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The 20 Funniest Men in Movies... Right Now

Russell Brand in Arthur
Warner Bros.

Between YouTube, Upright Citizens Brigade, and half the cast of "Freaks And Geeks" creating world-famous superstars, there is a literal glut of talent coming through the comedy pipelines, which as metaphorical as they are could probably use some kind of filtration system.

That's where we come in. We're here to give you the skinny on the 20 most uproariously irreverent, maniacally twisted, ingeniously brilliant (male) comedic movie stars out there (see our picks for top 20 funniest women here).

20. Michael Cera

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Taking exasperated wimpitude to new heights, this wee 22-year-old Canadian took the big screen by storm in 2007 with the twin successes of "Juno" and "Superbad." The latter teen comedy showcased Cera's deadpan to maximum effect as the ultrasensitive Evan, who sets his phaser to "flustered" when the girl of his dreams decides to sock it to him. This past year he did a 180-degree riff on his wuss persona playing a twee musician who also happens to kick major butt in the fan fav, "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World."

Bonus TV Cred: Cera first brought his deer-in-the-headlights comedy approach to television playing Jason Bateman's son George-Michael on "Arrested Devlopment."

19. Justin Timberlake

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Former Mouseketeer and 'N Sync frontman Timberlake may have seemed initially easy to write off as another cookie-cutter boy band tabloid king, but not only can the guy act, but he's proven he's funny as hell. Timberlake chose some unfortunate vehicles such as "The Love Guru" at first, but he transcended the awfulness of those pictures and caught the ever exacting eye of director David Fincher, who cast him as Napster bad boy Sean Parker in "The Social Network." This summer JT turns into a true comedic movie star, honing his chops in two high-profile summer laughers, "Bad Teacher" and "Friends With Benefits."

Bonus TV Cred: Alongside side Andy Samberg, Timberlake made "SNL" digital shorts all the rage with "D**k in a Box" and "Motherlovers."

18. Ken Jeong

Ken Jeong
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This real-life MD won a Laff-Off in New Orleans then promptly moved to Los Angeles where he started doing standup at The Improv and Laugh Factory, eventually scoring some TV guest shots. It was Dr. Ken's breakout role as the endearing-but-tightly-wound gynecologist in "Knocked Up" that put him on the map and led to other supporting parts in "Role Models" and "Pineapple Express" ("Suck my balls… two times!"). His biggest hit has been as the flamboyant gangster Leslie Chow in "The Hangover," which he will reprise for the sequel.

Bonus TV Cred: Jeong is the hilariously pathetic, disgraced Spanish teacher on NBC's "Community."

17. James Franco

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America's favorite multi-hyphenate has dabbled in all there is to dabble in: writing, directing, painting, performance art, PHD studies, Oscar hosting, and, presumably, open-heart surgery. Oh, and occasionally the dude acts too. One of the great discoveries from Judd Apatow's classic dramedy series "Freaks And Geeks," Franco's shown his dramatic chops in "Milk" and an Academy Award-nominated turn in "127 Hours," but earned stoner hero status playing cross-joint inventor Saul Silver in "Pineapple Express." He reunites with "Express" co-star Danny McBride and director David Gordon Green in this month's equally irreverent "Your Highness," followed most likely by an attempt to scale Mount Everest.

16. Jonah Hill

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Another "Son of Apatow," this portly performer made it big as the foul-mouthed, sex-crazed yin to Michael Cera's yang in "Superbad." He started as a writer/performer in New York's East Village, until a friendship with Dustin Hoffman's kids got him his first break in "I Heart Huckabees." We learned to heart Jonah from his many appearances with the Apatow gang, playing abrasive loud mouths in "Knocked Up" and "Funny People," but especially his uncredited cameo in "Walk Hard" as an angry spirit: "I can't even masturbate! You ever tried to jerk off with a ghost hand? Nothing!"

15. Mark Wahlberg

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Here's a guy whose career defies logic, time, and space. After we stopped feelin' the good vibrations in the early '90s, you'd think Marky Mark would have gone the way of Vanilla Ice and taken his Funky Bunch on the last Greyhound out of town, but NO. He had to be TALENTED, much to cynics' eternal frustration. He explored the highs and lows of porn stardom as the John Holmes stand-in for "Boogie Nights" and continued to find the funny side of things in films like "Three Kings," "I Heart Huckabees," and "Planet Of The Apes"… okay, so that last one's not intentionally comedic, but, ya know. Last year he had dynamite chemistry with Will Ferrell in "The Other Guys," proving a true comic star, and will soon join family guy Seth MacFarlane for "Ted."

