(7) Stephen Colbert
America's favorite ultraconservative political commentator may appear on a comedy network, but he's seriously a genius. He's got an incredibly popular and influential TV show, penned a book that hit number one on the New York Times Best-Seller List, made Time's list of the 100 most influential people, and is probably really nice to dogs. Colbert leveraged his 2008 run for the White House into thousands of dollars of viewer "campaign contribution" donations to needy schools.
Colbert's got intellectual street cred, too. The American Dialect Society named the Colbert-coined "truthiness" the Word of the Year for 2005, an honor that put him in the company of such timeless past winners as 2000's "chad" and 1992's "Not!" Throughout all of these adventures and accolades, Colbert has forced us to laugh at news that would otherwise have made us cringe. That's a genius.
(10) J.K. Rowling
A genius can get by with one idea as long as it's a really, really good idea. Rowling's idea of a school for young wizards was certainly one of those ideas, as her series of Harry Potter novels propelled her from welfare to unspeakable wealth in just a few years. Not only have Rowling's novels thrown millions of confirmed non-readers back into books, they've also made her the first author to become a billionaire simply by writing. Not too shabby for a lady who didn't have a job while she finished her first novel.
Rowling has millions of readers worldwide, but does she have an entire nation at her disposal to stuff the ballot box? Colbert does. Rowling's chief creation inhabits a fantasy world of infinite magic, while Colbert's commentator inhabits a fantasy world of infinite Reaganism. Who's the bigger genius? Just ask yourself who would win in a battle: Harry Potter's magic, or Muggle Colbert's perfectly coiffed hair and trusty handgun Sweetness?
[See the whole bracket here.]