The Highest-Paid Comedians 2016
Jerry Seinfeld has been the insurmountable King of Comedy since 2006. His combined pretax earnings over the last 10 years top $900 million as he claimed the top spot on the list of the world’s highest-paid comedians.
However, it is not the case anymore. For the first time since FORBES started delving into the money of the funny business, someone else has taken the title of the top-earning joker. Between June 2015 and June 2016, Kevin Hart made $87.5 million, which is over $30 million more than Seinfeld’s $43.5 million, and 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 the scoring period, prior to taxes and management fees. Their earnings came from touring, endorsements, films, DVD sales, TV specials, and paid appearances.
Hart tours like no other comedian and that is the reason for his dominance. In the past 12-month period, Hart played over 100 shows with an average gross of over $1 million at each stop. These shows are not at dingy comedy clubs; Hart played stadiums and arenas, including Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center. The stand-up comedian set requires little more than a stool, water, and microphone, Hart 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 Kevin Hart does.”
To pad his touring earnings, 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 is not the only one to have a big year. Amy Schumer debuts on the ranking in fourth place with earnings of $17 million. Not only she is the only female comic on this year’s list, Schumer is also the only woman to ever make the highest-paid comedians list. It is a big first as women have historically faced difficulty being taken seriously in the funny business.
While she made millions from touring, she also has her and Emmy-winning Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer, an $8 million book deal for The Girl With the Lowe Back Tatoo and commercial to thank for big payday.
joins Schumer as a newcomer on the list with earnings of $12.5 million. Tough 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 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. As for Russell Peters, he managed to tour his way to $9 million, padding his earnings with private performances for Saudi princes.