Comedy v Tragedy
Can you do both?
They often say in business, “Stay in your element.” In other words, do what you’re best at.
You can say that in virtually any profession, but it tends to resonate with people in show business, especially if you’re a comedian.
Comedians can have a hard time being taken seriously because their jobs are specifically to not be taken seriously.
While many comedians are unable to branch out, here is a list of some great multitalented people who, although made their images as goofs, have given some great dramatic performances.
Bill Murray in Lost in Translation
From comedies like Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, What About Bob?, and Groundhog Day, along with his work in Wes Anderson movies, his characters have ranged from over the top, to subdued straight men.
In 2003, he switched gears with an Oscar-nominated dramatic turn in the film, Lost in Translation.
He plays Bob Harris, an actor shooting a commercial in Tokyo, and struggling through a midlife crisis. He meets a young woman struggling in her own life, and the two become friends as they share their complicated lives.
Monique in Precious
Monique is a stand-up comedian and actress.
On stage, she’s loud, raunchy, and hilarious. As an actress, she starred in the sitcom, The Parkers, and has done some films as well.
In the 2009 film Precious, she won an Oscar for playing Mary Lee Johnston, an abusive mother who ignores her daughter after she is raped by Mary Lee’s husband, and later admits that she hates her daughter for it because she, “stole her man.”
Sacha Baron Cohen in The Trial of the Chicago 7
This crazy man has cracked up adult audiences with Borat, and kids with King Julien in the Madagascar movies.
But it was Aaron Sorkin’s social drama The Trial of the Chicago 7, that proved he could do so much more than dress up, and fool people with his outrageous characters.
He played Abbie Hoffman, a political and social activist, who along with 6 other men, was charged by the United States federal government with conspiracy, crossing state lines with intent to incite a riot in protest against the Vietnam War and 1960’s counterculture, during the 1968 DNC.
His performance garnered universal acclaim and an Academy Award nomination. I guess all I can say is, “waa wa wee wa, it’s very nice!”
Will Ferrell in Stranger than Fiction
There are two types of people in this world. Those who love Will Ferrell and those who hate Will Ferrell.
Loud, over-the-top performances, on Saturday Night Live, and in movies like Old School, Elf, Anchorman, and Step Brothers, have made him a household name. But, it was 2006’s movie Stranger than Fiction, that proved he can be just as good playing a subdued character.
He plays Harold Crick, a quiet, lonely man who learns that his whole life is the plot of a book and that he is soon going to die.
Jack Black in Bernie
A comedy icon to my generation, with roles like Dewey Finn in School of Rock, Po in the Kung Fu Panda movies, and of course, “Nachooo!!!”
In 2011, he surprised us all in the biographical movie Bernie. He plays Bernie Tiede, a 38-year-old mortician, who murdered his 81-year-old wife and was later convicted to a life sentence for the crime.
Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems
Starting on Saturday Night Live, he became famous for comedies like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, Click, and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. He periodically earned acclaim for his work in the dramedy’s, Punch Drunk-Love, Reign over Me, and The Meyerowitz Stories. But none were very well-known, and all seemed to get overshadowed by his comedies, which continued to be panned.
When he makes comedies, they are critically trashed, but make tons of money. When he makes dramas, they are critically acclaimed, but nobody sees them.
However, in 2019, he managed to please both audiences and critics, and won the National Board of Review’s Best Actor award, with his dramatic turn in the movie Uncut Gems.
He plays Howard Ratner, a diamond dealer with a gambling addiction and a self-destructive personality.
Steve Carell in Foxcatcher
While he’s had successful comedies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and lent his voice to the Despicable Me films, and appeared in dramedies like Little Miss Sunshine, it’s the sitcom The Office, that’s his best known work.
I remember in 2010, when I heard Steve Carell was leaving The Office, I thought he was ruining his career.
Well, it turns out I was wrong because, in 2015, he earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in the drama Foxcatcher.
He plays John du Pont. A real-life millionaire who, in the 1980s, turned his 440-acre home into a wrestling compound. He recruited wrestling brothers Mark and Dave Schultz, along with the rest of the US Olympic team, to live at the compound while training for the Games. But, du Pont’s strange and disturbing behavior took over resulting in emotional abuse, and even murder.
Jim Carrey in The Truman Show
Who doesn’t know and/or love this crazy man?! But most people tend to categorize him as that guy who talks out of his ass, literally.
He’s made comedy classics like Ace Ventura, Dumb & Dumber, and Bruce Almighty, but, like everyone else on this list, has tried his hand at dramas too.
To me, this is especially notable with his performance in the movie, The Truman Show.
He plays Truman Burbank, an average man who learns that his entire life is a fake TV series, watched live by the whole world.
He gives a very good performance that audiences and critics loved. He also proved that behind that crazy, funny man is a good actor with lots of range.
Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls
He’s been a fixture in our lives since his work on Saturday Night Live, to movies like the Shrek series, The Nutty Professor, and Bowfinger.
In 2006, however, Murphy dove into the dramatic world with Dreamgirls.
He plays Jimmy Early, a heroin-addicted soul singer, a fictional cross between James Brown and Marvin Gaye. It’s a role that earned him an Oscar nomination, staged a very welcome comeback, and proved something that the 80’s could not: the man can sing!!!
Robin Williams in One Hour Photo
Robin Williams, THE KING, was one of the funniest people alive, from his stand-up, and movies like Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin, and The Birdcage.
But, something that many people don’t give him enough credit for was his dramatic work. Good Will Hunting, The Fisher King, and Dead Poets Society were all great, but to me, his best dramatic turn was in One Hour Photo.
Robin plays a lonely man named Sy Parrish, a photo technician who becomes obsessed with this one particular family. He begins to watch their house and decorates his apartment with copies of their photos.
This is a very creepy, sad, and disturbing movie, but Robin managed to make you feel for this man by showing you his human side.
Well, there’s my list. If you can think of any others, feel free to let me know. And if you get a chance, check out all the work of these great, versatile entertainers.