I try to shy away from lists as best I can - there's a temptation to do them almost weekly. They're easy and a reliable grab for readers. My problem with lists are as follows:
1. They're highly subjective; just an opinion that can change from day to day
2. They're also highly........ hey, wait a minute. I'm creating a list of why I hate lists. Screw it. Enjoy The Official Retrospace Top Ten Funniest People Who Ever Lived!
Note: This list is in no particular order.
Newhart's dry wit transected the decades. He had them rolling in the sixties, seventies and eighties. Again, it was effortless and reliably funny.
Perhaps due to overexposure in the eighties and his vocal stance against vulgarism, The Cos' legacy gets undervalued these days. But who didn't own a Cosby album back in the seventies? You forget what a powerful force the man was; and his albums were outstanding.
Ghostbusters, Meatballs, The Royal Tenenbaums, Scrooged, Caddyshack, Zombieland, Saturday Night Live, Groundhog Day, .... the list goes on. And it wasn't that he just got good scripts - he brought himself to these roles and made them hilarious. You can tell from his many talk show appearances that this is one helluva funny dude.
The 1990s were not good for Chevy. His talk show was a grand failure and his films started to really stink (i.e. Nothing but Trouble). He's rebounded a bit with Community; but none of the nonsense of the 90s can ever take away the magic of the 70s and 80s where everything he touched turned to comedy gold.
Freddie's inclusion may seem a bit odd to some of you. After all, Chico and the Man was only moderately funny at best. But have you ever seen his stand up? Freaking dynamite.
Redd Foxx could read me my tax forms and I'd be on the floor laughing. I don't know if there existed a human being so intrinsically funny - where being funny was as effortless as breathing.
You could make a strong argument that this man is the funniest person on this list and get no disagreement from me. The man was genius in timing, delivery, expression, and intelligence.
As a reward for good class behavior, my sixth grade teacher would play tracks from Steve Martin albums (usually "King Tut"). And guess what? It literally worked throughout the year and never got old. The Jerk is a work of genius, and Martin's appearances on SNL were the stuff of legend,
Fawlty Towers had the circuitous storyline where everything came back on itself, later perfected by Larry David. Add to his resume Monty Python and how can anyone of right mind deny this master of Brit Wit deserves inclusion on this list.
Since this is a Top Ten List not a Top Twenty, you'll notice no Mel Brooks, Richard Pryor, Cheech & Chong or George Carlin. I am also well aware that earlier era comics like Jack Benny and The Marx Brothers are being slighted. I'll just say that this is Retrospace, and it always slights earlier era stuff (pre 1960) as well as the modern (post 1990) era.
Please list any oversights that need to be in the top ten in a comment. And, no, I haven't forgotten about Lenny Bruce. A ground breaker, but not the funniest person I've ever heard.