It’s no secret that the funny biz has had fewer women, in the past. But these days, the biggest names seem to be bucking the trend. Giggle gals are entertaining audiences left and right, and cashing in along the way. The question is, who has made the most of their opportunities — and to what extent?
While most pursue a classic route in standup, many navigate their way to wealth through clever deals in film, radio, and TV. But not everyone has a bank account that matches their reputation. The competition is no joke. Pardon the pun! Just who are the richest comediennes?
Chelsea Handler: $35 Million
She may be mean on-screen, but Chelsea Handler has managed to turn that into a whole lot of green. Longtime fans may remember her premiere on Girls Behaving Badly, an early 2000’s hidden camera show. Feeling her way through the industry, she eventually landed a role as the late-night host of Chelsea Lately. Millions enjoyed her cutthroat style of humor, and A-list celebrities lined up to be part of the fun.
These days, she’s swimming in more than $35 million. But it wasn’t always that way. As a middle-class New Jersey kid, she was never uncomfortable. Still, according to Chelsea: “I was broke from 19 to 26, borrowing money from my parents or my brothers or sisters every week to pay the bills.” Now, the tables have turned!
Kate McKinnon: $9 Million
Few SNL cast members are more beloved, in recent history. Kate McKinnon joined the legendary sketch show in 2012, and things have gone up, up, up ever since. Her origins were in New York City’s Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, where she honed her improv and impression skills. It was hard not to notice Kate when she finally auditioned for the big time. In the end, she was the longest-tenured lady in SNL history!
America loved Kate’s range, laughing at her versions of Hillary Clinton, Kellyanne Conway, and even Rudy Giuliani. Steadily, she collected paychecks and took on Hollywood projects to the tune of $9 Million. But this is all new money! According to Kate: “I worked as a telemarketer for an SAT-prep company…And I’m not even a good salesman.” Lucky that never worked out, isn’t it?
Amy Schumer: $25 Million
Amy Schumer is one of the biggest names in the industry today, and her bank account shows it. After appearing on Last Comic Standing in 2007, she caught the attention of fans and producers alike. Then, she created and starred in the Comedy Central series Inside Amy Schumer and the film Trainwreck, and started racking up awards. But the more things change, the more they stay the same: $25 million later, she still loves standup.
Most recently, Amy has been in the news over salary negotiations. For future specials on Netflix, she demanded a raise more in line with some of its famous male comedy stars. In the end, her bargaining was successful: She got more, but the final amount is still a secret!
Melissa McCarthy: $90 Million
Improv does seem to be a good foundation for those aspiring to boo-koo bucks. Melissa McCarthy is yet another alumna of The Groundlings that made it big. How big? The former comedienne worked her way to Emmy and Oscar nominations, writing and acting credits, and a whole lot of fans. It all adds up to $90 million, so far.
From Mike & Molly to Bridesmaids, Melissa regularly makes the top ten for highest-paid actresses in the world. She averages around $12 million per film and founded a production company with her husband. Now, she’s venturing into the world of fashion, believe it or not: In 2015, she launched her own plus-sized clothing line. Check out Melissa McCarthy Seven7!
Mo’Nique: $14 Million
Few women could sell out stadium like the boys in the 90s, but Mo’Nique was the exception. One of the original Queens of Comedy and star of The Parkers, she made her name making wild jokes about urban life and love. But a whole new side of Mo was revealed in 2009. Her dark performance in the film Precious made a real impression on viewers. The Oscar committee noticed, too!
After winning Best Supporting Actress, Monique decided she wanted a pay raise from her half-million rate. A public fight with Netflix was initially unsuccessful. But recently, a judge allowed a gender discrimination lawsuit to go forward. She explained on social media: “I had a choice to make: I could accept what I felt was pay discrimination, or I could stand up for those who came before me and those who will come after me.” So far, looking good!
