Las Vegas always seems to be promoting some "funnyman" or another. It's the galactic epicenter of funnymen. On my most recent trip, it was George Wallace, who's in the midst of a 1,128-week run at The Flamingo.
I checked out a couple YouTube clips, and though George Wallace isn't terrible, I would never pay money to see him perform. But generally speaking, if you ever hear someone referred to as a "funnyman," you can be reasonably certain that he is not, in fact, funny. Otherwise he'd be called a "comedian."
So why do promoters choose this term? Are they thinking to themselves, "Maybe we should stay away from 'comedian.' Someone might hold us to that. Could we be on the hook, legally, for the quality of his performance?" Or perhaps they're subtly tempering our expectations: "Look, I'm not saying this guy's a comedian or anything, but he's kinda funny. He's a funnyman -- good for a chuckle or two."
I think the term should be restricted to people like Michael Richards, perhaps the archetypcal funnyman, someone who isn't a comedian -- of that we can be sure -- but not really an actor at this point either. He's simply known for being funny in a specific role or manner.
At any rate, the whole thing strikes me as a failure of language. I picture Lenny from "Of Mice and Men" pointing at someone and saying, "That man is funny. I will call him a funnyman."
In a similar vein, I've long wondered about "old man," that term men sometimes use to describe their fathers. It's as though each of us is tethered in this life to an aging human, an older version of ourselves that we count among our possessions.
"Haven't seen my old man in awhile." -- "Oh, no! What happened? Did he get loose?" "No, no. He lives in Pittsburgh. Just haven't flown out there in a couple years."