12 min read
The UK voted in a YouGov poll on their favourite all-time comedians to create a top-10 shortlist of most popular and funny in the UK. We look at your Comic Titans, their names becoming a by-word for joy and belly-laughs.
Who do you think made the cut? And when it comes to a top-10, who is the best of the best?
UK residents crown the nation’s top-10 most popular comedians in the UK: Naming Britain’s Greatest Comedian.
With a rich history of comedy legends, many of whom have attended the Blackpool Grand, the contest for the number one spot is going to be fierce.
You Voted – The Most Popular Comedians In UK
TOP SPOT – Ronnie Barker
The late Ronald William George Barker, OBE (1929 – 2005) actor, comedian and writer and best known for roles in British comedy television series like Porridge, The Two Ronnies, and Open All Hours.
Barker’s first success was at the Oxford Playhouse and in roles in the West End including Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound. He got his television break with the satirical sketch series The Frost Report (1966), where he met future collaborator, Ronnie Corbett. He joined David Frost’s production company and starred in ITV shows and a short film. In 1966 he appeared in an episode of The Saint (The Better Mousetrap) as the bungling detective, Alphonse.
Returning to the BBC, Barker found fame with The Two Ronnies (71–87), with Corbett. He starred in the huge hit sitcoms Open All Hours, Porridge and the latter’s sequel Going Straight. He won a BAFTA for ‘best light entertainment performance’ a staggering four times, among many other awards, and received his OBE in 1978.
Runner Up – Ronnie Corbet
Scottish stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and broadcaster Ronald Corbett CBE (1930 – 2016) had a long association with fellow side-kick Barker in the BBC television comedy show The Two Ronnies. Achieving prominence in David Frost’s 60s programme The Frost Report (again with Barker) and subsequently in sitcoms such as No – That’s Me Over Here!, Now Look Here, and Sorry!.
Corbett began his acting career after moving from Edinburgh to London; he had early roles in the TV series Crackerjack and The Saint, and appeared in the films You’re Only Young Twice, Rockets Galore!, Casino Royale, Some Will, Some Won’t, and No Sex Please.
3rd – Peter Kay
Peter John Kay (1973) is a comedian, actor and singer. Kay is well known for his writing, producing, and acting in various television and film projects, and has authored three books.
Born and raised in Bolton, Kay studied in Salford. He began working part-time as a stand-up comedian, winning the North West ‘Comedian of the Year’ award. In 1997 he won Channel 4’s ‘So You Think You’re Funny’ contest and the following year was nominated for a Perrier Award for his show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. With his public profile raised, in 2000 he co-wrote and starred in That Peter Kay Thing for Channel 4. This resulted in a spin-off sitcom, Phoenix Nights (which also starred local legend Steve Royle), which ran for two series from 2001 to 2002, and in turn generated another spin-off, Max and Paddy’s Road to Nowhere, in 2004. In 2005 he recorded a promotional video in which he mimed to Tony Christie’s 1971 hit ‘(Is This the Way to) Amarillo’, which was being reissued to raise money for Comic Relief; the song then reached number 1 in the UK Singles Chart, becoming that year’s best-selling single in the UK.
In 2008 Kay co-wrote and starred in Britain’s Got the Pop Factor… and Possibly a New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly on Ice, a parody of several British reality television shows. As the series’ fictional protagonist Geraldine McQueen, he released the single “The Winner’s Song”, which reached number 2 in the UK singles chart. His 2010–2011 stand-up comedy tour was officially inaugurated into the Guinness World Records as the most successful of all time, playing to over 1.2 million people. He co-wrote and starred in Peter Kay’s Car Share, a sitcom screened by the BBC for two series between 2015–17. He also starred in the 2015 BBC sitcom Cradle to Grave.
In 2016 Kay won the BAFTA TV Award for ‘Best Male Comedy Performance’, the BAFTA TV Award for ‘Best Scripted Comedy’ and the National Television Award for ‘Best Comedy’ for Car Share.
4th – Dawn French
Maybe fourth, but No.1 for female comics. Dawn French (1957) actress, writer, comedian and presenter. French is best known for starring in and writing for the BBC comedy French and Saunders with her best friend and comedy partner, Jennifer Saunders, and for playing the lead role as Geraldine Granger in the BBC hit The Vicar of Dibley. She has been nominated for seven BAFTA TV Awards and won a BAFTA Fellowship with Saunders in 2009.
French has also written a best-selling epistolary autobiography, which she has titled Dear Fatty. French was paid a £1.5 million advance for the book, which was released in 2008. On an appearance on The Paul O’Grady Show on 6 October 2008, French said that “Fatty” is her nickname for Jennifer Saunders, as a joke about her own size. French said that she became great friends with Saunders well before they started working together (30years +). The book consists of letters to the different people who have been in her life. In 2017, Me. You. A Diary, French’s second non-fiction book, was released. She has also written four novels – A Tiny Bit Marvellous (2010), Oh Dear Silvia (2012), According to Yes (2015) and Because of You (2020). French continues to appear at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre.
5th – Billy Connolly
Sir William Connolly CBE (1942) is much more than an iconic retired comedian, an artist, musician, presenter, and actor. He is sometimes known, especially in his homeland, by the Scots nickname The Big Yin (“The Big One”). Known for his idiosyncratic and often improvised observational comedy, frequently including profanity, Connolly is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential stand-up comedians of all time, having topped many polls conducted in the UK.
