What’s The Difference Between A COMIC And A COMEDIAN? There Is More Than One!






July 2, 2013Brian Roth


Comic vs. Comedian: What’s the Difference?


A comic is a comedian; a comedian isn’t necessarily a comic. It’s the square and the rectangle argument (for nerds who remember geometry AND read this blog).


This entry is dedicated to defining and understanding the differences between a comic, which is short for stand-up comic, and a comedian, who performs comical material.


Stand-up comedy is the art of standing on stage and performing material to elicit laughs from the crowd. Someone who does this same thing, but does not necessarily elicit laughs from the crowd, is called a spoken word artist. Their intention is not to get laughs; it is more like a political speech or professor’s lecture.


Examples of comics are Bill Hicks, Mitch Hedberg, and Lisa Lampanelli. An example of a spoken word artist is Henry Rollins.

Tabacco: I don’t know any of those folks! I cannot say that I’m sorry!


“Comedian” is a much broader term. A comedian is someone, who performs comedic material in order to elicit laughs. This can be accomplished through acting in movies. Examples of movie actors, who are comedians, would be Bill Murray or Tom Hanks.

Tabacco: This is why current Hollywood Films & TV Sitcoms ain’t funny no more! Bill Murray? Barely and only in something with very good comedy writers – I like him a lot in ‘Tootsie’, but he elicited laughs from me the way George Burns did with Gracie – duh! Hoffman and Allen were the funny ones!




As for Tom Hanks: I admire his Acting a lot! The closest Hanks ever came to being funny was ‘Forrest Gump’. And in that film he only had to act eccentric while making fun of a certain group’s idiosyncrasy. And he did it well while still being likeable!


He was also very likeable in ‘Big’ and with Daryl Hannah in ‘Splash’ (she stole the film) – that’s called ‘acting’ and ‘personality’, not comedy or laugh inducing! You may be confusing ‘likeability’ with comic abilities. What was funny was the CONCEPT, not Hanks! You laughed at the CONCEPT! Hanks would never have appeared on Sid Caesar’s ‘Show Of Shows’! Now those Guys were FUNNY!


If Hanks makes you laugh, you watch ‘2 & A Half Men’, ‘Big Bang Theory’ and you rolled up with laughter when Jerry ‘Seinfeld’ was in 1st Run! So please stop reading now; this Subject is way over your head!




Jack Palance would appear ‘funny’ holding Hannah in fishtails!


(To be fair, I wouldn’t call M&M ‘funny’ either without a humorous Concept! In ‘The Seven Year Itch’ Tom Ewell laughed with M&M, not at her! Most men and a lot of the women in Monroe’s audiences didn’t go to theaters just for Monroe’s Comedy!)


It can be accomplished through funny songs, such as done by artists Weird Al Yankovic or Dr. Demento. A comedian can host a variety show, like Conan O’Brien or David Letterman. It can be established through a radio show, like Howard Stern. Comedians can also perform team improvisation/”improve”, like on “Who’s Line is it Anyway?”. It can even be accomplished by doing stand-up comedy. Here’s where the square/rectangle argument comes into play.


Tabacco: Howard Stern is not now, never has been and never will be funny! He does outlandish pranks and pushes the boundaries, but he is NOT funny! And Stern is more Comic than Comedian under any definition! If we laugh, we laugh with Stern – not AT Stern!


Whenever I think of Stern, I am reminded of Eric Bogosian’s stellar performance in 1988’s ‘Talk Radio’.



You’re considered a comedian if you’re doing any performance that gets a laugh, including stand-up comedy. However, you are ONLY considered a comic if you do stand-up comedy.

Tabacco: That’s ONE definition, but it’s NOT the ONLY definition!


It is important to understand the difference between these two terms because of a lot of misconceptions about stand-up comics. Something I’ve addressed in past blogs is that many people who are not stand-up comics don’t really understand the process. They might think that comics use each other’s jokes or get jokes from joke books, or at the other end of the spectrum, they think that comics make up absolutely everything in their act on the fly and are just “naturally” funny. It’s also important to point out that not just anybody can be a stand-up comic. It is a very specific skill.


