Since 2006, Jerry Seinfeld has seemed the the insurmountable King of Comedy. His combined pretax earnings over the last 10 years top $900 million, and year after year he has claimed the top spot on our list of the world’s highest-paid comedians.
No longer: For the first time since FORBES started delving into the money of the funny business, someone other than Seinfeld has taken the title of the top-earning joker. Between June 2015 and June 2016, Kevin Hart made $87.5 million—over $30 million more than Seinfeld’s $43.5 million. That haul also earned Hart sixth place on the Celebrity 100, FORBES’ annual list of celebrity money-makers.
Combined, the world’s 10 highest-paid comedians made $233.5 million over our scoring period, prior to taxes and management fees. Their earnings came from touring, endorsements, films, DVD sales, TV specials and paid appearances. FORBES’ earnings estimates are based on data from Pollstar, Box Office Mojo and IMDB, as well as interviews with agents, managers, lawyers and industry insiders.
The reason for Hart’s dominance is simple: He tours like no other comedian. In the 12 month period, Hart played over 100 shows with an average gross of over $1 million at each stop. And these shows aren’t at dingy comedy clubs; Hart played stadiums and arenas, including Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center. Because the stand-up comedian’s set requires little more than a stool, water bottle and microphone, he takes home a larger cut of that gross than most rock stars would would.
“He is a comedian, of course, but he is drawing crowds that you would typically only see for musician,” says Gary Bongiovanni, editor of Pollstar. “Only a few comedians [are] capable of playing sports arenas the way that Kevin Hart does.”
To pad his tour earnings—which make up the overwhelming majority of his eight-figure haul—Hart took to both the big and small screens, starring in the films Central Intelligence and Secret Life of Pets, and shooting commercials for Hyundai, Foot Locker and H&M.
Hart isn’t the only one to have a big year. Amy Schumer debuts on our ranking in fourth place with earnings of $17 million. Not only is she the only female comic on this year’s list, Schumer is also the only woman to ever make the highest-paid comedians list—a big first as women have historically faced difficulty being taken seriously in the funny business.
While she made millions from touring —most of her tour was a co-bill with Aziz Ansari, who didn’t make the list—she also has her Peabody and Emmy-winning Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer, an $8 million book deal for The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo and commercial work to thank for big payday.
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SOURCE: Forbes, Madeline Berg