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The 50 Funniest People Now

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Here they are: The 50 actors, stand-ups, TV hosts, Twitterers, radio personalities, septuagenarians and sports analysts making us laugh the most right now. In making this list, we took the "now" part seriously, and focused on comedians' recent work. That meant excluding some all-time greats who aren’t very active as funnymen (or aren't doing their best work at the moment) in favor of people who are truly killing it out there these days.

By Nick Catucci, Meredith Clark, Jon Dolan, Andy Greene, Joe Gross, Joel Hoard, Halle Kiefer and Jody Rosen

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50

Michael Che

Born and raised on the Lower East Side, 29-year old Michael Che has risen quickly through the New York standup ranks thanks to a style that mixes cagey political humor ("'gentrified' means when a bunch of white people move into a messed up neighborhood and open up cupcake stores everywhere") and broad, poignant observational bits (describing the difference between "love" and "like," he notes, "People kill their loved ones all the time. Nobody ever kills people they like"). Last year he debuted his first character in a series of shorts called "The Realest Candidate" for the Lorne Michaels-backed online comedy venture Above Average; he played a hip-hop artist/Republican strategist with a foolproof plan for job creation: "more Vodka companies!"

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49

Joan Rivers

She was cracking wise, working blue, and crashing comedy's stag party decades before you were born. Now, at age 79, Joan Rivers remains inimitable, and more surprising, vital. She's got regular gigs on E!'s Fashion Police and her reality show Joan & Melissa, but she's at her best – and most jaw-droppingly offensive – when at her regular stand-up gig at a basement nightclub near New York's Port Authority, performing a live-wire act that would make Andrew Dice Clay blush. Rivers played herself on an episode of Louie, dispensing wise-old-woman comedy advice, and throwing Louis a charity roll-in-the-hay for good measure. He wishes.

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48

Charles Barkley

A few years ago, the website blacksportsline.com listed the "50 Funniest Barkley Quotes." Try imagining a similar tribute to Howie Long or Greg Anthony or any other TV sports commentator and you'll understand the one-of-a-kind appeal of Sir Charles. The Hall of Fame NBA power forward turned studio analyst has made TNT's Emmy-winning Inside the NBA the most entertaining sports show ever. Barkley is a master of the one-liner (he once said of an overweight player, "You can't even jump high enough to touch the rim, unless they put a Big Mac on it"). But some of his best moments go beyond hoops talk to mix a subversive political edge and a total disregard for the bland conventions of broadcasting. He once referred to co-host Kenny "The Jet" Smith as "numbnuts" on the air; and, last May, when the TNT cameras showed Mitt Romney at a Celtics game, Barkley, an avid Obama supporter, bluntly exclaimed, "We're gonna beat you like a drum in November. Don't take it personally."

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47

Jimmy Fallon

Fallon is comedy's Nice-Guy-in-Chief, having effortlessly made the transition from SNL fixture to host of late night television's most amiable, most casually cool, talk show. He comes on like a goofball, but he's something of a closet hipster; music geeks around the world will eternally be in his debt for bringing the Roots to network TV. And speaking of music, Fallon has chops, and it's in musical parodies that he really shines: Slow-jamming the news, dueting with Bruce Springsteen, and teaming with Justin Timberlake for the already-legendary "History of Rap" medleys.

Redux

46

Daniel Kitson

David Cross called this Brit "the funniest comic I've ever seen in my life." Kitson – a cult figure averse to TV appearances, comedy albums and interviews – specializes in wringing brilliant comedy out of dark situations: A 2011 one-man show (which played a sold-out run in New York) was called The Interminable Suicide Of Gregory Church. Kitson's riffs are often perfectly crafted, but they're not always so heavy: In one stand-up clip on Youtube, he talks about his fascination with pigeons for several very funny minutes.

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45

Melissa McCarthy

Despite McCarthy's starring role in CBS' Mike & Molly and her much-loved role as Sookie St. James in Gilmore Girls, it wasn't until she played butch, hyper-confident Megan in Bridesmaids that she became a bonafide star. (You will never be able to un-see that diarrhea scene, but it was uproariously funny enough that you probably don't mind.) After snagging an Emmy for Mike & Molly and an Oscar nom for Bridesmaids, McCarthy and her outsize persona return to the big screen with a cavalcade of exciting weirdos in 2013: a Floridian internet thief across from Jason Bateman in Identity Theft, a wind-blown Boston cop paired with Sandra Bullock in April's The Heat and a put-upon daughter driving cross-country with her churlish grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) in Tammy. Oh, and she'll appear in The Hangover III this May. This woman has talent flowing out of her like lava!

