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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Amy Poehler Carrie Brownstein

Carrie and Amy Team Up

Watch Carrie Brownstein Officiate a Wedding With Amy Poehler’s Help

Carrie Brownstein's Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl is available now.

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Here’s proof that anything can happen when you go to one of Carrie Brownstein’s book readings: a recent stopover on Carrie’s Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl book tour turned into an impromptu wedding ceremony.

Amy Poehler had just wrapped up her Q&A with Carrie when a couple asked the Portlandia star — who just so happens to be an ordained minister — if she would officiate their wedding. “Amy was visibly excited and shocked, and turned to Carrie [and said] ‘You gotta do it!’,” said a source speaking to Us Weekly

According to an audience member, “[The couple] asked if they could get married on the spot, as they’d come prepared with their marriage license.”

“It was a sincere, thoughtful, and impressive speech, considering the spontaneity,” added sources. “Amy remained seated at the piano, looking emotional and delighted for them…”

Be sure to grab Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl out now, and catch Carrie on her book tour. Who knows what will happen next???

Stephen Merchant Everett 1920

Cringe Humor

10 Moments That Prove Stephen Merchant Is a Master of Cringe Comedy

Stephen Merchant brings the awkward to Comedy Bang! Bang!.

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They say that behind every squat, successful British writer-producer is a lanky, six-foot-seven bespectacled co-creator. All right, maybe no one said that ever, but it certainly applies to the duo responsible for some of the most awkward moments in television history. Masters of cringe comedy Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant produced The Office, Extras and Life’s Too Short — along with many other moments that caused viewers to avert their eyes and squirm in their seats. Even when flying solo in shows like Hello Ladies, Merchant can provide just as many unbearably uncomfortable moments as an incompetent talent agent, an inelegant pick-up artist or just a bloke sharing a story about being turned down by a nightclub doorman.

To get you ready for Stephen’s appearance on tonight’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, here are some of his funniest cringeworthy moments.

1. Performing Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty,” Lip Sync Battle

When you have to sway a crowd and you’re built like a flailing-arm inflatable balloon man, you gotta play to your strengths. So when tasked to perform Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty” on Lip Sync Battle, Merchant proudly bared his midriff, upper thighs and soul in a cutoff T-shirt and flared leather chaps. While we applaud his self-confidence, we don’t have the inner strength to be caught dead doing that.

2. Discussing his first Golden Globe win, The Graham Norton Show

It’s hard to imagine a time when The Office was something of an underdog, but the original UK version was just a plucky upstart when it won its first Golden Globe. Unfortunately for the then-unknown Gervais and Merchant, their long, awkward walk to the stage was punctuated by the announcer mispronouncing their names and Stephen’s head getting cut off for the front page photo.

3. The Oggmonster, The Office

Although Gervais’ David Brent was the poster boy for The Office, Merchant only appeared twice in the original series as Gareth’s gangly pal Nathan, AKA The Oggmonster. Even more ungainly and off-putting than the Assistant to the Regional Manager, Oggy is pushed to tears by David Brent’s relentless joshing about his appearance. We feel for ya, Oggy.

4. Nudie pen, Extras

In this very NSFW clip from Extras, Merchant plays the highly incompetent agent Darren who, between failing to get acting work for Gervais’ Andy, is caught in flagrante in the company of a novelty nudie pen. Inappropriate, unprofessional and utterly humiliating given the focal point, his moment of self-gratification is somewhat vindicated when assistant Barry is caught doing the same thing.

5. Trip to Rio, The Ricky Gervais Show

Debuting as a radio program in 2001, The Ricky Gervais Show was among the first wildly successful podcasts and spawned countless comedy audio programs in the years since. Co-host and whipping boy Karl Pilkington was the breakout star, but Merchant supplied a heapin’ helpin’ of embarrassment with cringeworthy anecdotes, including this story of his trip to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

6. Hopeless nightclub pick-up artist, Hello Ladies

Without Gervais on the roster, Merchant shined as hopeless romantic Stuart Pritchard in HBO’s Hello Ladies. Showcasing his true-to-life awkwardness around women, the sadly short-lived series upped the cringe-ante that he and Gervais injected into The Office — and this torturous nightclub scene is perfect proof.

