Tiffany Haddish, John Mulaney, and Julio Torres.
Comedians tell us a lot about themselves through their work beyond the facts of their lives that they share in their sets. Stand-up offers an extended glimpse into their personalities, preferences, motivations, and aesthetics, and — for those of us who notice these things — the traits of their zodiac signs as well.
Whether or not they are conscious of astrology, most comics can’t help but expose themselves as the Virgo or Leo that they are, and once you see it in their material, it’s hard to unsee it. Even if you don’t believe in astrology, the confirmation bias is powerful and compelling. Intellectual skepticism means very little in the face of observations that correlate with a kaleidoscopic framework that won’t leave your head. As someone who knew her sun sign before she knew her own name, I’ve been steeped in it for too long to shrug it off. Astrology isn’t real, and yet it’s absolutely real to me, a typical Gemini who can embrace such cognitive dissonance.
If you’re willing to suspend disbelief, take a peek below as I look at comedians born under every sign of the zodiac and unpack all the ways they live up to their astrological archetypes.
Aries is the sign of playful aggression, competition, and dominance, and Ali Wong exudes that energy pretty consistently. In this bit, which she repeats in her latest Netflix special Hard Knock Wife, she talks about her desire to be dominated and abused in bed as an escape from the exhaustion of being an empowered woman. It’s classic Aries to desire more aggressive physical interaction, as they tend to express themselves, in love and anger alike, through their bodies. The other Aries quality on display is her bravado about being a woman. While Wong is outspoken about gender-based discrimination, she’s also happy to assume the point of view that equality is the presumption. Aries confidence, stemming from its position as the first sign in the zodiac, tends to be innocent, having not yet been beaten down by the world. Their essence is the audacity of asserting themselves before knowing whether or not they will find a warm reception. Regardless of the outcome, an Aries operates with the assumption that they are welcome anywhere, and it’s clear that Wong does, too.
Other Aries Comedians: David Letterman, Tig Notaro, Aries Spears, Natasha Leggero
Jerry Seinfeld, in all he does, is a classic Taurus. The zodiac’s bulls appreciate luxury and are very comfortable with hierarchy, especially when they are on top. In excess, this can become haughtiness, which is a hallmark of Seinfeld’s attitude. In this bit, he defends littering in a movie theater as fitting revenge for the price-gouging of concession snacks. His tone is annoyed, not righteous, as Tauruses tend not to advocate for change when they see injustice. Rather, they assume a position of status and employ defensive tactics, never aggressive. That’s exactly Seinfeld’s action here with his soda: “When I’m done with something, I open my hand.” It’s an absurdly small act — the smallest possible — and yet it’s a coup de grâce of a power move. That’s the essence of Taurus: asserting total dominance through little to no action.
Other Taurus Comedians: Stephen Colbert, George Carlin, John Oliver, George Lopez
In her Saturday Night Live monologue, Amy Schumer tells a charming anecdote about the actress who plays a younger version of her in Trainwreck. Because Geminis are childlike and the sign of the twins, her dialogue with a young doppelgänger is already working within the sign’s conceit. She explains that the girl overheard criticism about her cheeks, but that she learned to appreciate them because they enabled her to play Schumer in the movie. This is a sweet, touching moment that Amy undercuts with her own insecurity about what that implies about her cheeks. That’s textbook Gemini anxiety at play. Geminis crave approval and attention, and even within an emotionally rich interaction, that desperation is going to assert itself. It doesn’t mean they don’t care about whatever beautiful, serious thing is going on around them — it’s just that, true to the dual nature of their sign, they can exhibit both capacities at once: appreciation for poignancy and a deep thirst for reassurances that they are pretty.
Other Gemini Comedians: Nikki Glaser, Demetri Martin, Rachel Feinstein, Nick Kroll, Chris Gethard, Joan Rivers
Michelle Wolf’s roast of Sarah Sanders at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner was pure Cancer savagery. Cancers have a reputation for being sensitive (and they are), but like their zodiac avatar, the crab, they can be fiercely aggressive when attacked — hence the crab’s hard shells and pinchers. Cancers are deeply attuned not only to their own fears and insecurities, but those of their adversaries’. Wolf’s entire set that evening was delivered with the precision of a sniper with a clear shot of her bounty. The disarming qualities of her funny voice and cheerful energy only serve to sharpen the punch lines when they land, and the joke that won her the most attention, Sanders’s eyeliner of lies, cut deeply in part because it was so intimate. As the sign of all things domestic, Cancers are most effective when making the political personal.
