A Slightly Depressing Walk Through Forbes’ List of the Highest-Paid Comedians

Trawling YouTube is a weekly look at one interesting story or oddity from YouTube. You ever go down a YouTube rabbit hole and suddenly you’ve wasted five hours watching every Madonna video? This is about those rabbit holes, but the comedy-related ones.

Folks, I love the Olympics. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. If you’ve ever been at a party, or a bar, or anywhere really with me, you’ve no doubt heard me going on and on about how much I love synchronized diving. The different scores, the trades, the big scandals. The thing is, for some reason ESPN doesn’t air it too much, so the Olympics are where I have to get my fix.

The thing I love about synchronized diving, and really all these niche sports (rhythmic gymnastics, shooting, steeplechase, men’s soccer, etc.) is that all these people have devoted their entire lives to this totally obscure pursuit, and now it’s paying off big time, in the form of a two-second spot in a McDonald’s commercial.

Which brings me to ventriloquism. It’s not good. It’s not impressive. Really, there’s no reason to do it. In fact, to a finely tuned comedy sensibility like mine, it’s downright embarrassing. There has been one good ventriloquist in the history of the world: Otto Peterson (RIP).

Nonetheless, people seem to like them. Did you know that of the Forbes 10 richest comedians in the world, two (2) are ventriloquists? That’s right: first, there is another one besides Jeff Dunham; and two, they are both rich as hell.

That’s one of several surprises in the Forbes top 10 richest comedians. Although it’s a largely predictable list – Seinfeld at number 1, Kevin Hart second – Terry Fator (the non-Dunham ventriloquist) comes in at #3, with a Vegas residency-aided 2015 income of $21.5 million.

Here is a taste of Terry Fator’s cutting, fearless comedy sensibility:

Cool. Insanely cool.

Next at fourth, is Jeff Dunham. I guess maybe Vegas pays a flat $20 million per annum for any ventriloquist act that is willing to be racist enough to draw big crowds.

What has Jeff Dunham been up to lately? Well here are some of (his friend) Walter’s thoughts on the 2016 election:

This is excerpted from his (Dunham’s, not Walter’s lol!!) latest special, Politically Unbalanced, which is so insanely popular with some audience out there that this video (and each separate video on the playlist) has over 1,000,000 views, and yet is so siloed off from the rest of the comedy world that I, and probably all you other assholes in Brooklyn reading this, have never heard of it. Cool east coast elites like us are so disinterested in Jeff Dunham, in fact, that nobody has ever thought about him for long enough to make a good joke about how he’s related to Lena Dunham or something like that. They have the same last name!

Tied on the Forbes list with Dunham is Russell Peters, a comedian who cool alt comics hate because he talks about race on stage and doesn’t wear glasses. But that’s why he’s so rich: not because of a Vegas residency, but because he has the international, multicultural appeal that draws entire families to his arena shows in every major city in the world.

What is he up to in 2016? Well it seems like he’s found the perfect balance between a truly smart global perspective and kinda pandering stale stereotypes, as evidenced by this appearance on my personal favorite show:

The bit I’m talking about is the first one, where he compares Latino Spanish with “real” Spain Spanish: the Spanish Spanish is “fruity”!! Cool. Russell Peters made $19 million in 2015.

So he’s the fifth highest-paid comedian in the world, that’s kinda expected. But then there’s another surprise at #6: Sam Hyde. Hyde is a little edgier, does a little more “anti-comedy” act in the vein of PFFR or Ryan Trecartin. I would compare him to Tim & Eric if comparing things to Tim & Eric didn’t become meaningless in 2009.

Hyde is one of those “YouTube superstars” like Miranda Sings or Bo Burnham. It’s like, How do these folks get so rich using the internet! It’s so weird! In any event, between his YouTube channel Million Dollar Extreme, his Adult Swim show, and his highly successful Kickstarter campaign(s), Hyde is one pace to make over $16.5 million in calendar year 2016.

Here is a taste of that unique voice that catapulted him to Online superstardom:

A more straightforward example of Hyde’s standup style (I believe this is testing material for one of his popular road tours), is this video, Corvette Ferari $100,000:

There are hundreds more, as you may expect. You could even say that maybe this prolific output is one of the keys to Hyde’s success. (Hyde’s other main schtick, immediately claiming responsibility for any terrorist attack, has unfortunately [for his wallet!] been stolen by ISIS.)

And here’s another Sam Hyde video where the challenge is to find where Hyde actually appears. Can you spot him?

OK so Sam Hyde isn’t really on the list, Aziz Ansari is, but wouldn’t this be more interesting?

Anyways, at number 8, Forbes has Gabriel “Fluffy” Inglesias, with a 2015 net income of $8.5 million. Inglesias is another kind of borderline example because, like Peters, I have heard of him. Also like Peters, the scope of his material is largely international, but focusing on the different particularities of Latino culture. He’s really good at it. And in a particularly interesting episode of WTF with Marc Maron a few years ago, he tells his story of growing up in Long beach without a father, but more importantly demonstrates his innate likeability.

Inglesias will win you over for sure, with bits like this:

And rounding out the Forbes Top Ten Highest-Earning Comedians list is #9 John Bishop and #10 Dave Chappelle. These are two comedians I’m also not too familiar with – apparently Mr. Chappelle does some kind of “satire” or “actually ambitious, meaningful stand-up” and “cares” whether he’s being “good.” Not interested!

But this John Bishop guy ($8 million) seems promising. According to a cursory YouTube search he appears to be Scottish, and known mostly as a UK chat show guest.

Here he is on Scottish independence:

Here he is in a 2012 special talking about buying an iPod and getting a refrigerator that’s too big:

It’s actually pretty hard to find recent clips of Bishop doing straightforward standup, presumably because he’s recently been focusing on his yearly BBC Christmas specials. Here’s the one from 2015:

And so that’s the Forbes top ten highest earning comedians list. Merry Christmas, everyone!

A Slightly Depressing Walk Through Forbes’ List of the […]