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44

Tracy Morgan

Tracy Morgan: On 30 Rock, Morgan has gotten more laughs than anyone could have imagined playing Tracy Jordan, a buffoonish, delightfully anarchic version of himself. Morgan, once forced to apologize for homophobic remarks in his act, is less cuddly than Jordan, whose own homophobic misadventure led him to apologize to a Glad garbage bag rather than GLAAD. Which is reason enough for the 50-city "Pardon My French" comedy tour Morgan launches in March: We get to see the real Tracy stand up again.

Courtesy @dadboner/twitter

43

@DadBoner

Over two years and 7,000 tweets, @DadBoner has chronicled the misadventures of Karl Welzein, a fictional thirtysomething deadbeat dad (and oddly hyper-confident fuckup) from Grand Blanc, Michigan. The creation of comedian Mike Burns, @DadBoner is pure narrative; he never breaks character, never retweets, and never replies to followers. When he's not peepin' babes at the local Applebee's ('Bee's in his parlance), @DadBoner is passing out drunk on the john at work or celebrating the bold flavors of Guy Fieri. He's not without almost-redeeming qualities, however. After reuniting with his adolescent son, he tweeted, "My son Chad wanted to hang out again today. Told him, 'Easy. It's Sunday. Bein' a Dad can't be an EVERY day thing.' Gotta take it slow."

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42

David Sedaris

The true breakout star from This American Life (sorry, Ira) remains America's favorite gay, Southern ex-Santa elf, the go-to humorist for folks who spend too much for a cup of coffee. His new book Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls is due in the spring while a feature film adaptation of his story, C.O.G. just debuted at Sundance. And word to his equally-bonkers sister Amy, who is responsible, whether true or not, for one of the the great spit-take moments in his mega-cringe-worthy canon: Exiting a subway, turning and yelling at her brother "Hey David…Good luck beating that rape charge!"

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41

Mindy Kaling

"They say the best revenge is living well. I say it's acid in the face. Who will love them now?" Anyone who's read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Kaling's 2011 memoir, will recognize Mindy Kaling's signature mix of sweet and sour – a chipper, biting wit that landed her an Emmy-nominated seven-year stint on The Office and her new Fox show The Mindy Project. You can catch more of Mindy this year when she plays herself in Seth Rogen and James Franco's This Is the End, or when The Mindy Project inevitably snags an Emmy nomination or four this summer.

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40

Paul F. Tompkins

The dapper, mustachioed Tompkins first surfaced as a regular player on Mr. Show in the Nineties, and went on to become something of a comedic jack-of-all-trades. His impression of Gary Marshall and Werner Herzog on Earwolf's Comedy Bang Bang podcast will replace their actual voices in your head, and his own Pod F. Tompkast highlights his whimsical, lightning-fast wit. But it's his tongue-in-check observational stand-up that most earns him the respect of his die-hard fans. "I do not understand why people write letters to magazines," goes a typical quip. "It accomplishes nothing; it's pointless. If you want to see your name in print that bad, write on a piece of paper and look at it: 'Ah, there it is. Just as I always dreamed.'"

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39

Maria Bamford

Meek-voiced Maria Bamford makes all other existentially dark comedians look like so many Carrot Tops. Bamford (who was excellent as Louis C.K.'s Sysaphisian fuck buddy on the last season of Louie) explores her real-life struggles with depression and anxiety while pushing the parameters of comedic form. Her grueling, hilarious 2009 Web series The Maria Bamford Show was based around the premise that she'd moved in with her parents after suffering a nervous breakdown. Last year her The Special Special Special! followed C.K.'s pioneering idea of offering a comedy special directly to fans online for $5. In her version, she does stand-up in her own living room with her real parents as the only audience, treating them to bits like the one where she imagines what it¹d be like if people dismissed physical diseases the way we do mental illness – "It's like, fuck off! We all have cancer. Right?"

