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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 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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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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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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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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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?