Connolly’s trade, in the early 1960s, was that of a welder (specifically a boilermaker) in the Glasgow shipyards, but he gave it up towards the end of the decade to pursue a career as a folk singer. In the early 1970s, Connolly made the transition from a Folk singer with a comedic persona to a fully-fledged comedian, for which he is now best known. In 1972, he made his debut, at Cottage Theatre in Cumbernauld. He also played the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
As an actor, Connolly has appeared in an incredible list of films such as Indecent Proposal (1993), Pocahontas (1995), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), Mrs Brown (1997) (for which he was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role), The Boondock Saints (1999), The Last Samurai (2003), Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008), Brave (2012), and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014). On his 75th birthday in 2017, three portraits of Connolly were made by leading artists Jack Vettriano, John Byrne, and Rachel Maclean. These were later turned into part of Glasgow’s official mural trail. In October that year, he was knighted at Buckingham Palace by Prince William, for services to entertainment and charity.
Connolly announced his retirement from comedy in 2018, and in recent years he has established himself as an artist.
6th – Bradley Walsh
Bradley Walsh (1960) actor, comedian, television presenter, singer, and former professional footballer.
Walsh is known for his roles as Danny Baldwin in Coronation Street (2004–06), as DS Ronnie Brooks in Law & Order: UK (2009–14), and as Graham O’Brien in Doctor Who (2018–21). He has also presented various TV game shows for ITV, including Wheel of Fortune (1997), The Chase (2009–present), Odd One In (2010–2011), Keep It in the Family (2014–15), and Cash Trapped (2016–19).
Walsh hosted the ITV variety show Tonight at the London Palladium (2016–19) and was a team captain on the sports-themed panel show Play to the Whistle (2015–17). He appeared as the coach in the 2001 comedy film Mike Bassett: England Manager. Since 2019, Walsh has most recently starred in Bradley Walsh & Son: Breaking Dad, alongside his son Barney Walsh.
In addition to his television career, Walsh often appears in theatre productions, particularly pantomimes. As a singer, he has released two albums, Chasing Dreams (2016) and When You’re Smiling (2017), which both reached the top 15 in the UK Albums Chart.
7th – Michael McIntyre
McIntyre (1976) comedian, writer and television presenter. In 2012, he was the highest-grossing stand-up comedian in the world.
In addition to stand-up, McIntyre has hosted his own BBC One comedy programme Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow (which performed at Blackpool’s Grand),
McIntyre has featured in three episodes of Live at the Apollo and, in 2011, was a judge on Britain’s Got Talent. He currently presents his own Saturday night series Michael McIntyre’s Big Show on BBC One.
8th – John Bishop
Comedian, presenter, actor, and former footballer John Bishop born 1966 – His TV debut came on The Panel and subsequently appeared in E4 teen drama Skins and in the Ken Loach film Route Irish (2010), in addition to his own shows such as John Bishop’s Britain (2010–2011), John Bishop’s Only Joking (2013), and The John Bishop Show (2015). He will have a lead role as Dan in Series 13 of Doctor Who.
Bishop’s regular Sunday slot on Liverpool’s Radio City called Bishop’s Sunday Service. He is also known for his charity work, having raised £4.2 million for Sport Relief 2012.
9th – Dara O’Briain
Irish comedian and television presenter Dara Ó Briain (1972) is best known for performing stand-up comedy shows all over the world and for hosting topical panel shows such as Mock the Week, The Panel, and The Apprentice: You’re Fired!.
He was nominated for the British Academy Television Award for Best Entertainment Performance for his work on Mock the Week (2012).
Ó Briain is a newspaper columnist, with pieces published in national papers in both Britain and Ireland. He has written books for both adults and children. His first children’s book Beyond the Sky was nominated for a Blue Peter Book of the Year Award in 2017.
10th – David Mitchell
Comedian, actor, writer and television presenter David Mitchell (1974) currently works for the BBC as a team captain on the TV series Would I Lie to You?. He is half of the comedy duo Mitchell and Webb, alongside Robert Webb. The duo starred in the Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show, in which Mitchell plays Mark Corrigan. Mitchell won the British Academy Television Award for Best Comedy Performance in 2009 for his performance in the show. The duo has written and starred in several shows including Bruiser, The Mitchell and Webb Situation, That Mitchell and Webb Sound and also That Mitchell and Webb Look. The pair also starred in the UK version of Apple’s “Get a Mac” advertising campaign. Their first film, Magicians, was released in 2007. In 2013, the duo starred in the short-lived Ambassadors. Mitchell currently stars in the Channel 4 comedy-drama Back (2017–) alongside Webb.
Mitchell also starred as Owen in Think the Unthinkable. He currently hosts the BBC Radio 4 panel game The Unbelievable Truth (2007–). He also stars in the Ben Elton-penned BBC Two historical comedy Upstart Crow (2016–), playing the central character William Shakespeare.
Mitchell is a frequent participant on British panel shows, being a team captain on Would I Lie to You?, and the former host of The Bubble and Was It Something I Said?, as well as a frequent guest on other panel shows, including, but not limited to QI, The Big Fat Quiz of the Year, Mock the Week, 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown and Have I Got News for You. He was also a co-host of the comedy news programme 10 O’Clock Live. As a writer, Mitchell regularly contributes comment articles to the British newspapers The Observer and The Guardian.
Most popular comedians in the UK chosen through YouGov Poll.
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