Funny is a subjective thing. One person may think clever wordplay is the soul of comedy, while someone else may go into uncontrollable spasms any time anything anywhere breaks wind. So while it may be tough to judge, there’s no denying that a strong combination of versatility, solid career choices, and utter fearlessness will result in a comedian being considered one of the best of all time. With that in mind, here is our list of the 50 funniest actors of all time.
50. ROBIN WILLIAMS
You could forgive people for thinking that a manic stand-up who fired off impressions like a Tourette Gatling gun might not have much of a film career ahead of him. Who knew the guy had legitimate chops, too? Williams has been working steadily since the early 80’s, and even though it’s easy to mock him for laying the occasional steaming turd you have to admit there’s at least 4 or 5 of his movies you love.
THE ESSENTIALS: Good Morning Vietnam, The Fisher King, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Birdcage, World’s Greatest Dad
ALSO SEE: The Survivors, Moscow on the Hudson, The Best of Times, Club Paradise, Aladdin, Mork & Mindy (1978-1982)
OUTTAKES: Patch Adams, Flubber, Toys
49. BILL HADER
Hader still has his feet firmly planted in SNL, but whenever he decides to give movies his full attention things are going to get huge fast. He broke in as a master impressionist, which basically gives him the tools to play just about anything (although he’s best at smarmy nerds). He won’t have to suckle at the teat of Lorne Michaels for too much longer.
THE ESSENTIALS: Saturday Night Live (2005-2013), Superbad, Adventureland, Paul
ALSO SEE: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
OUTTAKES: Year One
48. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS
There have been a handful of actors who survived the child star syndrome and came out relatively unscathed. But none have come out the other
side in such boss like fashion as NPH. Spoof himself in movies? Sure. Star in a long-running sitcom that’s actually decent? Check. Be the best host of…anything? Done and done. The guy can rock three nondescript names and still be a star.
THE ESSENTIALS: Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Undercover Brother, How I Met Your Mother (2005-2013)
ALSO SEE: A Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
OUTTAKES: The Smurfs
47. ELIZABETH BANKS
Banks is an actress who could have a nice, solid, respectable dramatic acting career if only she could suppress her inner freak. There’s something behind her eyes that let’s you know she’s much happier pretending to pleasure herself with a shower nozzle in front of a drunk Man O’Lantern than she is brooding alongside Russell Crowe.
THE ESSENTIALS: Role Models, Wet Hot American Summer, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Zack and Miri Make a Porno
ALSO SEE: Scrubs (2006-2009), 30 Rock (2010-2012), Our Idiot Brother
OUTTAKES: What to Expect When You’re Expecting
46. ROB CORDDRY
If you are a comedy lead with a fragile ego, avoid working with Rob Corddry – because he will devour every scene he’s in, and leave the audience quoting his lines over yours. He is steadily growing into the go-to guy for, well, anything. Doesn’t matter. If you’re making a movie right now, it would be better if Rob were in it.
THE ESSENTIALS: Hot Tub Time Machine, Children’s Hospital (2008-2013), Warm Bodies, Operation: Endgame
ALSO SEE: What Happens in Vegas, Butter
45. CRAIG ROBINSON
Craig’s rise can best be described as slow and steady. A scene here, a scene there. He went from “Hey, it’s that guy” to “Hey, it’s that guy again” to “Oh, that’s Craig Robinson.” He’s a guy you pay attention to whenever he’s onscreen, whether he’s kicking pregnant women out of clubs or recapping the Terminator franchise in a coked-up haze.