Kathy Griffin: $35 Million
Standup staple Kathy Griffin has been around for a while. Although she famously characterized herself as part of the D-list, she may not really be doing so badly. Financially, she’s doing great! Although her Hollywood career has not involved starring roles, she racked up enough business in comedy to make an impact at the bank. Fans probably don’t know she has more than $35 million at the moment and has earned far more in the past. How does she manage it all?
According to Kathy: “I have spent a lot of money on only two things in my life — a home and a nice car…When I do shop I try to buy the most practical things that won’t go out of style in two seconds…I’ve also found it important to stay in tune with what’s happening in the economy and to adjust my expectations accordingly. So, if you’re having a good year where you have to work more, work more.” Good advice, Kat. And frugal, too!
Tina Fey: $75 Million
Tina Fey is an actress, writer, playwright, and producer. But first and foremost, she is a comedian. No matter what she does in the future, she will probably always be best known for her work on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. True fans know she was the mind behind Mean Girls. It’s a cult classic, at this point.
Yet another improv geek from Chicago’s Second City scene, she has come a long way financially. Forbes placed her at the top of their list for the highest-paid TV actresses. She got her star on the iconic Hollywood Walk of Fame. And The Guardian actually named her the best comedian of the 21st century, in 2019. $75 Million is not a bad cherry on top!
Lisa Kudrow: $90 Million
She was a member of the Groundlings and even did Improv with Conan before he was famous. Her TV breakout role was on Cheers. Not a bad start in entertainment. But destiny had more in mind for Lisa Kudrow. No matter what, the actress will always be a Friends fan favorite. Phoebe Buffet is unforgettable. The quirky, ditzy blond sang “Smelly Cat”, and no one can forget it!
But Lisa has been laying low, ever since. Yes, she was great in Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. But where has she been, otherwise? For those who haven’t checked back in with the 90s icon, it seems that wealth may be a factor. It’s no wonder with constant sitcom reruns that real-life Phoebe is a very wealthy woman. Her fortune of $90 million is serious dough!
Sarah Silverman: $10 Million
She is prolific now, but the road to comedy stardom has been a long one for Sarah Silverman. Sher first performed standup at age 17, and even made it to the cast of SNL. But she was let go after a season, and then had to pave her own less certain path. Now worth a cool $10 million, it’s safe to say Sarah has arrived.
So what is Miss Silverman up to these days? After major comedy hours, voiceovers, and TV shows, it looks like it’s time to try out podcasting. The medium has become ever more popular, especially during the corona pandemic year. The Sarah Silverman Podcast broadcasts anywhere there is an internet connection. That means everywhere, all the time!
Tiffany Haddish: $6 million
A welcome breakout star in recent years. Tiffany Haddish comes from humble beginnings. In her early life, she dealt with foster care and homelessness. Perhaps it gave her the material she needed to make it in standup, as hard it was. When she met Kevin Hart in the LA laughs scene, he took notice. And he was surprised to see how much she was struggling, given her charm and wit.
According to the comedienne: “I was homeless as hell, and I didn’t want anyone to know. Kevin noticed a bunch of things in my car and actually took the time to talk to me. He gave me $300 and told me to get a hotel for a week.” Together, they also made a list of goals. And soon enough, comedy specials and a standout role in Girls Trip led her to a lot more stability. $6 million so far, and growing fast!
Ellen DeGeneres: $370 Million
In the 90s, Ellen DeGeneres made it big in the standup scene and on TV with good, clean jokes. After adding her daytime talk show and products at PetSmart and Bed, Bath & Beyond, she’s racked up more money than any other funny woman by far. But many are not aware that Ellen started out life with financial challenges.
Ellen explained: “I was poor growing up. We never owned a house when I was growing up. We rented, and we moved about every two years, just far enough to have to start at a new school…My mother was a real estate agent for a little while, so I was always looking at houses with her. We couldn’t afford to buy one, so it was a frustrating thing as a kid.” Now, with an eight-figure salary, that’s no longer a problem!
