While he’s had a long career that includes films such as Sherlock Holmes, Zodiac, Chaplin, and Tropic Thunder, Robert Downey Jr. is most famous for his portrayal of Tony Stark – also known as Iron Man – in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since 2008, the actor has been a central figure in all nine MCU movies he signed on to do: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War and Untitled Avengers 4.
It’s the money from Marvel Studios (and Disney) that has represented the vast majority of the income that Robert Downey Jr. has accumulated, making him the actor who has made the most money from just playing a single character. While he just made $500,000 for the first Iron Man, his salary quickly grew to $10 million to return for Iron Man 2, and by the time Iron Man 3 came out, RDJ was charging $50 million to work in the MCU.
But contrary to popular belief, Robert Downey Jr. isn’t even close to being the richest star out there in the media, and there are quite a few TV stars who far surpass him in net worth.
These are the 16 TV Stars Richer Than Robert Downey Jr.
16 JAY LENO - $350 MILLION
Most of Jay Leno’s money came from his Tonight Show salary and touring stand-up dates as a comedian. He has admitted, however, that most of his TV money went straight to his savings, and that his lifestyle was just supported by his comedy tours’ earnings. He is known for having an extensive car collection, but has recently also profited off of that passion by hosting the CNBC series Jay Leno’s Garage.
15 JUDGE JUDY - $350 MILLION
Little known fact: 74-year-old Judy Sheindlin, the American lawyer who presides the syndicated reality court show known as Judge Judy, is stinking rich. She's just as rich as Jay Leno and definitely wealthier than Robert Downey Jr.
Judge Judy has been a major success since it premiered in 1996, arguably reinvigorating the entire genre of court TV shows. Judy’s no-nonsense rulings are legendary, and she is regarded by many as the “Court Show Queen.” In 2010, Judy renegotiated her contract and brought her annual salary up to nearly $50 million (from a previous $15 million), which allowed her to accumulate a net worth of $350 million throughout the years.
There have been close to six thousand episodes of Judge Judy, and the show has already been renewed for its 24th season (scheduled to air between 2019 and 2020), which means that Judy Sheindlin has ample time to grow her fortune.
14 JENNIFER LOPEZ - $360 MILLION
Jennifer Lopez does it all: eight albums, thirty movies, two tours, and a Vegas residency. She is also a businesswoman who licenses several products, a TV actress, and works as a judge on American Idol and World of Dance.
While her extensive music and cinema work has definitely brought in big bucks for J-Lo, it is safe to say that a huge portion of her earnings has come from television. During her several years as an American Idol judge, Jennifer reportedly took in a salary of $12 million per season. She then went on to produce and star in NBC’s crime drama Shades of Blue, which has already been renewed for a third season due in 2018. Finally, she is also producing and judging on NBC’s new dance reality competition, World of Dance.
J-Lo is as much of a TV star as she is a movie star and popstar. Her net worth is about $360 million, which far surpasses fellow actor Robert Downey Jr.
13 RYAN SEACREST - $380 MILLION
While Ryan Seacrest is mostly known as an American Idol host and radio personality, Ryan has a finger on just about everything related to pop culture on television.
He is the co-host of the talk show Live with Kelly and Ryan, executive producer of the reality shows Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Shahs of Sunset, and host and executive producer of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. It is no wonder that he is known as the “busiest man in Hollywood.”
Worth $380 million, Ryan was making $15 million a year just from his American Idol gig. Once you add that to everything else he has done, including business ventures, red carpet hosting, Olympic Games coverage, and radio syndication – it is no surprise that Ryan Seacrest has a fortune greater than an A-list actor like Robert Downey Jr.
12 LARRY DAVID - $400 MILLION
While the stars behind Friends and The Big Bang Theory did not make the cut to be included on this list, Larry David, creator of shows such as Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, is definitely a rich man worth including.
It is calculated that Larry David’s net worth is $400 million, which is largely thanks to his work writing and producing Seinfeld, a show that aired for nine years and has been airing reruns since the 1990s.