THE ESSENTIALS: Hot Tub Time Machine, Pineapple Express, Knocked Up, Eastbound & Down
ALSO SEE: The Office (2005-2013), Zack and Miri Make a Porno
44. MICHAEL CERA
Cera became an oddly polarizing figure despite an output that is definitely more hit than miss. Sure, he has an easily-identifiable go-to schtick (stammering, mumbling uncertainty) but the same can be said of 45 other people on this list. Even those who claim to be sick of him aren’t so quick to turn off Superbad every time it comes on…
THE ESSENTIALS: Arrested Development (2003-2013), Superbad, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
ALSO SEE: Youth in Revolt, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Clark and Michael (2006), Juno
OUTTAKES: Year One
43. CHRISTINA APPLEGATE
It must suck to be David Faustino. You’re on a hugely successful sitcom and then you have to watch as each of your main co-stars goes on to have a successful post-Married With Children career without you. Of the three, Applegate has been the most impressive, proving once again that it takes smart, talented people to play dumb really well. Kelly Bundy was just the beginning…
THE ESSENTIALS: Married…With Children (1987-1997), Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
ALSO SEE: The Rocker, Hall Pass, Grand Theft Parsons
OUTTAKES: The Sweetest Thing, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeaquel
42. JOHN C. REILLY
Remember when this guy started out and he was a “serious” actor? Reilly went from being the one funny thing in an otherwise serious movie to full-on goofing around with the likes of Will Ferrell and Tim and Eric. And it doesn’t look like he’ll ever go back. And we are really, really happy about that.
THE ESSENTIALS: Step Brothers, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! (2007-2010), Cedar Rapids
ALSO SEE: The Promotion, Boogie Nights, Wreck-It Ralph
OUTTAKES: Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant
41. DANNY MCBRIDE
Anyone who saw The Foot Fist Way could tell that McBride was destined to be a name – it’s just a shame he hasn’t brought more to the table than “arrogantly stupid stoner redneck.” Mind you, it’s hilarious in bits, but it’s probably the one thing that’s kept McBride from being considered a true comedy heavyweight. Dude’s funny as hell, but you know where every joke is coming from.
THE ESSENTIALS: The Foot Fist Way, Pineapple Express, Eastbound and Down (2009-2012), Your Highness
ALSO SEE: 30 Minutes or Less, The Heartbreak Kid, Tropic Thunder
OUTTAKES: Land of the Lost
40. CHRIS FARLEY
Like some kind of laboratory experiment funded by Lorne Michaels (“Let’s combine the human cannonball-ness of Belushi with the sweetness of John Candy…”), Farley made a big impression in a sadly-cut-short career. But today, chubby frat guys the world over don tiny coats in your honor, big man.
THE ESSENTIALS: Tommy Boy, Saturday Night Live (1990-1996), Black Sheep
ALSO SEE: Wayne’s World 2
OUTTAKES: Coneheads, Beverly Hills Ninja
39. SACHA BARON COHEN
Hopefully, his recent forays into musical theatricality (he popped up in both Sweeney Todd and Les Miserables, possibly as the same character) haven’t dulled the edge that gave us Borat – the single-most jaw-dropping comedy of the last 30 years. Cohen is like a slightly more dialed back Andy Kaufmann – you know it’s a joke, but you just don’t know how far he’s going to push it (and he usually goes further than you think).
THE ESSENTIALS: Borat, Bruno, The Dictator, Da Ali G Show (2000)
ALSO SEE: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Hugo, Ali G Indahouse
OUTTAKES: Les Miserables
38. PARKER POSEY
The 90’s’ indie movie queen was usually the only funny thing in otherwise dramatic movies before deciding to just go all-in on comedy (which we thank her for). Yet another Christopher Guest alum, Parker has the goods. So wipe that face off your head, bitch.
THE ESSENTIALS: Dazed and Confused, Best in Show, Waiting For Guffman, Kicking and Screaming
ALSO SEE: Party Girl, Clockwatchers, SubUrbia
OUTTAKES: Superman Returns
37. SIMON PEGG
The ginger Brit quickly established himself as a solid and dependable comedy lead, often rising above the material he’s given. But when he teams with director Edgar Wright, the results are magic – see Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (and anticipate the third in their unofficial trilogy, The World’s End, coming soon).
