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Comedians in cars getting paid! Seinfeld tops Forbes list of best-paid comedians

Even 17 years after the end of his popular sitcom Seinfeld, comedian Jerry Seinfeld remains the top-paid comedian in the world, according to Forbes’ comprehensive list.

Forbes reports Seinfeld’s income as a whopping $36 million from the one-year period from June 2014 to June 2015. Much of that still comes from Seinfeld, following Hulu’s $160 million deal to acquire streaming rights for the popular ‘90s show. But his Crackle series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, where Seinfeld drives in various vehicles chatting it up with a random selection of other actors and comedians, has also helped boost his pay. And Seinfeld’s standup act is still alive and well, further padding his pockets.

Here’s who else made up the top 10:

Kevin Hart ranked second, impressively not far behind at $28.5 million. This is thanks to a steady stream of movies from the funnyman, including Think Like a Man Too, Get Hard, and The Wedding Ringer. Hart also held an arena tour this year that sold out through venues around the world with a total of 48 shows through the measuring period. This is marked jump for the pint-sized comic, given that he only ranked sixth for 2013.

Ventriloquist Terry Fator, who has a successful show in Vegas following his win on the second season of America’s Got Talent, ranked third at $21.5 million. Factor continues to headline at the Mirage hotel, and appeared on the most recent season of America’s Got Talent to perform with Paul Zerdin, who became the second ventriloquist to win the series behind Fator.

Jeff Dunham, another ventriloquist and stand-up comedian, tied Canadian comedian Russell Peters for fourth. Dunham has had six special that ran on Comedy Central. The sixth premiered at the end of 2014, and the latest, Unhinged in Hollywood, premiered this past September. Like Fator, he also has a residency in Vegas. Peters, meanwhile, boosted his bottom line with a judging gig on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, though he was replaced by Norm Macdonald for the latest season. He also had a comedy special on Netflix.

At $9.5 million is Aziz Ansari, who can thank Parks and Recreation for much of the income, along with a reported seven-figure advance for his upcoming book Modern Romance that discusses dating in the 21st century as a millennial. Ansari also had a special on Netflix.

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Louis C.K. ranked seventh at $9 million, thanks to his FX series Louis, as well as a comedy special exclusive on Netflix. He also held the fifth spot in the 2013 rankings, but was at a larger $16 million at that time.

At $8.5 million and eighth spot is Gabriel Iglesias who, along with a comedy tour, also starred in the box office hit movie Magic Mike XXL. The comedian, known comically as “Fluffy,” ranked ninth in 2013, but at a higher income of $11 million.

John Bishop, an English comedian, was at $8 million. Part of that income hailed from a BBC Christmas special, along with John Bishop’s Australia, a docuseries he did for the same network.

Perhaps surprisingly, Dave Chapelle, who disappeared from the comedy scene for some time, is clearly making a lucrative comeback with a reported $7.5 million, rounding out the top 10. This is thanks to his first big tour in years, which has clearly shown that viewers still love him.

Related: Tracy Morgan to launch comedy comeback with new stand-up tour

Missing from the list is Larry the Cable Guy, who held the number-seven slot in 2013, George Lopez who was eighth, and Daniel Tosh, who was ninth at that time. Also noticeably absent is current “it” girl comedian Amy Schumer, not to mention any females, period. It’s a safe bet, however, that Schumer will make the list next year, possibly alongside Tracy Morgan, who is embarking on a major comeback following his serious car accident with several comedy ventures, including a standup tour, FXX series, and a movie appearance in Ice Cube’s latest flick.

The results calculate earnings predominantly from ticket sales, minus management fees and taxes.

Christine Persaud
Christine has decades of experience in trade and consumer journalism. While she started her career writing exclusively about…
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