Ring Lardner, original name Ringgold Wilmer Lardner, (born March 6, 1885, Niles, Mich., U.S.--died Sept. 25, 1933, East Hampton, N.Y.), American writer, one of the most gifted, as well as the most bitter, satirists in the United States and a fine storyteller with a true ear for the vernacular.Lardner came from a well-to-do family, although his father lost most of his fortune during Lardner's last year in high school. He attended Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago for one term and then worked at a series of jobs before beginning his writing career in 1905 as a reporter for the South Bend Times..
Dick Gregory, byname of Richard Claxton Gregory, (born October 12, 1932, St. Louis, Mo., U.S.--died August 19, 2017, Washington, D.C.), African-American comedian, civil rights activist, and spokesman for health issues, who became nationally recognized in the 1960s for a biting brand of comedy that attacked racial prejudice. By addressing his hard-hitting satire to white audiences, he gave a comedic voice to the rising Civil Rights Movement. In the 1980s his nutrition business venture targeted unhealthy diets of black Americans.Reared in poverty in St. Louis, Gregory began working at..
Steve Martin, (born August 14, 1945, Waco, Texas, U.S.), American comedian, writer, and producer who began his career as a stand-up comic and eventually achieved success in motion pictures, television, Broadway, and literature.Martin attended State College in Long Beach, California. His interest in performing was honed during this period as he worked as a musician and magician at Disneyland and debuted his comedy-and-banjo-playing act in local nightclubs. He soon transferred to the University of California at Los Angeles, where he majored in theatre. In 1967, while still a student, he..
Rick Mercer, byname of Richard Vincent Mercer, (born October 17, 1969, St. John’s, Newfoundland [now Newfoundland and Labrador], Canada), Canadian satirist, comedian, actor, and writer whose insightful lampooning of Canadian politics made him a national icon.Mercer grew up in an exurb of St. John’s in a middle-class family that loved to discuss politics. While in high school (which he departed one credit short of graduation), he wrote and performed in an award-winning one-act play and cofounded Corey and Wade’s Playhouse, a theatre troupe that performed around St. John’s. In 1990 he won..
Spike Milligan, byname of Terence Alan Patrick Sean Milligan, (born April 16, 1918, Ahmadnagar, India--died Feb. 27, 2002, Rye, East Sussex, Eng.), Irish writer and comedian who led the comic troupe featured on the 1950s British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio hit The Goon Show. His anarchic sense of absurdity and unique comic genius made him a model for succeeding generations of comedians and paved the way for the Monty Python brand of alternative comedy.Milligan was raised in India and Burma (Myanmar), where his father was in the British army, and moved to England with his family in 1933...
Robert Benchley, in full Robert Charles Benchley, (born Sept. 15, 1889, Worcester, Mass., U.S.--died Nov. 21, 1945, New York, N.Y.), American humorist, actor, and drama critic, whose main persona, that of a slightly confused, ineffectual, socially awkward bumbler, served in his essays and short films to gain him the sobriquet "the humorist's humorist." The character allowed him to comment brilliantly on the world's absurdities.A graduate of Harvard University (1912), Benchley held a variety of jobs in New York City before becoming managing editor of Vanity Fair in 1919. There he worked..
Stephen Fry, in full Stephen John Fry, (born August 24, 1957, London, England), British actor, comedian, author, screenwriter, and director, known especially for his virtuosic command and comical manipulation of the English language--in both speech and writing. He is especially admired for his ability to desacralize even the most serious or taboo of topics.Fry spent most of his childhood and youth at assorted boarding schools in England. At age seven he was sent far from his home in Norfolk to a boarding school where he soon earned a reputation as a troublemaker, which he retained--and, indeed,..