Once again, Jerry Seinfeld is the King of Comedy.
The Seinfeld creator earned $57.5 million in 12 months, before taxes and fees, claiming the top spot on our list of the world’s highest-paid comedians. He collected multimillion-dollar dividends from his 2017 Netflix deal and Hulu’s streaming rights to all nine seasons of Seinfeld. Offscreen, Seinfeld made more than $30 million from his first love, stand-up.
Since Forbes started tracking the earnings of the highest-paid comedians in 2006, Seinfeld has topped the list every year with the exception of 2016, when he was dethroned by Kevin Hart.
Though Seinfeld is on top, Hart certainly gave him a run for his money. The pint-sized powerhouse ranks second with $57 million, only $500,000 behind Seinfeld. The Kevin Hart Irresponsible Tour, which was the biggest comedy tour of 2018, topped 1 million tickets sold and banked Hart more than $30 million. He also starred in the wildly successful Jumanji remake, which grossed nearly $1 billion worldwide. Hart was recently picked to host the 2019 Oscars, but he stepped down due to backlash against his prior homophobic tweets.
The world’s ten highest-paid comedians made a grand total of $292 million, before taxes and fees, from June 1, 2017, to June 1, 2018. This is a whopping $82.5 million lower than last year’s haul due to fewer Netflix deals. Many of this year’s funnymen—including Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock—saw their streaming earnings decrease from 2017.
Two individuals disappeared from our lineup this year: Amy Schumer and Louis C.K. In 2017, Schumer became the first woman to ever appear on the highest-paid comedians list thanks to touring and a lucrative Netflix special, but she did not meet this year’s $15 million cutoff. As for C.K., he made the comedians list and the ranking of the world’s highest-paid celebrities with $52 million last year. But after he confirmed sexual misconduct allegations against him in November 2017, Netflix canceled his second special and C.K. stopped performing until this past August when he made an unannounced appearance at the Comedy Cellar.
Gabriel Iglesias, who last made the list in 2015, returns with a career-best haul of $20.5 million, enough for sixth place. The comedian, affectionately known as “Fluffy,” made most of his millions from performing a stunning 136 gigs, but he also inked a three-project deal with Netflix last April for a multi-camera comedy series and two new stand-up specials. He might clinch a higher spot on next year’s list thanks to his Beyond the Fluffy world tour, which starts in February.
The one newcomer is a familiar face. British comedian Ricky Gervais, who claims fifth place with $25 million, made a killing on Humanity, his first stand-up tour in seven years. He received at least $15 million, Forbes estimates, for his Netflix special of the same name. The Office co-creator has signed on for a second Netflix special that has yet to be filmed.
Without a doubt, Netflix has changed the comedy economy. Armed with an original programming budget as high as $13 billion, Netflix is able to outbid most other networks; the streaming service released nearly 100 stand-up specials this year alone.
That said, Netflix hasn’t cornered the comedy market yet. Jim Gaffigan (No. 8, $17.5 million) released his latest special, Noble Ape, direct to digital, bypassing Netflix, which released his previous two specials. Hart, who launched his own fledgling streaming service, Laugh Out Loud, believes Netflix isn’t his most important revenue stream.
“Nothing is ever going to beat touring. It’s an entity that I own and control,” Hart told Forbes. “I would never turn my back on stand up; it opened up the doors I walk through now.” Gallery: The Highest-Paid Comedians Of 201811 imagesView gallery
All earnings estimates are from June 1, 2017, through June 1, 2018. Figures are pretax; fees for agents, managers and lawyers are not deducted. Earnings estimates are based on data from Pollstar Pro as well as interviews with industry insiders.
The World’s Highest-Paid Comedians Of 2018
10. Sebastian Maniscalco
Earnings: $15 million
9. Jeff Dunham
Earnings: $16.5 million
8. Jim Gaffigan
Earnings: $17.5 million
7. Terry Fator
Earnings: $18 million
6. Gabriel Iglesias
Earnings: $20.5 million
5. Ricky Gervais
Earnings: $25 million
4. Chris Rock
Earnings: $30 million
3. Dave Chappelle
Earnings: $35 million
2. Kevin Hart
Earnings: $57 million
1. Jerry Seinfeld
Earnings: $57.5 million
- Hayley Cuccinello and Madeline Berg
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