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Drama: A superior form of comedy?

Drama: A superior form of comedy? (photo)

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A couple of weeks ago, a friend told me I didn’t like comedians; after a little thought, I had concede this is basically true. We were talking about Jane Lynch and Will Ferrell and the day’s other leading comic luminaries, all of whom basically grate on me; while they’re performing, they give off this air of knowing how funny they are, which bothers me. I was and remain a big fan of a lot of the ’70s comics (Steve Martin at his peak, the original “SNL” cast, etc.), but you rarely get that sense of complacency off them. My problem? Sure, but I can’t be the only one.

I was thinking about this when last week another friend proposed you could measure a dramatic actor’s true worth by their adeptness at comedy. I disagree, but it made me think about how most of my favorite comedies star people who aren’t necessarily comedians. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule: I like the Marx Brothers as much as the next guy, most of the Apatow crew and, yeah, Paul Rudd, all of whom aren’t usually noted for their dramatic change-ups.

However, a lot of my favorite comedies star people who aren’t necessarily comedians. “Dazed And Confused” is something I watch about four times a year (it’s like Prozac but far more effective), and — Adam Goldberg aside — it either stars people who went nowhere or a few people whose comic careers should’ve been bigger (Matthew McConaughey, never better) or never took off (Ben Affleck, ditto). Then again, that’s not exactly a gut-buster.

01282010_BadSanta1.jpgSo how about “Tootsie”? Sydney Pollack approached it like it was Chekhov, and it worked brilliantly. Or “Bad Santa,” which makes me laugh harder than anything, starring Billy Bob Thornton? Also, granted, Bernie Mac and John Ritter are onhand as support, but they’re all on the same page. Or how about, I dunno, the entirety of last year, where I laughed more than I had in a long time — “In The Loop,” “Up,” “Adventureland” (not exactly a 100% comedy, but work with me here), “Harmony and Me,” “Humpday” — all movies where traditionally dramatic players find the humor in situations, rather than initiate it, to brilliant effect.

Obviously, I’ve got a mental block when it comes to films that are built around a comedian’s sensibilities — in fact, I prefer comedies driven by the director’s sensibility rather than servicing the needs of the comic center, but I’ve noticed I also prefer comic actors rather than straight up comedians acting. They seem to work harder for the laughs without taking them for granted; the best make it look effortless. Surely I’m not the only one?

[Photos: album cover of “A Wild and Crazy Guy,” Warner Bros. Records, 1978; “Bad Santa,” Dimension Films, 2003.]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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