Comedians who were born filthy rich

Comedians are some of the bravest people in the world. Not only do they get up in front of a crowd on a daily basis — a frightening prospect in and of itself — but they seek laughter and approval while also trying to be honest … sometimes to a fault. They're the modern-day jesters who tell it like it is, speak truth to power, and put a mirror up to society to show us all how silly, tragic, maddening, or unfair life can be.

Of course, in order to discuss (and mock) the world, comedians have to not only live in that world, but also, on some level, understand the plight of the common man. Ironically, some of the most successful of these populist purveyors of incendiary wit aren't "of the people" at all … and they never were. A few of the entertainment industry's most clever and innovative comedians got rich doing their thing, which only added to the proverbial pile of money they (or their parents) already had. Here are some of our favorite comedians who were free to pursue their artistic ambitions because they were born filthy rich.

Robin Williams

Robin Williams' frantic, improvisation-laced stand-up act shot him to fame and earned him a role on the sitcom Mork & Mindy, where he was brilliantly cast as a childlike alien trying to adjust to life on Earth. While still keeping it light with stuff like Popeye and Mrs. Doubtfire, Williams started acting in more serious fare in 1980s and 1990s films like The World According to Garp, Dead Poets Society, and Good Will Hunting. The latter flick won the movie star an Academy Award for best supporting actor. 

This flip from world's zaniest stand-up to nuanced dramatic actor isn't all that surprising, considering Williams studied acting at the prestigious Juilliard School. Another little-known part of the late comedian's past? He came from a well-off family. (No wonder he could afford Juilliard.) According to Dave Itzkoff's biography Robin, Williams' family resided in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., a Detroit suburb where wealthy Ford Motor Company executives lived (via Automotive News). Since the multi-talent's father, Rob, served as vice president of the auto giant's Lincoln-Mercury Division in the 1950s and 1960s, the family was so well off that Williams' mother, Laura McLaurin, didn't need to work. According to the The Washington Post's review of Robin, she was more of a socialite who often traveled with her husband for both business and pleasure. This made for a lonely childhood for the future comedian, who was largely raised by nannies, as noted in the HBO documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind (via PopSugar).

Conan O'Brien

In 1993, Conan O'Brien took over for David Letterman on NBC's Late Night franchise, according to Rolling Stone. While it was a tall order to replace one of the most innovative and ironic talk show hosts, O'Brien eventually made a name for himself with stuff way sillier than Letterman's "Stupid Pet Tricks" and "Top 10" list segments. Every night, his show featured a wild sketch or strange character, such as the PimpBot 5000 or Preparation H Raymond

O'Brien was just 30 years old when he landed Late Night (via Biography), but already had a firm grasp on comedy, having honed his skills through stints as a writer for Saturday Night Live and The Simpsonsand as the editor of the famed Harvard Lampoon humor magazine. Yep, O'Brien started working in comedy almost immediately after graduating high school, and had the luxury of pursuing it full-time thanks, in part, to his wealthy parents. Sure, the red-headed talk show host got into Harvard, but when the tuition bills were due, it undoubtedly helped to have a well-off mom and dad. According to Britannica, O'Brien's father was a doctor and Harvard Medical School instructor, while his mother was a partner at a law firm.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

During a special live episode of 30 Rock in 2010, Tina Fey enlisted another comedy icon to play her character, Liz Lemon, in flashbacks: Seinfeld alum Julia Louis-Dreyfus (via The Hollywood Reporter). When Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) asked Fey's Liz Lemon why she looked so much better just a few days earlier, Liz responded, "My memory has Seinfeld money." Indeed, Louis-Dreyfus has earned a sizable fortune to keep herself looking as healthy and youthful as she did in the perpetually syndicated 1989-1998 classic, in which she played terrible dancer Elaine Benes. According to CNBC, the actress pulled in about $600,000 an episode toward the end of the TV series' run … and that's not even counting royalties and residuals. However, money is as common in the life of Louis-Dreyfus as wonderful comic performances and Emmy Awards: she has a record of six for her work on Veep alone (via CNN).

Louis-Dreyfus is a descendant of the family that started Louis Dreyfus Holding as a wheat consortium in France in 1851. The company grew to include other endeavors like shipping and banking, and by the turn of the century, the Louis-Dreyfus clan was among the wealthiest in the country. According to People, JLD's late father, Gérard C. "William" Louis-Dreyfus, dealt in crude oil and gas as the chairman of Louis Dreyfus Energy Services, which was unsurprisingly very lucrative. By the time of his death in 2015, the business mogul was worth billions.

Nick Kroll

He may have been born rich, but Nick Kroll certainly doesn't rest on his laurels. Over the last decade and change, this multi-hyphenate has worked hard to become one of the top names in comedy. While starring on the hit sitcom The League, he also frequently performed stand-up. He later created the Kroll Show, a Comedy Central sketch series which served to showcase the many different characters he fostered as a veteran of the Improv and podcast scenes. 

Of course, if all that didn't work out, Kroll probably could have fallen back on a handsomely salaried position in his father's company. According to The New Yorker, Jules Kroll served as an Assistant District Attorney in New York before taking over his father's small printing company, where he uncovered all kinds of bribes and overpayments his clients had been stuck with by other vendors. That prompted him to start one of the world's first corporate investigation firms in 1972: J. Kroll Associates, later called Kroll, Inc. The elder Kroll's commission was a percentage of whatever amount he'd save a company. However, the business eventually focused on exposing international financial crimes perpetuated by nefarious heads of state like Saddam Hussein and Ferdinand Marcos. While that work made Nick Kroll's dad quite wealthy, he met a huge payday when he sold Kroll, Inc. to insurance company Marsh & McLennan for just under $2 billion in 2004.

