25 Comedians with Unbelievable Tragic Stories

Posted by , Updated on March 25, 2024

Who’s your favorite comedian? For centuries, comedians have made us laugh with their observational humor, slapstick, and physical comedy. From Charlie Chaplin to Jerry Seinfeld, they have invited us into their world, taking stories from their own life.

Some people might think that comedians are always happy because they tell jokes for a living. However, many comedians suffer from mental illness, drug addiction, and trauma.

We see the laughter but, sadly, we don’t see the pain that many of these comics suffer. Here are 25 Comedians with Tragic Stories.



Christopher Titus


Christopher Titus uses a lot of his upbringing in his comedy routine. Some of this includes his dysfunctional relationship with his father and his mother, who suffered from mental illness before committing suicide. Titus’ sister also committed suicide.

He has a popular podcast and his Twitter handle has over 137 thousand followers.


Charles Rocket

Charles Rocket (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)https://people.com/celebrity/ex-snl-star-charles-rocket-commits-suicide/

Charles Rocket was a comedian and television reporter. Rocket was a regular cast member on “Saturday Night Live” who was fired for using an obscenity.

He managed to get some work after that, but usually as supporting roles. In 2005, Rocket committed suicide in a field by his Connecticut home.


Lenny Bruce


Lenny Bruce was a comedian and social satirist. He was widely known for his controversial humor.

Bruce had a successful comedy career for a while. Sadly, his drug use got the better of him, and his career started to fade. Bruce died of an apparent overdose in August of 1966.


Don Knotts


You probably know Don Knotts as either the lovable Barney Fife on “The Andy Griffith Show” or as the kooky Mr. Ferley on “Three’s Company.” Knotts had a long career of playing light-hearted and clueless characters.

Although Knotts was known to be a funny man, his upbringing was anything but. His father suffered from schizophrenia and sometimes came after Knotts with a knife.


Phil Hartman


Phil Hartman played many funny characters on “Saturday Night Live.” He also played the role of Bill McNeil on the show “News Radio.” Everybody who knew Hartman said he was a very nice guy.

On May 28th, 1998, Hartman’s wife, Brynn, fatally shot him. After confessing to the murder, she also committed suicide. She had been intoxicated and using cocaine at the time.


Chris Farley


Another memorable cast member of “Saturday Night Live”, Farley was a shining star. He was known for his larger-than-life personality on stage and in real life.

Those who knew Farley said he constantly indulged in drugs and alcohol. On December 8th, 1997, Farley died of a drug overdose.


Kevin Hart


Kevin Hart is an actor and comedian. Hart appears before sold-out arenas around the United States.

Hart uses his upbringing in his act. Although he can laugh at it now, he says it was very hard.

Hart’s dad was a drug addict who was in and out of jail. Many times his father would rob and steal from his own family.


Lucille Ball


Lucille Ball and her husband, Desi Arnaz, were a husband and wife comedy duo. They were widely known and loved for the hit television show “I Love Lucy.” They were the perfect couple on screen.

But life is not a TV show though. Many times during their marriage there was talk of infidelity and threats of violence.

Ball also faced tragedy growing up. After an unfortunate incident involving an accident with a gun, her father had to declare bankruptcy.


Greg Giraldo


Greg Giraldo was a comedian and host of “Last Comic Standing.” Giraldo was known as an insult comic.

He passed away in 2010 from an accidental overdose of prescription pills.


Bill Cosby


Bill Cosby was a comic entertainer and star of “The Cosby Show.”

On January 16th, 1997, Cosby’s son, Ennis, was shot and killed in a robbery attempt. His daughter, Ensa, died at the age of 44.

He was convicted and imprisoned in 2018 for sex offenses after more than 60 women came forward and accused him of various forms of sexual misconduct.


Jim Carrey

AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 08:  Actor Jim Carrey arrives at the screening of "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" during the 2013 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival  at the Paramount Theatre on March 8, 2013 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)https://www.nickiswift.com/117356/jim-carreys-tragic-real-life-story/

Jim Carrey is a widely successful actor, comedian, and painter. He has starred in many blockbuster movies.

Growing up, Carrey’s life was anything but a comedy. His family was very poor and they often found themselves homeless. Carrey dropped out of school to support them.

In 2015, his ex-girlfriend Cathriona White committed suicide. A couple of wrongful death lawsuits were filed against him in the wake of this tragedy.


Freddie Prinze


Freddie Prinze was a stand-up comic and star of the show “Chico and the Man.”

Prinze enjoyed a life of fame and partying. He always had an endless supply of drugs and women. Eventually, the lifestyle got to Prinze and he committed suicide in January of 1977.


Redd Foxx

redd foxxhttps://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1991-10-12-me-105-story.html

Redd Foxx was a comedian and star of the show “Sanford and Son.” He was best known on the show when he would fake a heart attack after hearing some distressing news.

Ultimately, this sort of led to his death. During the taping of a new TV show, Foxx grabbed his heart and collapsed. His co-stars at first thought it was a joke. Foxx wasn’t acting and he died of a heart attack.