THE ESSENTIALS: Spaced (1999-2001), Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Paul
ALSO SEE: Star Trek, Run Fatboy Run, Burke and Hare
OUTTAKES: How To Lose Friends & Alienate People
36. JASON BATEMAN
This has to be the greatest non-Tarantino-assisted comeback in entertainment history. An 80’s child star and Teen Beat regular, Bateman dropped off the map for years before coming back with a little sitcom you might have heard of called Arrested Development. Since then, we can’t imagine not seeing his stone face on our screens.
THE ESSENTIALS: Arrested Development (2003-2013), Juno, Horrible Bosses
ALSO SEE: Dodgeball: A True Underdog story, Paul, Extract, The Switch, Hancock, The Promotion
OUTTAKES: The Ex
35. ZACH GALIFIANAKIS
A guy who’s been around for longer than most people realize is finally starting to stake his claim in the spotlight – and rightfully so. He can flip flop between idiot manchild and sarcastic hipster (the beard helps in both cases) with ease, and he’s the kind of guy who’ll commit to a bit so thoroughly that you actually begin to worry for his sanity.
THE ESSENTIALS: The Hangover, Due Date, The Campaign
ALSO SEE: Out Cold, Youth In Revolt, The Hangover Part II
OUTTAKES: Bubble Boy
34. AMY POEHLER
The only thing keeping Poehler down on this list is her lack of big screen exposure – not that her work on the small screen hasn’t been stellar. Although tiny in stature, Poehler is anything but cuddly. Willing to show some real edge when needed, she’s thornier than some of her peers and that sets her apart.
THE ESSENTIALS: Parks and Recreation (2009-2013), Saturday Night Live (2001-2010), Baby Mama, Wet Hot American Summer
ALSO SEE: Hamlet 2, Blades of Glory
OUTTAKES: Spring Breakdown
33. JACK BLACK
Perhaps the truest heir to the Belushi throne, Black is all wired, dangerous, manic energy with some musical chops to boot. He proved he could tone himself down enough to make some kid-friendly comedies, but he remains an unpredictable screen presence with eyes and grin that scream “anarchy.” And what else is comedy made of?
THE ESSENTIALS: School of Rock, High Fidelity, Tropic Thunder, Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny
ALSO SEE: Orange County, Jesus’ Son, Mars Attacks!, Bernie
OUTTAKES: Year One
32. JASON SEGEL
Another Freaks and Geeks alum, another Apatow regular, and another guy who produces his own material – this isn’t rocket science. Not only did Segel prove he could be a credible romantic comedy lead, he wrote the script to ensure the whole endeavor didn’t devolve into the usual rom-com pap. And he brought back the Muppets as we knew and loved them – how can you not like this guy?
THE ESSENTIALS: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I Love You Man, Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000), The Muppets
ALSO SEE: Knocked Up, SLC Punk, Bad Teacher
OUTTAKES: Gulliver’s Travels
31. JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUSS
Even before “Seinfeld,” people who were paying attention took notice of her comedy prowess. But perhaps the best indication of her game level is the fact that she rocked it in brief appearances on “Arrested Development” and is now headlining the hysterical “Veep.” In other words, she actually has a post-Seinfeld career. What have the others been doing besides nothing, nothing, and giggling uncontrollably while wearing a robe made of gilded hundred dollar bills?
THE ESSENTIALS: Saturday Night Live (1982-1985), Seinfeld (1990-1998), Veep (2012-2013)
ALSO SEE: Christmas Vacation, Arrested Development (2004-2005), Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-2009)
OUTTAKES: Father’s Day
30. RICK MORANIS
Specializing in mousey nice guys and simpering nerds, Moranis was a mindblowing improv comic. In Ghostbusters, Louis Tully’s rambling, seven-minute long monologue as he mingles through his apartment party was completely off-the-cuff. Dig a little deeper into his resume, and you’ll see he was also as good at playing sleazy as he was nerdy.
