


Chris Farley (1964-1997)

According to Jonah Hill in the movie “Funny People”, “There’s nothing funny about a physically fit man.” A few guys on this list will prove that statement true but Chris Farley is the latest in a long of funny fat guys who ate one spare rib plate too many. Though, to be fair, Farley’s humor didn’t come from just his Sam’s Club-sized love handles. Whether he was playing a hyperactive motivational speaker (Matt Foley) or an exaggerated version of himself (Tommy Boy), Farley always came across as two things: energetic and likeable. Both were reasons he was so easy to laugh at and with.


John Belushi (1949-1982)

And now to the guy who inspired Chris Farley. Without John Belushi, there would be no Chris Farley. Actually when people say that it sounds really self serving and unnecessarily brown nosey. Let’s just say that without Belushi, people wouldn’t have known what to make of Farley. Belushi may as well be the godfather of Saturday Night Live and a first ballot, inaugural member of the SNL. Belushi was a loose cannon on the stage in the best, and worst ways possible. Need evidence? Just watch the above video.

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Phil Hartman (1948-1998)

Phil Hartman caught on a little late in life but once he hit, he was everywhere. A utility all-star on SNL that would later be seen in the likes of Will Ferrell, Phil Hartman could do anything you wanted him to do. He could play Bill Clinton like a politicking, borderline sketch ball and he could play Sinatra like an cranky, entitled curmudgeon. Either way, he killed and was probably the second best impressionist ever featured on SNL (first has to go to Darryl Hammond).


Lenny Bruce (1925-1966)

I’m sure the cliched saying “ahead of his/her time” was coined by someone who discovered Lenny Bruce about 20 years after he died. If you listen to about five minutes of Bruce’s routine and take in the subject matter and the language used, while thinking about who his contemporaries were, it’s easy to see why he is thought of as “ahead of his time.” Bruce would have probably been right at home riffing in an Apatow flick.

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Sam Kinison (1953-1992)
Imagine you live in the deep south and go to a Baptist church and one day your head clergy man decides “I’m going to take up stand up comedy.” That’s what Sam Kinison did. After entering the seminary and figuring that money and sluts were not among the fringe benefits, he got into stand up comedy. Chances are you laughed at a Sam Kinison routine. It was either out of sheer enjoyment and amusement. Or, due to the shear decibel level that some of his jokes were delivered at, fear. Either way, you laughed at Sam.


John Candy (1950-1994)

A forgotten gem among farcical fat men (probably because his death wasn’t mired in drug use like Farley and Belushi), Candy settled into the role of the jolly, shenanigan prone father figure in movies like “The Great Outdoors”, “Uncle Buck” and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”. His rapid fire question scene with Macauley Culkin in ‘Buck’ is still one of the funniest things I have even seen in my life. Where Belushi’s unpredictable nature got him laughs and Farley’s infantile cuddliness was his lunch ticket, Candy’s humor was drawn from the fact that he was just the funny, fat everyman. You could watch his movies and go to work on a Monday and hear a very similar story from your own resident funny, fat guy.


Dave Chappelle (1973-2006*)

The only thing worse than dying in your prime? Quitting your wildly successful and hilarious TV show and moving to a farm in Ohio. Dave Chappelle began his rise to fame in the 90’s and truly hit his peak when he starred on the Chappelle Show — a sketch comedy program that often crossed lines and gained awesome critical reviews with its sharp social commentary. And just when he was becoming a household name, he quit his show due to network interference and spent some time in Africa. While we’re pretty sure he’s still alive, we’ll be the first to say that he might as well be dead.
* Year he quit Chappelle Show

51 thoughts on “The 10 Funniest Comedians Who Died Before Their Time”

  1. What happened to Richard Jeni who died a few years ago? One of the most briliant comics ever. Seriously, rent some dvds and see what you have been missing.

  2. I love Carlin as much as anyone, he was the master. However, the article is "The 10 Funniest Comedians to Die BEFORE Their Time." George Carlin was 71 years old. He was relevant and genuinely funny right up to the end, but the dude was old. Everyone has to go sometime, and natural causes isn't terribly tragic. Hartman was murdered and Hicks died of cancer, so you do the comparisons there. Also, take notice of how Hicks' routines about the first Gulf War were prophecy on the second Bush presidency. If he was alive in that period, he would have hardly needed to change his act at all.

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  4. Chappelle still does great comedy… just because you make no effort to see his stuff doesn't mean he may as well be dead. Rest are solid, though.

  5. P.Tolbert: are you kidding me? Bernie Mac was a horrible no talent hack. He was worse than Jerry Seinfeld. They are not funny, their show is horrible. John Ritter will be missed though.

  6. Sorry but this list was poorly written. It's not even that the choices were bad (they weren't) but the author clearly didn't do any research on any of these comedians. All the quick comments look like something the author heard in passing. No Andy Kaufman but Dave Chappelle, a LIVING PERSON is on this list? Ridiculous? Also, without Belushi, there would be no Farley. Chris Farley HIMSELF has said that…

  7. I like tongue-in-cheek as much as the next guy, but it seems a little disrespectful to the dead to close the list with someone very much alive. Poor taste.

