10 comedians in dramatic roles


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There’s a general opinion floating around out there that comedy is harder to tackle than drama, and it’s easy to give credence to that notion. Just think about it in everyday life – is it easier to make a group of people genuinely laugh than it is to just throw a self-righteous hissy fit that draws everybody’s attention to your duh-ramaaaaa? All you have to do is raise your voice and talk over people for the latter, but being truly witty is much harder to master. Timing, sensibility, word choice, delivery – it’s all a bag of tricks that it sometimes feels like magic. Thus, it stands to reason that if you’re talented enough to be funny on screen, you can find a way to pull off serious roles as well. Here’s a list of ten comedians who have proved their chops in notable dramatic roles.

1. Mo’Nique in “Precious”

It’s hard not to start with the recent and darkly powerful dramatic turn from Mo’Nique that one her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She was famous for stand-up, sitcom work and hosting “Showtime at the Apollo,” but there was no humor in her performance as the broken, nasty, paranoid Mary Lee Johnston, the abusive mother of the title character. The soul-crushing darkness of her sickness made us squirm in our seats, and she deserved every accolade she got for that performance.

2. Jim Carrey in “The Truman Show”

Carrey was one of those guys whose comedy characters from “In Living Color” and movies like “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” were such crazily exaggerated caricatures that you couldn’t imagine him keeping the famous “rubber face” in place long enough to legitimately emote. But he proved the adage that it’s easier to get wild and crazy people to tone it down than it is to get more reserved folks to let it all hang out – although that’s not to say his performance as Truman Burbank, a man unknowingly raised on a reality television show who comes to realize his entire life has been a sham, was easy. See also: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” because you should.

3. Bill Murray in “The Razor’s Edge”

Comic actors do find it important to prove before long that they do have dramatic chops, and that’s one thing Bill Murray has proven over and over. However, it started with this 1984 adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s novel about “one man’s search for himself.” While this film didn’t really find an appreciative audience, it marked a turning point in Murray’s career – and a final dramatic scene that weirdly echoes his famous “It just doesn’t matter” speech in “Meatballs.” Plus, this is the movie he got to make in exchange for starring in “Ghostbusters,” so without this, we wouldn’t have that.

4. Patton Oswalt in “Big Fan”

Oswalt actually got some Oscar buzz for his supporting turn in the Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody film “Young Adult,” but his performance as the obsessive New York Giants fan who gets assaulted by his favorite player and has to suppress his own dignity for the sake of the team was a real testament to his talent. He transferred his real life dork passion into on-screen sports passion, showing just how similar devoted nerds in both arenas really are – complete with the single-mindedness and social ineptitude.

5. Mike Myers in “54”

Another comedian known for over-the-top characters like Austin Powers or… *shudder*… The Love Guru, Myers turned his talent for impersonation towards drama as well when playing Steve Rubell of the legendary Studio 54. The lead story in the mixed bag of a film is a love triangle between Ryan Phillippe, Salma Hayek and Breckin Meyer, but it was Myers proving he doesn’t have to be a silly gag machine which got the only positive attention when it was released, although a director’s cut of the film has gotten a much more favorable response – enough that it might qualify as a cult following.

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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was written, produced, directed and narrated by Robert Evans. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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