It is particularly curious that Larry David is this rich since, especially in comparison to other people on this list, the comedian keeps very simple appearances and is not known for being fond of luxuries or living lavishly. He most recently made headlines for his portrayal of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Saturday Night Live during the 2016 U.S. elections.
11 DAVID LETTERMAN - $400 MILLION
David Letterman was, for many years, Jay Leno’s late-night show peer and competitor. He hosted NBC’s Late Night for 11 years and CBS’ Late Show for 12 years, accumulating a net worth of $400 million throughout the years.
Besides his very lucrative late-night gigs – which at one point were paying him a yearly $20 million salary – David Letterman also owns the production company behind the popular comedy Everybody Loves Raymond, a show that brought in a lot of money for Letterman as it entered syndication.
Letterman is also known for being a real estate businessman – owning a 100-plus acre estate in New York, a nearly 3,000-acre estate in Montana, and a house in St. Barth – and an Indy Racing League team.
David Letterman’s Late Show is now hosted by comedian Stephen Colbert, who didn’t make the list.
10 THE OLSEN TWINS - $400 MILLION
Also worth $400 million are Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, better known as the Olsen Twins.
While the sisters are two different people, everything they’ve ever done has been together, and therefore their combined net worth is more relevant than their separate numbers. Their breakout role was portraying the toddler Michelle Tanner in the ABC sitcom Full House, but they were also seen acting in Two of a Kind, Mary-Kate and Ashley in Action!, and New York Minute.
After their acting phase during childhood and young adulthood, the Olsen Twins decided to focus on the fashion industry and opened a couture label called The Row, becoming some of the richest young figures in the entertainment industry.
9 BILL COSBY - $400 MILLION
Comedian Bill Cosby, known for The Cosby Show, The Electric Company, and Cosby, is quite a controversial figure in today’s world. More than 60 women have come forward to accuse him of rape or sexual misconduct in general, and he is being tried for those allegations in the state of Pennsylvania.
However, nothing changes the success of Bill Cosby’s shows throughout the years, which were syndicated exhaustively on TV and made the comedian profit quite a lot – accumulating a $400 million net worth.
The Cosby Show has reportedly made $1.5 billion from syndication in the past twenty years, but since the accusations against Cosby became popular in the media, several networks have pulled the series from their programming, which will clearly make a dent on the comedian’s earnings for the next couple of years.
8 ELLEN DEGENERES - $400 MILLION
Ellen DeGeneres is another example of a TV star who has done it all. Her two sitcoms, Ellen and The Ellen Show, were huge success stories in the 1990s and 2000s. She’s a respected stand-up comedian, one of the most influential daytime talk show hosts, the voice actress behind Dory in Pixar’s Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, and a huge LGBTQ personality in the entertainment industry.
Worth $400 million, Ellen reportedly has an annual salary of $75 million, which is largely due to her talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show and business ventures such as the record label Eleveneleven. The comedian shows no signs of slowing down, and recently signed with Netflix for a stand-up special that surely earned her a couple of millions.
7 MATT STONE - $400 MILLION
Besides his writing work for South Park, Matt Stone is also the voice behind the characters Kyle Broflovski, Kenny McCormick, and Butters Scotch. The franchise has spun off way beyond TV, having released several video games, soundtracks, shorts, and the South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut film – all of which Matt profited from.
Additionally, Matt Stone’s The Book of Mormon has been an incredibly successful show on Broadway and around the world, and one point was reportedly profiting $19 million per month. It won’t be long until the movie rights for the show are secured, and Matt will be able to cash in yet again.
6 SIMON COWELL - $550 MILLION
Simon Cowell is famous for being a quite demanding and rude judge on TV talent competitions such as American Idol, The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, and America’s Got Talent. But besides those judging gigs, Simon is also the owner of the entertainment company Syco, which has managed the careers of groups such as One Direction, Little Mix, and Fifth Harmony, as well as artists like Noah Cyrus, Susan Boyle, and Leona Lewis.
