May 28 2009

The Five Most One-Dimensional Comedic Actors Working Today

Published by at 9:00 am under Lists,Movies,Television

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I’ve written before that humor is a totally subjective concept, so please excuse me if I write some negative things about comedic actors you happen to find hilarious.  I originally wanted to write an article on comedic actors who I felt were overrated, but I felt that it was too difficult to define “overrated” in terms of comedy.  Do we measure how funny someone is by box office success?  Surveys?  It’s pretty much a dead end.

I realized – after a discussion with Paul – that several of the comedic actors I considered “overrated” were in fact quite one-dimensional, a trait that is far easier to recognize.  I’m not saying that these guys aren’t funny – Hell, a couple of them really crack me up – but they seem to play the same characters or the same roles in just about everything they’re in.  For whatever reason, people don’t seem to be getting tired of their act, so I guess these actors should keep doing what’s been working.  Keep reading to see who are the five most one-dimensional comedic actors working today.

1. Vince Vaughn

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Vince Vaughn is usually very funny, but he’s been riding out the success of his breakthrough role in Swingers for what seems like his entire career.  The portrayal of Trent Walker is legendary, but just about every comedic role Vaughn has been in since Swingers has been more or less a rehash of that very role.  Saying a lot of things very fast without pausing, calling people “baby,” and making emphatic declarations (“Erroneous!”) seem to be staples of any comedic role Vaughn undertakes.

This isn’t to say he isn’t funny, but is his performance in Old School really anything more than Trent Walker as a domesticated dad?  Is his role in Wedding Crashers really anything more than…well, Trent Walker as an attorney?  No and no.  I like Vaughn a lot, but he peaked with Swingers.  I guess I can’t blame him for repeating his formula – it’s sort of like Pacino screaming his lines after winning an Oscar for Scent of a Woman.

2. Michael Cera

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If you were looking to cast an actor to play an awkward, shy, somewhat neurotic, but intelligent high schooler, who would you pick?  If Michael Cera doesn’t immediately come to mind, I don’t know who else does.  Not that he’s not great at it, but really, has Cera come off as anything else?  Michael Cera is shy and awkward Arrested Development, Superbad, Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, and I’m guessing that he’ll be shy and awkward in Year One.

People seems to like Cera’s shtick, though, so I’m guessing we’ll be seeing a lot more of it.  Speaking of Year One, that brings me to…

3. Jack Black

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Jack Black is probably the only actor in this article that many people find terribly unfunny.  I’m not one of those people, but I do understand.   I think Jack Black is a better musician than he is comedic actor, but his comedy is also what makes his music appealing.  In movies, though, his comedy usually consists of making silly faces, running in an upright, ridiculous way, and raising his voice and screaming the end of every sentence (see School of Rock for numerous examples).  There isn’t much deviation from these acts, and if you’ve seen Jack Black in one comedy, you’ve pretty much seen him in everything.

4. Jeremy Piven

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I really don’t get all the Jeremy Piven love.  He’s not a great actor; being surrounded by sh*tty ones on Entourage doesn’t make him great.  PCU was funny enough, but was any of that really because of Piven (in fairness, the “Go to Bed!” scene is pretty hysterical)?  He played more of a straight man in that movie, anyhow.  Piven is known for, of course, Ari Gold from Entourage.  It’s been the same routine every season: treating anyone below him like sh*t, kissing Vince’s ass, taunting Eric, speading his arms and smiling, and making gay jokes about his assistant.  Maybe it’s my fault for expecting any depth on a show like Entourage, but Ari Gold gets old real fast.  You can point to Piven’s character in Smokin’ Aces, but that’s really just a mellowed-out Ari Gold.

Alright, look, maybe I still am thinking about “overrated comedic actors.”  I don’t get the love.  Let’s move on.

5. Will Ferrell

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Will Ferrell cracks me up in just about everything he’s in, but his act is hardly diverse.  I think Seth Rogen may be the number one comedic actor in America right now (in terms of popularity), but if it isn’t him, it’s probably Will Ferrell.  It seems as though in every movies he’s in, Ferrell plays a loud, clueless man-child.  This works, though, because a loud, clueless man-child reading the news (Anchorman), drinking at a fraternity party (Old School), or giving advice on how to pick up chicks at funerals (Wedding Crashers) is very funny.  Ferrell has tried some different types of movies apart from the sophomoric comedies – such as Bewitched and Stranger Than Fiction – but even in those, we’re laughing at his cluelessness.