7. Eager wedding guest, Hello Ladies

As we all know, weddings are a meet-cute hotbed, but it definitely requires optimal positioning. Unfortunately for the viewer’s nerve, Stuart is keenly aware of this. Persistent past the point of rejection, he monopolizes the line to congratulate the newlyweds and wedges himself into a table with single women. Eagerness has never been so unsettling.

8. Denying Warwick Davis a loan, Life’s Too Short

Having to turn down a friend in need is so unbearable, most of us will compromise our comfort with favors just to avoid it. Not surprisingly, Gervais and Merchant — playing heightened versions of themselves — don’t have an issue with sidestepping support for diminutive actor Warwick Davis when he asks the successful team for a loan.

9. Behind-the-scenes dance party, Extras

Yes, it’s Stephen dancing for the second time on this list. But honestly, it’s never not cringeworthy.

10. Nightclub zinger, Conan

Single life is unanimously the worst, but it can be easily mitigated through fortune and stardom. And while Stephen Merchant is a household name among comedy geeks, his notoriety has yet to hit the radar of certain LA nightclub doormen. Appearing on Conan, Merchant shares a story of trying to get into a nightclub but being thwarted by the bouncer at the door with a devastating putdown.


Music and 'Staches

The 10 Most Epic Examples of Facial Hair in Soft Rock

Catch the story of Blue Jean Committee tonight on the season finale of Documentary Now!.

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Documentary Now! closes out its 50th season this week with the film “Gentle & Soft: The Story of the Blue Jean Committee,” a Behind the Music-style look at the rise and fall of one of the most successful purveyors of mellow, California-style soft rock. Despite the fact that the members of BJC hailed from Chicago, their hits like “Catalina Breeze” fit in perfectly with contemporaries like Kenny Loggins, Hall & Oates, Poco and other giants of “Yacht Rock.” (The band’s feathered hair and awesome ‘staches also helped.)

In honor of the Blue Jean Committee’s story finally being told, check out our tribute to the most epic facial hair in soft rock.

10. Paul Davis

The bearded “I Go Crazy” singer gets extra points for his luxurious mane of blonde hair.

9. Seals and Crofts

“Summer Breeze” makes us feel fine and so does the one-two punch of Seals & Crofts’ mesmerizing beard/goatee combo.

8. Rupert Holmes

Mr. Holmes’ neatly trimmed beard doesn’t excuse the fact that he was using the personals column to cheat on his lady. “The Pina Colada Song” is basically the Ashley Madison of its day.

7. Pretty much every member of Orleans

The ’70s bros in Orleans loved two things — beards and going shirtless on album covers.

6. England Dan and John Ford Coley

Ladies, these guys (and their mustaches) would really love to see you tonight.

5. Bobby Kimball from Toto

You might remember Toto for their monster soft rock jams “Rosanna” and “Africa.” But if you’re like us, you see the majestic follicles of singer Bobby Kimball’s mustache when you close your eyes and drift away on a blissful wave of smooth.

4. Both Guys in Dr. Hook

The “Sexy Eyes” and “When You’re in Love With a Beautiful Woman” band is a facial hair two-fer, thanks to Ray Sawyer’s awesome mustache and Dennis Locorriere’s respectable beard.

3. Michael McDonald

Possessing a set of velvety pipes that have brought weaker men to their knees, The Mighty Beard of Michael McDonald has remained strong since his days in The Doobie Brothers.

2. John Oates, Hall & Oates

Word is Daryl Hall is a major BJC fan, but we have to salute his musical partner’s famous lip magic.

1. Kenny Loggins

Besides being a ’80s soundtrack master, Loggins possesses some of the greatest facial hair in pop culture. Bask in the glory that is Loggins on Documentary Now! tonight at 10P.

That 70s Hyde

Higher Learning

Stoner Wisdom From That ’70s Show’s Circle

Catch That '70s Show Mondays and Tuesdays from 6-11P on IFC.

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The gang from That ’70s Show had some of their deepest conversations in “The Circle.” They also never failed to crack themselves (and us) up. Get high on knowledge with some deep thoughts from “The Circle.”

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