Amy Poehler: $25 Million
SNL loved having Amy Poehler on staff. The improv professional from the Upright Citizens Brigade and Second City had endless impressions to share: Dakota Fanning, Michael Jackson, Kim Jong-Il, Sharon Osbourne, Paula Abdul, Dennis Kucinich, Martha Stewart, and more. Frankly, there was no one she couldn’t do! Then, new audiences enjoyed her role on Parks and Recreation. It was must-see TV, for a time.
Now, the paychecks have all piled up nicely. But it wasn’t so bad along the way. According to Amy: “There’s something so romantic about being broke in New York. You gotta do it. You have to live there once without any money, and then you have to live there when you have money. Let me tell you, of the two, the latter is far better.” Undoubtedly so!
Julia Louis-Dreyfus: $250 million
Younger viewers may know Julia Louis-Dreyfus from The New Adventures of Old Christine and Veep. But as a mega-millionaire and one of the most awarded actresses in American TV history, there’s got to be more to that story. Comedy connaisseurs know the truth: Julia was the unforgettable Elaine on Seinfeld, and she’s still enjoying the 90s dividends.
Always ready to dance or date terribly, Elaine was a key part of the storylines. The nine-season run of the show became a cult classic, and reruns are everywhere to this day. The deals for the cast were pretty good, giving them a permanent piece of that pie. The Seinfeld financial empire is $3.1 billion strong. Jerry himself is nearly a billionaire!
Nikki Glaser: $2 million
Stand-up comedy has welcomed the addition of Nikki Glaser, in recent years. A favorite at roasts and on the talk show circuit, she has steadily succeeded since her first stage at age 18. Now officially a millionairess, her talent seems effortless. But it wasn’t so easy at the beginning. Many artists have their growth period!
She recalled: ”I was a freshman in college and everyone in my dorm took over the cafeteria as like a study hall. I went in there and instead of studying I just looked at them, judged them, and tried to think, ‘What would Sarah Silverman say about these people?’ I didn’t know how to write jokes…I wrote from the perspective of my favorite stand-ups because I didn’t know what my perspective was yet.” Oh, how things have changed. Nikki is no poser, these days!
Margaret Cho: $4 Million
Margaret Cho once explained: ”One place that I really feel comfortable is being a comedienne. I’m very socially inept. There are so many things that I can not do in life, and this is, like, the one thing that I have mastery over. It’s my world. And anybody who’s coming to the show, it’s like they’re coming because they know that this is my world.” On stage and on TV, Margaret had her fans. It turns out that it worked out well financially, too.
90S nostalgists will remember her on the ABC sitcom All-American Girl. Recent viewers may have noticed her antics as Kim Jong-il on 30 Rock. But that all happened after working at an adult hotline, a dominatrix, and dropping out of San Francisco State University. College is not the only way to wealth, as Margaret Cho has proved. $4 million is comfortable, at least!
Whitney Cummings: $30 Million
Whitney Cummings was once just a pretty face, believe it or not. She did modeling for malls, catalogs, and even QVC. But obviously, there was so much more to this funny femme. $30 million ago, Whit was trying out standup after college. She began to build relationships in the community, and plenty of people appreciated her wit. Already known as a standout on Last Comic Standing and late night, she actually loved it behind the scenes, too.
In her 30s, Cummings established a real career as a director, writer, creator, producer, and actress on TV and in film. She can boast four full comedy specials and significant work on shows like 2 Broke Girls and the Roseanne reboot. From her mansion, she now podcasts. Check out Good For You on YouTube to see what Whitney is joking about, right now.
Maya Rudolph: $20 Million
SNL prodigy Maya Rudolph was born to a composer father and a singer mother. Maybe she always destined for stardom. Fans could not get enough of her special take on impressions, from Beyonce to Macy Gray. She was even brought back on the show just to provide her version of Kamala Harris for the 2020 season and beyond.
She has appeared in films like Idiocracy and Bridesmaids. For all her efforts, she is sitting pretty now. In 2021, Maya and her husband paid $2.6 million for an LA home that spanned 2,810 square feet. They also own a house in Tarzana, worth $2.3 million at purchase. The real estate portfolio is growing, and $20 million helps!