Close but no cigar: Ben Stiller

Stiller has TWO distinct roles: neurotic, stuttering Jewish boy that Jewish girls want to bring home to mom (Along Came Polly, Meet the Parents/Fockers, Keeping the Faith, Night at the Museum), and over-the-top clueless guy (Zoolander, Dodgeball, Tropic Thunder).





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19 responses so far

  • Henrik

    Adam Sandler… And Jona Hill.

  • T-Duck

    What no John Cusack? That neurotic guy who think he’s deep, but ends up annoying everyone with his pointless ramblings?

  • xtheenderx

    I could see why Jack Black would seem unfunny but I thought he was hilarious in Nacho Libre. I’m not a Jack Black fan so I dont watch his movies WILLINGLY but he has a lot of potential, given the right role of course.

  • Greg

    David Spade

  • Mojo

    You can say that for most actors, not just comedians.

  • zero

    actually, for that matter, it applies to all actors. they are just being themselves on screen. It happens that people like their personality. ex. Tom Cruise, basically mission impossible every movie. Vin Diesel, the cool muscle man. maybe just all action stars. lol. The only one actor I think that has a lot of range is Anthony Hopkins.

  • YourMother

    Tom Cruise – Days of Thunder, Top Gun, Cocktail, Mission Impossible, Jerry Maguire, Rainman – He’s always the cocky douche! Just like in real life!

  • chelsea

    johnny depp…. a pale, eccentric outsider in every movie…. usually oddly feminine. i will not stray from this opinion.

  • Orleanas

    LOL @ Chesea’s statement. In any case, I didn’t realize Cera was considered a comedian.

    Also very close but no cigar for many years until he started on this family trend: Adam Sandler.

    I agree with you on Ben Stiller and everyone else here.

  • Keen

    I think that Bill Murray has basically played the exact same role in every film since the 70s….but I absolutely adore him and pretty much think he can do no wrong. So, I dunno. I can’t stand Vince Vaughn, though, and he does the exact same thing.

  • Bill

    Christian Bale – growling, bruding “hero” type.

  • Grace

    I completely agree with your list. However Ricky Gervais once said that he’s sometimes more impressed with people who can do one schtick really well, and make it work for there whole career are sometimes more impressive than those who can fit into any role. Like Bob Hope, for instance. That said, Vince Vaughn kind of pisses me off but for the most part the others do make me laugh. And I agree with not putting Sandler on the list- he’s actually pretty diverse- Look at Spanglish and Click compared to Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore and the dude can actually be pretty impressive.

  • Gekidami

    You forgot Ben “I always play the same character” Stiller.

  • Tron

    Seth Rogan.

    he’s right there with Ferrell in that he plays the same type of character in every movie he’s in.

    The chubby guy w/the dead end job (electronics store worker, mall cop etc.). the character either amdits to smoking pot (or PROBABLY does based on what we see of the character).
    he’s unmotivated except to get laid.

    and so on. I think he had his best lines in 40 yr old virgin, anything else i’ve seen him in i haven’t found him at all funny, or at the best only mildly funny compared to other actors (that’d be more castings/writers fault than his own as he doesn’t always get a say in what his characters saying but still it bugs me).

  • anthony

    you’re an idiot and what you’re saying is not only subjective (like you pointed out) but in poor taste
    people find different aspects of humor appealing
    so not only is it subjective
    but one’s man trash can be another man’s interest
    to me you were wrong flat out about most of those people

    form an opinion about something that’s bigger than this
    grow up

  • Madison

    in Heavyweights Ben Stiller plays neither of the two mentioned distinct roles. just sayin.

  • Blah

    Fuck you. Get off your high horse and realize that these people are actually good actors. They might do things differently then you are used to, but hey, not everyone can live up to your shitty standards you acquired from watching too much startrek. So get out of your moms basement, and start judging yourself rather then others you egotistical asshole.

    • Madison

      Did I strike a nerve? Take a deep breath and try again, this time without the “Star Trek” and “Mom’s Basement” cliches, bro. You should also try, you know, reading the article – I write many times that I find most of these guys to be pretty funny.

    • Madison

      Honestly, this is probably the best comment I’ve read in months. I want to print it out and frame it.

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