Craig Ferguson


Craig Ferguson is a comedian, actor, and talk show host. Ferguson is also a recovering alcoholic. After hitting rock bottom numerous times, he decided to get help and has been sober ever since.

Thankfully, sometimes there is recovery after the tragedy.


Bill Hicks


Bill Hicks was a stand-up comic who used a lot of satire and dark comedy in his act. Hicks spoke out against the establishment like a modern-day Lenny Bruce.

Hicks died of pancreatic cancer at the young age of 32.


Robert Schimmel


Robert Schimmel was a comedian who used his survival of cancer in a lot of his acts. He talked plenty about his family too.

Schimmel died from injuries after a car accident in September of 2010.


Richard Jeni


Richard Jeni was a comedian and actor. He was a favorite comic of Johnny Carson and became a full-time panel member.

When Jay Leno took over, Jeni was on the show more than any other comedian. Jeni also suffered from deep depression and in March of 2007, he committed suicide.


Richard Pryor


Few people don’t know the name, Richard Pryor. He was a successful comedian and movie star.

Like many comics, Pryor also struggled with alcohol and drug addiction. One night while under the influence of cocaine, Pryor accidentally set himself on fire due to a drug-induced psychosis.

Pryor suffered from multiple sclerosis and died of a heart attack on December 10th, 2005.


Patrice O'Neal


Patrice O’Neal was a comedian who had the ability to appear on stage and make the crowd laugh without any written material.

He was greatly respected by other comedians. O’Neal died of diabetes in 2011. He was 41 years old.


Andy Kaufman


Andy Kaufman was known for his unusual comedy that prayed on audience emotions. He also was an actor and played Latka Simka on the TV show “Taxi.”

For years Kaufman fooled audiences in thinking he was from another country. Kaufman died of a form of lung cancer when he was only 34.


Brett Butler


Brett Butler once had a popular T.V. show called “Grace Under Fire.” Because of her constant drug use and erratic behavior, she was asked to leave the show.

Butler struggled to find work for many years, and at one point went from living in a mansion to being homeless. She is still working as an actress, writer, and comedian.


Mitch Hedberg


Mitch Hedberg was a one-liner comedian. He was known for his deadpan humor.

He was also a user of drugs and alcohol and often talked about them in his routine. Hedberg died of a drug overdose in 2005.


Sam Kinison


Sam Kinison shocked and thrilled audiences with his in-your-face humor. He was known to scream at the audience and they loved it.

Kinison also had a drug addiction, but that’s not what killed him. His vehicle collided with that of a teenage driver who had been drinking. The teenager had drifted into Kinison’s lane and he died shortly after. He was 38 years old.


John Belushi


How could one forget John Belushi’s role in the cult classic Animal House? His wild partying character, Bluto, made Belushi a star.

Sadly, Belushi was a little too much like his character, and on March 5th, 1982, Belushi died of a drug overdose. He was 33 years old.


Robin Williams


Robin Williams wasn’t just a comedian and an actor. He was also known as one of the most humble, down-to-earth, and beloved celebrities.

His death in the summer of 2014 shocked and saddened millions. Williams was known for his off-the-wall humor and clever improvisations.

He acted in many great movies, including Dead Poets Society, Patch Adams, and Good Morning, Vietnam. He also starred as Mork in the hit TV show of the late 70s and early 80s, “Mork and Mindy.”

Photo: 1. Eva Rinaldi (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Robin_Williams_Happy_Feet_premiere.jpg), „Robin Williams Happy Feet premiere“, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode , 2. www.imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 3. www.imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 4. www.imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 5. www.imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 6. www.wikipiedia.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 7. King Taco, Patrice O'Neal - Jan 2006, CC BY 2.0 , 8. photo by Alan Light, Richard Pryor (1986) (cropped), CC BY 2.0 , 9. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 10. Erica.nicolenyc, Robert Schimmel, CC BY-SA 3.0 , 11. Angela Davis (Angela D.) from Austin, TX, USA, Bill Hicks at the Laff Stop in Austin, Texas, 1991, CC BY 2.0 , 12. Gage Skidmore, Craig Ferguson by Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0 , 14. NBC Television, Freddie Prinze 1975, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons , 15. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 16. The World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, 2011 Bill Cosby, CC BY 2.0 , 17. GregMan3, Giraldo, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons , 18. Lever Brothers, the maker of Lux soap and the radio program's sponsor. It was not unusual for networks or sponsors to use advertising or publicity agencies to distribute publicity materials. Lever used their contracted ad agency, J. Walter Thompson, to get this to the media., Lucille Ball Lux Radio Theatre 1951, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons , 19. Eva Rinaldi creator QS:P170,Q37885816, Kevin Hart 2014 (cropped 2), CC BY-SA 2.0 , 20. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 21. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 22. CBS Television, Don Knotts Barney Fife 1966, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons , 23. www.truthdig.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 24. imdb.com, 25. www.improv.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only)