Betty White: $75 million
Betty White is one of the oldest comediennes still making jokes and causing joy. Her TV career actulally began over 80 years ago after graduation from high school. But her most well-knonw role is obviously Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls. It’s not a new show, but it has aged awfully well. Reruns are still ongoing, and that means the paychecks are too.
With a lifetime fortune of $75 million, Betty is blessed. But she is also grateful for more: “The bottom line is, I’m blessed with good health. On top of that, I don’t go around thinking ‘Oh, I’m 90, I better do this or I better do that.’ I’m just Betty. I’m the same Betty that I’ve always been. Take it or leave it.'” Fans may wonder what her secret is to longevity. Word on the street is, hotdogs and french fries!
Samantha Bee: $7 Million
Samantha Bee caught everyone’s attention as one of the silliest correspondents on The Daily Show under Jon Stewert. She was offered the chance to host her own show soon after, and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee was born. With absurdist perspectives on issues of the day, no one covers the news quite the same way. And for that, there has been a rich reward.
No one would be surprised to learn that Sam married Jason Jones, a fellow comedy correspondent from The Daily Show. Together, they have a house in upstate NY and a $3.7 million Upper West Side apartment. With the $7 million she brings to the table from her side, it doesn’t seem like these purchases were too difficult. In the meantime, nonsense news coverage continues.
Roseanne Barr: $80 Million
In 1993, Roseanne was the number one show. Roseanne Barr was the star, and she was making a million bucks per episode. At the time, only Oprah made more! No one should be surprised to learn that the actress has a big bank account, at the present day, Even though it’s been a while, the reruns have been paying, too.
So what is Roseanne up to, with more money than she could ever need? According to her, agriculture: ”I’m a farmer now, and it’s fantastic. My goal is to be totally self-sufficient and grow everything that I eat. There’s something about earning your dinner that’s cool.”
Whoopi Goldberg: $46 Million
Born Caryn Elaine Johnson but definitely known as Whoopi Goldberg, this author, comedian, and TV has been busy. Although she is known to many for serious movies like Ghost and The Color Purple, she has starred in many comedies, too. Who can forget Sister Act?
Now a recipient of a Grammy, Tony, Emmy, and Oscar, Whoopie can comfortably hang out as a daytime host on The View. She reflects: “I am the American Dream. I am the epitome of what the American Dream basically said. It said you could come from anywhere and be anything you want in this country. That’s exactly what I’ve done.” It is, without a doubt. Way to go, Whoopie!
Fran Drescher: $25 Million
There will never be a character quite like Fran from The Nanny. The show has aged well, according to fans. It’s still just as funny as it ever was, and the reruns haven’t gone off air. Actress Fran Drescher is the comedienne responsible for the success of that show, undoubtadly. She was able to earn her way to financial security through the role, now boasting a net worth of $25 million.
Recently, Fran made a big purchase: An oceanfront Malibu mansion. After battling cancer and splitting from her second husband, she knew she wanted to move far away from NYC. California dreaming it was, and the deal is done. But Fran is rich and mobile. Whenever she wants to return to her old home, she knows where to find it.
Natasha Leggero: $2 million
Natasha Leggero is a newer standup name that has been making waves in recent years. A welcome addition to any roast and a hoot in the club, Nat is building her career. She loves to perform a rich lady persona, donning long white gloves and fancy dresses. How was her lifestyle in reality, before fame?
Natasha reflects: “I would say [we were] lower-middle-class…my dad was a used car dealer and my mother worked in a locksmith shop as the bookkeeper, and then they got divorced, and I do remember, like, nuns bringing us food — like big canned goods…I had so many jobs growing up: I mowed lawns; I worked at a grocery store; I had two newspaper routes; I worked at a catering place…I definitely hustled.” The truth is out, but Natasha doesn’t mind in the least.
