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1980s Comedians: Jokes About Nothing

Riding on the wave of comics who made successful jumps to TV and film in the 1970s, funnymen (and funny women) in the 80s took the genre to a whole new level. From the stage to the small screen to the silver screen, these 1980s comedians helped make the world a funnier place — and we’re still laughing.

Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy entered the 1980s as a rising star in Hollywood, with standout performances in “48 Hrs.” and “Trading Places” for director John Landis. He continued to have success on both sides of the camera: he wrote and starred in films like 1982’s “Beverly Hills Cop,” which was one of the 1980s’ top-grossing films. Murphy’s popularity continued into the 1990s with “Beverly Hills Cop II,” and he became a leading man in 1994’s “The Nutty Professor.”

And, of course, who could forget Murphy on Saturday Night Live, where he brought to life classic characters like Mr. Robinson and Gumby, while also delivering memorable stand-up comedy routines.

Jerry Seinfeld

In 1981, Jerry Seinfeld made his debut on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and from there, he was off to the comedy races.

Seinfeld went on to become one of the most popular and successful stand-up comedians of all time, creating and performing in the wildly popular show “Seinfeld,” which aired on NBC from 1989 to 1998.

“Seinfeld” spawned more shared cultural references than any other television show in history.

It won a Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Comedy and was nominated as Outstanding Drama series, while the cast was awarded an Emmy three times for Outstanding Supporting Actor over four years.

Roseanne Barr

Roseanne is another 1980s comedian who was still performing until very recently.

She gained fame on the national stand-up scene for her unusual brand of comedy, featuring deadpan humor and non-sophisticated language.

Roseanne is best known for her eponymous sitcom which ran from 1988 to 1997, until its final two seasons on the now defunct network ABC. That show, focusing on the family members of the titular Roseanne, won acclaim for its gritty depiction of working-class American life.

After the sitcom ended, Roseanne took on “The Roseanne Show,” a talk show that aired in syndication between 1998 and 2000.

Tim Allen

In some ways, Tim Allen was the male counterpart to Roseanne Barr.

With a standup routine focused on the humor of everyday life, Allen became known for his role as Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor on the ABC sitcom Home Improvement from 1991 to 1999.

Since then he has starred in movies such as Galaxy Quest (1999) and Toy Story trilogy (1995-2010).

More recently, Allen took on another sitcom role as an exaggerated version of himself in the ABC show Last Man Standing.

Andrew “Dice” Clay

Dice Clay’s 1980s comedy style was different from his contemporaries.

He became known for the use of blue humor and dirty jokes in his act, which were a sharp contrast to most 1980s comedians like Johnny Carson or Jerry Seinfeld.

Clay has since appeared on various talk shows over the years as well as movies such as Casino (1995) and A Bronx Tale (1993).

Andrew Dice Clay is still active, performing on tour.

Steven Wright

Steven Wright became known for his 1980s comedy routine, which was often a series of dry one-liners.

He has since appeared on various talk shows as well as movies such as The Fisher King (1991) and Home Alone II: Lost in New York (1992).

Wright still performs live tours today.

He specializes in teaching people how to make instant water.

David Letterman

David Letterman first rose to fame as a joke-cracking weatherman in his hometown of Indianapolis during the 1970s. That gig helped propel his standup career and get him moving up the ranks of comedians on the national scene.

Letterman is best known, of course, for hosting late night talk shows such as Late Night with David Letterman and The Tonight Show (as a guest host).

Letterman has since hosted the Primetime Emmy Award-winning show, Dave’s World (1993) in 1993, and as a guest on various other shows.

(Like 1980s Comedians? Then you might like our article on 1960s Comedians, click here.)

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