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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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David Cross

Cross has been busy in recent years: He created and starred in his own IFC series, The movies, and is currently reprising his most famous role, as "analrapist" Dr. Tobias Funke on Arrested Development. And he continues to kill as a stand-up, releasing three comedy albums in the last decade. The most recent, 2010's Bigger and Blackerer, reminds you that he's got supreme skills as a political comedian and a Carlin-esque gift for skewering American absurdity, with excellent bits about Mormons, gimmicky Coors Light cans, and the root of his lifelong depression: "Very recently I discovered that, the entire time, I had a rock in my shoe."

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Howard Stern

Age has mellowed Howard Stern in the best way possible. At 59, he knows he doesn't need to waste time lashing out at perceived rivals or proving his shock-jock credentials by interviewing an endless parade of porn stars and freaks. Now in his seventh year on Sirius XM, he does revealing and hilarious interviews with guests ranging from Revenge of the Nerds star Robert Carradine to Lady Gaga to J.B. Smoove. More importantly, he's painfully honest about his own life, sharing everything from his failed attempt to push his parents into a rest home to his newfound interest in babysitter-themed pornography. Can you imagine Letterman or Leno going there?

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Jimmy Kimmel

It's been a bang-up year for the eternal man-boy of late night comedy. Last April, he hosted the White House correspondents dinner, at which he called Kim Kardashian "the greatest threat to America" and got a high five from President Obama, and on January 8th, Jimmy Kimmel Live made the big move to the 11:35 time slot. Naturally, he's doing it with the same laidback arrogance that's been his calling card since his days on The Man Show; Kimmel recently called Jay Leno "a master chef who opened a Burger King" in a Rolling Stone cover story, and put his money where his mouth is by beating David Letterman in the ratings on the first night of his new time slot.

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Ricky Gervais

"It's not my job to worry what people are thinking of me. That's a job for a politician," Gervais said a couple years ago. Indeed, Bill Clinton he is not. From his scorched-earth turns hosting the Golden Globes or his stand-up deconstruction of religious ignorance, Gervais' comedy has always been about no-holds-barred bullshit-calling. Yet, he's still cuddly-schlub likeable enough to star in the forthcoming Muppets sequel. Gervais' next BBC series, Derek, in which he plays an autistic-seeming guy who works in an old-folks home, returns to the fishbowl realism he perfected on The Office, with fascinating results.

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Kevin Hart

32-year-old Hart has become one of the biggest stand-ups in the world by tapping into the raw and autobiographical raw tradition of leather-suit-era Eddie Murphy. The Philly native's excellent 2011 concert film/album Laugh At My Pain features vivid bits about his father's cocaine addiction and his mother's funeral, and his most recent set, Let Me Explain, goes into detail about his recent divorce (he
jokes that it wasn't cheating that got him in trouble, it was lying about cheating). Unsurprisingly, he's huge with rappers; while hosting the VMA's last year he even made pulled off the difficult task of making
Drake laugh.

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Will Ferrell

From his classic George W. Bush impersonation to his portrayal of Ron Burgundy in Anchorman, Will Ferrell's career has been a long-running commentary on a quintessentially American species of contemporary male: the Alpha Doof. Ferrell's also been a masterful enabler of other A.D.s (producing Eastbound & Down, for instance), while becoming so emblematic of white-guy self-parody that rappers love sampling him (see Kanye and Jay-Z's "Niggas In Paris"). Later this year, he'll be dusting off his jazz flute for the long-awaited Anchorman sequel. "Hey America,"Ron says with mustache-tingling, soft-rock smoothness in the trailer. "Did you miss my hot breath in your ear?" Um: yeah.

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Aziz Ansari

Is the world's greatest hip-hop comedian an Indian-American from South Carolina? Whether dishing uproariously about his close encounters with Kanye West, or strutting through Parks and Recreation as Tom Haverford, the most swagged-out government bureaucrat in the history of Pawnee, Indiana, Ansari has captured the rhythms, and the silliness, of hip-hop culture like almost no one else. His most ingenious bit: Raaaaaaaandy, his "baller" fratboy meta-stand-up alter-ego, invented for the Judd Apatow's "Funny People", and perfected in his stage show ("Hit me up on slash Randy, with eight a's").