THE ESSENTIALS: Ghostbusters, Strange Brew, SCTV (1980-1981), Little Shop of Horrors, Spaceballs
ALSO SEE: Club Paradise, Streets of Fire, Head Office, My Blue Heaven
OUTTAKES: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
29. FRED WILLARD
With his wide grin and “aw shucks” demeanor, Fred Willard comes across like one of your dad’s friends or your dentist. But Willard has been working longer than half the people on this list have been alive, and he shows the well-practiced skills of a master craftsman, stealing movies even when armed with only one or two scenes.
THE ESSENTIALS: Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, A Mighty Wind
ALSO SEE: How High, Modern Family (2009-2013), Youth in Revolt, This is Spinal Tap
OUTTAKES: Epic Movie
28. SETH ROGEN
Despite seeming like the “Least Likely to Succeed” candidate among the Freaks and Geeks alumni, Rogen instead left everyone in the dust. You know things are going well when a script you and your buddy wrote as teenagers (Superbad) becomes one of the biggest comedy hits of recent memory. Rogen has flirted with overexposure, but there’s no denying his output has been pretty tight.
THE ESSENTIALS: Knocked Up, Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000), Superbad, Pineapple Express, Observe & Report, Funny People, 50/50
ALSO SEE: Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Monsters vs. Aliens, Paul
OUTTAKES: The Green Hornet
27. JONAH HILL
Whether you’ve got fat goofy Jonah or slimmed down Oscar movie Jonah, you’re usually in for a good time. A guy who could have easily become insufferable kept switching gears on us, showing surprising range – watch a double feature of Accepted and Cyrus and we defy you to not walk away thoroughly impressed.
THE ESSENTIALS: Superbad, Cyrus, Funny People, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek
ALSO SEE: Knocked Up, Accepted, Moneyball
OUTTAKES: The Sitter
26. KRISTEN WIIG
SNL has had a lot of great female alumni, but few boasted the comedy range of Wiig or the out-of-the-gate box office success (as the top name on the billing). Like Ferrell, she can crack you up doing very little, or by shamelessly contorting herself into the most humiliating positions imaginable. There’s little she can’t, or won’t, do, and even in lesser outings she’s almost always the best thing in the movie.
THE ESSENTIALS: Bridesmaids, Paul, Saturday Night Live (2005-2012)
ALSO SEE: Knocked Up, MacGruber, Whip It, Extract
OUTTAKES: Friends with Kids
25. PAUL RUDD
No, Paul Rudd does not appear in 26 movies a year, it just seems like it. But there’s a reason he’s so in demand – the guy kills it. Every time. He’s the most blue chip comedy actor working today. You know what you’re going to get from him, you know it’s going to be great, and all you have to do is worry about building a good enough movie around him. Paul’s got the rest.
THE ESSENTIALS: Wet Hot American Summer, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Role Models, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, I Love You Man, Knocked Up
ALSO SEE: Clueless, Our Idiot Brother
OUTTAKES: Overnight Delivery
24. CATHERINE O’HARA
Another veteran of both SCTV and Christopher Guest movies, O’Hara can do unhinged better than almost anyone, and is like that album track that might not leave a huge impression during the first listen, but gradually becomes your favorite part of the album the more you listen and pay attention.
THE ESSENTIALS: Beetlejuice, Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman
ALSO SEE: A Mighty Wind, SCTV (1976-1979)
OUTTAKES: Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
23. STEVE CARELL
Proving that comedians don’t have to be unstable sociopaths, Carell’s inherent niceness and normalcy makes him an incredible comedy threat. You just don’t see it coming. Carell backs it up with some credible acting chops, too. And there aren’t many people who can almost steal a movie away from Jim Carrey with one scene.
