Jimmy Kimmel got his start in radio! (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

There’s something about radio attracting funny people. I suppose it all comes back to the proverbial “face for radio.” TV hosts are beautiful. Radio hosts, traditionally, have had to overcome the lack of beauty, thus learning how to get attention another way–through humor.

However, just because you start somewhere doesn’t mean that’s where you’ll end up. In fact, some of the funniest people on TV and in the comedy world got their start in radio.

Radio Created The TV Star

For me, radio has always been my favorite medium for humorous entertainment. There’s nothing like listening to a group of funny people share their stories and thoughts on the world around us. Sure, TV is funny but they’re actors reading from scripts that were written by someone funny. They can do take after take until they get it right. That’s not how it goes with radio! You have one chance to make your joke land, or it’s out the window (or you become the punchline because of your failed attempt at a joke).

It’s that pressure of the red light being on that brings the best out of funny people. There are no rehearsals, no table reads, you’re live. Radio gives performers a chance to incorporate all the different comedy subgenres. It’s like stand-up, only you’re sitting down and you don’t have a routine that you’re performing. Since there’s no routine, there’s the extra addition of improv in radio. You never know what might get brought up next, so you always have to be ready. It’s the ultimate primer for someone who wants to be funny.

Given these characteristics, it’s no wonder why so many funny people started in radio. It’s like having some street cred. You rose through the ranks and cut your teeth doing things the hard way. Some of my favorite comedians got their start in radio. Other funny people, who may have got their starts in other ways, now have turned to radio or podcasting as their go-to medium. Why? Because it works. It gives comedians and humorists a medium to talk and share their thoughts on the spot.

Funny People In Radio

Radio is such an excellent medium to start your career, that it’s not only funny people who got their starts there. Some of the biggest names in entertainment, comedy aside, got their start in radio. According to TheThings.com, before becoming a news anchor, Oprah Winfrey worked as a newsreader for a radio station at age 16. Likewise, TheThings points out that Weird Al got his start in entertainment working at his college radio station. Carson Daly and Ludacris also got their feet wet working in radio before establishing their own lanes in entertainment.

As I previously mentioned, some of the funniest people in show business got their starts in radio. Let’s get to the list of funny people!

  • Ricky Gervais

    Comedian Ricky Gervais got his start working in radio.

    Comedian Ricky Gervais got his start working in radio. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

    Ricky Gervais is one of the funniest people on earth…and he got his start in radio. Before creating The Office and several other successful movies and shows, he worked as an assistant events manager (or was it assistant to the events manager?) for the University of London Union.

    While working there, he was looking for an assistant and interviewed the first individual whose resume he came across. That person happened to be Stephen Merchant. We’ll have more information on him below. I think Ricky’s genius and radio background really came out during An Idiot Abroad. He played conductor and was able to bring the absolute best out of his co-worker Karl Pilkington in a way that only an experienced radio host can do.

  • Stephen Merchant

    Stephen Merchant got his start in radio working at XFM London.

    Stephen Merchant got his start in radio working at XFM London. (Photo by David Buchan/Getty Images for BAFTA LA)

    Stephen Merchant is likely best known for his work with Ricky Gervais. Merchant co-wrote and co-directed The Office (UK) with Gervais. He also starred alongside him in Extras, and he was phenomenal in that. My favorite project of Stephen’s, however, is Hello Ladies on HBO. He is so funny in that.

    As you may have read above, Merchant worked with Gervais in radio starting out together at XFM London. After being let go, they later returned to the station to start The Ricky Gervais Show. It was there were the pair met their producer Karl Pilkington. The rest is history.

  • Jimmy Kimmel

    Jimmy Kimmel hosting the Academy Awards. Kimmel got his start working in radio.

    Jimmy Kimmel got his start in radio! (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

    Inspired by a comedian, who we’ll discuss later, Kimmel pursued radio while he was still in high school. He worked weekends on UNLV’s college station. Then, while attending Arizona State University, he became a popular caller at a local station in the Phoenix area. Before long, he landed a job on a radio show in Seattle where he performed a lot of stunts.

    He eventually went on to host shows in Palm Springs and Tucson before landing in Los Angeles as “Jimmy The Sports Guy” for a popular show. It’s great to see his career arch because it’s very similar to my own. He went through the ranks and cut his teeth just like a lot of us who chose a career in radio. The hustle paid off for Jimmy. My story is still largely to be determined. That’s probably putting it nicely.

  • David Letterman

    David Letterman at the Indianapolis 500. He got his start in radio, too.

    David Letterman at the Indianapolis 500. He got his start in radio, too. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

    David Letterman was the funny person who inspired Jimmy Kimmel to go into radio. That’s right! David Letterman got his start working in radio before going on to host late-night shows. Letterman graduated from Ball State University where he studied Radio & Television.

    Letterman began as an announcer and newscaster at Ball State’s student-run station. He was fired from there before going to a different station. From there, he worked as a weatherman at a local TV station where people really started to notice his unique sense of humor. Little did they know the guy updating them on coming storms would go on to become one of the funniest entertainers of all-time.

  • Lucille Ball

    The great late Lucille Ball got her start in radio!

    The great late Lucille Ball got her start in radio! (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

    You read that correctly! The one and only Lucille Ball started her legendary career with a job in radio. Before she made it big, TheThings says she could only get jobs in the entertainment industry as a support player on radio shows. It didn’t take long for audiences to notice her and she went from being support to the star of her own show.

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