For every Bob Hope, George Burns and Milton Berle who kept cracking wise into their golden years, there have been far too many funny people who've left us far too early.
With the stand-up world mourning the loss of Patrice O'Neal, who died Tuesday at 41 from complications of a stroke, we decided to look back at other comedians who died in their prime.
Lenny Bruce: An influence on generations of comedians, this comic provocateur started his stand-up career in the 1950s satirizing everything from race, abortion and drugs to religion. TV appearances soon followed. Bruce made headlines in the early '60s when he was arrested for obscenity, which sparked a famous First Amendment battle. He died in 1966 at the age of 40 from an accidental morphine overdose.
John Belushi: After getting his start with The Titanic comedy troupe in Chicago and National Lampoon, this plus-sized funnyman shot to fame as an original cast member on Saturday Night Live He later went on to star in 1978's Animal House and 1980's The Blues Brothers before his life was tragically cut short two years later when he accidentally overdosed on a combined injection of cocaine and heroin at L.A.'s famed Chateau Marmont.
Andy Kaufman: A notorious prankster, this comic chameleon earned a cult following in the late '70s for his ability to seamlessly slip into characters such as Foreign Man, which evolved into the character Latka during five seasons on TV's Taxi, and the obnoxious "entertainer" Tony Clifton. Kaufman died at the age of 35 in 1984 from a rare type of lung cancer, though perhaps his greatest gag was leaving some people convinced that he might still be alive.
Gilda Radner: Hailing from Toronto's Second City comedy troupe, Radner garnered laughs as an original SNL cast member for characters such as Roseanne Roseannadanna, and "Baba Wawa," her spoof of Barbara Walters. She also starred in a hit one-woman show on Broadway and co-starred with husband Gene Wilder in The Woman in Red and Haunted Honeymoon before dying of ovarian cancer in 1986.
Sam Kinison: Known for his intense stand-up routines that included his trademark "Oh, ohhhhh!" screams and barbed observations, Kinison caught America by surprise as the ill-tempered professor in 1986's Back to School. In 1988, his raucous take on the classic song "Wild Thing" was an MTV staple. He even got into a feud with shock jock Howard Stern, who often had him on his radio show. Kinison's life and career—which appeared to be back on track as he was getting sober and had just gotten married days before—ended abruptly however in 1992 after he was killed in a collision with a teen driver who had reportedly been drinking.
John Candy: The beloved comic actor first gained notice on Toronto's SCTV, before making a name for himself on the big screen in such comedies as Stripes, Splash and several John Hughes classics, including Uncle Buck and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Candy, who had struggled with his weight for years, died in his sleep of a heart attack in 1994 at the age of 43.
Phil Hartman: A legendary scene-stealer from the late '80s/early '90s cast of SNL, Hartman created a slew of characters including Unfrozen Caveman, Frankenstein, the anal retentive chef and, of course, his spot-on impressions of Bill Clinton (McDonalds, anyone?), Frank Sinatra and a host of other celebs. He went on to star in TV's NewsRadio and also voiced the pathetic Lionel Hutz and wonderfully ubiquitous Troy McClure, both of which you might remember from The Simpsons. His life ended in 1998, however, when he was tragically murdered at age 49 by his wife, Brynn, who then committed suicide.
Mitch Hedberg: This stand-up artist was known for his hilarious wordplay and non sequiturs, which got him booked on The Late Show with David Letterman and made him a hit on the comedy circuit. A series of albums soon followed but an ongoing drug habit finally led to a drug overdose in 2005.
Bernie Mac: One of The Original Kings of Comedy, this Chicago-born comic's starred as a hilariously grumpy version of himself in his titular sitcom The Bernie Mac Show, as well as appearing in such movies as Ocean's Eleven, Friday, Bad Santa and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2008 at age 50 due to complications from pneumonia after suffering for years with an inflammatory lung disease.
Greg Giraldo: Best known for his stand-up specials and celebrity roast appearances on Comedy Central as well as serving as a judge on NBC's Last Comic Standing, this funnyman died in 2010 however at 44 after overdosing on prescription medication.
Richard Jeni: The comic appeared in The Mask and several HBO and Showtime stand-up specials, but he was perhaps best known for his numerous appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. A frequent and funny guest of Howard Stern and Bill Maher's talk shows, Jeni suffered from depression, which led him to take his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot.
Bill Hicks: A legend among comedians, the caustic comic got his start as a teen and was known for attacking society's worst impulses. A touring veteran who criss-crossed the country, the funnyman not only worked the clubs but opened up for the band Tool (who dedicated their huge hit Ænima to him). Remembered for his seeming influence on many comics (especially, um, Denis Leary), Hicks burned brightly before his untimely death of cancer at age 32.