The 10 Funniest Women in Primetime

Whether they serve as the marquee name on a network show or edify an ensemble with fast-deployed zingers, these women of primetime substantiate 2010 as a golden age of comedy. In our countdown we embrace live performers, scripted superstars, supporting cast members, new talent, veterans, and cable outlaws. The No. 1 pick is also our candidate for the task of Uncontested Comic Dictator For Life.


10. Kaitlin Olson, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

It's difficult to remain a standout against the primed chops of Danny DeVito, but Kaitlin Olson is often the quickest, punchiest character on IASIP. We'll never forget her for validating the hilarity of women getting smacked in the face. Moe Howard laughs on from the cosmos.


9. Julie Bowen, Modern Family

While Sofia Vergara plays the more traditionally kooky Gloria, Bowen scintillates as Claire Dunphy, the un-whimsical wife and mother in Modern Family's nuclear unit. While her husband Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) wins more laughs, Claire's self-doubt ends up producing the series' most unexpected laugh-out-loud moments. Quoth Mrs. Dunphy: "You know how growing up we all had that voice inside our head that tells us we're not good enough? Well, mine was outside my head driving me to school."


8. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine

Julia Louis-Dreyfus makes standard sardonic scripting seem real -- even cool. As the titular character in CBS's over-the-hill comedy, she transforms the self-absorption we loved about Elaine Benes and amplifies it into one delirious fragment of Christine's existential woes.


7. Jane Lynch, Glee

Years as a regular in Christopher Guest films have prepared Lynch for her most boorishly authoritative role yet: the bullhorn-savvy Sue Sylvester. Whether she's donning a tracksuit, a cone bra, or a cone bra over a tracksuit, Lynch's callous delivery qualifies her as this generation's Eileen Brennan.


6. Courteney Cox, Cougar Town

Maligned from the start, Cougar Town seemed poised to give us just menopausal gags and clueless young hunks. It did that for a few episodes. But thanks to Courteney Cox's performance, the show has graduated to a fleshed-out, singular series. It takes the well-timed restraint and abandon of an improvisational performer to pull off Cox's character Jules, who can't quite decide if she should dress like "a farmer's daughter or a Whitesnake video" when hitting the town.

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  • The Winchester says:

    How can you leave Amy Poehler off this list? Did you actually believe Parks and Recreation stars Jabba The Hutt because of that insanely catchy video from last night that I still can't get out of my head?

  • NP says:

    Don't forget Liz Lemon's affection for food. "Meatball sub..extra bread."

  • stolidog says:

    although you sort of need to squish up all of the women on Parks and Recreation into one big ball and you'd get the superwoman of comedy.

  • whitney says:

    This list is great, with the exception of number 6. Courtney Cox is the reason I don't watch Cougartown. She was funny on Friends but she is so shrill and over the top on Cougartown that can't watch an episode without being in a state of perma-cringe.

  • caslab says:

    Julie Bowen nearly ruins "Modern Family" for me.

  • Gallant Patsy says:

    another agreed. started slow, granted, but i'm really hoping this finds the audience it deserves.

  • liz says:

    I love Modern Family but Julie Bowen's character is the most annoying on that show. Such a shrew. Sofia Vergara should have been on this list instead, she's hilarious.

  • sweetbiscuit says:

    I agree here, though I thought she was the weak link on Friends. She is awkward and unfunny on this show, too.
    I think Julie Bowen is great, and agree that Amy Poehler should have made this list.

  • Sephtical says:

    Who is that avatar like creature pictured next to Courtney Cox's name. Looks like someone dumped a trashcan full of airbrush on her.

  • Cold one says:

    Wow, Congrats to the White women. They cleaned up in this category. Then again, network tv is not really filled with tons of options.

  • M says:

    Liz Lemon is a "deceptive straight man"? What does that even mean?

  • Louis Virtel says:

    A "straight man." The one who sets up the jokes for the crazier characters. I was saying that although she plays straight man for Jenna and Tracy, she's sometimes the biggest caricature.

  • Louis Virtel says:

    Funny enough, I considered Wanda Sykes -- but her role on New Adventures of Old Christine is dull. I think we have a contender in Community's Yvette Nicole Brown though.

  • sixhundred says:

    where's hannah montana?

  • Son of Mecha Mummy says:

    This is a fairly good list but since this is the internet and I have to complain about things, a shortlist of women on TV who are much funnier than Kristen Wiig's sub-MadTV level characters on SNL (or Sarah Silverman but that's an acquired taste. I guess.); Amy Poehler (Parks & Recreation), Alison Brie (Community), Ellie Klemper (The Office), Andrea Anders (Better Off Ted but Portia de Rossi at #3 makes this okay), Heather Morris (Glee), and Samantha Bee (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart). And that's only limiting it to one per show.

  • Jess says:

    Why is Sarah Silverman on this list? She's obnoxious, and the only people I know that give her laughs are teenagers.

  • Omar says:

    where is Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)??, she is so funny!!!!

  • Mihai says:

    Julia Louis-Dreyfus on number 8 ? I doubt it. She deserves to be at the top of the list !

  • che says:

    How could one leave out Amy poeller on Parks & Rec. I suppose it's your article and all, but seriously she isn't even on it? Whoa, I just read a bunch of comments so it looks like I'm not alone in that sentiment. She was so-so on SNL - some good moments, but on P and R, she is great. Funniest show on TV. Tina should be in top 10 but not number 1. Kristen Wiig is the funniest woman on TV. But good list nonetheless.

  • Titus77 says:

    Again, 'Modern Family' is AWFUL. Julie Bowen was good on 'Ed', 'Weeds' and ''Boston Legal', but she's unwatchable on 'MF' (which is not such a feat, as 99% of it is unwatchable).