7 Great Comedians with Stage Names
By Hoff Matthews
“Hoff Matthews” is not my actual name. It’s a stage name which I use because my real name is fairly common, and I wanted to differentiate myself from all the other people who use it (at least one of whom had the gall to go and become famous before I could). I’ve taken some guff for this decision from people who knew me when I performed under my legal name, so I would like to point out that some of the greatest comedians of all time perform or have performed under names other than those given to them by their parents. Here are just a few examples, some of which may surprise you:
1. LARRY THE CABLE GUY
Real Name: Lawrence Elphinborough III
After graduating from Eton, Larry the Cable Guy—a.k.a. Lawrence Elphinborough III, scion of London’s wealthy Elphinborough family—pursued many different careers, including oceanography, literary criticism, and the euphonium. He eventually settled on acting, but it was only after his self-financed series of abstract Marxist one-man productions met with critical indifference that he adopted the stage persona which would come to define his career.
2. LOUIS CK
Real Name: C. K. Louis
Prior to becoming a comedian, Carl Karl Louis was a novelist, authoring a critically panned but bestselling paperback series centered around charismatic secret agent/private investigator Jack Rawhide.
Although the Rawhide books consist mostly of run-of-the-mill thriller material, they do occasionally hint at the sensibility that would later inform Louis’s standup, as shown by this passage from The Ominoso Directive:
“But what if Dr. Ominoso gets ahold of those files before we do?” Penny said, her long lashes fluttering nervously over the watery blue of her eyes. “There’s no telling what kind of havoc he could wreak on the international community!”
“Indeed,” Jack replied. “We’d have a real mouthful of Hitler shit all over our balls. And more Jew piss than a Chinese orphan.”
Penny nodded. “Yes.”
“Raising children,” Jack said, “can be challenging.”
Louis reversed the order of his last name and first two initials when he entered the world of comedy because he wanted to maintain a distinction between his more dignified career and his books.
3. JON STEWART
Real Name: Jon Daily
Ironically, Jon Stewart actually performed under his real name, Jon Daily, prior to being tapped to replace Craig Kilborn as the host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. Daily thought that it would be confusing for him to host a show that shared his name but was not actually named after him, so he adopted a pseudonym based on the title of a specialty soupmaking program he had previously hosted on the Food Network.
Daily/Stewart eventually regretted this decision and attempted to change his name back to reflect the title of the show, but, due to a series of miscommunications with his legal team, his name ended up being changed to Jon The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. This then activated a poorly-worded clause in his Comedy Central contract which resulted in his show being briefly retitled The The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Show with Jon The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.
4. JOAN RIVERS
Real Name: John Rivers
Yes, prior to her 1959 sex change operation, this legendary comedienne was actually a man! This should come as no surprise. Everyone knows women aren’t funny!!!
5. ALBERT BROOKS
Real Name: Dracula McFrankenstein
Albert Brooks was born in 1947 to Thelma and Harry McFrankenstein of Beverly Hills, California, who named their son Dracula after a beloved great-uncle of Harry’s. He later adopted his pseudonym in order to avoid being confused with the popular St. Louis Cardinals catcher of the same name.
6. LENNY BRUCE
Real Name: Father Damien Mordred
Born to a jackal and raised by a grizzled crone in the backwoods of New England, Damien Mordred–the man who would come to be known as “Lenny Bruce”–gravitated towards Satanism at an early age, and by his 20s had already achieved Satanic priesthood after studying at Transylvania’s notorious Black Monastery. He dabbled for several years in torture and infant sacrifices, but eventually realized that he could hasten the destruction of human civilization most effectively through the use of salty language and racial humor. (Fortunately, many in the US recognized this strategy for what it was.)
He adopted his stage name in an attempt to avoid being targeted by the anti-Satanist prejudice that was prevalent in his time, although the worship of Lucifer was of course common throughout the entertainment industry. Other closeted Satanists of the era include Legion X. Baal, Agatha Bloodlust and Zecariah Despair—known to the public as Elvis Presley, Doris Day and Captain Kangaroo, respectively.
7. WHOOPI GOLDBERG
Real Name: Wacky Jewish
Future Sister Act star and The View host Whoopi Goldberg originally performed under her given name when she started pursuing standup, but eventually decided that she wanted something wackier and more Jewish.
And also she was originally a guy, too, I assume. Everyone knows women aren’t funny!!!