THE ESSENTIALS: 40 Year-Old Virgin, Little Miss Sunshine, Get Smart, The Office (2005-2011), Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
ALSO SEE: Date Night, Crazy Stupid Love
OUTTAKES: Dinner For Schmucks
22. VINCE VAUGHN
By now, his fast-talking, huckster schtick is well-worn territory, but it still works just about every time. And any guy who has survived thousands of bro dawgs screaming “You’re money!” at him since the early 90’s with his career and sanity intact deserves all the credit.
THE ESSENTIALS: Swingers, Wedding Crashers, Old School, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
ALSO SEE: Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Made, The Break-Up, The Watch
OUTTAKES: The Dilemma, Psycho
21. JANE LYNCH
An actress who has been steadily working for years (usually in oddly straight roles like a random doctor in The Fugitive) and has only recently broken out as a comedy rock star, thanks in no small part to her inclusion in Christopher Guests’ magical mystery troupe.
THE ESSENTIALS: Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, Role Models, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Party Down (2009-2010)
ALSO SEE: Wreck-It Ralph, For Your Consideration, Glee (2009-2013)
OUTTAKES: Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Three Stooges
20. ADAM SANDLER
The idiot king who has built an empire out of penguins and 80’s covers, Sandler has still managed to hint at some hidden depth in between pee-soaked romps. But millions and millions of box office dollars can’t be wrong – he’s doing something right.
THE ESSENTIALS: Billy Madison, Saturday Night Live (1990-1995), Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, Punch-Drunk Love, Funny People
ALSO SEE: Anger Management, The Waterboy, Mr. Deeds, Big Daddy
OUTTAKES: Bulletproof, Jack and Jill
19. STEVE MARTIN
People who are only familiar with “late period” Steve Martin have a major take-home assignment coming. Go back to his early work and you’ll realize that this guy went from being a batshit stand-up to doing bat-shit comedies before mellowing into a broader (but still funny), more gentle comic presence.
THE ESSENTIALS: The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, Roxanne, Planes Trains and Automobiles, Steve Martin: Wild and Crazy Guy (1978)
ALSO SEE: All of Me, The Man with Two Brains, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, My Blue Heaven, Parenthood, L.A. Story, Bowfinger
OUTTAKES: The Pink Panther, Cheaper by the Dozen
18. LESLIE NEILSEN
A lot of people on this list were comedians who later proved they could handle heavier, more dramatic roles. Leslie went the exact opposite route – he was, at one time, considered a dramatic actor. Then someone realized that his unbreakable deadpan would be better served in goofball comedy and — WHAM — a whole new career filled with endless parodies and a buttload of sequels.
THE ESSENTIALS: Airplane!, Police Squad! (1982), The Naked Gun, The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult
ALSO SEE: Repossessed, Creepshow, The Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell of Fear, Due South (1994-1999)
OUTTAKES: Stan Helsing, Slap Shot 3: The Junior League
17. WOODY ALLEN
The most unlikely romantic comedy leading man in cinema history (it helps when you write and direct them yourself), Woody may be mired in a strange, “young attractive people being painfully dull in Europe” stage at the moment, but at his best he made some of the greatest comedies of all time. Allen is known for his smarts and wit, but the guy could do dumb with the best of them.
THE ESSENTIALS: Take the Money and Run, Sleeper, Annie Hall, Manhattan, Broadway Danny Rose, Hannah and Her Sisters
ALSO SEE: Bananas, Zelig, Manhattan Murder Mystery
OUTTAKES: Everyone Says I Love You
16. DAN AYKROYD
He hasn’t been involved in many iconic projects lately, but his early work alone is enough to secure Aykroyd’s place in the comedy echelon. Back on SNL, he set the bar for guys like Darryl Hammond and Bill Hader before transitioning into a string of home runs on the big screen.
THE ESSENTIALS: The Blues Brothers, Ghostbusters, Trading Places, Spies Like Us, Sneakers, Grosse Point Blank, Saturday Night Live (1976-1979)
ALSO SEE: Tommy Boy, The Great Outdoors
OUTTAKES: Dragnet, The Coneheads
15. CHRISTOPHER GUEST
There’s a saying that the most interesting characters to play are the ones who are talked about before they’re shown. So it must be significant that we’ve had a few mentions of Guest on this list already before getting down to ranking the man himself. An improvisational genius, Guest has taken sole custody of the “mockumentary” as both performer and director.