Other Cancer Comedians: Kate Berlant, Robin Williams, Kevin Hart, Phyllis Diller, Emmy Blotnick, Colin Jost
Leos are not your average extrovert. Sure, they are consummate hams who love attention and can command any room. But what sets them apart is their daring to be weird. Leo stand-ups, like Steve Martin, usually work within such a defined aesthetic that it moonlights as performance art. Martin’s entire career is marked by his absurdism, served up with plenty of swagger and drama. In this clip, Martin exaggerates his obtuseness about sex jokes, including pointedly bad puns (“I quit using the amateur-phylactics…”), silly voices, and physical clownery. Leos are so skilled at attracting attention that they like to test their audiences to see what they can get away with. It’s not enough just to be worshipped, there has to be something in it for them, too. Martin has said that the reason he quit stand-up was because he felt that once the audience understood the concept, it stopped working. If a Leo is unable to keep surprising themselves or their audience, they’re bored.
Other Leo Comedians: Jessica Williams, Bo Burnham, Mary Mack, Rhea Butcher
Virgos are analytical to an almost pathological degree, and, being ruled by Mercury, they are precise and artful communicators. If that description reads like a recipe for good stand-up, that’s probably not a coincidence, and there are, anecdotally, an abundance of them in the field. John Mulaney, in this clip from his special New in Town, and in his broader body of work, alludes to his own anxiety as a baseline condition for interacting with the world, which is almost a Virgo cliché. He describes an encounter with a homeless man in New York, methodically deconstructing his introduction (“I am homeless, I am gay, I have AIDS, I’m new in town”) and teasing out layers of humor in the process. The sentence is funny on its face, certainly, but it’s pure Virgo to so neatly and surgically dissect an interaction to expose its absurdity. It’s notable (and true to his sign) that his motivation is not malice but curiosity. Like most Virgos, Mulaney seems to prefer intellectualizing, rather than engaging emotionally with, experiences that make him uncomfortable.
Other Virgo Comedians: Maria Bamford, Jen Kirkman, Aparna Nancherla, Jacqueline Novak
Hasan Minhaj wrote an entire show about a girl he liked in high school, which is one of the most Libra things a person can do. Libras love love, and, as the sign of relationships, they process life through the lens of partnership. In this clip, he tells a story he expands into his Netflix special, Homecoming King, about his teenage love interest whose parents prevent them from going to prom together. The show is about much more than this relationship — it’s about racism, Indian identity, religion, professional success, the American promise, and more — but his through line is romantic longing, performed with the swagger of a pop star. Ultimately, this story is one of reconciliation, fulfilling the Libran trope of peacemaking and diplomacy, as embodied by the scales of justice. Minhaj resolves the friction not only between him and his former paramour, but between his sense of fairness and his instinct toward forgiveness, which are held in tension throughout the show. The only thing more Libra than holding onto a childhood romance is tracking her down as an adult and making up.
Other Libra Comedians: Marc Maron, Emily Heller, Carmen Esposito, Hari Kondabolu, Donald Glover
Kathy Griffin is obviously a Scorpio, if only for her longevity. Scorpios will stick around until no one else is left, and Griffin has survived and outlasted decades of naysayers and haters. The biggest setback in her career, arguably, was the backlash she suffered as a result of her beheaded Trump photo, and like a phoenix (or a Scorpio), she will rise from the ashes. In this interview with Seth Meyers, Griffin is buzzing with the energy of her sign, scorching everyone who crossed her when she was down (“I don’t forget a single thing …”). Scorpios do not care for bullshit, and if they sniff out insincerity or hypocrisy, they will investigate it to its roots and expose it. That’s what Griffin does here while calling out the historic significance of a sitting president taking aim at a comedian and skewering him and his family (she calls his sons “Date Rape” and Eddie Munster”), while never letting go of the pain it caused her. That’s what a Scorpio would never do: let go.
