The most important role of comedy is to make us laugh, even when we don't feel like laughing. And as audiences change over the years, so do the comedians they respond to.
The comedians of the '60s and '70s may or may not feel relevant today, just as the comedians of today might not be relevant in 10 years.
To determine the most famous comedian, we used Nielsen ratings for popular shows, award winners from each year, and looked subjectively at how much of a cultural impact each had.
1963 — Jerry Lewis
Jerry Lewis is total comedy royalty, with starring roles and buddy comedies with Dean Martin, in films spanning decades. But he hit his big solo break in the 1963 with the comedy "The Nutty Professor."
He later would be best known for his support and telethons for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
"I get paid for what most kids get punished for."
1964 — Dick Van Dyke
It's hard to pick one year that comedian Dick Van Dyke ruled the comedy scene. He starred in his own show "The Dick Van Dyke Show" beginning in 1961 and starred in "Bye Bye Birdie" in 1963. But he really became an icon in 1964 with his role as Bert in "Mary Poppins."
"I didn't realize how many different kinds of falls I did in that show. At this banquet recently, they showed a little clip of all my falls. I said, 'No wonder there's arthritis in my spine.'"
1965 — Barbara Eden
If you don't recognize Barbara Eden at first, you sure will when she wiggles her nose. When "I Dream of Jeannie" premiered in 1965, Eden's role as "Jeannie" quickly became iconic, though she had been on the comedy scene for years.
She went on to appear in "Sabrina The Teenage Witch,""Dallas," and "Army Wives."
"I have to make dinner — I mean actually make it without magic. We are liable to die."
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