The unconventional actress got her start in sitcoms Gilmore Girls and the still-running series Mike & Molly, about two members of an overeaters support group who fall in love. Her big break came in 2011 when playing the aggressive, eccentric sister-in-law in the worldwide smash hit Bridesmaids. Despite turns from well-known actors such as Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig, McCarthy's was the standout performance in the film and since then studios have been lining up to put the 41-year-old in the spotlight. Hot off the US success of Identity Thief, which opened at No 1 and took US$35 million (Dh128.5m) on its opening weekend, McCarthy's next starring role will be in buddy cop comedy The Heat, co-starring Sandra Bullock.
What do you do when you are the head writer of a comedy institution? Why, create a hit sitcom about your experiences! Loosely based on her time on the long-running American series Saturday Night Live, Fey's creation 30 Rock, in which she starred alongside Alec Baldwin and a host of wacky co-workers, became critically adored and has earned 45 Emmy nominations, winning 10. Fey is now a household name and her film career has been equally successful, with movies such as Baby Mama and Date Night taking advantage of Fey's "everywoman" charm, which has earned comparisons with the great Woody Allen. With 30 Rock's finale in January, more film hits surely beckon.
The star and co-writer of Bridesmaids is another SNL regular, appearing in front of the camera from 2005 until May of last year. Fond of improvisation and with a unique sense of humour that sets her apart from many in the field, the actress had an impressive CV of voice-over work and film roles that included the comedy spoof MacGruber and the animated film How to Train Your Dragon. However, Bridesmaids propelled Wiig to another level of stardom and she has since appeared in the comedy movies Paul and Friends with Kids and has a role in Will Ferrell's much-hyped Anchorman sequel.
The New York comedienne is maybe known less for her film work and more for her sell-out stand-up tours and controversial humour, although that is about to change. The star of her own show for three years, Silverman had small roles in many famous movies (There's Something About Mary, School of Rock, Rent) but her live concert film, Jesus Is Magic, transformed her fortunes. Despite her controversial subject matter (lampooning race, sexuality and religion), she was the unlikely choice for a role in the Disney animation Wreck-It Ralph and earned critical acclaim for a dramatic performance in the Canadian movie Take This Waltz.
While the oldest on this list at 52, the improv comic Lynch is relatively new to mainstream audiences. Having appeared for years as a supporting actress in many well-loved movies, she was introduced to a whole new generation as the acid-tongued high-school tyrant Sue Sylvester in the TV series Glee. The popularity of her no-nonsense persona has led to a recurring role in the sitcom Two and a Half Men and higher-profile roles in such movies as The 40-Year-Old Virgin, The Three Stooges and the animation Rio.
Respect to the pioneering spirits
Hats must be tipped to those stars from previous generations who blazed the trail and paved the way for today's funny ladies
The star of I Love Lucy and a television icon to this day, the late actress's signature comedy series pioneered many of the conventions of television, such as live audiences and reruns. Ball herself also led the way for women behind the scenes, becoming the first female head of a studio, producing such timeless shows as Star Trek and The Untouchables.
Another sitcom star, the brash and uncompromising on-screen matriarch ruled the airwaves with her show Roseanne, which also launched John Goodman's career. The larger than life Utah native was just as ruthless off screen, becoming a prominent figure in the TV industry and redefining pay standards for women in American television.
The go-to comedy actress for much of the 1980s and early 1990s (her hits include Sister Act, Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple and Ghost), Goldberg is one of a select few actors to become an EGOT - a nickname given to people whom have won Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards. Now in her late 50s, she is currently a television personality as part of the American talk show The View.
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