  8. Nice list and commemoration of talent lost too soon (esp. Hartman in my opinion), but it's disrespectful to have Chappelle on the list – and in fact you defeat the purpose of the list by doing so. You may have thought you were being clever or witty to include him at the end, but I guarantee you Dave himself would be mortified to know you'd done that – because *he's* a class act.

  9. This is a bit nitpicky, but there's a difference between comedians and comic actors. Comedians craft their own material. Often, their point of view is just as important as their jokes, Hicks being the prime example. Hartman, Candy, Belushi, and Farley shouldn't be on this list, in my opinion. They were all very funny, and may have been good improvisers, but that isn't the same as being a comedian. They were actors, interpreters of other people's work. They were all reliant on others writing, to give them something to perform. Not to say they couldn't have done their own material, but they didn't. I think that's an important distinction. The other guys on this list are comedians, but those 4 are actors. Seriously, how many of you own a Phil Hartman album? I do, and its just ok, all his own material. He's the greatest comedic actor of all time, in my opinion, but that's not the same as being a comedian.

  10. Wouldn't you like to see a positive LSD story on the news? To base your decision on information rather than scare tactics and superstition? perhaps? Wouldn't that be interesting? Just for once?
    'Today, a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration – that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There's no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we're the imagination of ourselves. Here's Tom with the weather.'" ~Bill Hicks

  11. I got introduced to Mitch Hedberg on an XM radio comedy channel. I was so sad the day I looked him up to see where I could see him live and find out he had died years earlier. He truly made my ride in traffic enjoyable.

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  21. Apparently only males are being honored here. Also, these men didn't die before their time. Their time was up and they died.

  22. Ducky Mallard

    Greg Giraldo mocked religion and faith to the point where I could not even watch him. I can take a religious joke. I can't take out and out blasphemy. I said to myself, one fine day he's going to regret it. Sure enough, when he failed to show up at a Comedy Club for a scheduled gig one day in September, 2010 he was found unresponsive in his hotel room from a drug overdose. Gee, what a shock. Of course, his handlers and family all did everything they could to say it was NOT a suicide. Yeah, right. And I'm the Queen of England. Liar, liar, pants on fire. He lingered in a coma for 5 days before they pulled the plug. I like humor. I love late night comedy….I would much rather go to bed following some humor than the news. But to be so Bill Maher-ish about God and belief and believers is just lower than low. I just hope he asked forgiveness before he "accidentally" swallowed a few handfuls of pills with a whiskey chaser. To this day, almost 2 years later, no autopsy report has ever been made public. I wonder why.

  23. Screw god…he's not funny and starves children.
    Elvis was religious and he still OD'd on prescription drugs…BFD dumbass.

  24. You don't have to like it. God is not real & religion is a joke & there are plenty of us who LOVE to make fun of sheep like you. You're not fooling anyone either. You are gleefully happy that Greg died because he didn't believe in god & you did. You're a fool & you're wasting your life following a fairly tale. Rest assured, plenty of people mock you on a daily basis.

  25. You have a point about the religious jokes going too far. People take too many liberties feeling they can say whatever they want even to the point of blasphemy or extremely low tolerance for believers. It's ridiculous and immature. But this is a world where people enjoy disrespecting, including the people who replied to you. People find glee in being mean. But they only make themselves look less than human.

  26. No, you, with your blasphemy here, are only screwing yourself. People starve people; blame greedy government & capitalism for starving others. God provided the earth with more than enough resources for everyone. Blaming God is the lazy way to avoid blaming yourself and to avoid blaming humanity for errors they or you CHOOSE to do. No one but us makes us do stupid things. Grow a backbone & own up to errors in order to change them instead of blaming others. And all that profanity wasn't necessary. That is showing yourself to be less than human. less than decent. You show you need God.

  27. God is real. Just because you want to live a life doing whatever you please with no moral compass or your finite, human thinking refuses to open and realize His infiniteness does not mean God is not real. It just means you have CHOSEN to ignore the reality of God & it means you haven't attached your spirit to Him. You can't possibly understand what you refuse to get to know. And you only make yourself look bad "making fun" (as you say) of people. That's immature and intolerant. Decency in this world is failing & you are helping. Fix your faults instead of finding fault in faith.

  28. You said that John Candy is a "forgotten gem" maybe because he didn't die in a scandalous way? Wow. Maybe you would say John Candy is "forgotten" because you were only, what, 8 yrs old in 1994 when he died (in the Bill Hicks segment, you said you were 8 in 1994)? Which means you wouldn't remember or know too much about John as far as from when you were growing up. I guess that accounts for you thinking he'd be "forgotten". I'm 7 yrs older than you, apparently, and he definitely hasn't been forgotten by me and hasn't been forgotten by MANY people. He was a gem, period. His comedic & acting genius is hilarious, priceless, ageless and constantly relatable. John was a great talent. Your "forgotten gem" statement, then, is erroneous and even somewhat insulting.

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