Why isn’t Michael Keaton in everything? That’s the question I often ask myself whenever I do manage to catch a glimpse of one of the most amusing and talented actors of this or any generation. That guy makes everything better. His sheer presence is a delight that spreads joy and good feelings to all who have the good fortune to experience it. He’s funny, he’s charming, he’s weird, and he’s not nearly in enough stuff these days. So here, for public record, are 10 reasons to love Michael Keaton and to start putting him in more movies again.
1. Stand Up Comedy
Before you ever heard of him, Michael Keaton was working the stand-up circuit, and if you pay attention to this excerpt of his act (which includes an amusing dramatic reading of Bazooka Joe comics), you can definitely hear the vocal stylings that would eventually form the core of the title character of a gangster move he’d do – you know, that guy whose last name is an adverb.
2. “Night Shift”
Keaton’s first big movie role came with this 1982 Ron Howard comedy. The former Richie Cunningham cast the former Fonz, Henry Winkler, as a put-upon mortician who Keaton convinces to start running a brothel out of the morgue, with the help of hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Shelley Long. Much like our equally beloved national treasure Tom Hanks, Keaton started as a manic comedy machine before settling down into future dramatic roles, and that early energy is on full display in this hilarious film. Observe his stunning powers of bullshit here.
3. “Johnny Dangerously”
Yes, his last name is an adverb. Keaton shined in this ridiculous Amy Heckerling gangster farce that may also be the best thing Joe Piscopo ever accomplished. Using a lot of that James Cagney movie charm in service of a lot of zany slapstick schtick, Keaton’s Johnny is the coolest, smoothest and friendliest gangster in town, never tryin’ to hurt nobody, torn over the fact that his brother (Griffin Dunne) is a straight-laced anti-crime crusader.
4. “Mr. Mom”
In 1983, the concept of the stay-at-home dad was still pretty novel, and thus Keaton was able to make great hay out of a playing a guy who got laid off trying to make a go of it as the househusband and being constantly frazzled at every turn in his John Hughes-scripted comedy. With every mundane task seeming like a huge ordeal, Jack Butler was inevitably driven crazy by the pressure of it all, and nobody makes crazy as fun as Michael Keaton does.
Speaking of crazy – teaming Keaton up with Tim Burton for this story about a completely bonkers ghost named Betelgeuse showcases him at his absolute craziest – not to mention the perviest, too. Summoned by a pair of nice ghosts (Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis) to get rid of some annoying living people in their home, the maniac becomes an even bigger problem than young Winona Ryder’s family ever could’ve been. Keaton’s a tour-de-force in this one, showing us the frayed edges of sanity that he’s so good at harnessing – and he’s doing it at a mile a minute.