Trimming the list of film’s current funniest leading ladies down to five is not as easy as it might sound. Yes, Hollywood keeps theaters well-stocked with comedies, but most of them aren’t actually funny -- which leaves a handful of true comic talent with a handful of roles, more supporting, than leading. Add to that the fact that some of the biggest box-office draws, like Kristen Wiig or Tina Fey, owe their popularity to TV shows like Saturday Night Live (often far more amusing than any of their films). That being said, we rounded up our fave funny girl leads (and in some cases scene-stealing ensemble/supporting players) taking quality and quantity of work into consideration.
1. Emma Stone – The girl next door that makes you giggle so hard you spurt soda out your nose (who also wouldn't consider herself above spewing her own soda at a worthy joke). Comedy’s new “it girl,” she’s starred in a slew of hits from Superbad and Zombieland, to Easy A and Crazy, Stupid, Love. She has a knack for playing fiery Katherine Hepburn-esque femme fatales with whip-smart wits.
2. Catherine Keener – [Insert appropriate cougar growl] Even in her 50s she wields a certain je ne sais quoi appeal that combines sultriness, sass, brains, and more often than not, sweetness. The something-that-rhymes-with-NILF next door, she’s arguably one of the most underrated comic actresses. Whether she’s Steve Carell’s crush in The 40-Year-Old Virgin or John C. Reilly or Steve Coogan’s fond yet fed-up wife in Hamlet 2 or Cyrus, she knows how to straddle the two worlds of raw comedies that mingle wit with heart-tugging drama and romance.
3. Marisa Tomei – Second that last sentiment for Oscar winner Tomei and her stand-out roles in quirky comedies like My Cousin Vinny, Cyrus, and Salvation Boulevard -- where she did a fabulously goofy take on a dead-head campus cop.
4. The SNL Trifecta – SNL alums Tiny Fey (Date Night, Baby Momma), Kristen Wiig, and Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids, Away We Go) can bring the funny to film, but don’t do it often enough, especially as leads. Fey and Rudolph are too busy joke-slinging on their TV shows: 30 Rock and Up All Night. While Wiig has featured in the most comedies (Bridesmaids, Adventureland, MacGruber, Whip It), she also seems like she has the most trouble wading out past familiar SNL-schtick waters (perhaps because she’s so good at). With that in mind, we’re lumping these ladies together.
5. Anna Faris – Hollywood’s dumbest blond (we mean that as a compliment), with a Lucille Ball-like talent for slapstick and an obvious intelligence behind her bubble-headed sex-kitten persona. Don't let the fact that unlike House Bunny , the recently released What’s Your Number's script bog down her budding talent with bad jokes (and assumes nothing gets more laughs than pap smears and lady parts).
Deserving of a promotion
So far they’ve been primarily limited to supporting film roles. However, we think it’s high time they got more top billing.
Christina Applegate – Forget Hall Pass or Going the Distance (Applegate wasn’t to blame) and remember instead Ron Burgundy’s unicorn-riding lady in Anchorman. Or her brilliant embodiment of a cuss-and-cuddle, party momma on her new seriously funny sitcom with Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph, Up All Night.
Rashida Jones – With The Office and Parks & Recreation already on her small-screen resume, Jones has proved she’s goofy enough to hold her own beside Paul Rudd, the “slappin’ da bass” bromance-seeking fiancée in I Love You, Man, or too-trusting stoner in Our Idiot Brother. (Though, through no fault of hers, we can’t imagine any real lesbian would be caught dead in the postal nerd ensembles worn by her Our Idiot Brother character. Unless they were actually dead, and it was the '70s, and they were postal workers.)
Elizabeth Banks – She initially made a splash in bit parts like the batty bathtub vixen in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but as of late has landed front-and-center spots for her deft delivery of saucy, smart, sensitive women with a sense of humor in Our Idiot Brother and Zach and Miri Make a Porno. Alas to date, her choicest, chuckle-inducing role has been on the tube as Jack Donaghy’s (Alec Baldwin) girlfriend on 30 Rock.