The Five Most Lucrative Shows in Comedy History
Laughs are lucrative. Don’t believe it? Check out these humorous TV shows responsible for creating generational wealth for everyone involved. There doesn’t seem to be one single money metric — profitability, syndication rights, actor salaries — that can apply across the board, but rest assured, these five shows generated enough cash so that none of these funny people ever need to work another day in their lives. Ka-ching!
Let’s start with Seinfeld's most recent cash grab, with Netflix paying more than half a billion dollars to secure a five-year run around the globe. Prior to that deal, Hulu had ponied up another $130 million for six years of domestic rights only. One estimate had Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David (both of whom own a 15 percent stake in Seinfeld) each taking home $400 million a year from various syndication deals. That’s on top of the cool million dollars per episode that Seinfeld made while the show was still on the air. Now add in DVD sales, Kramer posters and other assorted merch. The show about nothing definitely added up to a whole lot of something financially.
It’s the longest-running scripted television show of all time, so do the math — hundreds of Simpsons episodes times big bucks per show equals megadollars. In 2013, the animated series landed a then-record cable deal with FXX for an estimated $750 million. Now it’s an anchor for Disney+, where it consistently beats out Marvel and Star Wars competition as the streamer’s most-watched show. Disney isn’t revealing a dollar value to tent-poling its standalone streaming service, but it has to be worth more than the three-quarters of a billion it landed in 2013. All of this has made Matt Groening and James L. Brooks insanely rich. Meanwhile, The Simpsons’ main voice actors pull in about $7 million per season — and work about five hours per week.
The six actors who portrayed the titular pals made a collective $814 million to pine for each other in-between sarcastic quips. The show’s three main producers pocketed another $550 million. Forbes estimates that those stars and creators amassed $1.4 billion in earnings, while Warner Bros. still found a way to stash away $4.8 billion. Could the show be any more fruitful?
The Big Bang Theory
The cast of Big Bang didn’t make out quite as well as their counterparts on Seinfeld and Friends — only nearly $1 million per episode — but the show’s producers are swimming in a Scrooge McDuck pool full of cash. At the show’s height, CBS was raking in $150 million a year in ad revenues alone. As for Warner Bros. (again)? It has brought in more than a billion dollars in syndication bucks. And that’s not even counting the sales from Bazinga! T-shirts.
How rich are Trey Parker and Matt Stone? In addition to their previous millions, they signed a $900 million deal in 2019 to, well, make more South Park. Why so much cash? It’s all thanks to a deal that Parker and Stone signed back in 2009 when Comedy Central agreed to split all digital rights 50/50. In 2009, that amounted to “not much.” By 2019, when South Park rights were sold to HBO Max for $550 million, Matt and Trey pocketed $275 million. Not even Seinfeld and David get to keep as much of the spoils as the South Park creators, who are turning streaming and video game rights into mind-boggling riches.