Of all the things that have changed in comedy since the 1990s, this hasn’t: Jerry Seinfeld is still making bank.
The 63-year-old stand-up star and co-creator of ’90s classic “Seinfeld” is currently the highest-paid comedian in the world, according to Forbes magazine.
The finance publication has released its list of the top-earning comedians working today, and Seinfeld takes the No. 1 spot having made $69 million between June 2016 and June 2017.
Forbes takes into account pretax income earned from projects like tours, films, TV shows and endorsements, but doesn’t account for money spent to pay the people who keep Hollywood spinning: managers, lawyers, agents and the like.
The source of Seinfeld’s windfall? Syndication paychecks for his ’90s comedy are part of it, but so is Netflix. The streaming service, which has become a major supporter of the comedy industry, inked a deal with Seinfeld that includes two exclusive stand-up specials in addition to new episodes of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”
The streaming service has eagerly shelled out for comedy specials from other humor heavy-hitters like Dave Chappelle, Amy Schumer, Chris Rock and Sarah Silverman, so it’s no surprise that Netflix is named as a benefactor of more than one comedian on Forbes’ Top 10 list.
Here are the six top paid-comedians after Seinfeld. For the full list, visit Forbes.com.
Named the second-highest paid comedian on the planet, Rock is estimated to have earned $57 million in the past year. The 52-year-old has become known as a prolific actor, producer and writer with films and TV, but lately he’s been earning his paycheck from straight-up stand-up.
You may have caught Rock performing on his “Total Blackout” tour in a city near you – and, yes, he also has his own deal with Netflix for two comedy specials. According to the Hollywood Reporter, those specials add $40 million to Rock’s bank account, along with setting a new high for how much Netflix will pay for comedy.
The third highest-paid comedian in the world, Louis C.K., also has Netflix supporting part of his sizable income. Forbes estimated that more than 50% of C.K.’s $52 million earned between June 2016 and June 2017 is due to his deal with the company for a pair of comedy specials.
Although C.K.’s critically acclaimed series “Louie” is on hiatus, he’s still making money behind the TV scenes, serving as a writer/producer on the “Baskets” and “Better Things” comedy series and as an executive producer on the Tig Notaro-starring “One Mississippi.”
If you caught last summer’s G-rated blockbuster, “The Secret Life of Pets,” you also heard C.K. voice the starring Jack Russell Terrier named Max. That film earned $368 million at the US box office.
Talk about a comeback. Dave Chappelle’s slow but steady return to the spotlight after his sudden exit from his Comedy Central series back in 2005 has come with a healthy paycheck: He’s the fourth highest-paid comedian in the world, according to Forbes, earning $47 million in the past year alone.
If you guessed Netflix plays a role in that sum, you’re right. Chappelle, like Seinfeld and Chris Rock, locked in a highly publicized deal with the streaming service for a few comedy specials; it’s rumored that the deal came with a $60 million payday. (The agreement paid off for Netflix as well; the company said in April that Chappelle’s early 2017 stand-up release was its most-watched special ever.)
In 2016, Amy Schumer became the first woman to ever make it onto Forbes’ top-paid comedians list, popping up at No. 4. This year, she’s at No. 5 – but she’s still the only woman in comedy earning enough to make it into the top 10.
Schumer made an estimated $37.5 million between June 2016 and June 2017, and she, too, has a shiny Netflix deal to her name: her stand-up show “The Leather Special” debuted on the service in March.
Forbes notes that 30% of Schumer’s earnings in the past year came from that special, but comedy’s not the only thing adding to Schumer’s bank account. Her 2016 book, “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo,” is still paying dividends, as are her endorsement deals with Old Navy and Bud Light.
Kevin Hart was once the highest-paid comedian in the world, but the past 12 months seemingly weren’t as lucrative.
While Hart topped Forbes’ list in 2016 to the tune of $87.5 million, supplied by a heavy touring schedule, he’s now at No. 6 having made an estimated $32.5 million in the past year.
The famously productive comedian is still as busy as ever, preparing to launch his own streaming service; appearing in 2017 movies like “Captain Underpants” and “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” and releasing a book called “I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons.” Perhaps the one thing missing from his resume this year is a Netflix stand-up special of his own.
Coming in at No. 7 on the list, Jim Gaffigan earned an estimated $30.5 million in the past year. In addition to touring and TV work – “Bob’s Burgers” fans know him as the voice of Henry Haber – Gaffigan, too, got on the Netflix train.
Forbes reports that his comedy special “Cinco,” which debuted in early 2017, contributed to a third of his income in the past year.