There are comics who work for decades and never produce anything of value, and then there are comics who are brilliant but who die tragically before the world really has a chance to see the full extent of what they are capable.

The Harvard-educated comic had two brilliant albums, to his name and was becoming quite a comedy star thanks to his killer appearances on the annual Comedy Central roasts.

His comedy was smart and dark and bitingly ascerbic; he was, to put it simply, one of the best comedians of his generation. He was the master of the absurdist one-liner, and his comedy became a hit with college crowds and comedy fans alike.

It wasn't until after he was gone that the mainstream public became aware of his genius, finally discovering his 2003 album .

He was one of the first wild men of comedy, whose addictions and hard-partying lifestyle defined him almost as much as his need to be funny.

Belushi was only 33 when he died of a drug overdose, robbing the world of one of its most gifted comic performers.

Bernie Mac spent years paying his dues in comedy clubs before finally getting national exposure in the early 2000s, thanks to his participation in the Original Kings of Comedy stand-up tour (and the Spike Lee concert film of the same name).

From there, Mac became a huge star -- getting top billing in feature films and starring in his own long-running Fox sitcom, .

Influencing an entire generation of comics for both better (Patton Oswalt) and worse (Denis Leary, who some say lifted Hicks' act wholesale), he was and still is one of the best comedians to ever perform stand-up. More ยป One of the godfathers of modern stand-up comdy, Lenny Bruce fought for free speech and pushed the limits of what a comedian could say and do on stage -- and came up with some classic stand-up routines in the process.

Towards the end of his life, Bruce wasn't so much funny anymore as he was consumed by his court cases, often turning club appearances into live readings of legal documents.