14. Ed Helms

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This plucky performer got his start in New York City, where he eventually attended an open-audition for "The Daily Show," got the gig, and after his four-year tenure on the show followed in Steve Carell's footsteps to the silver screen. After a few minor roles, he hit paydirt as the put upon Dr. Stu Price in "The Hangover," where he lost a tooth, married a hooker, and played piano. The underrated "Cedar Rapids," with Helms in the lead, didn't make much of a splash, but he'll get married to hottie Jamie Chung (!) in the sequel, "The Hangover: Part II."

Bonus TV Cred: He plays the lovable, musically talented goof Andy Bernard on "The Office."

13. John C. Reilly

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Here's an excellent case of a low-profile character actor who finally came into his own. Having made appearances in over 60 movies and TV shows over the years, Reilly was initially just "that guy" in flicks like "Days Of Thunder," until finally landing gigs for dudes like Martin Scorsese and an Oscar nod (cha-ching!) for "Chicago." We know him best, though, as Will Ferrell's buddy in "Talladega Nights" and "Step Brothers," with director Adam McKay praising his comedy improv ability on both films, claiming Reilly often makes up lines for other actors besides himself. He'll yuck it up again next year for "Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie."

12. Craig Robinson

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In "Pineapple Express" the often-abused Robinson (see Bonus TV Cred) dealt the abuse, typicallyu with a loaded gun, and was still hilarious (until he got his nuts smashed with a Daewoo). No matter what the situation, Robinson is a professional scene-stealer from the likes of Seth Rogen ("Zack And Miri Make A Porno") and John Cusack ("Hot Tub Time Machine"). Of all the dudes on this list, we would LOVE to see Robinson get his shot at a lead role soon.

Bonus TV Cred: As Darryl, the warehouse foreman at Dunder Mifflin for TV's "The Office," he absorbs much of Michael Scott's abuse.

11. Danny McBride

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While many of those on this list come from television or major improv institutions, here is a truly self-made comedy superstar. He wrote and starred in his own super-low-budget vehicle "The Foot Fist Way" playing a Taekwondo guru in need of a reality check. The $79,000 dollar film got him noticed, and it also got him high profile supporting roles in big laughers like "Tropic Thunder." Aside from his starring role in "Your Highness," we'll see him this summer opposite Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari in "30 Minutes Or Less."

Bonus TV Cred: McBride plays the deluded-but-capable jackass (amplified up to 11) as former baseball great Kenny Powers on the HBO series "Eastbound And Down."

10. Aziz Ansari

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This South Carolina native of Indian heritage has been blowing up since Rolling Stone named him their "Hot Standup" of 2005. Ansari honed his skills at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, forming sketch group Human Giant that landed an MTV series. He branched out into scene-stealing parts in movies like "Observe And Report." For Judd Apatow's "Funny People," Ansari created the garish comic Raaaaaaaandy (with eight "A"s) who he described as "Soulja Boy doing comedy." His best joke as the character involved performing cunnilingus underwater and wishing he'd died doing it, "'cause that would have been the most baller death of all time!"

Bonus TV Cred: Ansari plays the lovable, hilarious hip-hop loving bureaucrat/wannabe entrepreneur Tom Haverford on "Parks and Recreation."

9. Bill Murray

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When someone asks you if Bull Murray is a god, you say "Yes!" The often laconic, always brilliant performer is soaked from head-to-toe in 100-proof genuine screen presence. He just needs to stand there, he's so damn good. From "SNL" to "Caddyshack" to bustin' ghosts, Murray was already an icon by the time he hit the 90's and gave us "Groundhog Day." However, it wasn't until Wes Anderson cast him as the depressive steel tycoon in "Rushmore" that he began his "blue period," if you will. Turns in movies like "Lost In Translation" and "Broken Flowers" proved this was a serious guy, but just when we start taking him too seriously, there he was in "Zombieland," perhaps one of the funniest movie cameos of all time.

8. Sacha Baron Cohen

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Not since Peter Sellers has an actor created such indelible, varied, and eclectic comedic identities. His Channel 4 program "Da Ali G Show" became a showcase for his three big characters of Ali G, Brüno, and Borat, all three of which received their own movies, although it was "Borat" which launched him into the stratosphere of recognition. The filthy but lovable Kazakh blurred the line between staged gags and real-life reactions to major social faux pas, but proved very nice at the box office. Since making his way across the pond he's raced with Will Ferrell in "Talladega Nights," sang for Tim Burton in "Sweeney Todd" and will channel Clouseau for Scorsese as a French Inspector in the upcoming "Hugo Cabret."

7. Jason Segel

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Another "Freaks And Geeks" vet, he funneled all the sadness, frustration, and depression of his real-life breakup with actress Linda Cardellini for the screenplay he co-wrote with Nick Stoller of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." He broke boundaries for male actors by letting his little Segel hang out in a now-legendary breakup scene -- and played against type as a ballsy BFF any guy would kill to have in "I Love You Man" -- but it was his love of puppets and rendition of the "Muppet Show" theme that nabbed him the gig of bringing Jim Henson's adorable Muppets back to the big screen later this year for Disney.

