If there’s one thing the TV gods have gotten right over the years, it’s comedy: From I Love Lucy to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia—from the Fonz’s hijinks in Happy Days to Liz Lemon’s hilarious neuroses in 30 Rock—we’ve seen some truly wonderful sitcoms over the years that have given us some truly indelible and unforgettable characters. But which of those memorable characters should instantly be enshrined in a comedy Hall of Fame?
Well, read on, because we’ve compiled our favorite goofballs, jerks, matriarchs, and blissfully doltish jokesters ever to have graced the small screen. (Ed Note: With apologies to the Fonz, we’ve confined our list to more modern shows.) And if you’re in the market for more laughs, don’t miss our round up of the 30 Funniest Celebrity TV Commercials.
Kenneth Parcell, 30 Rock (Jack McBrayer)
There are only two things he loves in this world: everybody and television. A man disillusioned by ignorant bliss in a world that doesn’t care about him is already hilarious, but one of the best things about Kenneth’s character is that there’s more to him than you initially think. There are hints throughout the series that Kenneth might be immortal, meaning he tricked us all into thinking we were laughing at him. Genius. And for more TV laughs, here are the 30 Funniest Game Show Moments of All Time.
Jean-Ralphio Saperstein, Parks and Recreation (Ben Schwartz)
He’s rude, he’s a mooch, and he has way too much confidence for a man with that hairstyle. If only the cocky and annoying men in our lives were as amusing as Jean-Ralphio. If you’re striving for a better haircut than Jean-Ralphio’s, try one of these 15 Best Men’s Haircuts for Looking Instantly Younger.
Karen Walker, Will & Grace (Megan Mullally)
Karen makes the sassy friend feel original, and that’s saying something. She hates people and loves alcohol. She’s a classic trope, but she owns it. And for more on TV comedy history, check out the 30 Funniest SNL Skis Ever.
Michael Scott, The Office (Steve Carell)
Steve Carell was born to play the role of Michael Scott. His comedic timing is impeccable, and he really makes this caricature feel human. Michael Scott is the annoying, overbearing boss we all know and hate, but just when he starts to feel unbearable, we see an endearing side of him. Date Mike also gets an honorable mention here. If you have a less endearing version of Michael Scott as a boss, try these 8 Savvy Ways to Outsmart Your Jerk Boss.
Dee Reynolds, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Kaitlin Olson)
There are plenty of heavy-drinking, functional messes in TV shows. But there’s no one quite like Dee, a straight-up trainwreck with no hopes of improvement. Kaitlin Olson manages to upstage all of her male co-stars—including Danny DeVito. Oh, and speaking of him, he’s definitely on our list of 30 Most Outrageous Celebrity Interview Moments.
Liz Lemon, 30 Rock (Tina Fey)
Liz Lemon is unapologetically herself, which means we get to laugh at her eating night cheese while wearing a Snuggie on her couch at night. The character of Liz Lemon is also meant to be clever and quick-witted, which is always refreshing to see in a female character on TV. Oh, and speaking of that Snuggie: We totally wouldn’t be surprised if she owned some of the 30 Worst Home Appliances Ever Created.
Dwight K. Schrute, The Office (Rainn Wilson)
There are few characters as consistently laugh-out-loud funny as Dwight. Every line he delivers lands. He’s the kind of character that does not realize that what he’s giving the audience is humor, and that’s a delight to take in.
Tobias Fünke, Arrested Development (David Cross)
Tobias is the funniest version of the sad, failed actor and all-around useless man. Watching him fail tremendously never gets old, even for himself. He always perseveres, even when he really should just quit.
Lois Wilkerson, Malcolm in the Middle (Jane Kaczmarek)
Lois represents every overworked, under-appreciated mom. (So, you know, every mom.) She doesn’t take any crap, and it’s always hilarious to watch her start a fight with whichever poor fool aggravated her.
Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother (Neil Patrick Harris)
Leave it to Neil Patrick Harris to make a womanizer feel endearing. He’s your typical bachelor, but somehow funny and not obnoxious. Maybe it’s his hilarious one liners, or maybe it’s Harris’s charm. Either way, he’s won us over. And for more great one liners, check out the 30 Mark Twain All-Time Zingers That Are Still Relevant Today.
Cameron Tucker, Modern Family (Eric Stonestreet)
In one of the best character-building scenes in a pilot, Cameron shows us his true colors when he brings his adopted daughter into the room while blasting the opening song from The Lion King, just after his husband has assured everyone that, “Cameron is not dramatic.” He’s the kind of dramatic we all wish we could pull off.
Lucille Bluth, Arrested Development (Jessica Walter)
The incomparable Jessica Walter plays this emotionally abusive matriarch with such mastered precision that every side eye and eye roll is absolute comedic perfection.
Hal Wilkerson, Malcolm in the Middle (Bryan Cranston)
Before Bryan Cranston made it big on Breaking Bad, he graced us with his comedy chops as Hal in Malcolm in the Middle. It turns out Cranston plays a hilariously, incompetent man-child just as well as she plays a damaged, arrogant kingpin. And for more good fun, check out the 50 Crazy Celebrity Facts You Won’t Believe Are True.
