She pushed for a female fight club in "Bridesmaids." And ever since, Melissa McCarthy has been kicking ass.

This year, she's best known for stealing scenes as Megan in the blockbuster--with her sexually aggressive, hilarious lines.

Who could forget such gems as "I'm glad he's single, 'cause I'm gonna climb that like a tree," about a guest at an engagement party? Or to the character of Jon, the air marshal, played by her real-life husband, Ben Falcone, on a plane: "You wanna get back in that restroom and not rest?"

The reality is McCarthy, 41, probably hasn't rested since the movie, which grossed more than $169 million in the U.S., opened in May. She's caught in a whirlwind of movie and TV success--with an Emmy win and "SNL" hosting gig now on her resume--and Entertainment Weekly naming her the "New Queen of Comedy," calling her one of the most soughtafter funny ladies in showbiz. It's damn near impossible not to laugh at her raunchy humor, respect her talent and like her charming, down-to-Earth persona.

"This is crazy, sorry," McCarthy told EW, recounting a moment in which she knew things had changed for her career. "Because I met with Judd Apatow this morning. He told me his idea for me and was like, 'What do you think?' It's an awfully great, weird thing to have people that you're like, 'Oh, God, if I could just get a one-line part!' and then you're sitting with them and they're like, 'What do you think?'"

McCarthy is having her Hollywood moment. The Chicago-area actress, a favorite on such shows as the WB's "Gilmore Girls," has gained respect from viewers and Hollywood's elite for her lead role on the CBS sitcom "Mike & Molly."

For all that and more, RedEye crowns the Plainfield native its Pop Person of the Year. She joins Kanye West (2010), Lady Gaga (2009) and the Obamas (2008) in RedEye's Hall of Fame of culture icons. The yearly honor highlights movers and shakers in the pop culture stratosphere.

"I definitely think it's her breakout year," said Mickey O'Connor, managing editor of tvguide.com. McCarthy, who went to Southern Illinois University before later breaking out with L.A.-based comedy troupe The Groundlings, routinely stands out among an ensemble cast, he said. She was funny as Sookie St. James on "Gilmore Girls," O'Connor said, and a great sidekick to Christina Applegate as Dena on "Samantha Who?"

"She's one of those actresses we've been following for years and thought, 'That person deserves her own show,' " he said.

He wasn't the only one.

McCarthy plays Molly on "Mike & Molly," about a Chicago couple who meet at Overeaters Anonymous. It was that role that snagged her Emmy award this fall, beating out more high-profile faces for lead actress in a comedy series. The show, currently in its second season, averages 13.8 million viewers, up from 9.8 million last season, according to ratings figures from Nielsen.

Soon after her Emmy win, McCarthy also hosted "Saturday Night Live" for the first time, getting rave reviews and drawing the most viewers for the show all season, grabbing even bigger ratings than the Alec Baldwinhosted season premiere.

Part of McCarthy's appeal is not only her talent as a comedian, but also her intelligence and competence as an actress, O'Connor said.

"She's an actor who really understands how to get a laugh and an actor who understands how to play an emotional moment without forcing it," he said.

And she's not as vain as some actresses appear to be, but instead more relatable. "She looks like one of us; she looks like a real person," he said. McCarthy rose above a controversial post on Marie Claire's website last year in which a writer said she'd be "grossed out" watching two obese characters kiss, referring to McCarthy's TV show.

At the moment, McCarthy is showered with media attention, endorsements and development deals. She's been a cover girl for various entertainment magazines including The Hollywood Reporter. She signed on to be the face of Ivory soap. And she's set to star in a "Knocked Up" sequel and a movie with Jason Bateman. Plus, she and her husband launched a production company and sold two projects--a movie script about a Midwestern woman who goes on a road trip and a TV sitcom about a woman stuck in a midlife crisis, according to EW.

"Everyone kind of roots for her and everyone wants her to do well," O'Connor said.

Well, RedEye is right there in her corner.

--lvivanco@tribune.com