THE ESSENTIALS: This is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show
ALSO SEE: A Mighty Wind, The Princess Bride
OUTTAKES: For Your Consideration
14. MADELINE KAHN
If you’re first reaction was “Who?”, then you need to get your ass to Netflix and start doing some homework. Long before Helena Bonham Carter, Kahn was the wild-eyed, frizzy-haired go-to actress for freaks and nutjobs. Just watch her slowly-unraveling performance in “Clue” and then give this woman her due props.
THE ESSENTIALS: Blazing Saddles, Clue, Yellowbeard, Young Frankenstein
ALSO SEE: High Anxiety, History of the World: Part 1, Wholly Moses!
OUTTAKES: Betsy’s Wedding, Mixed Nuts
13. MEL BROOKS
His movies have aged gently, and what was once shocking and outrageous now seems kind of quaint and a little cheeseball. But there’s no denying Mr. Brooks’ influence in front and behind the camera. It’s good to be the king, indeed.
THE ESSENTIALS: Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, History of the World: Part 1, Spaceballs
ALSO SEE: High Anxiety, Silent Movie, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, The Producers
OUTTAKES: Life Stinks, Dracula: Dead and Loving It
12. DANNY DEVITO
There’s a lot of talent packed into that tiny, egg-shaped, Jersey boy. Actor, producer, director – there is nothing he can’t do. And at a time when most of his peers have faded into semi-retirement, he’s starring on one of the most insanely batshit shows on TV and crushing it.
THE ESSENTIALS: Taxi (1978-1983), Throw Momma From the Train, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2006-2012), Ruthless People
ALSO SEE: The War of the Roses, Johnny Dangerously, Batman Returns
OUTTAKES: Death to Smoochy
11. TINA FEY
Although she’s only recently begun building up her acting resume after years of making her nut as a writer (head writer of SNL, in fact), Fey has quickly honed her exasperated sarcasm to razor perfection, and how many people can claim to possibly, maybe swaying a Presidential election based solely on their impression of the candidate?
THE ESSENTIALS: Saturday Night Live (1997-2006), 30 Rock (2006-2013), Mean Girls
ALSO SEE: The Invention of Lying, Admission, Baby Mama
OUTTAKES: Date Night
10. BEN STILLER
There is no denying that Stiller is the hardest working man in comedy. He seemingly puts out a movie every three months and just about every one of them blows up the box office. He’s also been a collaborator with just about every big name in comedy since his namesake show debuted on MTV in the early 90’s and for this, we salute him.
THE ESSENTIALS: The Ben Stiller Show (1992-1993), There’s Something About Mary, The Cable Guy, Zoolander, Meet the Parents, The Royal Tenenbaums, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
ALSO SEE: Tropic Thunder, Along Came Polly, Starsky & Hutch, Tower Heist
OUTTAKES: Little Fockers, Envy
9. JOHN CANDY
If John Candy doesn’t appear in one of your all time favorite comedies, odds are he was at least offered a part in it at some point. A man who combined broad physical comedy, smarts, and heart in unequalled measure, Candy is the cinematic equivalent of a YouTube cat video. You just couldn’t watch him without smiling.
THE ESSENTIALS: Planes Trains and Automobiles, SCTV (1976-1979), Uncle Buck, Summer Rental
ALSO SEE: Armed and Dangerous, Who’s Harry Crumb?, Volunteers, Splash
8. JIM CARREY
Carrey impresses with his ability to shift from insanely silly to quietly moving – but Carrey’s real strength lies in his ability to give absolutely zero f***ks. He will reach out and yank a laugh out of you by any means necessary.