It is no surprise that Simon Cowell is worth $550 million, more than two times the net worth of Robert Downey Jr. During the peak of American Idol, Simon’s annual salary was as high as $33 million. He is easily one of the most well-recognized TV personalities and his judging style has become a landmark in the genre of televised talent competitions.
5 HOWARD STERN - $600 MILLION
Howard Stern, the so-called “King of All Media,” is reportedly worth a whooping $600 million. This figure comes from all over the place: television shows (like The Howard Stern Show and America’s Got Talent), books (Private Parts and Miss America), albums (such as Private Parts: The Album), and most importantly, an extensive radio career that began on local FM stations and is currently on satellite radio.
While Howard Stern is definitely a radio juggernaut, he is also undoubtedly a television star who made his mark on E!’s Howard Stern show (which aired from 1994 to 2005) and his four-year gig as the highest paid judge on America’s Got Talent.
Known for asking very intimate questions and having quite brutal opinions, Howard is one of the most influential figures in all of the entertainment business.
4 TYLER PERRY - $600 MILLION
Creator of TV shows like Tyler Perry’s House of Payne and The Haves and The Have Nots, Tyler Perry is mostly known for his portrayal of the character Madea, a wise old woman with a particular moral code and sense of humor. Madea has spun 11 plays, 10 movies, and even a novel. As a film actor, Tyler Perry was also featured in movies such as Gone Girl, Alex Cross, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, and 2009’s Star Trek.
The bulk of Tyler Perry’s income, however, has admittedly come from his Atlanta, Georgia-based production studio called Tyler Perry Studios, which opened in 2006 and has been instrumental to the booming filmmaking industry in the city.
3 JERRY SEINFELD - $870 MILLION
Who made even more money than Larry David off of Seinfeld? Well, Jerry Seinfeld himself, of course!
The syndication of Seinfeld episodes has contributed a hefty sum to Jerry Seinfeld’s $870 million net worth. Another notable source of income were the few advertisements the comedian did for Microsoft back in 2008, as he was paid $10 million just for that gig. While the comedian is not necessarily known for living a lavish life, he is extremely passionate about cars and reportedly owns 46 in total.
In 2012, Jerry Seinfeld started the web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which has now accumulated nine seasons and will premiere its tenth on Netflix. Back then, the comedian was told that a web-based show longer than five minutes would never work, but he proved to be quite the visionary once again.
2 JAMI GERTZ - $2 BILLION
Jami Gertz, known for her roles in the TV series Square Pegs, Twister, Still Standing, and The Neighbors, is reportedly worth $2 billion, much of which came after she married to Los Angeles-based billionaire Tony Ressler, owner of the Atlanta Hawks.
While her career has admittedly slowed down in comparison to the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, when she was a fully-fledged TV star, Jami Gertz was recently seen in the first season of This Is Us, second season of Modern Family, and sixth season of Entourage. On the movie side, she’s mostly known for her roles in 1986’s Crossroads and 1987’s The Lost Boys and Less Than Zero.
While Jami Gertz is virtually unknown to today’s media audiences, she is quite definitely richer than Robert Downey Jr., one of the most popular actors working.
1 OPRAH - $3.2 BILLION
You knew that she was coming, because of course Oprah had to be number one!
Worth $3.2 billion, Oprah is the richest TV star of all time. She went from the syndicated daytime talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show to owning an entire channel, called Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Between her hosting duties, she acted in films such as The Color Purple, The Butler, and Selma, and will be seen in 2018’s A Wrinkle In Time.
Oprah has a powerful umbrella of branded publications, such as her website, a magazine, a book club, and a satellite radio station. Her production company Harpo Studios is also responsible for TV shows such as Dr. Phil, Rachael Ray, The Dr. Oz Show, Super Soul Sunday, Oprah’s Master Class, and Oprah’s Lifeclass. Talk about a media mogul!
Are you surprised by any of these stars' net worths? Let us know in the comments!
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