Many scholars attribute the birth of sophisticated culture with humanity’s capacity to artistically mock itself. The addition of court jesters, satirists and jocular playwrights to society gave humanity a means of spiritual venting about their fears, worries and struggles in a landscape that previously was cut off to such therapeutic expression. In a world wrought with disappointment, humor is often our only beacon of light in otherwise troubling and confusing times.
Fat, ugly, young or old, the jester in the room has the power to remove the societal veil that often clouds our critical judgment, and thus in periods of cranky disillusionment, humor, is a hot commodity.
These comedians are so great at what they do, like alchemists; they turn our laughs directly into gold. Here are Exec Digital’s favorite comedians.
Louis C.K. is wildly similar to another culturally cherished comedic character – Homer Simpson. Think about it: they are both bald, they both wear the same shirt everyday and they both possess an adorably obsessive attraction to donuts. Like Simpson, the nation adores C.K. like an extension of our own family - despite the gasp-inducing things he sputters and shouts. Our affinity for the affable slob from Boston is warranted because we all trust that somewhere, beneath his pathetic and dopey demeanor, C.K. like Homer is a warm-hearted, All American dad who is just trying to do the right thing.
C.K.’s comedic genius is not one of fluffy embellishment, but one of searing truth. His massive following of fans, hit FX show, and multi-million dollar comedy tours are a testament to his comedic power. In a gluttonous, materialist world, he makes indulgence and excess look disgusting and vile, and we laugh uncontrollably at him for it.
So it is no surprise that the clever comedian has found a way to ‘cut the fat’ out of the comedy world’s previously institutionalized methods of business. Old C.K. gave Ticketmaster the ‘bird’ early this year by deciding to sell tour tickets directly to his fans via his personal website. “Doing things this way means I’m making less than I would have made if I did a standard tour, using the usual very excellent but expensive ticketing service,” he said on his website. “In some cities I’ve had to play smaller venues and do more shows. But I like doing more shows and about a year ago I reached a place where I realized I am making enough money doing comedy so the next thing that interested me is bringing your price down. Either way, I still make a whole lot more than my grandfather who taught math and raised chickens in Michigan.”
His Ticketmaster ban is not the first time C.K. considered the financial insolvency of his fans. The joke jockey made headlines earlier this year when he sold a million copies of his tour ‘Live at Carnegie Hall’ by selling them on his website for five dollars a pop. He famously gave a quarter of his profits ($250,000) for his last $5 dollar comedy album to charity and another $250,000 as a fat bonus to his loyal staff. In the end, he only kept $250,000 for himself which he said ‘was enough of a million dollars for him.’
While C.K. is one of the top grossing comedians today he is not overly attached to his wealth. “I never viewed money as being 'my money.' I always say it as 'the money.' It's a resource," C.K. says. "If it pools up around me then it needs to be flushed back out into the system.”
VIDEO: LOUIS C.K.- Turning 40
No female stand-up comedian has experienced more success in the comedy world than Ellen DeGeneres. While she is brave – she has embraced her sexuality more than any other gay comedian ever – she is also clean, and her hilarious performances while brilliantly dead-on, are somehow always appropriate enough for the whole family.
She made her first verifiable chunk of cash from her nineties sitcom Ellen, but after she officially came-out as gay in an episode, the hit TV show was abruptly cancelled. The cancelation did not deter the genius comedian for long, and soon DeGeneres had parlayed her setback into a bigger career than ever before. Her daytime talk show has won countless Emmys, and her partnerships with J.C. Penny and Cover Girl garnered Ellen over 53 million dollars worth of earnings in 2012 alone.
VIDEO: Ellen DeGeneres- Here and Now