5 Actors Who Famously Played Two Iconic Sitcom Roles
If a comic actor gets lucky — say, Jerry Seinfeld — they can create an all-time favorite sitcom character and coast off the residuals forever. But what are the odds of lightning striking twice (or even a third or fourth time), with sitcom actors not only landing new roles but making those new characters legendary as well? Here are five funny people who make it hard to choose which celebrated sitcom role to remember them for…
Mary Tyler Moore
Carl Reiner cast a mostly unknown, 24-year-old MTM to play a comedy writer’s wife, Laurie Petrie. Moore paid him back with a performance that earned her two Emmys. “When we hired her, nobody knew who she could sing and dance. And I didn’t know that I could,” Dick Van Dyke told CBS Mornings. “We thought we were the best dance team since Astaire and Rogers and we thought we were the best comedy team since Laurel and Hardy.”
Then she one-upped herself by winning four Emmys for her role as Mary Richards, the single gal/TV news producer featured in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. (The idea that a woman could work and be single? Revolutionary!)
Improbably, O’Neill was starring in a stage production of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men when a casting director caught his performance and thought he’d be perfect for the role of Married… With Children’s Al Bundy. Say what now?
After 11 seasons as the Bundy patriarch, it seemed unlikely that O’Neill would once again find sitcom stardom. We didn’t hear much from the guy for a decade, but then boom! He showed up as Jay Pritchett on Modern Family, a funny father about as different from Al Bundy as you can get.
After floundering for three miserable seasons on Saturday Night Live — give her a break, she was 21! — no one could have predicted the star Louis-Dreyfus would become on Seinfeld. Elaine Benes alone is responsible for several catchphrases that are still with us today — yada yada yada, spongeworthy, get out! Plus, there’s the dance.
One could argue she struck gold a second time with The New Adventures of Old Christine, a show for which she received five consecutive Emmy nominations, including a win. But if we’re talking iconic status, Louis-Dreyfus will go down in TV history as Selina Meyer in Veep. Turns out that profane and angry JLD is one of our favorite JLDs.
Speaking of Seinfeld, Stiller turned what could have been a colorful bit part into Frank Costanza, the walking meme machine.
Stiller’s character was so beloved that Kevin James drafted him to play essentially the same guy on King of Queens, only this time they named him Arthur Spooner.
There’s only one correct answer to “best sitcom of the 1980s” and Ted Danson’s Sam Malone was the rock around which the producers built Cheers. Somehow, the guy pulled off two will-they-or-won’t-they? romances with the show’s female leads.
As for Danson’s second iconic role? You could go with the titular Becker, a sitcom that ran for six years. Or Bored to Death’s George Christopher. Heck, Ted Danson playing Ted Danson is one of the funniest characters on Curb Your Enthusiasm. But Danson’s best late-career sitcom role has to be afterlife architect Michael on The Good Place, a role that added three more Emmy nominations to his very long list.