Bridesmaids, Mike & Molly, and a winning SNL gig have turned Melissa McCarthy into a red-hot star, as well as the cover girl for our 2011 Comedy Issue. EW sat down with the hilarious McCarthy for a little steak, a bunch of drinks, and an unexpected amount of tears. “Comedy to me is all about the bumps and bruises and weird tics,” says McCarthy. “It’s everything you find out about somebody when you fall in love with them that on paper is really creepy but you find adorable.”

When McCarthy was a teenager at an all-girls Catholic school in Plainfield, Ill., she stunned her mild-mannered parents by diving deep into a wickedly surly goth phase. “There was a three-year chunk as a teen where I should have been tranquilized and put in a cage,” she says. If her daughters ever try to pull some of the crap she did in high school, she has a plan. “I will embarrass my kids to their core. I will threaten to show up in hot pants and a tube top. Their dad will drive me. And he’ll let me and my friend Lisa get pretty drunk in the backseat and we will come into that party and just rip it up.”

Now she’s suddenly finding herself one of comedy’s most sought-after actresses, even though she doesn’t look like your typical movie star. “Do I sometimes hope I wake up in the morning and people are like, ‘What’s wrong with her? She looks emaciated,’ ” she says. “Of course I would love that. I’m such a clothes whore I would love the opportunity to be a hanger. But I think I’m more confident than I’ve ever felt in my life.”

Elsewhere in the issue, we tapped a ton of today’s funniest people to write something about the world of comedy. Here’s Mindy Kaling on the last time she couldn’t stop laughing: “I can only say this because he ended up being okay, but there’s this YouTube clip of Kelsey Grammer stepping off a stage while speaking at Disneyland’s 50th anniversary that is truly magnificent. We watched it in our writers’ room a few years ago, and it was literally breathtaking. I had to leave the room because I couldn’t stop laughing, and it was getting disruptive to the other writers, who had enjoyed it but moved on. I walked outside, taking a lap around set, and kept laughing. I remember thinking, ‘Will I ever stop laughing about it? My diaphragm is kind of hurting now.’ Paul Lieberstein texted me, ‘Did you stop laughing about the Kelsey Grammer thing yet?’ And I had to suck it up and rejoin the room.”

Also in the issue:

— Paul Rudd on why the Home Shopping Network is hilarious

— Zooey Deschanel on the time she wasn’t trying to be funny but was

— Kristen Wiig on the worst (or best?) joke she ever heard

— Emma Stone on her comedy obsession

— Sarah Silverman on how to deal with hecklers

— Ricky Gervais on the difference between English and American humor

And much, much more, including entries from Tina Fey, Louis C.K., Maya Rudolph, Andy Samberg, Jim Parsons, and Ty Burrell.

As a bonus, check out this behind-the-scenes interview with McCarthy from our cover photo shoot, in which the actress reveals her comedy idols, how comedy broke her nose, and her absolute favorite movie of all time:

For more of our 2011 Comedy Issue — as well the results of our poll on the funniest late-night host — pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Oct. 28.

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