The 15 Funniest TV Characters Right Now

Schmidt, New Girl

“I’m a big fan of Max Greenfield’s Schmidt on New Girl,” writes Emily Temple. “Yes, he’s the perfect mix of ludicrous surrealism and oh-god-I-have-that-friend, but it’s really Schmidt’s joy at his own douchebaggery that has me giggling into my tea at night.” Asha Saluja agrees that the character is “annoying but brilliantly written and reliably hilarious. Plus,” she adds, “his preference for brown girls makes lots of his quips specifically relevant to me and thus more quotable to my friends.”

Is Andy Dwyer the funniest character on TV? We know we struggle to keep a straight face every time Chris Pratt is on the screen in Parks and Recreation, between his sweetly doofy lines and his perfectly timed pratfalls. (As our colleague Kim Gardner reminds us, he makes an excellent FBI agent, too.) Our love of Andy got us thinking about who else might qualify as television’s most hilarious character right now, so we surveyed the Flavorpill staff to get their picks. See the 15 they shouted out — including now fewer than three more Parks and Rec characters — after the jump.

The Dowager Countess of Grantham, Downton Abbey

Claire Cottrell is partial to the funniest character ever to appear on a Masterpiece Classic series. She compliments Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess on “the most hilarious eye-rolls and scathingly condescending quips on television. Hands down.”

Penny Hartz, Happy Endings

According to Caroline Stanley, “The entire cast of Happy Endings deserves way more recognition than they get, but I’d have to say that Casey Wilson as Penny Hartz — the group’soffensively stereotypical gay guy — is responsible for the show’s funniest moments. Plus she realizes the importance of flowy pants in facilitating conversation, is practically a black belt in Jazz-Kwon-Do, and has a crazy singing mom who’s played by Megan Mullally. What’s not to love? Year of Penny, indeed!”

Britta Perry, Community

“Gillian Jacobs doesn’t get enough credit for her crackerjack comic timing on Community,” writes Jason Bailey. “It’s not a character that gets a lot of ‘laugh lines’ — it’s pure character comedy, where our familiarity with Britta (and how she will handle situations) makes us laugh. She plays the character 100% honest and true, and has given her enough weird little nooks to transcend the broad type a lesser actor would have played it as.”

Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation

Michelle Rafferty gets a little bit enthusiastic about Ron Swanson. “I’m sooo happy the show hasn’t abused the popularity of his character (i.e. overexposing him, turning him into a caricature), and the image of him driving away, pissed off, grill still in tow on the season premiere was, the hardest I’ve laughed since the the entire ‘Never’ segment on Louie this summer,” she writes. “I know it doesn’t sound that funny, but whenever he shows emotion or explains something as ‘simple’ as filling a pothole, it still gets me, because these moments are still relatively rare in the grand scheme of the show. Also, he’s just a nice change of pace from all the fast-talking, pop-culture savvy funny guys (Abed, Max Greenfield, Max Blum, Tom Haverford), who are wonderful but cut from a similar cloth. Ron Swanson still feels very one of a kind. Sometimes he doesn’t need to say anything at all.” She also feels a certain personal connection to Nick Offerman’s character: “I’m a Hoosier, and it’s nice to see more positive representations of us in the media.”

Asha, meanwhile, has different reasons for loving Ron Swanson. She writes that he “tops my list for his extra-curricular funniness. His dramatic readings of the Twitter feeds of young stars and his PSAs on pressing social issues like the impending bacon shortage tide me over from one Thursday to the next.”

Jean-Ralphio, Parks and Recreation

Jack Lenehan prefers a character we don’t get to see quite as often (probably because the actor who plays him, Ben Schwartz, is also busy with Showtime’s House of Lies): “Never has genuine childlike wonder and zest for life coexisted with such egregious wannabe sleazebag douchiness in one person.” Well said!

April Ludgate, Parks and Recreation

And that’s not the end of the Parks and Rec love. Matthew Bower writes that Aubrey Plaza’s deadpan April, “whose useful talents include ‘not talking for like two weeks at a time,’ never fails to make me laugh. I might go so far as to say she’s restored my faith in apathy, but probably not because whatever, I don’t really care.”

Morgan Tookers, The Mindy Project

Speaking of April, Jason thinks he may have spotted the next Aubrey Plaza. “On one of those first episodes of Parks and Rec, I turned to my wife during an Aubrey Plaza scene and said ‘I’m not sure, but I think she MIGHT be a comic genus,’” he recalls. “I’m getting the same vibe from Ike Barinholtz’s Morgan Tookers, the clearly unbalanced male nurse on The Mindy Project. He’s got a loose, anything-goes comic energy that I think will come in very handy on that show, which is incredibly funny but could also slip too snugly into formula tropes.” Asha enjoyed Morgan in last week’s episode, when “he pretended to be a bathroom attendant at a club for tips, which is so out-there hilarious that I’m giggling to myself about as I type this.”

Tina Belcher, Bob’s Burgers

The only animated character to make the list Tina Belcher may just be the funniest kid on Bob’s Burger (and when the other two are voiced by Eugene Mirman and Kristen Schaal, that’s saying something). “We all remember our personal war with adolescence. The anxiety, embarrassment, and all that sexual confusion. Tina embodies this teenage struggle and yet remains oddly endearing,” says Alex Kim.

Tracy Jordan, 3o Rock

“I never thought I could find Tracy Morgan funny again after the homophobia scandal, and it took a while,” Jason writes. “But I can’t resist the guy. Nobody on television delivers pure nonsense as beautifully as he does; he spouts a non sequitur with the skill of a Walken.” This season, we’re particularly enjoying his feud with nutso Hazel (played by Kristen Schaal, who is currently dominating TV’s funniest shows), who tried to seduce him into casting her in his movie.

Phil Dunphy, Modern Family

On another show where it’s tough to pick out the funniest character amid a very talented ensemble, Alejandra Paredes opts for Ty Burrell’s Phil, calling him “the ‘cool’ dad we all want but would be embarrassed to have. His dopey good nature is hysterical. Perfect comedic timing.”

Vice President Selina Meyer, Veep

Alejandra is also fond of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ newest character: “she brilliantly pulls off the intelligent idiot.” There are plenty of great, subtle details about Louis-Dreyfus’ performance, but Alex proclaims that her “delivery of the word ‘fuck’ is the ‘fuck’ of the year. Just watching her say it with such severity when her underlings fail her is so satisfying.”

Jess Day, New Girl

“Here’s the thing: I really don’t like Zooey Deschanel. AT ALL,” Russ Marshalek explains, before we can get any funny ideas about his twee sympathies. “Her quirk, her ukulele, her hula hoops — all of it I find to be utter rubbish. But there’s something so earnest and hilarious in her performance as Jess on The New Girl that I can’t deny it. Jess manages to be every positive-minded person who occasionally, faced with the fact the the world really doesn’t care if one succeeds or fails, snaps. Additionally, episode four of this season is one of the funniest and most painful half-hours of television I’ve experienced since Arrested Development stopped airing.”

Dr. Sheldon Lee Cooper and Howard Joel Wolowitz, The Big Bang Theory

They’re both animated, odd looking, geniuses, who mock each other and the rest of the world around them,” writes Laura Benigno. “They’re in anther realm of socially awkward, and I think it’s hilarious.”

Chantal Chadwick, Gallery Girls

And finally, a character who is — unfortunately — a real, live human being (at least to the extent that anyone on a Bravo reality show can be described as such). Why does Lauren Epstein love her? “Because hilarity can be found in the ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ realm.” Truth indeed!

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