Forbes has released its rankings of top-earning comedians for the 12-month period ending June 1, 2010. If something about the list looks different from 2009's top-earning comedians, that's intentional. Despite making $75 million in that span, Jerry Seinfeld isn't even on the list. Neither Jay Leno nor Conan O'Brien made the cut, as well. That's because Forbes decided to focus on comedians who made their money the old-fashioned way, stand-up.
As Lacey Rose told me: "We tweaked the methodology in an attempt to show the major players in the comedy space, without letting the list get overrun with folks like O'Brien and Leno who were earning the bulk of their revenue elsewhere. We felt there was a more accurate and, frankly, more interesting story to tell this way."
Let's look at the top 10 earners for June 2009 to June 2010:
1) Jeff Dunham, $22.5 million (previous year: #3, $30 million). When you can make this much bank on the road from loyal fans who scoop up your merch, who needs to deal with TV critics?
2) Dane Cook, $21 million (previous: #4, $20 mil). Put out a DVD and went on a nationwide arena tour.
3) Terry Fator, $20 million (previous: #9, $10 mil). A five-year, $100 million deal to talk to the hand (or the puppet covering the hand) in Las Vegas. Two of the top three earners in comedy are ventriloquists!!!
4) Chelsea Handler, $19 million (previous: unranked). A third best-selling book and a $10 million tour to promote it, not to mention her money from E!
5) George Lopez, $18 million (previous: #5, $20 mil). Hosting his own TBS late-night talker, touring and taking multiple movie roles.
6) Larry the Cable Guy, $16.5 million (previous: #7, $13 mil). After performing in the football stadium at Nebraska, he continues to tour and sell a ton of merch.
7) Russell Peters, $15 million (previous: #10, $10 mil). Pretty much all of it coming through global stand-up touring.
8) tie: Jeff Foxworthy and Howie Mandel, $11 million (previous: Mandel #6, $15 mil; Foxworthy #8, $11 mil). Are you smarter than a deal or no deal?
10) Bill Engvall, $10.5 million (previous: unranked). The Blue Collar guys stick together, make money together.