Another misconception is that since a stand-up comic is just one person on stage, anyone who has the confidence can simply get on stage and perform a stand-up comedy set. When people try stand-up for the first time, they quickly realize it’s not that simple. Often, many hours go into prepping sets and practicing on stage before a big show. When Tom Hanks, an academy-award winning comedian, was preparing for his role in the movie Punchline, he performed stand-up comedy in order to get into character. In an interview, he was quoted as stating that stand-up comedy was one of the hardest things he had ever done.


Even someone as accomplished as Tom Hanks did not find stand-up simple. Given his comedy background, you would think that those skills would automatically translate into greatness. However, there is a huge difference between being one person with a live microphone and being part of a scripted production. This truth isn’t limited to the comedy/comic world. There are some singers-turned-actors who have great success, like Justin Timberlake. For Timberlake, being charismatic was something he was able to translate from the music world to the film world. However, not all singers share the same success (see: Mariah Carey).


The Mariah Carey complex has happened to accomplished comedian Charlie Sheen. He was on one of the most successful comedy sitcoms on television: Two and a Half Men. Yet, when he was fired and tried to have a stand up comedy tour, he fell flat on his face. The skill of being a stand up comic is so specific that no matter who you are, to even be average at it involves starting from scratch and putting in hundreds of hours of work.

Tabacco: … and COMIC talent!


To summarize, stand-up comics develop unique skills in order to prep and deal with the live-audience environment. While being a comedian also involves a lot of skill and practice, the difference is dependent on having a cast, a script, and, often, being able to reshoot/re-do scenes that don’t work the first time. Ultimately, as a stand-up comic, if you fail on stage, the only person you have to blame is yourself. The flip side of this, of course, is that when you succeed on stage, the only person responsible and deserving of praise, adulation, and the great things that come with success is yourself.


Author Brian Roth has performed at Gotham Comedy Club, Broadway Comedy Club, Stand Up NY Comedy Club, New York Comedy Club, the People’s Improv Theater (PIT) and other clubs in NYC. He hosts the #Rothcast on BlogTalkRadio.




Tabacco: It was decades ago that I heard some funny guy answer that question, but I do not remember who he was. Although I do remember what he said (unless I have confused the two terms, that is).


According to that definition, Tabacco categorizes the following people into two separate groups (of course, there is always some overlap)!

COMICS                                             COMEDIANS

George Carlin                                  Carole Burnett

(7 Words You Can’t Say                (Eponymous Show, except         On TV)                                              when she talked with her

    audience) Great Both Ways


Jerry Seinfeld                                   Jack Benny

Jerry is anything but funny             What Benny said would not be funny coming from anyone else’s lips


Johnny Carson                               Martha Raye

Likeable, not funny                          Is there any doubt!


Stephen Colbert                             Red Skelton

Overlap King, only slightly             King of Comedians, no doubt!

more topical than his

Deadpan delivery


Lenny Bruce                                   Phyllis Diller

Film ‘Lenny’, starred Dustin        Phyllis never did Politics, but

Hoffman – serious subject          she could Roast with the best

Matter                                         of them


Abbott &                                     Costello

The ‘Straight Man’                      The Comedian


Burns &                                      Allen

George was ‘Straight Man’         Gracie was the Comedian

even after Gracie died                here


Martin &                                     Lewis

‘Straight Men’ always get

Top Billing!


‘Lou Grant’/Ed Asner                ‘Ted Baxter/

                                                       Ted Knight                             

‘The Mary Tyler-Moore Show’


Tony Randall                            Marilyn Monroe

Let any other woman play Marilyn’s role in ‘The 7-Year Itch’ and see how many fannies you put in those theater seats!


‘Frasier’/Kelsey Grammer     ‘Niles Crane’/David Hyde Pierce


Bill Cosby                              ‘The Fonz’/Henry Winkler

Cos could be funny, but that   The Fonz only needed a good

wasn’t his main shtick             Punchline


Everyone On ‘Golden Girls’ could do either & do it well!

