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America's 20 Funniest Stand-Up Comedians of All Time

Ellen Gutoskey
The late Robin Williams on The Tonight Show in 2011.
The late Robin Williams on The Tonight Show in 2011. / Kevin Winter/NBCUniversal/Getty Images
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Deciding which comedian is objectively the funniest is about as easy as deciding which food is objectively the tastiest. But just as most people agree that French fries are delicious, there’s a general consensus that Robin Williams was pretty darn hilarious.

According to a new study by UK-based retailer OnBuy, Williams elicited laughter better than any other American comedian in history. To try to measure that skill, researchers first gave 2722 people a list of American comedians and asked them to pick their favorites. They used the most popular responses to compile a top 20 list, and then they had 120 participants watch a stand-up special by each one. Participants’s audio responses were recorded and analyzed by a program that registered any sound at a decibel level of 60 or above as laughter (the average range of laughter is roughly between 60 and 65 decibels). OnBuy then ranked the top 20 comedians by the average duration of laughter emitted throughout their specials.

It can’t exactly be considered a comprehensive ranking of funny famous people. For one, 120 people is a small sample size, and the original survey participants were choosing their favorites from a preexisting list of American stand-up comedians. And since the data only included audio responses above a certain decibel level, there was likely a fair amount of chuckling, chortling, and amused exhaling that didn’t get factored in at all.

That said, it’s still a great way to find out which comedians to check out next time you need a little comic relief. You can get nearly 5 minutes’ worth of belly laughter from an hour spent watching Robin Williams or Eddie Murphy; and Redd Foxx and Jim Carrey can offer around 4 minutes each. Since only three women made the list below—Joan Rivers, Tig Notaro, and Tiffany Haddish—here are some others you should definitely add to your own list, courtesy of Glamour.

  1. Robin Williams // 4 minutes, 51 seconds
  2. Eddie Murphy // 4 minutes, 47 seconds
  3. Redd Foxx // 4 minutes, 11 seconds
  4. Jim Carrey // 3 minutes, 56 seconds
  5. Bernie Mac // 3 minutes, 40 seconds
  6. Joan Rivers // 3 minutes, 33 seconds
  7. Dave Chappelle // 3 minutes, 17 seconds
  8. Bill Hicks // 3 minutes, 12 seconds
  9. Don Rickles // 3 minutes, 6 seconds
  10. Richard Pryor // 3 minutes, 2 seconds
  11. Kevin Hart // 2 minutes, 57 seconds
  12. Steven Wright // 2 minutes, 55 seconds
  13. Lewis Black // 2 minutes, 51 seconds
  14. Jim Gaffigan // 2 minutes, 39 seconds
  15. Chris Rock // 2 minutes, 36 seconds
  16. Tig Notaro // 2 minutes, 28 seconds
  17. Mitch Hedberg // 2 minutes, 19 seconds
  18. Tiffany Haddish // 2 minutes, 15 seconds
  19. Bill Burr // 2 minutes, 7 seconds
  20. Sebastian Maniscalco // 2 minutes, 3 seconds
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