Out of the 6 billion people on Earth, there are only a handful of genuinely funny ones. Here are the ones from that handful who made their mark this year.
Many of us gravitate toward the Richard Pryors of the world, while others are inexplicably drawn to the Carrot Tops (and, presumably, eating fistfuls of paste). While there's no way to please everyone, we bravely offer our list of the 15 funniest people of 2006, based on who had the biggest movies, the funniest TV shows and, in our winner' case, way too much Red Bull.
While these stars made their mark in a range of formats-from television and film to radio and Internet-they all share a fresh, fearless sensibility that earmarked the early work of comedy legends like Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy. Who among this year's big 15 will follow in those stars' footsteps, starring in a pile of horrible G-rated pap 20 years from now, all but invalidating the high esteem in which we once held them? Only time will tell. For now, just enjoy their work.
The Daily Show can keep adding Corddrys left and right, but for our money, Hodgman is the latest in the show's long line of great correspondents. He's perhaps best known as the nerdy personified PC in the Apple ads, but his book, The Areas of My Expertise, and his tangent-laden bits on The Daily Show bring his appeal beyond the realm of Apple geeks.
Lightening up the dark HBO western Deadwood as pathetically wimpy hotel owner and de facto mayor E.B. Farnum, Sanderson brings a comedic edge to what is primarily a dramatic show. Though he was previously best known as "that actor who I recognize from something I saw, but I don't remember what it was," Sanderson' turn as the inept, scheming Farnum is well worth keeping an eye out for.
An Internet sketch group that made good, Lonely Island is probably best known for giving rise to Andy Samberg, whose "Lazy Sunday" short revitalized a sagging SNL and spawned dozens of absolutely horrible imitations. These days, the Lonely Island guys are working on Awesometown, a much-anticipated sketch show that used online buzz to get network attention from FOX.
As The Office' hyperactive "Assistant to the Regional Manager," Wilson has managed to steal more than his share of scenes from the master scene-stealer himself, Steve Carell. The funniest, yet saddest, part of the show is that everyone who's ever held a day job knows (and loathes) someone like Wilson's character.
In the comedy world, it takes a lot to make enough of a name for yourself that you're known as something other than "Sarah Silverman' boyfriend," but with ingenious bits like "Unnecessary Censorship," Kimmel has shown that he has the chops on his ABC late night talk show. It's even rumored that Jimmy Kimmel Live may be replacing Nightline at the Letterman/Leno-dominated 11:30 spot.
This Brit famously created and starred in the original The Office, and now executive produces NBC's take on the show. His latest series, HBO's Extras, follows an out-of-work actor (Gervais) whose failure to land big roles is obviously (to him) the result of misfortune. If uncomfortable situations were an art form, Gervais would be Monet.
The morning DJ world is usually the last refuge of old high school jocks who call themselves "Mad Dog" and find nothing funnier than car horn sounds and nothing more awesome than Def Leppard. But Opie (Greg Hughes) and Anthony (Anthony Cumia)-who recently returned to terrestrial radio after involuntarily leaving it for satellite TK years ago- have a different approach: actually being entertaining. One of their best moments was an on-air yelling match between film critic Joel Siegel and director Kevin Smith.
You're probably asking yourself who the hell Adam McKay is. He's the guy who co-wrote and directed 2004's Anchorman and this year's Talladega Nights and helps make Will Ferrell so damn funny. Together, they're a lethal combination (assuming you're highly allergic to really funny movies). Talladega's trailer contained more genuine laughs than most feature-length comedies. (We're looking at you, You, Me & Dupree.)
What do you do when you've outgrown SNL, where you broke into the old boys' club enough to become the first female head writer in the show's history? If you're Fey, you start up a new show based largely on that experience. The show, 30 Rock, airs on NBC and stars SNL alums Tracy Morgan and Rachel Dratch as well as 1,375-time SNL host Alec Baldwin. If Fey's success on SNL is any indication, 30 Rock should be around for a while.
