The 25 Greatest Rant Comics of All Time

 

“I’ve never thought of myself as just a rant comic,” confesses Lewis Black. But there it is, paragraph one, in black and white, on the About Lewis page of lewisblack.com: “This is the guy known as the King of Rant.” 

So who better than rant royalty to define exactly what we mean by rant comedy? In Lewis’s professional estimation, it’s “a long diatribe fueled by anger in which the person doesn’t seem to be taking a breath.” Need an example? Black’s latest YouTube special, Tragically I Need You, serves as a living, breathing case study.  

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But effective rant comedy is more than unhinged vitriol that eventually requires an oxygen mask. “You don’t really do anger, you play anger, okay?” Black explains. “When you do anger, you can feel the audience pull back. I know this from experience. And I’ve had to say, ‘Oh, I’ve crossed the line.’” 

That’s when you stop and move on to calmer waters, he says. If not, “the audience will go, ‘Okay, now you’re freaking me out.’ You can feel the audience tighten up. You just do. I don’t quite understand how to explain it or why, but years in front of an audience, you get a sense of them and what they’re feeling.” 

But it was also the audience who let a young Lewis Black know he was hysterically funny once he learned to yell and jab his index finger in a balanced way. “I learned how to play anger and not to be afraid of it. One thing (rant comedy) does is raise the tension in the room, which allows you to release the tension after.”  

Tension/release — the alchemical equation that transforms stand-up into comedy gold.

Another key to successful rant comedy is spreading the rage around. Black discovered early on that ranting about weathermen should be assigned the same level of anger as gripes about the important ways in which we’re getting screwed. “It helps calm people down when I put it in perspective,” Black says. “‘He’s got that anger over the weather and then the same amount of anger about taxes.’” 

Perhaps no one has benefited from rant comedy more than Black. In addition to his legendary run on The Daily Show and years of successful road tours, rant comedy has been an elixir for good health. “There are three or four things that happen to everybody every day that are not major traumas but minor hits to the stomach,” he explains. “I get to go on stage and ditch all that. So if I’m yelling about George Santos and all of the other things that have made my day a bag of irritation, I can get rid of it and then I have insanely perfect blood pressure.”

Those healthy side effects might even lead to a third-act career for Black. “What I should be doing is getting out of the business of comedy at this point,” he says, “and just teaching how to get perfect blood pressure through yelling.” 

Want more rant comics to lower your cholesterol? With some help from Black, we’ve identified 25 of the best rant comics of all time. Crank up the volume on these clips — things are about to get seriously irate.

Lenny Bruce

Lenny Bruce wasn’t the first rant comic — W.C. Fields and others would have something to say about that — but he may have been Comic Zero for the latest wave. Bruce used “comedy to shine a light on the underbelly and hypocrisy of mid-20th-century American culture,” according to Wayne Federman’s The History of Stand-Up, and any comics who spew profane anger for a living owe Bruce a debt of gratitude.  

Roseanne

If it’s a rant you’re looking for, you could do worse than Roseanne’s bonkers Twitter feed, a conspiracy salad that she serves up daily. But let’s not forget that at the height of her stand-up powers, Roseanne could rant with the best of ‘em. We miss the days when her anger was blasted at dopey husbands who thought her uterus was a tracking device.

Bill Burr

When Bill Burr aims and fires at just about any infuriating subject, there’s something right with the world. The guy delivers diatribes so reassuring that they’re almost like lullabies. Sleep tight, idiots.

Ali Wong

Ali Wong is always hilariously angry about something. In her 2022 Netflix special, Don Wong, she lets loose with “a terrific rant about life as a female stand-up comic,” according to The Mary Sue, praising Wong’s “profane, hysterical take on having it all.” 

Bill Hicks

If America ever decides to erect a Mount Rantmore, Bill Hicks’ scowling mug will likely be etched on that rock face. His Rant in E Minor is a masterclass in the art form: “I’ll show you politics in America. Here it is, right here. ‘I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs.’ ‘I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking.’ ‘Hey, wait a minute, theres one guy holding out both puppets!’ Shut up! Go back to bed, America. Your government is in control. Heres Love Connection. Watch this and get fat and stupid. By the way, keep drinking beer, you fucking morons.”

Dennis Miller

For a more studied, cerebral rant, turn to the early grumblings of Dennis Miller. Before he turned to conservative punditry, Miller practically made “rant” into a cottage industry, publishing books with titles like The Rants, The Rant Zone and I Rant, Therefore I Am. On his old Dennis Miler Live show, he had a regular bit that always began, “I don’t want to get on a rant here but…” (But he really wanted to get on a rant here.) Things could get long-winded and verbose, but funny/ranty nonetheless.

Corey Ryan Forrester

One of the up-and-coming ranters on Black’s radar is Corey Ryan Forrester, “that Southern comic on Twitter. The first time I saw him, I sent him a message saying, you know, this is terrific.” Here’s Forrester taking the idiots in charge of social media to the woodshed. 

