The 1990s was a golden era for comedy, with many comedians making their mark and influencing the genre in significant ways. Here are the 11 best comedians of the 1990s, who brought laughter and joy to audiences worldwide.
1. Jerry Seinfeld
Jerry Seinfeld, an American stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and producer, is best known for playing a semi-fictionalized version of himself in the sitcom “Seinfeld,” which he co-created with Larry David. The show, which aired from 1989 to 1998, became one of the most acclaimed and popular sitcoms of all time, making Seinfeld one of the most influential comedians of the 1990s.
Seinfeld’s comedy style is characterized by his observational humor. He has a unique ability to find humor in the mundane aspects of everyday life, from laundry to airline food. This approach to comedy was revolutionary at the time, as many sitcoms focused on larger-than-life characters and exaggerated situations. Seinfeld, on the other hand, found comedy in the ordinary, making his humor relatable to a wide audience.
The concept of “Seinfeld” as a “show about nothing” was innovative and groundbreaking. Rather than following a traditional sitcom format with a central theme or storyline, “Seinfeld” focused on the everyday lives of its characters. The show’s episodes often revolved around the characters’ personal lives and their interactions with each other, with no overarching plot or moral lessons. This concept, combined with the show’s sharp writing and strong performances, made “Seinfeld” a critical and commercial success.
2. Chris Rock
Chris Rock, an American comedian, actor, and writer, emerged as a powerful force in comedy during the 1990s. Known for his distinctive voice and energetic stage presence, Rock’s comedy was a breath of fresh air in a decade that was already rich with comedic talent.
Rock’s comedy style is characterized by his sharp social commentary. He has a unique ability to tackle serious issues with humor, making his audience laugh while also making them think. His observations on race, politics, and society are incisive and often controversial, pushing boundaries and challenging norms. This fearless approach to comedy has made Rock one of the most respected comedians of his generation.
In the 1990s, Rock’s stand-up career took off with a series of HBO specials. “Bring the Pain,” released in 1996, was a critical success that catapulted Rock into the comedy spotlight. In this special, Rock tackled topics like race relations and drug laws, delivering his jokes with a raw energy that was captivating to watch. The special earned Rock two Emmy Awards and widespread acclaim.
3. Ellen DeGeneres
Ellen DeGeneres, an American comedian, television host, actress, and writer, emerged as a significant figure in comedy during the 1990s. Known for her warm, friendly demeanor and clever, observational humor, DeGeneres broke barriers for women in comedy and made significant strides in representation for the LGBTQ+ community.
DeGeneres’s comedy style is characterized by her self-deprecating humor and her knack for finding the funny in everyday situations. Her relatable, down-to-earth approach to comedy resonates with a wide audience, making her one of the most beloved comedians of her generation.
In the 1990s, DeGeneres starred in her own sitcom, “Ellen,” which aired from 1994 to 1998. The show was a hit, earning critical acclaim and a strong fanbase. DeGeneres’s portrayal of Ellen Morgan, a neurotic bookstore owner, showcased her comedic talent and her ability to bring depth and nuance to her characters.
4. Adam Sandler
Adam Sandler’s comedic style, characterized by his goofy antics and absurd humor, resonated with audiences, particularly the younger demographic. His unique brand of comedy, often involving silly voices, juvenile humor, and humorous songs, made him a favorite among teens and young adults. Sandler’s films, such as “Billy Madison,” “Happy Gilmore,” and “The Waterboy,” became cult classics, solidifying his status as a comedy icon.
His ability to create memorable characters and hilarious scenarios, combined with his knack for comedic timing, made him one of the most successful comedians of the 1990s.
5. Dave Chappelle
Dave Chappelle, known for his edgy and often provocative humor, emerged as a powerful voice in comedy in the late 1990s. His stand-up specials, including “Killin’ Them Softly,” showcased his unique perspective and fearless approach to comedy.
Chappelle’s comedy often tackles race, popular culture, and social issues, making him one of the most important comedians of his generation. His unapologetic style and sharp wit, combined with his insightful commentary, have made him a respected figure in the comedy world. His ability to push boundaries and challenge societal norms through humor has had a significant impact on the comedy landscape.
6. Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey, known for his rubber-faced expressions and manic energy, was one of the biggest comedy stars of the 1990s. His breakout role in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” showcased his physical comedy and over-the-top antics.
Carrey’s comedy often involves slapstick, absurd situations, and larger-than-life characters. His unique comedic style, characterized by his physicality and his ability to fully embody his characters, made him a standout in the comedy scene. His films, including “The Mask” and “Dumb and Dumber,” were commercial successes, further cementing his status as a comedy superstar.
7. Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy, already a major star from his work in the 1980s, continued to dominate the comedy scene in the 1990s. His films, including “The Nutty Professor” and “Dr. Dolittle,” were box office hits. Murphy’s comedy is characterized by his charismatic presence, his impressions, and his ability to play multiple characters.
His comedic range, from his sharp wit to his physical comedy, made him a versatile performer. His ability to bring humor and depth to a variety of roles, from street-smart hustlers to lovable eccentrics, made him one of the most successful comedians of the decade.
8. Robin Williams
Robin Williams, with his rapid-fire humor and improvisational skills, was one of the most beloved comedians of the 1990s. His roles in films like “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Aladdin” showcased his comedic range and his ability to bring warmth and depth to his characters.
Williams’ comedy is characterized by his quick wit, his wide range of voices, and his boundless energy. His ability to infuse his performances with both humor and heart made him a standout in the comedy world. His improvisational skills, combined with his ability to create memorable characters, made him one of the most influential comedians of his generation.
9. Steve Martin
Steve Martin, already a comedy legend from his work in the 1970s and 1980s, continued to be a major force in the 1990s. His films, including Father of the Bride and Bowfinger, were commercial successes. Martin’s comedy often involves his sophisticated wit, his physical comedy, and his ability to play both absurd and straight-laced characters.
10. Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi Goldberg, with her distinctive style and versatile talent, was a prominent figure in 1990s comedy. Her roles in films like Sister Act and Ghost showcased her comedic timing and her dramatic range. Goldberg’s comedy often involves her sharp observations, her unique voice, and her ability to bring authenticity to her characters.
11. Dana Carvey
Dana Carvey, known for his work on Saturday Night Live, was one of the most popular comedians of the 1990s. His characters, including the Church Lady and Garth from Wayne’s World, were cultural touchstones. Carvey’s comedy often involves his impressions, his character work, and his satirical take on pop culture.