1970s Comedians: Best of the Funky and the Funny

Standup comedy found a heyday during the 1970s, with night clubs across the nation launching decades-long careers left and right. Heck, many of the funny men and women of the era even put together best-selling albums, climbing the charts right alongside the masters of funk and disco. And all these years later, the best of the 1970s comedians still make us laugh. Which is your favorite?

George Carlin

Known as a social commentator and satirist, Carlin is considered by many to be one of the most important standup comedians in history. His routines, which were controversial for their profanity and social commentary, often delved into politics and almost always provided biting commentary that made you laugh … and think.

One of Carlin’s most famous and oft-repeated contributions to the culture was his “seven dirty words,” a list of profane words that were often censored by the 1970s comedians and tv networks.

Carlin would go on to become a cultural icon, starring in several movies like “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and writing three books: “Brain Droppings,” “Napalm & Silly Putty” (co-written with Bruce Jay Friedman), and the bestselling “Last Words.”

Since 1970s comedians, Carlin has kept busy throughout his life. He teamed up with Mike Judge to voice Sparky in all six seasons of Beavis & Butt-Head as well as 1994’s animated film “Bebe’s Kids”.

Bill Cosby

Although Cosby became known as “America’s Dad” during the run of his wildly popular 1980s comedy television series, “The Cosby Show,” he is also considered to be one of the greatest comedians who ever lived.

And in the 1970s, Cosby’s humor wasn’t all G-rated … or even PG-rated!

His 1970s live comedy records, “Bill Cosby Is Not Himself These Days” and “Himself,” were filled with explicit language that went well beyond the boundaries of 1970s network television.

Steve Martin

By 1970, Martin was already a veteran of the stand-up circuit and had made appearances on such 1970s TV shows as “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” and Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.”

He appeared in a number of 1970s films including his starring role in 1979’s cult classic film comedy, The Jerk.

Martin was also one of the early pioneers on Saturday Night Live, parlaying his King Tut character into a hit musical single.

Richard Pryor

Pryor began his career in comedy in New York City clubs during the 1960s before moving to Hollywood in the 1970s. There, he spent several years writing for sitcoms like Sanford and Son before his own acting career took off.

Starring in films like Lady Sings the Blues, Silver Streak and Stir Crazy, Pryor also released a string of successful comedy albums.

He died in 2005 at age 65 due to multiple sclerosis complications.

Jerry Lewis

Lewis rose to fame for his role as the zany sidekick to Dean Martin in the comedy team of Martin and Lewis.

Lewis became a very successful solo performer as well, starring in comedies like The Bellboy and Cinderfella which he also wrote and directed.

Overall, though, Lewis is probably best remembered for his yearly work on Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy telethons.

Carol Burnett

Burnett began her career as a successful Broadway actress in the 1960s before becoming one of America’s most beloved stars with her hit 1970s TV variety show, “The Carol Burnett Show.”

After that classic ended, Burnett continued to make appearances and act, including a role as Eunice Higgins in Mama’s Family./

Redd Foxx

Foxx was a comedian with an aggressive stand-up style and a series of 1970s TV shows.

He also starred in the groundbreaking sitcom Sanford and Son which dealt with current events, social commentary, and race relations.

Redd Foxx died on October 11th, 1991, at 68 years old.

Gilda Radner

Radner was a 1970s comedian and actress who made her name in the world of sketch comedy.

She is known for playing the characters Roseanne Roseannadanna and Emily Litella on Saturday Night Live, as well as starring in movies such as Haunted Honeymoon.

Gilda Radner died from ovarian cancer at age 42.

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