Larry David

In Larry David's uncivil, everything-falls-apart universe, the bad news comes first, so here it is: Curb Your Enthusiasm, television's leanest, meanest, and most original satire, probably won't deliver a ninth season until at least 2014. But there's good news, too: David's been at work on Clear History, an HBO movie in which he plays a ruined marketing exec plotting revenge on a former boss (played by John Hamm). David, who oversaw Seinfeld in the Nineties, lampooned himself in Curb throughout the '00s, and starred in Woody Allen's Whatever Works in 2009, is already stepping out from behind "Larry David." Now 65, he's the retirement-age anti-hero to watch.

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Zach Galifianakis

The king of all things uncomfortable, embarrassing, troubling and inappropriate, Galifianakis has become the least likely mega-star of his generation. The Hangover 3 will be out later this year, and last year's The Campaign, with Will Ferrell, was a surprisingly trenchant comment on political corruption. But the Galifianakis magic is often best experienced in situations where his languidly absurdist genius is undiluted – like his appearance as a standup comedian from 1778 ("Is this thing on? What is this thing?") or the web series Between Two Ferns, his now-legendary masterclass in celebrity discomfort. His ability be at once totally unacceptable and utterly lovable is a comedic wonder: "I want to combine the NAACP with Mothers Against Drunk Driving," he once joked. "It's called Mothers Against the Advancement of Colored People."

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Kristen Wiig

There was Betty Boop. And Rosalind Russell. And Lucille Ball. And now, Kristen Wiig. She's an old-fashioned screwball comedienne, a master of woman-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown madcap. But she's also a definitively 21st century talent, a sketch comedy genius whose indelible Saturday Night Live impressions (Judy Garland, Nancy Pelosi, Taylor swift) and creations (the Target Lady, the folk singer Kat) mark her as one of show's greatest performers. And as Bridesmaids proved, she can command the big screen like a proper movie star, and write a pitch-perfect script.

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Bill Hader

In his own understated way, Hader has become one of America's best comic actors. On Saturday Night Live, he's infinitely versatile and a master impressionist: His Alan Alda is dead on, his versions of Al Pacino and Keith Morrison (of NBC's Dateline) are howlingly funny, and his over-the-top take on Democratic strategist James Carville is so good that no one else should ever attempt an imitation of the Ragin' Cajun. Then there's Stefon, the flamboyantly gay Weekend Update "city correspondent" who hypes increasingly bizarre New York nightclubs (one features "DJ Baby Bok Choy" a giant 300-pound Chinese baby who wears tinted aviator glasses and spins records with his little ravioli hands"). It's SNL's weirdest and greatest character in years.



Lena Dunham

Dunham has cornered the market on skewering white girl problems. Girls just began its second season on HBO, and Dunham, 26, knows how to turn the most embarrassing parts of being young and adrift into essential TV. She's sly enough to know she's not speaking for everyone ("I may be the voice of my generation. Or at least a voice, of a generation," her character Hannah says in Girls' first episode), but for those who've escaped their twenties intact, the bad sex, flighty friends, and dead-end jobs on Girls are too painful to do anything but laugh at.

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Chris Rock

Rock is one of the few comics to remain not just funny but relevant for his entire career. These days, he exec-produces Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, acts on Broadway (The Motherfucker with the Hat) and shows up in movies (uh, Grown Ups). He is the missing link between Woody Allen and Barack Obama. And yes, there are those of us who saw Pootie Tang in the theater and will never stop quoting it. But what we really want from the God MC is more stand-up, please.

