May 28 2009
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
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
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
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
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
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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