12. Alec Baldwin – The day after he goes violently and publicly insane (which will happen, mark my words), people will be on TV saying how surprised they are because, “He looked like such a nice man.” Don’t believe it; this handsomely normal looking man from 30 Rock is evil incarnate.
11. Ty Burrell – The first time I saw Burrell, he shot his daughter’s date in the neck with a BB gun, then got himself caught in a lie after crawling into the bedroom of a busty neighborhood divorcee. Then there was the time with the fake mustache and porta-potty. Ty is definitely in the hizzle.
10. Jason Sudeikis – Saturday Night Live has had more than its share of funny people; with his rubber face, amazing range of recurring characters, and writing chops, Sudeikis stands among the best ever. His uncle is George Wendt, Norm from the TV series Cheers. ‘Nuff said; talent is hereditary.
9. Maz Jobrani – Brilliant, fast, Berkeley-educated, politically aware, cross-cultural, eagle-eyed observer of human behavior. Here, Jobrani discusses the true nature of the Iranian people. See, the Axis of Evil can be funny too.
8. Will Ferrell – Few actors have demonstrated the comedic range of Ferrell, from Elf to Ron Burgundy, Ricky Bobby to madly funny characterizations of George W. Bush.
7. Jerry Seinfeld – Innocent-looking Seinfeld is nothing less than a revolutionary. His eponymous show about self-involved people without any redeeming characteristics radically changed what TV audiences see, laugh at, and love. His film, Comedian shows how hard it is to be funny.
6. Dave Chappelle – “I’m Rick James, bitch.” Chappelle conceived, wrote, created and starred in a groundbreaking TV show that presented a fearless array of observations and characters. His standup routines are renowned free-form epics.
5. Fred Armisen – Impersonation of Barack Obama? Nails it. Billy Smith’s bizarre joke-telling? Hilarious. The “singing” of Garth and Kat? Brilliantly twisted. But Armisen’s true range may be on its best display in Portlandia.
4. Steve Carell – Like comedy giant Bob Newhart, Carell looks like any accountant you might see on the morning train downtown. But inside, there’s a big screw loose and you can sense it. This guy can explode, and often in hilarious and unexpected ways. His scenes with Flight of the Conchords‘ Jemaine Clement in Dinner for Schmucks are pure genius.
3. Ricky Gervais – Among the world’s most courageous comedians. Will look like an idiot. Will offend. Will appear sadistic. Will seemingly do anything for a laugh. Said to a predominantly American audience at an awards show: “I’m from a little place called England; we used to run the world before you.” All the other people speaking on the stage that night gave their self-serving insipid little speeches, then he came up and blew the doors off the place. His version of The Office was such a brutally honest critique of modern business, you sometimes had to turn away.
2. Jon Stewart – It’s inherently funny that his pretend comedy newscast is independently rated America’s most trusted source for news, seriously. In the ancient tradition of political satirists, Stewart creates the opportunity for us to look at the absurdity of our lives by making fun of the powerful and their bald stupidity. Here, of course, is his secret: he’s blindingly smart and he reads everything. Also, he’s not cowed by the real powerful people he talks about and hosts on his show. He asks what our real journalists ought to be asking but are too afraid to.
1. Newt Gingrich – Let me get this straight: Newt brought his first wife divorce papers in the hospital while she fought cancer. He started having an affair with his third wife while married to his second wife, who was then fighting MS. He led the fight to impeach President Bill Clinton for lying about an affair with a White House aide while Newt himself, then Speaker of the House, was having an affair with a Congressional aide. Then, seemingly impervious to the sweet irony, criticized a debate moderator as “close to despicable,” for asking about any of this. Do I have that about right, Newt? Now, that’s funny.