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Amy Poehler

"Leslie Knope should ask VP Biden if he supports my Urban Parks bill," North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan tweeted when the Vice President made a cameo on Parks and Recreation. Sadly, Parks and Rec is a scripted fictional sitcom and not a choose-your-adventure story, but it's an easy mistake to make. The world of Pawnee, Indiana is as fully realized as anything on TV – a multi-textured Mayberry for Obama's America. As Leslie Knope, Poehler has been putting on a masterclass in sitcom virtuosity: She's got brilliant timing, she's great at physical comedy and she¹s able to play it heartwarmingly straight. Poehler wasn't given nearly enough stage time when she co-hosted this year's Golden Globes with Tina Fey, but she still had the best line of the night anyway: "We're going home with Jodie Foster!"

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Trey Parker and Matt Stone

Fifteen years ago, South Park was seen as a Beavis and Butt-Head clone – minus the social satire, and with worse animation. Gradually, Trey Parker and Matt Stone's humble creation became the smartest (and most subversive) show on television, finding humor in everything from Scientology to the Special Olympics. Parker and Stone's initial non-South Park projects (Orgazmo, Team America) were mixed bags, but in 2011 their Broadway debut The Book of Mormon became the best reviewed musical in recent memory. The pair just formed a new production company, but Parker and Stone aren't slacking on their day job, either: The most recent season of South Park was as hilarious and batshit-crazy as ever.

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Jon Stewart

Now entering his fifteenth year behind The Daily Show's anchor desk, Stewart is approaching Carson-Letterman territory as a late-night institution. In the early Bush years, he single-handedly obliterated the cliche that liberals couldn't be funny, skewering politicians and the pundits who cover them while effortlessly merging satire with substantive interviews, like a cross between Tim Russert and Mort Sahl. He's made an art of vaporizing cable news blowhards like Bill O'Reilly and Jim Cramer, but he's never been afraid to take on respected public figures at the height of their popularity and power. He recently called out fellow New Jerseyan Chris Christie for attacking Barack Obama's leadership skills on the campaign trail, then praising them when his state needed help after Hurricane Sandy: "I see," Stewart said. "So he wasn't a leader until you needed leadership." He remains the most trusted name in news for people who don't trust the news.

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Tina Fey

"Remember the beginning of the story where I was the underdog? No? Me neither," Fey wrote in her bestselling memoir Bossypants. That line pretty much nails Tina Fey¹s mystique: The writer-producer-actor-author has become a do-it-all icon and a trailblazer for similarly versatile female comedians like Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling. As 30 Rock winds up its final season this year, she can move on to the next phase of her victory-lap filled career safe in the knowledge that she¹s infused prime time TV with new levels of absurdist wit and cultural sophistication. Word has it the season finale will feature an appearances by Ice-T and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ("I would do almost anything Tina Fey asks me to do," Pelosi said), proving that Fey can make pretty much anyone funny.

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Stephen Colbert

Colbert is so well known for his political humor that his chops as a pure comedian are often overlooked. But he's one of comedy's quickest wits, not to mention an old fashioned physical comedian – a world-class mugger and slapstick artist, donning ridiculous outfits and wolfing down dubious foodstuffs on Colbert Report sketches. As for politics: He sets himself apart not just as a satirist, but as an activist, breaking the fourth wall with ingenious conceptual art stunts – testifying before congress about his brief tenure as a migrant worker, founding his own Super PAC to expose post-Citizens United money-swamped political campaigns, and in his most celebrated coup de theatre, spit-roasting President Bush, and the complacent press corps, in his appearance at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2006.

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Louis C.K.

In 2013, Louis C.K. is the Great American Comedian: our chubby, schlubby, ginger-haired conscience, id, and jester-in-chief. He's a poet of existential malaise, but his signature standup bit, "Everything is Amazing and Nobody's Happy," extols the beauty of life and the magic of modern technology. He's a devoted single father who quips, hilariously, about child-rape. He's relentlessly politically incorrect, and one of the most politically trenchant comedians going, whose jokes stake out a savagely smart left-of-center perspective on class, race, and American history. He's a crusty old-school stand-up's-stand up and a groundbreaking internet entrepreneur. His TV show is a new kind of high-low pop-art, a little bit Jackie Gleason, a little bit Jean-Luc Godard. He can make you laugh, and cry, just by eating ice cream, a whole pint of it, straight out of the carton, while lying in bed. A funny man who contains multitudes.

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