Ditto for Bob Hope & Mae West!




                                                        The Successes ALL belong to

Comedian Class if anywhere; that includes Jim Carrey, Steve Martin, Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock -                  This says more about young Audiences than it says about today’s Talent. It’s ‘Three Stooges’ or Nothing!



If you can remember what                  If you remember yourself

they said, they must be in                   rolled up in laughter, but

this Group.                                                little of what they said, except for punchlines, or you start laughing before they begin their shtick, they belong here.        


The best answer to that question:

What’s the difference between

a Comic and                                     a Comedian?


A comic says funny things          a comedian says things funny


Tabacco: I consider myself both a funnel and a filter. I funnel information, not readily available on the Mass Media, which is ignored and/or suppressed. I filter out the irrelevancies and trivialities to save both the time and effort of my Readers and bring consternation to the enemies of Truth & Fairness! When you read Tabacco, if you don’t learn something NEW, I’ve wasted your time.



If Tabacco is talking about a subject that nobody else is discussing, it means that subject is more, not less important, and the Powers-That-Be are deliberately avoiding that Issue. To presume otherwise completely defeats my purpose in blogging.



Tabacco is not a blogger, who thinks; I am a Thinker, who blogs. Speaking Truth to Power!


In 1981′s ‘Body Heat’, Kathleen Turner said, “Knowledge is power”.

T.A.B.A.C.C.O.  (Truth About Business And Congressional Crimes Organization) – Think Tank For Other 95% Of World: WTP = We The People


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One Response to What’s The Difference Between A COMIC And A COMEDIAN? There Is More Than One!

  1. admin says:


    My Source speaks of Charlie Sheen being a success in ‘Two And A Half Men’, but failing his attempt at Stand-Up! This is True. However, being a Success in a Successful Sitcom does NOT make you FUNNY!

    Bob Newhart had about 3 successful Sitcoms, but I rarely watched any of them. Newhart was a George Burns (a Straight Man), who carried the show without a Comedian. I give him credit for that although the show wasn’t Funny – at least not to me!

    Mary Tyler Moore was the ‘Straight Man’ on her own show. Cleverly, she was surrounded by lots of Comedians, who made her eponymous show a Great Success. Mary had one comical expression and great supporting cast. But Mary was no Dick Van Dyke. He was obviously the Comedian in his eponymous show, while Mary (his spouse) played ‘Straight Man’ again with that one pouty comic expression. And of course, nobody is more likeable than MTM!

    The less said about Seinfeld’s Comedian talents, the better! As a Stand-Up Comic, he’s great – even on his TV Success! But as Gracie Allen or even Carole Burnett, Seinfeld is a 1-Trick Pony. Likeable, definitely! Funny? Not from where I sit! But his topical Stand-Up I can watch because Jerry is intelligent!

    Remember Hogan’s Heroes? Bob Crane was NOT funny! Sorry, fans, I never laughed at him – but his Sitcom was OK!

    ‘Roseanne’, ‘Bill Cosby’, ‘Mary Tyler Moore’, ‘All In The Family’, ‘Maude’, ‘Frasier’, ‘Cheers’, ‘The Jeffersons’, ‘Married With Children’, ‘Carole Burnett Show’, and, of course, ‘Golden Girls’ were all GREAT!

    But Roseanne was herself funny! MTM’s cast members were a blast! Ed O’Neill barely makes the Cut! All the gals on ‘Golden Girls’ were a laugh-riot! Carole Burnett was the best of the best, and she could act her Glutes off! (Pete And Tillie, to name just one)

    Mary Tyler Moore, Carole O’Connor, Kelsey Grammer, Ted Danson, Sherman Helmsley and of course, Seinfeld and Bob Crane wouldn’t even be funny carrying Daryl Hannah (well maybe Mary Tyler Moore would be). Incidentally MTM was a great, not good, actress! Tabacco wishes those dummies in Hollywood had cast her more in serious stuff!

    You may agree on some and disagree on others – that’s your Right! But I’m not known as Addison DeWitt for nothing!


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