THE ESSENTIALS: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, In Living Color (1990-1994), The Cable Guy, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Truman Show, The Mask
ALSO SEE: Liar Liar, Bruce Almighty, The Yes Man
OUTTAKES: Once Bitten
7. JOHN BELUSHI
A comedy Roman Candle than ignited and burned out way too fast, Belushi left more of an impression in a handful of movies than, well, his brother has in a 20+ year sitcom career. He was anarchy in a tight suit, fueled by an intense mania (and, well, also cocaine). Just keep your hands and feet away from his mouth.
THE ESSENTIALS: The Blues Brothers, Animal House, Saturday Night Live (1975-1979)
ALSO SEE: 1941, Neighbors
OUTTAKES: Continental Divide
6. JOHN GOODMAN
The unofficial muse of the Coen Brothers, Big John’s resume is pretty unassailable. Goodman can play the big huggable teddy bear or the snarly grizzly, and make you laugh either way. Not a bad turn out for a guy who seemed destined to play nothing but cops early on in his career.
THE ESSENTIALS: The Big Lebowski, Raising Arizona, Argo
ALSO SEE: Revenge of the Nerds, Matinee, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Treme (2010-2011), Roseanne
OUTTAKES: The Flintstones, Blues Brothers 2000
5. CHEVY CHASE
Sure, he devolved into an old, arrogant douchebag whose inflated sense of entitlement is currently killing NBC’s cult favorite Community, but we prefer to remember him back when he was a young, arrogant douchebag who made some of the greatest comedies of all time.
THE ESSENTIALS: Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Fletch, Spies Like Us, Foul Play
ALSO SEE: National Lampoon’s European Vacation, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Hot Tub Time Machine
OUTTAKES: Memoirs of an Invisible Man, National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation, Fletch Lives, Snow Day
4. JOHN CLEESE
There’s a reason Cleese is the most well-known and independently successful member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus (with all due respect to Michael, Eric, Terry, Terry, and the late Graham). He proves the time-honored comedy adage that the more dignified a person looks, the funnier it is when they do stupid things.
THE ESSENTIALS: Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-1974), Fawlty Towers (1975-1979), Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, A Fish Called Wanda, Time Bandits
ALSO SEE: Rat Race, Erik the Viking
OUTTAKES: Fierce Creatures
3. WILL FERRELL
You knew Ferrell was destined for great things when he could be a background character in an SNL sketch and you’d still laugh at anything he did or said. The man wields painfully awkward whiteness like a rapier, and, like pizza, even when he’s not that great he’s still better than all of your other options.
THE ESSENTIALS: Old School, Elf, Step Brothers, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Saturday Night Live (1995-2006)
ALSO SEE: The Other Guys, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Wedding Crashers, Zoolander
OUTTAKES: Semi-Pro, Land of the Lost
2. EDDIE MURPHY
If you were born after 1990, you have no idea just how huge Murphy was in his day. Forget his more recent family-friendly fare — that’s like judging Michael Jordan based solely on his time with the Wizards — and look back at his prime. No one could touch Eddie back then. He went from comedian to movie star to rock star while making a string of hits that still hold up today as some of the funniest movies ever made.
THE ESSENTIALS: 48 Hrs., Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America, Saturday Night Live (1980-1984)
ALSO SEE: Beverly Hills Cop 2, Shrek, Bowfinger, Dream Girls
OUTTAKES: Beverly Hills Cop 3, Pluto Nash
1. BILL MURRAY
He can do goofy. He can do quirky. He can do semi-serious. He can do all the way serious. He can do Garfield (twice). He can show up unannounced at your next karaoke party. There are greats. There are legends. And then there is Bill.
THE ESSENTIALS: Stripes, Ghostbusters, Rushmore, Groundhog Day, Caddyshack, The Royal Tenenbaums
ALSO SEE: What About Bob?, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Moonrise Kingdom, Ed Wood, Hyde Park on the Hudson, Coffee and Cigarettes, Ghostbusters II