Trey Parker and Matt Stone
Funny How? So these guys are stars? Well, actually yes. Parker and Stone may be scripters and directors first, but their gleefully cruel creations would be nothing without the yuk-yuk-yanking voices the pair offer their on-screen alter egos.
These two don’t just push taboos and shove taste boundaries, they carpet-bomb them and piss on the smoking ruins. Whether ripping into Jerry Bruckheimer with puppet adventure Team America or, most famously, crafting the finest musical since The Sound Of Fucking Music , in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut , the boys have proven that good taste and good comedy rarely mix.
Their hit musical, The Book Of Mormon , is currently being prepped for a movie adaptation.
A wild and crazy guy
Funny How? From 1978 to 1988, Steve Martin was a live wire. Sweet simpletons, deadpan dicks, screwy screw-top inventors, deranged dentists, big-conked and broken-hearted firemen…
The former stand-up and banjo-bothering philosophy grad made mayhem in all these roles. He made no sense, mind, abandoning logic in full-pelt pursuit of the goofiest giggle.
A surrealist romantic and silver-haired child-man, he dived avidly into a Python-esque pool of non-sequiturs and silly names (“It’s pronounced ‘Hfuhruhurr’.”).
Nowadays, sadly, Mr Loony-pants seems content to churn out mid-life family flicks and rubbish remakes. Still, Bowfinger was deeply dippy and his moron movie The Jerk remains a pre-Farrellys high point of stoopidity as cat-juggling genius.
International man of mirth
Funny How? His best days might be behind him, so it’s easy to forget the laughs from his heyday.
Following a surreal early-morning brush with Timmy Mallett and his Wacaday wanktics, writer/actor/ex-TV-AM presenter Mike Myers proceeded to give first Saturday Night Live viewers, and then comedy-film fans, a wake-up call with his three hip, hilarious fun-franchises, Wayne’s World , Austin Powers and Shrek .
Driven by odd yet instantly iconic characters, deceptively smart gags and a scattering of stealth catchphrases, Myers’ high hit-rate (in the days before The Cat In The Hat and The Love Guru ) proved that he was easily the funniest Canadian working in comedy during the ’90s.
Certainly the funniest Canadian born after the 1930s (see Leslie Nielsen) and not called Jim (Carrey, born in Ontario).
Funny How? A heart-attack tragically cut short his career when he was still in his prime, but Candy delivered more belly laughs in his 43 years than most comedy stars can manage in a lifetime (or, in Jim Davidson’s case, eternity).
Memorably cast, for obvious reasons, as larger-than-life types in films ranging from mainstream hits ( Splash! , Planes, Trains And Automobiles , Cool Runnings ) to the lesser-known likes of Armed And Dangerous and Michael Moore’s Canadian Bacon , Candy had a gift for injecting infectious sympathy into all-American loudmouths (despite the fact he was, er, Canadian).
He also proved a terrific comic foil for the likes of Steve Martin, Eugene Levy, Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks. Even the stellar bollocks of Spaceballs can’t take the shine off his XXXL halo.
Funny How? Ladies, do the model-turned-actress thing credibly – the Cameron Diaz way:
1) Get the female lead, but not too demanding a debut role, opposite a rising-into-the-stratosphere star – say Jim Carrey just after he did Ace Ventura .
2) Have an iconic first appearance that cements your sex-appeal credentials. Perhaps a slow pan up a split-to-the-thigh red dress that shows to the fore your long legs and wonder-bra-boosted cleavage.
3) Pick some interesting roles ( The Last Supper ), some vanity-free parts ( Being John Malkovich ), wiggle your cute butt ( Charlie’s Angels ) and try and get an animation gig ( Shrek ).
4) Use spunk as hair gel.
Laurel & Hardy
Another fine mess…
Funny How? We’ve producer Hal Roach to thank for the greatest comic teaming in movie history: skinny Lancashire-born Stanley and tubby Southern gent Oliver.
Not only the greatest but the most lovable: the scrupulous respectability (much courtly raising of those bowler hats), the ill-fated eagerness to please, the helplessness with women (check out Ollie’s Freudian tie-twiddling).
And, above all, their increasingly hapless reactions to inevitable, snowballing disaster (Stan dissolving in tears, Ollie glaring incredulously into camera) – all executed with impeccable timing, seamless mutual chemistry and an innocent resilience in the face of catastrophe.
Quality suffered after their 1940 split with Roach, but the classic shorts and ’30s features are still unrivalled.
The deadpan Don
Funny How? With a delivery that always sounds derisive even when he’s supposed to be sincere, Bill Murray is living proof that the expression ‘sarcasm is the lowest form of wit’ was coined by fools using handfuls of their own faeces.
He’s a Looney Tunes character made flesh. Droopy, to be precise. The Oscar snubs (until 2003’s Lost In Translation ) probably come from a twitch of snobbery over Murray taking essentially the same gag into every project (cocked eyebrow, sardonic smirk…).
But his masterful grasp of subtlety means it never feels repetitive – even in Groundhog Day .
The Marx Brothers
Runs in the family
Funny How? Groucho, Chico and Harpo (and, if you must, Zeppo) were genuine brothers, and like most genuine brothers, they loathed each other.
That mutually relished aggression fuels the rampant anarchy of their films where – until MGM signed and softened them – nothing and nobody was safe from assault.
Groucho had the caustic wisecracks, the cigar, the loping walk and the greasepaint moustache; Chico had the pixie hat, the cod-Italian accent and the flashy piano solos; Harpo was wilfully dumb, larcenous and lecherous.
Sacred cows – always excepting the majestically impervious Margaret Dumont – tumbled at their approach. Self-lacerating humour has never been sharper.
Always looking on the bright side
Funny How? After shaking up British TV – and, impossibly, conquering small screens across the pond, too – John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam rolled out their low-budget, frightfully silly Monty Python And The Holy Grail .
The dogma-baiting Life Of Brian proved they’d lost none of that original, schoolboyish urge to shake up the sacred, and the hugely underrated Meaning Of Life is still the only really successful attempt to transpose TV sketch comedy to the big screen.
They’re all outrageous talents in their own right, but if we really had to choose, we’d go for Chapman’s manic profanity over Cleese’s authoritarian menace. And the team are reuniting (vocally, at least) for animated flick Absolutely Anything .
The leader of the Frat Pack
Funny How? Director, actor and father to his fellow Frat Packers, Stiller has, quite simply, been the most important person in comedy this century. No, not hyperbole/bollocks.
Just consider his roles in Meet The Parents , Zoolander , DodgeBall and Starsky & Hutch . In turn browbeaten, outlandish, camp and kitsch, there’s a richness and breadth to his style that ensures he never plays the same guy twice.
Far more crucial though is his influence; Stiller’s philanthropic quirk that has seen him give big breaks to his buddies. And while it was Uncle Ben who gave Noughties leg-ups to Vaughn, Ferrell and Wilson, it’s always the idea of The New Ben Stiller that gets people talking.