Sure, feuds between famous celebrities can be entertaining gossip fodder. But feuds between professional comedians? That's just pure acid-tongued, ego-driven, he-said-she-said gold. Here are 15 of our favorite comedians who have gone toe-to-toe in the media.
The most well documented comedian-on-comedian feud may be between Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno. Bad blood surrounded the former NBC contemporaries when Jay returned to The Tonight Show after relinquishing it to Conan. The latter received a huge payoff for his troubles and went over to TBS to host Conan in a competing timeslot. However, Conan's disgruntled feelings toward Leno and NBC would be well documented in the media, including the feature Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop.
Photo: Brian To/WENN.com
Saturday Night Live vet Jon Lovitz has had a longstanding feud with Andy package that can be traced to the death of their mutual friend Phil Hartman. Hartman was murdered by his wife in 1998 while she was under the influence of coke. Lovitz has publicly accused Hartman’s Newsradio co-star Andy of reintroducing Hartman’s wife to the drug. In 2007, Lovitz assaulted him in a comedy club after he threatened to put a “Hartman hex” on Lovitz. Andy has subsequently been banned from performing at the popular Jon Lovitz Podcast Theater.
Before Leno was catching the ire of Conan O’Brien, he locked horns with David Letterman over the coveted Tonight Show hosting job. While longtime host Johnny Carson intended to hand over the spot to Letterman, NBC selected Leno for the job. Letterman left the peacock network to create the Late Show with David Letterman at CBS. The feud between Leno and Letterman became so notorious it inspired the HBO film The Late Shift three years later. In the ensuing decades the feud between Leno and Letterman has since dissipated—a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey revealed that Letterman considers Leno his friend.
From 1945 to 1956, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were Hollywood’s premiere comedy team. Despite great success, Dean Martin eventually grew tired of playing an underwritten straight man role opposite the more animated Lewis. This lead to a series of feuds between the men, culminating in Martin’s declaration that Lewis was "nothing to me but a f---ing dollar sign." The pair split ten years to the day of their original coupling. They would reunite publicly for Martin's 72nd birthday in 1989, but would not get around to pursuing creative projects before Martin’s death in 1995.
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In a 2005 interview with Rolling Stone, alternative comedian David Cross took a swipe at Larry the Cable Guy and his good-old-boy contemporaries: "It's a lot of anti-gay, rac1st humor… couched in 'I'm telling it like it is.'” Larry would hit back in his book GIT-R-DONE, accusing Cross of being baited by Rolling Stone and the “P.C. Left” into attacking him. Cross has responded by continuously mocking Larry the Cable Guy throughout his career, going as far as to end a set on Comedy Central’s Just For Laughs with a sarcastic “Git-R- Done!”
Though he was the first breakout star of Saturday Night Live, Chevy Chase left the show after just one year. When he returned to guest host in 1976, he found himself locking horns with his popular replacement Bill Murray. The tension broke when Chase and Murray found themselves in a fist fight backstage during the show. Murray has described it as a “Hollywood fight,” reasoning it was “because we all felt mad he had left us, and somehow I was the anointed avenging angel, who had to speak for everyone.” Despite the rocky feud, the pair would become friends and star in Caddyshack together in 1980.
Photo: Brian To/WENN.com
During the height of The Arsenio Hall Show, the comedian made a regular target out of popular sitcom star Roseanne Barr. Hall would frequently mock his fellow comedian with a series of fat jokes. This culminated in an on-air mockery of Roseanne and her then-husband Tom Arnold's honeymoon photos. Roseanne would strike back by calling Arsenio America’s “first black nerd” and added he was a “triangle-headed Eddie Murphy look-alike mother-f----.” Hall would later be sued by a paparazzo photographer for making illegal use of the shots on television.
Though Joan Rivers was among Johnny Carson’s favorite guests and staff writers, Carson was deeply hurt when the actress moved to Fox to create her own show. Rivers’ talk show lasted for one season from 1986-1987 and was positioned in a competing time slot with The Tonight Show. Though Carson’s show trumped it, Rivers would subsequently be barred from further Tonight Show appearances and Carson never spoke to her again.
Chris Kattan was notoriously tormented by Norm MacDonald during their shared time on Saturday Night Live. In an interview with Rolling Stone, MacDonald justified his animosity with Kattan, accusing him of being “gay” and “not funny.” Kattan responded to the piece by calling Norm “an a—hole.” When MacDonald returned to host in 1999, Kattan would refuse to participate in the episode.
Comedy podcasting rivals Kevin Smith and Adam Carolla butted heads last year. The pair were proposing a syndicated companion series to TMZ. Unfortunately, miscommunication between the two and long negotiations from Carolla’s camp led The Man Show star to be cut out of the deal. The pilot never went anywhere and the two had it out in an intense interview on Carolla’s podcast.
Dennis Leary’s friendship with fellow comedian Bill Hicks was tarnished when Leary stole Hicks’ material and persona for his wildly popular 1993 special No Cure For Cancer. This led to an ongoing feud between the two as Leary’s Hollywood career soared and Hicks battled cancer. When asked in an interview why he quit smoking cigarettes, Hicks famously responded “I just wanted to see if Denis would, too.” Hicks would succumb to the cancer in 1994 and accusations of plagiarism have continued to haunt Leary’s reputation as a comic. In a 2008 interview, Leary tried to downplay the controversy, stating "It wouldn't have been an issue, I think, if Bill had lived… people look at a tragedy and they look at that circumstance and they go, oh, this must be how we can explain this."
Andrew Dice Clay
During the height of their mutual success in the 1980s, shock comics Andrew Dice Clay and Sam Kinison maintained a major feud. Despite starting out as friends, the two became fast rivals in terms of promotion thanks to the similarity between their acts. Kinison also accused Dice of stealing his jokes and re-purposing them for his albums. Even after Kinison’s death in 1992, Dice has continued his feud, extending it to Pauly Shore who was mutual friends with both men at the time.
Though comedian George Lopez once counted Jay Leno among his circle of comedian friends, Lopez lashed out at him in a 2007 radio interview. The quote called him “two-faced” and criticized his interviewing skills. Leno, as usual took the high road and refused to acknowledge the swipe publicly. In 2010, Lopez continued his anti-Leno campaign by happily gave up his own talk show’s time slot to accommodate an incoming Conan O’Brien as he moved to TBS.
In 2006, a cold war of a comedy feud began between Louis C.K. and Dane Cook. The latter comedian had reached his zenith, garnering a triple platinum comedy record. It was also around this time many began pointing out similarities between some of the jokes on Cook's record and previous material by Louis C.K. Cook would be the subject of several accusations of joke-thievery sparking a passive-aggressive feud between the comedians that would only be resolved in 2011. The topic became the basis for an entire episode of C.K.’s hit show Louie. After it aired, C.K. to publicly admitted his belief that Cook did not intentionally steal any of his material.
During an interview on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, Pauly Shore gave a detailed account of growing up in Los Angeles’ famous club The Comedy Store which his mother owned and operated. Despite their famous friendship, Shore revealed an eyewitness account of a feud between Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy during the height of Murphy’s stand-up career. This led to tensions over material, comedy personae, and stage time that often unraveled around Shore and other comedians working the club. Of course, the rivalry would be short-lived. Murphy and Pryor would later collaborate on the film Harlem Nights.