Bonus TV Cred: He's the lovable Minnesotan Marshall Eriksen on "How I Met Your Mother."

6. Steve Carell

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He became legendary at Chicago's famous Second City comedy troupe (where Stephen Colbert was his understudy) but it would take another decade for his talents to get the attention they deserved via "The Daily Show," and then onscreen in the one-two-three punch of "Anchorman," "The 40 Year-Old Virgin," and "Little Miss Sunshine." As if the continued starring roles weren't enough to shore up his status as one of the biggest guys out there, "The Office" sealed the deal. He'll soon go out on a limb again for "Bad Santa" writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa as a clueless Divorcé in "Crazy, Stupid, Love."

Bonus TV Cred: He takes obliviousness to Gervaisian heights as Dunder Mifflin boss Michael Scott on "The Office," but will leave the show at the end of this season.

5. Seth Rogen

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The shining hope for every overweight, frizzy-haired dude to one day get the girl, save the day, and still fit in time for some doobage. The "S" in "Seth" stands for three things: Sarcastic, Stoned, and Successful, and all it took was a helping hand from Mr. Apatow. Judd said of his power protégé (and "Knocked Up" star) that the initial impression on hiring him for "Freaks And Geeks" was of someone "born with a comic persona fully formed." Okay, we forgot a 4th "S": Screenwriter, since he and partner Evan Goldberg penned "Superbad" and "Pineapple Express," and more recently went big (except for Seth's weight-loss) for "The Green Hornet." He'll soon return to his roots with supporting roles in "50/50" and "Take This Waltz." One last "S": SUPERSTAR.

4. Paul Rudd

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Rudd first caught our eye all the way back in 1995 as Josh Lucas, the love interest of Alicia Silverstone in "Clueless"… not to be confused with movie star Josh Lucas, but like Josh Lucas he struggled to come into his own as a star. Unlike Josh Lucas, he succeeded, as another "Son of Apatow" to emerge from "Anchorman." He was reporter Brian Fantana, "the stylish one of the group," and didn't need a bottle of Sex Panther to attract a big following from then on. After several more Apatow productions, he tried his hand at co-writing with "Role Models" and hit a home run. Yes, the disaster of "How Do You Know" might be an albatross around his neck, but he's got the sure-thing "Knocked Up" quasi-sequel in-the-bag for 2012.

3. Russell Brand

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The British bad boy of comedy makes no bones about his checkered past, but with a future this bright he's gotta wear shades. Before he had the clout to fill Dudley Moore's shoes in the "Arthur" remake, Brand got his start in England as an MTV VJ and standup comic. He put the "VD" in "VJ" with his highly promiscuous ways and consumption of every drug known to mankind. After kicking the drugs he got cast as the rocker Aldous Snow in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," then reprised the part for "Get Him to the Greek," both of which made him a household name all over the world. He married some obscure singer named Katy Perry last year, and will give her pipes a run for their money in "Rock of Ages."

2. Zach Galifianakis

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For many years Zach was an acquired taste, like fine bearded wine. His unique style of standup involved plunking away beautiful melodies on the piano while spouting non sequiturs like: "Have you seen that show on CBS called 'The Amazing Race'? Is that show about white people?" This brand of ultra-irony was not for everyone, and after doing time in flicks like "Corky Romano" or "Out Cold" the underground comedian finally hit his mainstream stride as Alan Garner, the wildcard weirdo in "The Hangover." He proved it wasn't a fluke by holding his own opposite Robert Downey Jr. in "Due Date," and will reprise Alan in "The Hangover: Part II." This success train shouldn't derail anytime soon, assuming his "Between Two Ferns" guests don't strangle him.

Bonus TV Cred: He's "Bored To Death" on HBO.

1. Will Ferrell

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"I'M IN A GLASS CASE OF EM-O-TION!" Sure he did "SNL" for years, sure he had breakout success in 2003 with "Old School" and "Elf," but we knew it was for keeps when Ferrell donned that mustache for the outrageous "Anchorman." As both star and co-writer, he displayed a knack for controlled absurdity not seen since "The Jerk"-era Steve Martin, and he's continued his run with Adam McKay in three more uproarious films, including last year's cop caper "The Other Guys." Yeah, there's been a few misfires in there, but one "Step Brothers" is worth 100 "Bewitched." If you don't agree Ferrell is the tops, let us quote another famous character of his: "I'll smack you in the mouth, I'm Neil Diamond!"

Bonus TV Cred: Rumor has it he might replace Steve Carell on "The Office," which would be – how do you say – f**king amazing.

More Comedy:

The 25 Funniest Movies Ever... This Millennium
The 20 Funniest Women in Movies... Right Now

We're giving away two copies of 'Scene It: Comedy Movies' for each of our big comedy-themed features! Click here to enter.

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