In Praise of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Comedy Chops
When one thinks about the career of the great Philip Seymour Hoffman, it’s likely in regards to his acclaimed dramatic performances as, say, Truman Capote in Capote, Dan Mahowny in Owning Mahowny or Kirkland Signature L. Ron Hubbard in The Master. But we’d like to take a moment to shine a light on what a gifted comedic actor he was, as evidenced by movies like Along Came Polly, where he plays Ben Stiller’s former teen movie star buddy. And really, Hoffman doesn’t get enough credit for helping to usher the term “shart” into mainstream culture.
While we recently learned that Hoffman turned down the villain role in Billy Madison, he did appear in a few other flat-out comedies, playing a bartender in Ricky Gervais’ critically-reviled The Invention of Lying and showing off his pitch-perfect deadpan skills in the Strangers with Candy movie.
And a lot of us first noticed Hoffman in a broad comedic role — he was a low-key highlight of The Big Lebowski as the perpetually put-upon Smithers to the older, richer Jeffrey Lebowski’s Mr. Burns.
Even in films that aren’t typically thought of as laugh-out-loud comedies, Hoffman was often extremely funny. He gets perhaps the funniest scene in Magnolia, bashfully ordering porno over the phone in order to track down his elderly patient’s estranged son. And this outtake from Punch Drunk Love, in which Hoffman perfectly recreates a real-life mattress commercial blooper, might be the funniest thing you’ll see all day.
And while Charlie Wilson’s War isn’t a movie people talk about much these days, unless Jeopardy is doing a “Tom Hanks Movies No One Gives A Damn About Anymore” category, we do recommend the scene where Hoffman berates Roger Sterling, then smashes his office window for a second time, minutes after it’s been replaced.
So just remember to whom you owe a debt the next time you, or someone you care about, sharts in public.
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