Leslie Jones: $5 million
Leslie Jones was in standup before becoming a sketch comedian on SNL. When she moved on to the title of actress in the Ghostbusters remake, fans loved it. Leslie started out life in a low-income neighbrhood in NYC. She moved up to a cool Harlem condo as a professional. And recently, with her $5 million net worth, she was able to purchase a really nice pad. Where does she live, these days?
Looks like she just signed on to a $3.9 million estate in Beverly Hills. The 90210 gated home with four bedrooms, four and a half bathrooms, and 3,900-square-feet for fun is not a bad upgrade. It includes a canyon view, a wine bar, and a pool. Even though her time on SNL is over, it looks like Leslie is anticipating a Holywood lifestyle for years to come.
Rosie O’Donnell: $120 million
Roseann O’Donnell has worn many hats over the course of the career, Whether it is a comedian, producer, author, actress, or television personality, it all seems to pay pretty well. With $120 million in the bank, Rosie could rest if she wanted to. Has she decided to retire, once and for all?
For now, yes. She no longer hosts a daily show or stars in a sitcom. Rosie is actually busy being a mom! And as to the secret of her success, she knows the reason: ”I think that the reason for my success is that I am really not aspirational. I am inspirational in that the people at home feel like they can really relate to me.” Indeed, millions did — and do!
Vanessa Bayer: $3 million
Many loved Vanessa Bayer for her silly and infectious smile, hard to achieve at once. After her run on SNL, she has amassed a net worth of $3 million. Before her fame, Vanessa was once an intern for both Sesame Street and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. She succeeded in improv in Chicago groups, like Second City. Now, she probably has her own interns!
Great things surely await this comedic talent. But in terms of early income, rumor has it that junior SNL cast members make around $7,000 per episode or $147,000 per season. There are raises, as the years go along. But the big bucks seem to be in TV and film, and Vanessa just might be in some soon.
Mindy Kaling: $35 Million
Mindy Kaling is an actress, comedian, and writer. Turns out she has also become a producer, and director. And for all that creativity to flourish, she needed a space to make the magic happen with collaborators in LA. That’s where her recent real estate purchase comes in. With a net worth of $35 million, she had money to spend on a little work from home paradise, where did she choose to relax?
Hancock Park, specifically. It’s roomy and full of bright items from Anthropologie. She loves it, obviously. The Mindy Project star explained: “I’ve lived in L.A. for 15 years and I’ve never had a second floor. Now I do and it’s a little frightening. I’ll watch a murder documentary on Netflix, and then I’m too afraid to go upstairs. There have been two nights that I’ve slept on the couch downstairs.”
Wanda Sykes: $10 million
According to comedienne Wanda Sykes: “Once you start making money, you can be an ass. But I am not an ass. I’m too lazy, that takes a lot of energy.” Indeed, Wanda has been taking on roles each and every year. Though she started in standup and continues to perform, she has a lot of movie credits, too. Fans may have noticed her in Evan Almighty and License to Wed, and heard her voiceover work in Brother Bear 2 and Ice Age: Continental Drift, to name a few.
The Emmy award winner has enough money saved up to have two residences. Her net worth of $10 million allows her to live a bi-coastal lifestyle, in LA and remote Pennsylvania with her wife and kids. Her exact whereabouts are not known. But it seems that’s exactly how Wanda wants it.
Bette Midler: $250 Million
Bette Midler has been around for decades, and it’s hard to categorize her in one way. Longtime fans would describe her as an accomplished singer, a serious actress, and one more thing: A funny lady! Who can forget her characters in The First Wives Club or Hocus Pocus, for that matter? For many, she might always be that iconic fire-haired witch.
Regardless, her versatility within the industry has really paid off. Not just in accolades and awards. But in cold, hard cash. Bette has around a quarter of a billion dollars to her name, and a real estate portfolio to match. Yes, she has houses in Hawaii. But most impressive might be her Manhattan penthouse, the main family residence for decades. They combined several units into one 7,000 square foot creation. In NYC, that much space is just not easy to come by.