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.
15. John HodgmanThe 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.
14. William Sanderson
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.
13. Andy Samberg & the Lonely Island Guys
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
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.
12. Rainn Wilson
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.
11. Jimmy Kimmel
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.
10. Ricky Gervais
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.
9. Opie & Anthony
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.