Notable Comedians Who Started Their Careers Late

Have you dreamed of becoming a stand-up comedian but never have found the right time? Perhaps you were busy with work, school, marriage, and the ups and downs of life. Now you might imagine you have missed the opportunity if you didn't get started in your teens or twenties. However, there is no reason to believe that age should be a factor in pursuing your dreams of becoming a comedian.

Many comedians have become successful even after starting at a late age. Among them is Larry David, Rodney Dangerfield, Ron Shock, Ricky Gervais, Lewis Black, and many more. For some of them, they did not even think about becoming a comedian until they were a little bit older.

So, the moral is if you love comedy, the best time to start is right now. Here is a list of famous comedians who built their careers at a late age, proving that it is never too late to start.

Larry David

Larry David is famous for being one of the co-creators of the now legendary 90s sitcom "Seinfeld." However, it wasn't an easy beginning for him. He started in the late 70s when he was past the age of 30 doing stand-up comedy. He had a reputation for being funny, but he struggled with finding the persona he needed to connect with his audiences.

After working several odd jobs and being a writer for SNL, through which David struggled most of the time with stand-up comedy and barely being able to get a sketch on the air for SNL, he finally had his breakthrough co-writing the pilot episode of "Seinfeld."

Larry David was 42 when the pilot episode of "Seinfeld" first aired showing that late bloomers have a place in the comedy spectrum.

Rodney Dangerfield

Dangerfield started a stand-up career in his teenage years. Struggling financially to support his family, Dangerfield worked a job selling aluminum siding. It was around this time that he quit being a stand-up comedian because he wasn't finding a lot of success or money in that field.

After a divorce, Dangerfield decided to give comedy another try in the 1960s. He was in his 40s by the time he started up again. He found little success initially and was down in the dumps financially. This is what led him to take on the persona of "Rodney Dangerfield" as his legal name had been Jack Roy at the time. This persona or character became the basis for all of his shows.

He had his breakthrough well into his forties after landing a last-minute spot on The Ed Sullivan Show. After that, Dangerfield became an overnight hit. From there he was not far away from the comedy stage and was always actively participating and appearing on many shows and acts throughout the rest of his career until he died in 2004.

Ron Shock

Ron Shock did not begin his stand-up career until he was 40. Getting his start doing skits at The Improv in Los Angeles, California, Shock was discovered and invited to appear on The Tonight Show where he became the last comic to break under the tenure of Johnny Carson.

Shock continued doing stand-up for many years before taking a break in 1998 to take care of his girlfriend who had been in a car accident. After she passed away in 2002, Shock returned to stand-up in Las Vegas. There he realized that he was always meant to be a stand-up comedian, realizing how great it was to be back up on stage. Shock passed away in 2012 due to cancer.

Lisa Lampanelli

Lampanelli first worked as a journalist for many magazines including Rolling Stone and Popular Mechanics where she often interviewed famous musicians. With this career, however, she felt unfulfilled and decided to become a teacher. Being a teacher also was not fulfilling enough so she tried her luck with stand-up.

Here Lampanelli finally had her breakthrough. In her forties, she began doing stand-up comedy and soon rose to popularity in the New York comedy scene. Soon she became a regular on Comedy Central and other mainstream comedy outlets providing "Insult Comedy" where she occasionally roasts other public figures. She also had success with her own Comedy Central special Take it Like a Man. Which enabled her to become a star.

Lewis Black

Black didn't star in his first comedy special until he was at the age of 50. However, he had a lot of training in acting and drama. He became a playwright after graduating and was doing stand-up on the side at the time. But his break came later in life with his comedy.

Since his start, Black has been in many different comedy specials on various subjects finding much success.

Mike Destefano

As a former drug addict, DeStefano got his start at the age of 31. He had been through a lot of dark moments in his life because of addiction and therefore had many stories to tell through comedy. He had a lot of dark humor which kind of became his staple.

He first got his start at a gig in Florida and would occasionally appear in venues in New York. Finally, he got his breakthrough appearing on Comedy Central's: Live at Gotham. He went on to appear at comedy festivals where he gained more popularity such as Montreal's Just for Laughs. After playing these venues, he gained more popularity.

Known for his dark subject matter and obscene language, it became known that DeStefano used comedy to battle back against the darkness that plagued his life after years of being a heroin addict. He also lost his wife to AIDS which inspired his story "The Junkie and The Monk" which aired on The Moth. DeStefano died in 2011.


Much of what goes into a stand-up career is what you are willing to put into it. It does not matter how late you start, what matters if you have a story to tell and the willpower to go through night after night of routine that may or may not spark laughter from your audience. The one thing to remember is that if you do have an intense passion for it, then go for it.

Older comedians have a lot of life experience to pull from, so they have good material to work with. It's never too late to start. If the comedians on this list had backed down because they didn't think they were young enough, we would have lost some great jokes!

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