Photo: Bette Midler and The Harlettes singing I Shall Be Released from Divine Madness – 1980

The 10 highest grossing stand-up films of all time
May 24, 2016

Let’s take a look at the top 10 highest grossing stand-up films of all time. The rankings are solely based on box office earnings. Home release is not included.

The Fluffy Movie
On July 25, 2014, The Fluffy Movie received a limited release at 432 theaters in the United States. However, that didn’t stop it from becoming the 10th highest grossing stand-up film. Directed by Manny Rodriquez (The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand-Up Revolution), The Fluffy Movie showed several people in flashback scenes in addition to Gabriel Iglesias’ stand-up on stage. By the end of it’s run, The Fluffy Movie made $2.8 million while in theaters. Comedians Ron White, Tommy Chong, and Martin Moreno also appeared.

Divine Madness
Movie comedy queen Bette Midler reigns supreme in this rocking, rolling concert movie bash Divine Madness. What makes this film different from just about all of the others on our list is that it is a combination of both stand-up comedy and songs performed by Midler. Released on September 26th of 1980, Divine Madness pulled in $5.3 million during it’s theatrical run. Director Michael Ritchie (The Bad News Bears, Fletch) had filmed four of Midler’s concerts on her 1979 tour and cut them together to look like one, resulting in Divine Madness.

Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain
Funnyman Kevin Hart stars in the theatrical version of his 2011 Laugh At My Pain comedy tour that swept the nation. Hart’s 2-day performance of Laugh At My Pain (at LA Live’s Nokia Theatre), raised the bar and broke Eddie Murphy’s long standing record of being the first African-American Comedian to surpass over $1.1 million two-day live comedy show ticket sales. During this film, you got never-before-seen raw and uncut backstage footage giving you an up-close and personal look at Kevin Hart. Laugh at My Pain grossed $7.7 million while in theaters, sending Hart well on his way to where his is today. Not to mention, this is only the first film from him on this list. Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain was directed by Leslie Small (Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain) and Tim Story (Ride Along, Think Like a Man).

Martin Lawrence: You So Crazy
Comedian and actor Martin Lawrence may best be known for his sitcom Martin or the Bad Boys film franchise, however, he crushed at the box office with his stand-up film Martin Lawrence: You So Crazy. The film, his first, was directed by Thomas Schlamme (So I Married an Axe Murderer). Lawrence drew comparisons to Eddie Murphy with his black leather suit he wore for the film. Topics touched upon included his success, growing up, sexual acts and racism. Originally receiving an NC-17 rating, Miramax who owned the filmed was forced to sell it to MGM who ultimately released it unrated. You So Crazy went on to earn $10.1 million at the box office solidifying the comedian as a bonafide star. Check out this rare trailer featuring Lawrence being chased by two white men on horses with guns poking fun at the rating situation that almost prevented this film from ever even hitting theaters in 1994.

Richard Pryor: Here and Now
Roger Ebert was quoted back in 1983 as saying, “Pryor is more than a comedian in this film: He’s a social commentator, and a man talking honestly about himself.” It couldn’t have been said any better. Here and Now is part live stand-up performance, part documentary filmed in New Orleans’ famous district known as the French Quarter, replete with images of creole, gumbo, carnivals, Mardi Gras, Preservation Hall, and New Orleans jazz. After being released in October of 1983, it brought home $16.1 million and is one of two from Pryor on this list.

Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat
When Martin Lawrence takes the stage, it’s more than an event, it’s a no-holds barred comedy attack. After his huge movie and TV successes, Lawrence made a triumphant return to his stand-up roots in this utterly satisfying and truly funny live performance. Lawrence set his sights on such explosive subjects as parenting, sex and smoking, and, in perhaps the film’s most revealing and most powerful section, sets the record straight on his infamous brushes with the law. This is his second film on this list and is the follow up to You So Crazy besting his original to the tune of $19.1 million.

Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain
The big winners come out to play starting with #4 on our list. Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain raked in $32.2 million during its run that started in July of 2013 taking him from star to worldwide superstar. Filmed at world famous Madison Square Garden, Let me Explain follows Hart who is throwing a celebration party, but guests tell him that he has changed since his divorce. He tries to explain himself, but they will not let him, so he decides to do a show at Madison Square Garden letting him explain, which sold out with 30,000 people. The film also shows performances of his sold-out shows from all around the world.

Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip
Richard Pryor takes the stage at the infamous Hollywood Palladium in one of his first performances after a well-publicized battle with drugs. Pryor speaks about Africa, sex, lawyers, his wife, Italian mobsters, and–inevitably drugs, leaving the audience enthralled in laughter. The third highest grossing film brought in $36.3 million dollars during its theatrical run and is still argued to this day as the greatest stand-up film ever. Beyond inspirational, forever influential. If you have never seen this, stop what you are doing right now and do yourself a favor.

The Original Kings of Comedy
The 2000 stand-up comedy film, directed by Spike Lee, and featuring the comedy routines of Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac comes in at #2. Filmed in front of an audience at the Charlotte Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina, the comedians give the audience their views about African-American culture, race relations, religion and family. The film was shot over the last two nights of the Kings of Comedy tour with Harvey, Hughley, Cedric, and Mac with Harvey acting as MC. It cost $3 million to make but well worth it as it grossed $38.1 million.

Eddie Murphy: Raw
And finally, the #1 grossing stand-up film of all time belongs to the one and only Eddie Murphy: Raw. How does $50.5 million sound? Pretty damn impressive. Robert Townsend, who lost out to Murphy for a spot in the cast of Saturday Night Live, ended up directing the masterpiece. Uncensored. Uncut. Irresistible. Raw is Eddie Murphy doing what he does best: making people laugh. Filmed live at New York’s Felt Forum, Murphy delights, shocks and entertains with dead-on celebrity impersonations, observations on ’80s love, sex and marriage, a remembrance of Mom’s hamburgers and much more. The film opens with a pre-taped sketch depicting a scene from Murphy’s childhood. Once on stage, his routine set an all time record for the use of the word f*ck… 223 times to be exact. If you look hard enough, you’ll spot Kim Wayans who was interviewed as a fan for the film. Samuel L. Jackson also makes an appearance as Murphy’s uncle.

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