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38

Patton Oswalt

Oswalt helped bring stand-up to indie-rock clubs with the Comedians of Comedy tour, and he's spent years skewering American excess and stupidity. After starring on The King of Queens and in films like Young Adult and Ratatouille, he wrote Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, a book of essays about growing up as a geeky outsider. He's also willing to suffer for a joke: Upon admitting he¹d never actually eaten KFC's Famous Bowl, a dish he called a "failure pile in a sadness bowl" in one of his most beloved bits, he agreed to try one and wrote about his near-death meal experience for the AV Club.

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37

Scott Aukerman

Last year, Aukerman turned beloved his Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast into an IFC series. The result was essential TV for comedy fans, as Aukerman retained his goofy, engaging hosting style while juggling characters, games and interviews with his famous comedian friends. Aukerman was also was the father of the Earwolf Podcast Network, the brains behind the web series Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis and the host of the Comedy Death Ray stand-up showcase at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Los Angeles.  If you've ever dreamed of hearing Margaret Cho and David Wain answer questions like "Would you rather make sweet passionate love to a sycamore, or direct an all-kangaroo shot-for-shot remake of E.T.?," then you will want to familiarize yourself with Aukerman's work immediately.

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36

Kristen Schaal

Schaal might make the world's most endearing stalker. She brought the same wide-eyed weirdness to 30 Rock's psychotic page Hazel Wassername as she did to Bret and Jermaine superfan Mel on Flight of the Conchords. But she also brought feminism to The Daily Show as its Senior Women's Issues Correspondent, after years performing stand-up with the creepy optimism she's known for now as an actress. When she talks about the bright side of getting hit by a car, you almost believe she's done it to someone.

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35

David Letterman

Letterman was awarded Kennedy Center honors last December, and for good reason. He's up in that jazz legend/famous author realm of great American artists at this point; you can go years without watching The Late Show then check back in to find him exactly the same dry genius you remember – only now there's a lovable cantankerous Midwestern grandpa side to go with it. And even at 65, Letterman can still bring the fourth wall-smashing fire; in a recent retrospective interview with Regis Philbin he followed up a clip of some of his Eighties standup from The Tonight Show by telling Regis, with embarrassed rage: "If you roll anymore tape I'm coming across the desk. There's gonna be bloodshed right here. I can take you."

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34

Michael Ian Black

The persistence of folks from MTV's Nineties sketch show The State is one of the nicer bonuses of the 21st century. Former Stater Michael Ian Black – whose sly, vaguely douchey on-stage persona apparently translates quite well to other media – has taken to that other recent phenom, Twitter, like the proverbial lobster to melted butter, weighing in on such issues as Lance Armstrong: ("If Oprah's smart, she'll have James Frey come out and give Lance a hug"), the President ("³Did anybody else notice a disturbing lack of Mummenschanz at the Inauguration?") and near-Zen koans ("Somewhere out there, somebody is excited about starting clarinet lessons soon.") Now can we get a feed from LeVon and Barry?

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33

Nick Offerman

As Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation, Offerman glowers from behind his signature mustache as the perfect sendup of the Libertarian clinging to a bygone macho idea. "Capitalism: God's way of determining who is smart and who is poor," he explains. Offerman had minor roles on a series of network shows, but it wasn¹t until he was 38 that he landed Swanson, who touts the simple joys of breakfast food and woodcarving, a skill Offerman himself has mastered, with a fatherly stoicism that¹s both hilarious and oddly charming. There's no other character quite like him on TV, and few as funny.

bill murray

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32

Bill Murray

Murray doesn't take straight comedic roles anymore, but he's a national treasure who still exudes a singular brand of melancholy nuttiness. In recent years he's made a habit of interacting with shocked strangers in public (like when he crashed a New York karaoke party), telling them "No one will ever believe you." Murray recently played FDR in Hyde Park on Hudson and promoted the film with a Letterman appearance in which he was wrestled in by stun-gun-wielding "kidnappers," smoothed down his suit, and announced, "It's nice to be back." What other actor could cameo as a (presumably) more stoned version of himself in Zombieland, then, three years later, take on a wartime president? Anybody else would just seem like a punchline.