Tim Robinson

Is Tim Robinson the first rant sketch comic? He’s making his case on I Think You Should Leave, turning nearly every one of his sketches into a full-blown ragefest. Of course, it’s hard to blame a guy for getting pissed off when Spectrum is threatening to pull Corncob TV.  “And people are mad at me because I showed a bunch of naked dead bodies with their spread blue butts flying out of boxes? Really? Im done. Do what you want. Pull the plug.”

Larry David

If Robinson is the king of rant sketch, Larry David is the world heavyweight champion of the sitcom rant. Seinfeld was a show about nothing, but Curb Your Enthusiasm is a show about ranting — nonstop disgruntled, annoyed, petulant, aggrieved, irritated vexation. 

Dulcé
Sloan

Dulcé Sloan hates New York and honestly, can you blame her? Back in college, she was a DJ on the school station when a professor noticed her comedic potential. Or as hes put it, People heard her ranting about things on the radio and thought she was hilarious. Funnier still? “She was serious.”

Sam Kinison

If this list was in some kind of ranking order, Kinison would have appeared much closer to the top. Imagine seeing this guy take the stage after a comic like Jerry Seinfeld — your mind would have been blown by what the L.A. Times called “gross-out commentary, a malevolent leer and a fairly incessant stream of bellowing at his audience.” 

“Brace yourself,” warned David Letterman before Kinison’s first appearance on his show. “I’m not kidding.”

Richard Lewis

A rant’s a rant, even if it’s driven more by neurosis and paranoia than actual rage. Bad posture and low self-esteem can take a guy like Richard Lewis a long way in this business.

Michelle Wolf

After Michelle Wolf went scorched earth while hosting the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, President Trump himself blasted back on Twitter: “Everyone is talking about the fact that the White House Correspondents’ Dinner was a very big, boring bust… the so-called comedian really ‘bombed.’” (“You bombed” is Trumpspeak for “Damn it, you killed us up there.”)

Jim Jefferies

Many of Jim Jefferies’ targets — millennials, cancel culture, women — make him sound more like an entitled whiner than the bad boy he aspires to be. But you have to admit: Once the guy gets up a full head of steam, he can spit venom with the best of them. Like a wrestler doing a heel turn, Jefferies is a guy who inspires hate while daring you to turn away.

Tiffany Haddish

Eff the gym! Tiffany Haddish’s joyful rants are born of a difficult upbringing but celebrate her hard-earned stardom. “The state of California paid so much money to make sure I don’t die ‘cause they knew I was gonna be special,” Haddish rants in her special She Ready!: From the Hood to Hollywood. “They knew it. They was like, ‘This one right here, she gonna be a unicorn.’ And they was right. I’m the last Black unicorn, bitch!”

Penn & Teller on Bullshit!

There’s nothing particularly ranty about Penn & Teller’s comedy act, which simultaneously reveals the secrets of stage sorcery while making you believe in magic even more. But Bullshit!, the duo’s old Showtime series, revels in rants, kicking and screaming at anything and anyone they decide deserves a good ass-kicking. In theory, that could even include themselves as the duo planned an episode devoted to exposing the bullshit of Bullshit!.

Doug Stanhope

An anonymous review on IMDb sums up the comedian’s furious charms: ”Doug Stanhope spews his own brand of moral outrage in an unmatched style that borders on self-destruction.” What more do you want in a rant comic?

Janelle James

Janelle James brings that same “I’m not putting up with this bullshit” attitude from her breakout character Principal Ava on Abbott Elementary to her aggrieved stand-up comedy. See why she’s just not having it with bus people who have decided they are migrating to planes.

Adam Carolla

 

Search YouTube for “Adam Carolla rant” and you’ll strike the motherlode: Best Rant Ever, Beach Rant, Rant on Safety, Rant on Things Never Getting Done, Rant on the Progressive Movement, Rant About the Occupy Mentality, Adam’s Greatest Rant Ever and on and on. In fact, Carolla has pretty much given up on scripted jokes at this point, choosing instead to charge people money to listen to him gripe about whatever is bunching his boxer shorts that day.

Christopher Titus

 

Families with a mommy and a daddy are the freaks, man! “Christopher Titus is an attack dog comedian,” said a Laugh Button review from 2011. “He could easily pass as the Sam Kinison-type professor from Back to School. … Although not as angry as Kinison, he still packs a punch.” 

Samantha Bee

 

Samantha Bee went on such an angry rant about Ivanka Trump that she invoked (and later apologized for) the c-word. While righteous anger was a staple of Full Frontal, the use of such provocative profanity was not. “I want this show to be challenging and I want it to be honest, but I never intended it to hurt anyone,” she said. “Except Ted Cruz.” 

Late-Career George Carlin

 

Carlin’s career had many acts. There was Suit-and-Tie Carlin from the early 1960s, peddling clean comedy on TV variety shows. Then there’s the Whimsical Carlin of the 1970s who delighted in the absurdities of language. But by the mid-1980s, he took a hard turn into Rant Carlin. “One of the things I like to do in my shows is complain. Its kind of a motif for me, complaining, and of course this weird culture we live in leaves you no shortage of things to complain about. So this next piece of material, like most good ideas, is fairly simple: Its just a list of people who ought to be killed.”

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