RuPaul once said that “if you can’t laugh at it, you gotta buck up and get strong.” No matter the battles it has faced, the LGBT community has had a fierce cadre of comedians ready to point a finger back at society and laugh, helping the rest of us to buck up in the process. Just in time for Pride, we've run down 13 of the greatest comedians of all time who represent the LGBT community, including stand-ups, talk show hosts and more.
13. Graham Norton
American late night may still be dominated by aging straight dudes, but this fearless host has ruled the U.K. talk show game for years. Whether he’s having a ball objectifying men like Henry Cavill or bonding with buddies like Joan Rivers, Norton has brought queer discourse into the public domain for viewers across the world.
12. Lady Bunny
RuPaul’s best frenemy perfectly exemplifies the biting wit required of true comedy queens, and her brand of self-deprecation, celebrity criticism and camp gaudiness has made her an underground legend. You’re not likely to survive a Bunny encounter without getting read to filth. You should only be so lucky.
11. Titus Burgess
Was there ever a time before Titus Andromedon? Tina Fey discovered this manic musical genius when he guested as mean hairdresser D’Fwan on 30 Rock, and her decision to make him the crown jewel of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has paid off in spades. When is this man going to start hosting awards shows?
10. Sandra Bernhard
On any given night fifty years from now, Sandra Bernhard will still be at a piano bar, dryly eviscerating the rich and famous, improvising spoken-word manifestos, and crooning cabaret standards like a boss. Since breaking out in the ’70s, Bernhard has been one of the smartest, slyest performers around, and she’s never dumbed her act down for public recognition. Never change, Sandra.
9. John Early
The Showgasm host has blown up in the past year, with appearances on Broad City, Neighbors 2 and in his own dark episode of the Netflix showcase The Characters. Nailing canny parodies of Tennessee housewives, Hamptons-bound gay men and greasy bros, this vicious satirist can’t be beat when it comes to skewering both straight and gay cultures.
8. Rosie O’Donnell
Any child of the ’90s can confirm the star power of this unflappable multi-hyphenate. Whether acting in movies like A League of Their Own, sharing her opinions The View, or campaigning for gay adoption in the political arena, O’Donnell has fought her entire career for women in media to have voices, and she’s not likely to stop using her own anytime soon.
7. Lea DeLaria
The bawdy, self-proclaimed bull dyke comic has busted doors open for queer performers who don’t “pass” since she appeared as the first openly gay performer on a late night show in 1983. Since then, she’s mixed politics with humor, and made global audiences fall in love with her attitude as Big Boo on Orange is the New Black.
6. Kate McKinnon
SNL’s first-ever out lesbian cast member has dominated the show with instantly-viral impersonations of Justin Beiber, Ellen DeGeneres and Angela Merkel, and is sure to steal scenes as Jillian Holtzmann in this summer’s Ghostbusters. We’re almost hoping Hillary wins just so that McKinnon can keep playing her for the next eight years.
5. Margaret Cho
The reigning queen of DGAF has parodied everyone from her mother to Kim Jong Il and has always played it cool when discussing her race, gender, sexuality and polyamory. Nobody—no matter their fame or stature—is safe at a Margaret Cho show, and that’s the way it should be.
4. Wanda Sykes
Facing brutal odds as a lesbian of color in show business, this comedic powerhouse has always triumphed with her signature brand of fierce confidence. Throughout the Bush years and the fight for same sex marriage legalization, Sykes proved to be an unapologetic, unstoppable force of humor and inspiration for underdogs everywhere. Nobody calls bullshit better than Wanda.
3. Ellen DeGeneres
An American institution. With an annual salary of over $75 million and a hit talk show 13 years running, the former oddball standup has successfully battled her way into the hearts of mainstream viewers across the globe. It may seem like another world in which DeGeneres risked her career and reputation by coming out on her ’90s sitcom, but that's because her visibility and outspokenness since then has changed the way Hollywood—and the rest of the country—perceives LGBT people.
2. Lily Tomlin
Just one Oscar away from an EGOT, Tomlin has been killing it since her days on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In. The 9 to 5 star has never compromised her unique style or droll sense of humor to fit cultural standards of women in media, and has been transparent about her four-decades-strong relationship with writer Jane Wagner. Tomlin’s a titan, and she’s not going anywhere.
1. Billy Eichner
From an early age, LGBT people are taught through movies and television to respect masculinity, keep quiet, and accept your shame. But suddenly, out of nowhere, like a living, breathing Looney Tune, Billy Eichner has arrived to burn those conventions to the ground. On his insane series Billy on the Street, the hyperactive host humiliates A-list celebrities, calls out pedestrian strangers for their classist and gendered behaviors, and gleefully crosses the line of good taste. Eichner may never be family-friendly enough to host an awards show, and we couldn’t be happier. He’s too busy confronting people's stereotypes to their faces to be bothered with a bowtie and cue cards.