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31

Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster

Deploying the awesomely arcane medium of radio, Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster have been become the stuff of indie-comedy lore. "The Best Show," hosted by Scharpling each week on the New Jersey freeform station WFMU, has been consistently brilliant since the late Nineties. Scharpling plays the straight-man taking calls from an array of Wurster characters, including the Gorch, who claims the Fonz was based on him, Timmy Von Trimble, a two-inch tall white supremacist, and the Music Scholar, a heard-it-all jerk writing a book called Everything¹s Dead, which comes with a lighter so you can burn it when you¹re done reading it. Wurster, who moonlights as the drummer for Superchunk, Bob Mould and the Mountain Goats, has also written for Adult Swim¹s Squidbillies and Tim and Eric's Awesome Show, while Scharpling, a writer for TV's Monk, has directed hilarious videos for Ted Leo and the New Pornographers. They're both Twitter must-follows, which begs the question: Is there any media platform these guys can't stealthily rule?

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30

Rebel Wilson

A 26-year-old up-and-comer with a killer deadpan, Wilson recently stole scene after scene as Fat Amy in the a cappella competition flick Pitch Perfect. Before that she was one of Kristen Wiig's incestuous roommates in Bridesmaids and a TV star in her native Australia. Wilson has said she decided to become an actress after she had a malaria-induced dream in which she rapped an Oscar acceptance speech, which makes sense for someone who was one half of a Kriss Kross cover duo.

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29

Jerry Seinfeld

"People want me to spend a lot of time wastefully so that I can then waste their time," Seinfeld said in a recent New York Times profile. The post-Seinfeld Seinfeld has turned wasting time into quite the art form. But he's recently been pretty active-for-Jerry: last year, he did his first shows in New York since the Nineties (playing one night in each of his hometown's five boroughs), as well as the series of web shorts Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, where he drives classic cars and talks shop with pals like Ricky Gervais and Larry David. He may never make another era-defining TV show but in the world of comedians he's still the Gandalf of joke telling. "Whereas most comedians are lazy bastards, he's the ultimate craftsman," Sarah Silverman told The Times.

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28

John Mulaney

Apparently it's not enough for some people to just write for Saturday Night Live – not even when that person co-created the immortal character "Stefon." For John Mulaney, SNL is now something of a day job (if your day job also won you Emmys); he¹s also one of the country's best young stand-ups. "It is 100% easier not to do things than to do them, and so much fun not to do them – especially when you were supposed to do them. In terms of instant relief, canceling plans is like heroin," he explained on his second album of wry, self-mocking observational comedy, 2012's New in Town. Mulaney has been making the late night rounds, filming appearances for Kroll Show and doing some of his best work on Twitter. "I had zero idea using counterfeit money was illegal!! Please, please know that BEFORE you hear Kohl's side of the story," he tweeted.

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27

Rob Delaney

How much wit and wisdom,and toilet humor, and nasty sex, and Mitt Romney-baiting,can you cram into 140 characters? A whole lot, if you're Rob Delaney, the L.A.-based stand-up who has staked claim to the mantle World's Funniest Tweeter. More than anyone else, Delaney has made Twitter a forum for comedy, filling his feed with a non-stop flow of horndoggery ("NO FATTIES* *may pass thru my fuck palace without getting a loving scrubdown from my strong hands"), Dadaist riffs ("I don't know why other men have nipples, but I have mine for 'nursing' my family of rats under the Santa Monica pier"), and, occasionally, rock criticism ("'Don't call me daughter' 'Roger that; we'll just keep calling you 'Eddie Vedder, Master Lyricist.'"). #Follow.

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26

John Oliver

After six years as The Daily Show's Senior British Correspondent, Oliver is still finding things in America that are too ridiculous to leave unmocked. The Birmingham, England, native has been an essential part of the show's campaign coverage for two presidential elections; this spring he sat down with former Presidential candidate Herman Cain for an extended interview. (You won't hear a politician give a speech against an invading alien menace on Meet the Press, but Oliver got one out of Cain.) Oliver turned down a regular gig on NBC's Community to stay with Jon Stewart, and he's brought his boisterous, exquisitely silly style to his stand-up series on Comedy Central, which has featured everyone from Maria Bamford and Eugene Mirman to Hannibal Buress and his Daily Show colleague Kristen Schaal.