5. Ricky Gervais
One of the most successful all-rounders ever, Ricky Gervais has risen from the rank of unknown stand-up to international movie-star via integrative screenwriter, all in the space of little more than a decade. Announcing himself to his native UK in 2001 with now seminal sit-com ‘The Office’, Gervais has gone from strength to strength ever since- creating several successful TV series and Hollywood movies over the course of the last decade- all the while still managing to produce a series of world-class stand-up shows.
4. Eddie Murphy
When watching ‘Daddy Day Care’ it’s pretty hard to process, at least for me, that the Eddie Murphy cavorting around in his now all too familiar family friendly way, is the same one from his 1980’s stand-up heyday. In these formative years, a young Eddie enjoyed success as one of the world’s most controversial comics, releasing legendary show ‘Delirious’ in 1983 to much acclaim. The Eddie of the 80’s was a different creature altogether, opting towards outrageous routines tackling the likes of drugs and sex over the, perhaps more turgid roles he’s known for nowadays.
3. Robin Williams
The first time I watched a Robin Williams stand-up show, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Growing up with the likes of ‘Flubber’ and ‘Jumanjii’, I never could have fathomed that this institute of child-friendly comedy actually honed his craft as a cocaine and alcohol fuelled stage performer. Although often promiscuous and sleazy in nature, Williams’ material secured his place amongst the world’s finest- and even when Hollywood did beckon, he continued to tour as a stand-up- rarely holding back. What a guy.
2. Billy Connolly
The ‘big yin’ was already a celebrated stand-up and general TV personality on his native side of the Atlantic before making his way to Hollywood. The charismatic Scotsman has enjoyed several decades of international acclaim as a result of his continual exploits in the world of stand-up- mixing perfectly the conventional with the sordid. Having starred in largely dramatic roles alongside the likes of Tom Cruise in ‘The Last Samurai’ and Dame Judy Dench in 1997 drama ‘Mrs Brown’, Connolly remains a prolific figure in the industry.
1. Woody Allen
Arguably more notable for his work behind the camera than in front of it, Woody Allen is a legend of comedy non-the-less. Starting his career in the 1960’s as a gag writer, it wasn’t too long before he was performing the material himself- gaining a constant influx of popularity in the process. His fondness of writing eventually took prominence once again, with the young New Yorker penning plays for Broadway whilst barely out of his 20’s. In more recent decades, Woody has continued to enjoy success as a writer/director winning a total of 4 Academy Awards as well as several other prestigious industry distinctions over his lengthy career.