Gina Linetti, Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Chelsea Peretti)
Gina is arguably the funniest part of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. She could have easily been a throw away character whose only real purpose is deliver blunt, sardonic lines for comedic relief. But she’s always full of surprises, and Chelsea Peretti portrays her in a way that assures you that you’ll never truly know everything about her.
Frank Reynolds, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Danny DeVito)
Frank really leans in to how utterly disgusting he is, and it works for him. The scene when he climbs out from beneath the cushions of a leather couch, revealing his nude, sweaty body, is the singularly most horrific and hilarious thing we have ever seen.
Jessica Huang, Fresh Off the Boat (Constance Wu)
A hilarious depiction of the no-nonsense mother, Jessica Huang has a blunt and quick wit that drives the show. Fresh Off the Boat has a lot of things going for it, including its fresh perspective. Jessica brings the comedy from this point of view, often pointing out the ways in which American culture seems completely nonsensical to her.
David Rose, Schitt’s Creek (Dan Levy)
Dan Levy is the standout star of this series with his portrayal of the family’s hipster, pretentious son. He’s constantly disgusted and/or bewildered by what is going on around him, and is always overdressed for the occasion. He has what he believes to be impeccable taste, and is quick to cast his judgement on anything and anyone that doesn’t live up to his standards. David lays the sarcasm on thick, but it’s done so artfully that it never feels repetitive or lazy. As a bonus, he’s one of television’s first pansexual characters.
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm (Larry David)
Larry David plays himself in this series, and it’s really all we could ever want from him. Like many of us, the character of Larry finds most people to be dumb and annoying. Unlike most of us, he isn’t afraid to speak his mind and stand his ground. His stubbornness gets him into awkward social situations, and his reactions are so poignant that your gut reaction is to laugh rather than cringe.
Selina Meyer, Veep (Julia Louis-Dreyfus)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus has received six consecutive Emmy awards for her portrayal of Selina Meyer, and rightfully so. She plays the role with complete abandon, which brings the character of Selina to life in such an exciting way.
Leslie Knope, Parks and Rec (Amy Poehler)
One of Leslie’s greatest quotes is: “What I hear when I’m being yelled at is people caring loudly at me.” If Leslie Knope were real, she would be incredibly annoying. But since she’s a fictional character played by Amy Poehler, she’s endearing, lovable, and fantastically funny. Poehler is one of the greatest comedians of our time, and she gives one of her most memorable performance as Leslie Knope.
Blanche Devereaux, The Golden Girls (Rue McClanahan)
An older woman with a dirty mouth and a dirtier mind, Blanche stands out as the sassiest of the Golden Girls. She’s confident, authoritative, and overtly sexual. She’s everything older women are told they shouldn’t be, and it’s fabulous.
Moira Rose, Schitt’s Creek (Catherine O’Hara)
Perfectly portrayed by Catherine O’Hara, Moira is the fallen star of a once popular soap opera. She has a vast collection of wigs and an indistinguishable fabricated accent. Everything about her is over the top, and she’s completely oblivious to how ridiculous she is being at all times.
Ron Swanson, Parks and Rec (Nick Offerman)
As he says so himself, Ron Swanson is not interested in caring about other people. We come to learn that that’s not entirely true, but watching him live by that motto is highly entertaining.
Lucy, I Love Lucy (Lucille Ball)
Watching Lucy get herself into ridiculous shenanigans never gets old. Lucille Ball was the queen of physical comedy, and her ability to fully commit to any scene is a wonder to behold.
Mindy Lahiri, The Mindy Project (Mindy Kaling)
Mindy Kaling brings nuance to the typical rom-com female lead by playing a self aware and self admitted rom-com obsessed woman. Female characters of this ilk are usually portrayed as adorably clumsy trainwrecks, who walk around accidentally being themselves. Mindy Lahiri is not that. She knows who she is, she knows her flaws, and she continues to make her own mistakes. She’s real, and that authenticity makes her wildly funny.
Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock (Alec Baldwin)
Jack Donaghy and Liz Lemon are both on this list, but it’s important to note that they each needed the other to make it. They work so well off of one another, and their on-screen chemistry is palpable. Jack is the perfect foil to Liz, and no one could play him like Alec Baldwin did.
George Costanza, Seinfeld (Jason Alexander)
He’s dumb, he’s balding, and he has nothing going for him. He’s the kind of character America loves to root for. More importantly, his misfortune is fun to laugh at.
Jenna Maroney, 30 Rock (Jane Krakowski)
Jenna Maroney is the ultimate narcissist, with lines like, “I’ll do it, but only for the attention,” and “Do you know how many mirrors I’ve smashed just thinking it was a blonde woman mocking me.” She’s a character that does not require a third dimension.
Chandler Bing, Friends (Matthew Perry)
Chandler is the jokester of the group and uses his constant sarcasm as a way of avoiding any emotional growth. He’s lovably immature, and arguably the funniest friend. We all wish we could get away with being the Chandler of the group.
Creed Bratton, The Office (Creed Bratton)
Creed is like that one kid everyone knew of on your college campus, but never knew where he came from or what the hell he was ever talking about. The best part about this is that the character is based on the actor who plays him. Creed is a mystery, but he is relatable in the sense that he’s usually playing spider solitaire at his work desk.
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