Comedians Who Got Second Lives in Other Genres
Crossing genres in the acting world isn’t always easy, and it’s even harder if we’re talking about an actor known for bringing the funny. Heck, the great Jack Black managed to fade into nothingness in King Kong — a feat few people thought possible. To be fair, that movie could’ve done with a sprinkle of clever jokes and just way more of that famously fun Jack Black personality.
However, sometimes, comedic actors can swap their clown shoes for, uh, fancy shoes (or whatever dramatic actors and superheroes wear) and successfully navigate a genre outside of their comfort zone. Like these four funnymen…
To think: We may never have had Jamie Foxx play a blue man in a Marvel movie if his girlfriend hadn’t dared him to perform at an open mic event back in 1989. Two years later, Foxx would go on to win the Bay Area Black Comedy Competition, and subsequently land an audition and part in Fox’s sketch comedy series, Living Color, where he and Jim Carrey got to do, uh, things like this:
Peak 1990s, right there. It didn’t take long for him to shoot up in the industry with his own sitcom and the Academy Award-winning Booty Call.
Foxx would first dip his toes into the dramatic pool with Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday, where he held his own opposite Al Pacino. Two years later, he’d prove that wasn’t a fluke and that he could easily play real people, too, by taking on the role of Muhammed Ali’s trainer Drew Bundini Brown in Michael Mann’s Ali. Foxx then reached the top of the mountain in 2004, when he became the first Black man and only the third guy in cinematic history to receive two acting Oscar noms in the same year for Collateral and Ray — the latter of which saw him take that nude gold statuette home.
Ever since, he’s worked with everyone from Quentin Tarantino to Edgar Wright — to say nothing of his successful music career. All that’s left for him is to try his hand at horror. Oh wait, he totally did that this year, and it was rad.
Who would ever have thought that the guy who became famous for waxing his chest in a movie so his character could finally have sex would go on to become one of the best and most successful comedy actors in dramas?
It’s not just the fantastic nose work in Foxcatcher — Steve Carell totally transformed himself for the role of self-appointed wrestling coach and deeply troubled man, John du Pont. What makes Carell so good is that he immerses himself into a role so smoothly; he makes it all seem like a walk in the park. Such talent from a guy who started off on The Daily Show back in 1999, bickering with Stephen Colbert about everything from taxes to who can supply the better weed for an orgy.
Sure, Carell still does a lot of comedy, but the fact that he was able to portray more serious roles made him a sought-after talent in the ol’ Wood of the Holly. He played meanest stepdad-material douchebag Trent in The Way Way Back (a movie that stripped him of any and all humor), he portrayed a severely depressed gay scholar who tucked on our heartstrings in Little Miss Sunshine and he would go on to work with Adam McKay in his biographical dramadies, The Big Short and Vice.
And while he’s still making comedy series like the now-canceled Space Force, Carell seems to have found more acclaim in the serious shows, including Hulu’s psychological thriller The Patient, and the Apple TV+ drama series, The Morning Show. The comedian has truly made a success of his ability to transcend genres. He is, after all, everyone’s favorite angry funny guy.
If you haven’t yet, go watch Wendell & Wild on Netflix, and appreciate just how funny Jordan Peele can be even as a purple stop-motion demon puppet. Peele and Keegan-Michael Key have enjoyed much success with their show, Key & Peele, but it’s Peele’s ascension as the new master of horror that’s been most impressive — and extremely enjoyable.
It’s interesting that Peele, too, would kickstart his comedy career by playing a drag character (a Danish supermodel called Ute) on stage, much like Foxx did in his first sketch comedy show. Peele would join Madtv in 2003, and this was where the Key and Peele dynamic essentially blossomed into existence. The two just had excellent chemistry together.
While Peele would go on to do a lot of comedy projects, he’d never hit main star status, instead taking up bit parts in movies like Little Fockers and Wanderlust. The year 2017, however, changed the perception of him as only the funny guy with the great impressions who mostly does projects with his buddy. Taking on a behind-the-scenes role, Peele created Get Out, a psychological horror movie that The Atlantic correctly called “a masterpiece.” From there, the producer, writer and director would go on to make more horror movies, revive both The Twilight Zone and Candyman, and give us one of the best horror films of 2022.
John Krasinki essentially jumped from jokester Jim Halpert in The Office to family-friendly/sometimes rom-com movies, to making a full-blown horror movie, to playing Jack effin’ Ryan. It’s not that we’re surprised, it’s just that we didn’t think the tall guy with the funny nose would venture that far into the genre atmosphere. Like, the family-friendly stuff still feels on par with the family man’s whole shtick. A Quiet Place, however, threw us a big curveball and proved that there’s definitely more to the guy who turned smirking into an entire personality.
Who’d have thought that Krasinski would go on to not only write, direct and star in a movie about gigantic space bugs wanting to eat his family, but also star in your dad’s favorite 21st century TV show?
Of course, Halpert fans collectively lost their minds earlier this year when he finally made an appearance in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as the character they’ve all been petitioning for.
That Krasinski can write isn’t all that surprising, since he did start off as an intern in the writers room at Late Night with Conan O’Brien. That he is seemingly transitioning into full-blown action hero territory is another story altogether, especially since chances are good that he might just get cast in a full Reed Richards Marvel movie after all. Which, as I’ve written about before, is a weird choice for a character who, in its origins, is less “good guy” and way more Elon Musk.
But hey, maybe that's what the people really want.
Zanandi is, regrettably, still on Twitter.