John Mulaney

At the time of this writing, John Mulaney is only in his mid-30s, but has already built up a remarkable comedy résumé. He wrote for Saturday Night Live from 2008 to 2013, and was responsible for one of the show's most memorable characters: Stefon, a degenerate club kid/tour guide played by Bill Hader. Mulaney also created and starred in his own (short-lived) Fox sitcom, Mulaney, in 2014, and all the while earned a reputation as one of the best stand-ups in the business. He won an Emmy Award for outstanding writing for a variety special for Kid Gorgeous in 2018. 

Mulaney often talks about his childhood and his parents in his act, including a memorable bit about how hard it was to lie to his mom and dad as a kid, because they're both powerful and successful attorneys who could engage him in a barrage of probing questions. Following stints in corporate and tax law, Ellen S. Mulaney began teaching law at Northwestern University in 2006. According to his bio on his law firm's website, Charles W. Mulaney, Jr. "advises major investment banks on acquisition and financing matters."

Aziz Ansari

Aziz Ansari's success as a stand-up comedian (he sold out Madison Square Garden in 2014) and comic actor (he played Tom Haverford for seven seasons on Parks and Recreation) apparently wasn't enough to satisfy his fertile creative mind. Alongside Parks writer Alan Yang, he created Netflix's Master of None: A thoughtful, cinematic series about a struggling Indian-American actor named Dev. As its main creative force, Ansari starred in the show and had a say in the casting of other roles. However, when it came time to cast the actor and actress who would play Dev's father and mother, the multi-talent couldn't find suitable on-screen talents. So, he did the logical thing and gave the roles to Shoukath and Fatima Ansari — his actual parents. "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," Ansari said of his father to The Wrap. "He's probably funnier than I am." 

The gigs brought the older Ansaris fame, but not fortune, as they played minor roles in the streaming series. But that's just fine — they're good when it comes to money, because one of them is a doctor. According to Becker's ASC, Shouketh Ansari is a gastroenterologist at the Sandhills Endoscopy Center in Hamlet, North Carolina, as well as the medical director — a position he's held for more than 30 years.

Maya Rudolph

Throughout her work on Saturday Night LiveMaya Rudolph successfully incorporated music into her comedy performances. She churned out uncanny, sometimes savage impressions of famous singers as varied as Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, Diana Ross, and Charo. Before she joined the cast in 2000, she'd already racked up some professional music credits. According to The New York Times, she was a member of the mid-'90s alterna-synth band the Rentals, and has continued to perform as part of an all-female Prince tribute band called Princess. 

When she was just a baby, the future singer-actress-comedian inspired the song "Lovin' You," a No. 1 hit in 1975 for Minnie Riperton, a.k.a. Rudolph's mother. Yep, Rudolph's parents were extremely successful in the music business. Riperton was a singer who could reached notes so high they're said to be in the "whistle register," while her husband, Richard Rudolph, was a major record producer. The married pair co-wrote and hit the big time with this song, which began as a lullaby. 

B.J. Novak

B.J. Novak is best known for portraying Ryan Howard, the smug yet ultimately incompetent, wannabe executive, on The Office for nine seasons. Novak also wrote for the show, and has since published a couple of quirky, humor books that made the bestseller lists: One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories and The Book with No Pictures. It turns out that writing, not acting, is actually the Novak family trade — although being famous for it with a prominently displayed author name is not. 

The writer-actor's father is William Novak, a nonfiction author who, according to a 1992 profile by the Los Angeles Times, hit the bestseller list five times in the previous ten years. And yet he was never a household name or publishing titan, because he was a ghostwriter and a co-writer for autobiographies of extremely famous and powerful people. Look closely at the life stories of Nancy Reagan, Oliver North, Lee Iacocca, former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, Magic Johnson, and Sydney Biddle Barrows (a.k.a. the scandalized "Mayflower Madam"), and there you will see on the cover or title page: "With William Novak." That said, he commanded top dollar for his services, including a six-figure advance for the Johnson book, for example.

Albert Brooks

Albert Brooks has been doing his own thing since the 1970s. He's become a comedy legend, adept at writing and directing films he also starred in, all with a through-line of self-deprecating humor combined with social satire. To name just a few, Brooks has pointed out the absurdity of existence with works like Lost in America, Real Life, Modern Romance, and Defending Your Life. However, a gift for comedy runs in the family. 

The actor-writer-director's real name is Albert Einstein. According to The New York Times, his brother was the late Bob Einstein, a.k.a. Super Dave Osborne. While their mother, Thelma Leeds, was an actress, their father was a major radio comedian named Harry Einstein, a.k.a. Harry Parke. In the 1930s and 1940s, specific "ethnic" comedy was huge and appealed to the many immigrant communities around the United States. With his act based in Greek dialect comedy, Parke parlayed this trend into his massively popular character, a Greek chef named Parkyakarkus. He performed the bit on a variety of top-rated radio shows, before getting his own show in 1945 called Meet Me at Parky's. According to the Daily Beast, Parke got so rich and famous that he raised his family in Beverly Hills.