Other Scorpio Comedians: Samantha Bee, Johnny Carson, Pete Davidson, Jimmy Kimmel
Sagittariuses are the clowns of the zodiac, even among professional comedians. That’s because they tend to be honest without cynicism, enabling them to laugh at everyone and themselves with abandon. In her Saturday Night Live monologue, Tiffany Haddish is refreshingly humble about her sharp rise to fame, wondering where her money is if she’s really worth $2 million, and telling Kevin Hart she is proud to recycle her outfits on Instagram. Sagittariuses adore freedom, and thus they reject the burden of having to button up. They are not easily shamed, for they do not worship the gods of respectability. Haddish makes it clear she doesn’t have time to be guarded about how she’s perceived, and that candor is exactly what makes her so endearing. As the sign of the philosopher, Sagittariuses don’t mind looking foolish; therein lies the wisdom.
Other Sagittarius Comedians: Jo Firestone, Sarah Silverman, Naomi Ekperigin, Richard Pryor, Jon Stewart, Margaret Cho
Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix special Nanette has exploded what comedy is and can be, and it is brimming with Capricorn energy. Capricorns, even the witty ones, are an essentially serious sign, concerned with responsibility and playing by the rules. This bit, which she includes in her special, addresses the discomfort she feels about being a “quiet gay” uninterested in expressing her identity through extroverted celebration. Gadsby lays bare the seriousness underneath her jokes, and, in her special, she deconstructs the function of humor itself, offering up its weighty underpinnings as deserving of respect without the frills of a punch line. She’s not looking for anything less than to be taken very seriously. Though she criticizes the cult of reputation, Capricorns like Gadsby do care about their own — but they pursue it with integrity. What she cannot abide is a culture that protects unworthy characters and insulates them from consequences. Capricorn energy is all about consequences — good and bad — and her work has brought its own kind of reckoning.
Other Capricorn Comedians: Josh Gondelman, Jena Friedman, Seth Meyers, Cristela Alonzo
Aquariuses are freaks and geeks. They are the zodiac’s aliens — eccentric intellectuals who are comfortable not fitting in. Julio Torres, who sometimes calls himself a “space prince,” is such an Aquarius. His dry, calm delivery doesn’t even feel like stand-up; it’s like he’s merely existing in front of an audience, allowing them to take him in. In this clip, he reveals a heightened but dispassionate awareness of the differences between him and his environment as if driven by scientific curiosity, not a desire for connection. Whether he’s ostracized for being vegan or mistaken for a birthday girl, he’s skilled at quietly noticing where he ends and the world begins and accepting those lines. That’s where the Aquarian desire for equality comes from — they want to make sure there’s a place for every permutation of human behavior, because chances are, no one is out there doing what they are doing. Even when Torres says that he’s always doing what a Trump supporter imagines (and that it’s fun!), he’s reinforcing his singular nature by hewing so tightly to a stereotype that doesn’t really exist.
Other Aquarius Comedians: John Early, Hannibal Buress, Patton Oswalt, Chris Rock, Sammy Obeid, Ellen DeGeneres
Pisces are sensitive creatures ruled by Neptune, god of the ocean. They are extremely high in empathy, as water has no boundaries, and other people’s feelings can bleed easily into their own. It’s incredibly fitting, then, that in this clip, Kumail Nanjiani talks about how, when he was a child, he watched a cartoon about the ugly duckling and, feeling that pain of exclusion, cried for the first time. That is so Pisces. His mother’s attempts to soothe him with logic — that cartoon ducks aren’t real — are totally lost on him. Tactics like that hold no appeal to a Pisces. Nanjiani, like others born under this sign, have vision and sensitivity to that which lies beyond the physical, real world. His superior emotional intelligence means he has little affection for the constraints of reality. He doesn’t care if the ducks are real; he’s responding to their emotional truth.
Other Pisces Comedians: Joel Kim Booster, Iliza Schlesinger, Mitch Hedberg, Dane Cook
Kiki O’Keeffe is a writer in Brooklyn. She writes the newsletter I Don’t Believe in Astrology for people who believe in astrology.