Most of us don't get to choose our names, but celebrities do -- and when they start out with a snark-worthy or tongue-twisting real name, it makes the decision to abandon it even easier.

With that in mind, here are five stars with given names that probably wouldn't have gone up in lights, and the stories behind the stage names they chose instead.

  • 5

    Tim Allen

    Real Name: Timothy Alan Dick

    Tim Allen's birth name is Timothy Alan Dick, so it's fairly obvious why he dropped his surname when he embarked on an acting career of the non-porn variety. Because let's be honest -- pretty much the only public figure willing to keep Dick as a last name is an actual tool like Andy Dick (no relation, by the way).

    Alberto E. Rodriguez, Getty Images
  • 4

    Lady Gaga

    Real Name: Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta

    Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta is quite a mouthful, and even Stefani Germanotta was far too mundane for the superstar. So, like many celebs, she opted for a stage name, choosing Lady Gaga in homage to the Queen song 'Radio Gaga.'

    Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images
  • 3

    Olivia Wilde

    Real Name: Olivia Jane Cockburn

    We thought Olivia Wilde had everything going for her: beauty, acting chops, and an awesome name -- until we found out she was born Olivia Jane Cockburn. To avoid the inevitable smirks, she adopted author Oscar Wilde's surname (not only did it sound cool, it honored the writers in her family). Can't really blame her -- we wouldn't want the last name Cockburn either. It's like rug-burn, but way worse.

    Stephen Lovekin, Getty Images
  • 2

    Louis C.K.

    Real Name: Louis Szekely

    When you grow up with a Hungarian surname like Szekely, you get used to hearing it butchered. It's actually pronounced SEK-kay, but early on, Louis changed the pronunciation to SEE-kay to make things easier -- and that's how the edgy (and all-around hilarious) comedian got the initials that now comprise the latter part of his stage name.

    Katy Winn, Getty Images
  • 1


    Real Name: Aliaune Damala Badara Akon Thiam

    Like Cher and Madonna, Akon decided on a one-name moniker when he become a singer, and rightfully so. Born in the West African country of Senegal, his given name is Aliaune Damala Badara Akon Thiam (try saying that three times fast). By shortening it to the far catchier Akon, he did himself -- and lazy readers -- a huge favor.

    Angela Weiss, Getty Images