Unexpected Inspirations Behind Famous Comedic Performances

Sometimes your comedic muse appears in the strangest of places
Unexpected Inspirations Behind Famous Comedic Performances

Sometimes, an actor will look to conventional inspiration for a movie role — be it observing random people on the street, or studying someone relevant to their character, like a doctor or a psychotic and homicidal chef. Other times, especially when its not your average run-of-the-mill character, actors will turn to strange and unexpected places. Hey, creativity is wild, and if your muse is hiding somewhere in the tank of an aquarium or a disaster of a musical festival, then you have got to go there...

Ken Jeong, The Hangover

Jeong rose to fame with his bananas portrayal of Mr. Chow in The Hangover trilogy, a character best known and remembered for his angry outbursts and sassy takedowns. That anger, however, was inspired by real events going on in Jeongs life — specifically, his wifes breast cancer diagnosis.

In the PBS documentary Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, Jeong spoke about this difficult period and his wife encouraging him to do the film. She thought I was suffering from caregiver burnout, the actor, who is also a doctor, explained. Jeong channeled the rage at his wifes suffering through his character, even slipping in some Vietnamese (his wifes familial tongue) dialogue as an inside joke just to make her laugh.

Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat

The English actor told Rolling Stones that a trip to Russia and a random doctor inspired his creation of the man who turned mah wife into the go-to joke for soon-to-be divorced dudes everywhere. While on vacation in the Russian beach city of Astrakhan, Baron Cohen met an extremely eccentric doctor. Within seconds, me and my friends were crying with laughter, he said. He had some elements of Borat, but he had none of the racism or the misogyny or the anti-Semitism. He was Jewish, actually.

Margot Robbie, Babylon

The actress revealed on The Kelly Clarkson Show that she based her Babylon character, Nellie LaRoy, on an octopus and a honey badger. The snake fight scene? Thats all honey badger, Robbie said about the scene in which her character faces off with a rattlesnake. There are actual videos of honey badgers fighting snakes. Theres videos of honey badgers, which arent huge animals, fighting lions. And they have really thick skin. (Nellie) fights anything and anyone at the drop of a hat.

As for the octopus, who knows? Maybe she channeled them in her dance scenes — octopuses are known for their incredible boogie skills. Robbie has turned to animals for inspiration before, which is a common acting technique for character development. For her role in I, Tonya, she imitated pit bulls and wild horses. Pretty sure she looked at her titular character in the upcoming movie Barbie and went, I gotta check out some penguins for this one.

Jim Carrey, The Mask

It turns out that Carrey, Lord of the Mustache and master of cartoonish acting, based his famous, over-the-top, green-faced character on… his dad? In an interview, Carrey told Roger Ebert that his old man was the true inspiration behind his funny terrifying character, Stanley Ipkiss. When I sit back, and I look at my father tell a joke, hes a very strange guy, and I never really realized until one day I sat down and really watched him, Carrey told Ebert. Hes like a cartoon. I mean, hes just not natural. I use my father in a lot of different things. Stanley Ipkiss is a lot of my father. Hes like deaf in one ear, so everything you say to him is, Ah? What? Eh? Oh, yeah! YEAH!’” Pops must be so proud.

Natasha Lyonne, Poker Face

Rian Johnsons new weekly murder mystery TV show is out, and it sees Lyonne play Charlie Cale — a walking human lie detector with the most impeccable hair. The  actress told The Hollywood Reporter that she channeled a couple of famous on-screen hardboiled detectives — and The Dude? A lot of my talking to myself just walking through the streets, Im usually thinking, If Elliot Gould could get away with this so can I,’” the actress said. I think Im in my Gene Hackman Night Moves era, just solidly middle-aged, back-foot. Lebowski, Jeff Bridges, The Dude — somebody whos kind of taking it easy but just cant stand bulls**t, sees the truth and sees the lie and has got to follow it until the end because they love a puzzle too much not to.

Jonah Hill, Don’t Look Up

Its no secret (and not subtle) that both Meryl Streep and Hills characters in Don't Look Up were based on the Trump family. Hill himself reads like an amalgamation of the Trump children, but theres another, way funnier inspiration that made him play the foul little critter, Jason Orlean, son/servant of Madame President. While talking about the movie on The Tonight Show, Hill said that he basically created his character by thinking, What if Fyre Festival was a person?

Bill Hader, Barry

Hader, the guy who can make LeBron James look funny, plays the titular character in HBOs dark comedy about a hitman trying his hand at acting in the hopes of finding some meaning in his life. And its apparently very much based on his own real-life experiences. 

See, Hader didnt have the best of time working on Saturday Night Live due to the shows insane schedule, coupled with his own personal anxieties, often getting the best of him. Sometimes the actor would be so nervous going on that hed be hyperventilating backstage. As Hader told GQ: I love the people there, but doing that show was really hard for me. It was this funny thing of being trapped by this thing that was hurting you. I had to go to a therapist and do meditation — all these things to try to calm my nerves. It was becoming really detrimental for my performing.

That sounds awful, but at least Hader isnt secretly a contract killer (that we know of).

Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?