If your knowledge of Green is limited to his cameo work as Dr. Evil's son in the Austin Powers movies, then you don't know what you're missing. If your knowledge of Senreich goes in any way beyond the duo' current project, Robot Chicken, then you're probably his mom (in which case, thanks for reading, Mrs. Senreich!). The pair' stop-motion animation show bolsters Adult Swim's lineup with hilarious send-ups of pop culture, consistently-and lovingly-trashing childhood TV memories and never thinking twice about tackling issues like cancer, animal abuse or rampant addiction.
Piven's work as Ari Gold on Entourage has earned him a reprieve from his earlier work on Grace Under Fire and Ellen. Hey, a man's gotta eat, and if a few ill-advised career moves led to his current phenomenal job of playing agent-with-an-attitude Gold, then so much the better. Early on, Piven showed off his comedic chops in PCU and Old School, and now shows no signs of looking back. Playing someone who would rather kick his own mother in the throat than waste time on an unimportant meeting, it appears the well-traveled actor has finally found his niche.
Before he became a smarmy, pompous Daily Show correspondent and long before he parlayed that persona into his own success as Jon Stewart's right-wing foil in the spin-off show The Colbert Report, Colbert starred in the vastly underrated dark comedy Strangers With Candy, which released a long overdue film version this year. In the show, which he created along with Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinello, he played uptight, closeted high school teacher Chuck Noblet, a man whose in-school morals were as spurious as his off-and-on affair with faculty-mate Geoffrey Jelinek (Dinello).
For all his accomplishments, Colbert's crowning glory may have been his performance at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner, where he used a tongue-in-cheek right wing stance to tear the country's C-i-C a new one. How effective is Colbert's neo-Repub posturing? Some of his comments were actually picked up and used by former Texas congressman Tom DeLay in an ill-advised defense campaign.
Proving that one doesn't have to be hot to be a leading man, Carell has made a name for himself by being unattractive, unappealing and-as the boorish Michael Scott in the American version of The Office-often downright unlikable. As the boss of a Scranton, PA paper supply company, Scott' office etiquette is as atrocious as the jokes he tells. The biggest testament to Carell' know-how is that, at the end of every episode, you still feel for his clumsy, inept character.
After his breakthrough role in last year's The 40-Year-Old Virgin, his last movie, Little Miss Sunshine, cast him once again as a bright light in a stellar cast, starring as Frank, the uncle of a plain-well, okay, an ugly-girl whose family is intent on her winning a beauty contest.
In a twist sure to turn the comedy world on its head, it seems the British are a pretty funny bunch. Baron Cohen rose to prominence on Da Ali G Show, as the uber-dense title character, interviewing the rich, famous and powerful and often leaving them baffled by his utter cluelessness. Before his name-making character could either get too tired to be funny or too well known to take his victims by surprise, he added two new, strikingly different personas to his repertoire.
One of those, the Kazakhstani reporter Borat, is the subject of the movie, releasing tomorrow, of the same name (but also graced with the catchy subtitle, Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan). The film follows Borat as he leaves his insanely backwards homeland in search of…well, just reread the subtitle. This year, Baron Cohen morphed into yet another hilarious caricature as the villainous Camus-reading Frenchman Jean Girard in Talladega Nights.
How do you make the concept of a pudgy, mustachioed shirtless man in tights commercially viable? Well, it certainly helps to have Black as the aforementioned shirtless man. The star infuses his trademark frenetic energy into all of his roles, including his upcoming return as a rock god in Tenacious D in 'The Pick of Destiny.' The film picks up where Black and long-time friend Kyle Gass's quirky HBO show and hilarious eponymous album left off, with the pair of hard-rocking wannabes looking to become the greatest band in the world.
How well are things going for Black these days? Besides Nacho Libre and Tenacious D, a long-forgotten pilot for the never-picked-up show Heat Vision and Jack that he created in 1999 with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson has popped up online and is getting massive buzz. As a point of comparison, if anything you did in 1999 were to suddenly become an Internet sensation, you'd probably either be extremely humiliated or arrested as a result.