9 Comedians Who Died Too Soon

No joke — comedians live hard and die young. At least that's the motto we've come to associate with the most famous funny people. The recent death of stand-up comedian Patrice O'Neal reminds us that comedy, in every sense, is short-lived. Thousands of comedians come and go before our eyes, but the biggest comedic losses are the ones who never got to complete their careers. Here are nine comedians who died too soon.

  1. Mitch Hedberg

    Mitch Hedberg was the king of one-line jokes and stoner humor. His timid stage presence and unconventional delivery made him truly unique and fostered a cult following unlike any other. Sadly, Hedberg's longtime drug use was his ultimate demise. Hedberg died on March 30, 2005, from an accidental drug overdose of cocaine and heroin. He was 37 years old.

  2. Chris Farley

    Chris Farley gave us some of the funniest movies and most quotable lines of the '90s. Farley's sophomoric humor and jovial attitude made him one of the most loveable comedians in SNL history. But behind Farley's happy-go-lucky persona lied a troubled man with a serious drug and alcohol problem. Farley's partying and weight problems continued to grow as he became more successful, and it was these factors that eventually took his life. On Dec. 18, 1998, Farley was found dead in his apartment from an accidental overdose of cocaine and morphine. He was 33 years old.

  3. Richard Jeni

    Comedian-actor Richard Jeni had a way of charming audiences with his witty humor and off-the-wall characterizations. He was best known for his hilarious stand-ups and frequent appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Johnny Carson. Jeni had one-of-a-kind material and originality that became the model of excellence for many young comedians. Sadly, Jeni died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the face in 2007. It was confirmed by Jeni's family that the 49-year-old comedian had in fact committed suicide and had been recently diagnosed with clinical depression and psychotic paranoia.

  4. John Belushi

    John Belushi was a one-of-a-kind comedic actor, whose colorful humor and versatility made him one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Belushi's iconic roles such as Joliet in The Blues Brothers and John "Bluto" Blutarsky in National Lampoon's Animal House changed the face of comedy and paved the way for other rebellious and wild comedians to shine. But, Belushi's party boy ways weren't just an act. At his prime, Belushi was addicted to cocaine and had experimented with heroin. On the night of March 5, 1982, Belushi died from a combined injection of cocaine and heroin, known as a speedball, which was supplied by Catherine Evelyn Smith. Belushi was 33 years old.

  5. Greg Giraldo

    Stand-up comedian and Comedy Central star, Greg Giraldo, was another young talent who died much too soon. The intelligent stand-up comedian, who once practiced law, had a talent for roasting celebrities and fellow comedians with his unique and witty humor that audiences loved. On Sept. 25, 2010, Giraldo was found unconscious in his New Jersey hotel room after overdosing on prescription drugs. He was rushed to the hospital and remained in a coma for five days before his family took him off life support. Giraldo was 44 years old.

  6. Phil Hartman

    The death of 49-year-old Phil Hartman was widely mourned around the world. The man who famously impersonated President Bill Clinton on SNL and lent his voice to several characters on The Simpsons was tragically killed in his sleep by his wife, who subsequently turned the gun on herself. The grim murder-suicide took over headlines across the country and brought light to the troubles of Hartman's marriage. The loss of such a talented and beloved comedian has left an empty hole in the hearts of those who knew Hartman and the comedy field will never be the same.

  7. Gilda Radner

    SNL sweetheart Gilda Radner was an Emmy award-winning comedian and actress, who truly paved the way for future female comics. Radner was an original member of Saturday Night Live and became widely known for her quirky characters, such as Roseanne Roseannadanna and Emily Litella, along with her spot-on impersonations of Barbara Walters, Lucille Ball, and Patti Smith. However, Radner's personal life was no laughing matter. The comedian had famously opened up about her longtime battle with an eating disorder and shared her news of ovarian cancer. During remission, Radner wrote an autobiography about her struggle with cancer, but the battle was far from over. In 1988, she learned that the cancer had returned. While undergoing a CAT scan, Radner fell into a coma and did not regain consciousness. She died on May 20, 1989, at the age of 42.

  8. Bernie Mac

    The death of funnyman Bernie Mac took everyone by surprise. The star of The Bernie Mac Show and member of The Original Kings of Comedy was hospitalized with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease. Although the illness was in remission, Mac succumbed to complications from pneumonia. The beloved comedian was 50 years old when he died.

  9. Andy Kaufman

    Andy Kaufman was a truly gifted comedian, full of original hoaxes, pranks, and, most notably, elaborate songs and dances. Kaufman had earned a reputation for being mysterious and unpredictable, and in many people's eyes, his death was the ultimate joke. Sadly, it wasn't a well-planned hoax or a funny song and dance; Kaufman had passed away at the ripe age of 35. He had been diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer, but kept the somber news a secret from his fans until his last days.

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