5 Great Sitcom Performances By Dramatic Actors

5 Great Sitcom Performances By Dramatic Actors

Dying is easy, goes the old saying, but comedy is hard. While dramatic actors get all the Oscars, performers seem to agree that nailing a comic performance has a greater degree of difficulty. Who can pull it off? That’s what u/Helloimafanoffiction wanted to know, asking the r/sitcoms subreddit, “What’s your favorite comedic performance by a dramatic actor in a sitcom?” Here are Redditors’ most popular answers.

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Andre Braugher in ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’

“This,” confirmed u/Kind_Consequence_828 of the actor best known for dramatic roles in shows like Homicide: Life on the Streets. “I almost fainted when I saw him. They also gave him fun lines that he could deliver in his grave and dour manner.”

“Bingpot! This is the answer,” says u/Substantial_Tour9690. “I love how they wrote his character. It was such a smooth transition into the full comedic star we see at the end.”

John Lithgow in ‘Third Rock from the Sun’

Lithgow received two Oscar nominations for his dramatic turns in The World According to Garp and Terms of Endearment but won even more acclaim (three Emmys and five nominations) for his role as Dick Solomon in Third Rock from The Sun. u/abgry_krakow84 posted this favorite exchange:

Dick: Rock and Roll music preaches a gospel of easy sexuality and relaxed morality, and I will not endorse an enterprise which is as fraught with peril as I believe this one to be!
Tommy: So, you resent us for being young and living in a world full of carnal possibilities which you can’t possibly enjoy.
Dick: Yes! Now knock it off!

u/Prestigious_One8006 rightly pointed out that Dick’s rant could have come from his angry preacher/dad role in Footloose. “Thrilled to see he’s the top comment,” wrote u/Puddlingon. “That man was brilliant in 3rd Rock.”

Ed Asner in ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’

“Ed Asner is the classic answer,” says u/idiotprogrammer2017. “He was known primarily for his dramatic roles before MARY TYLER MOORE and had to spend a lot of time convincing the director that he could also do comedy.”

According to a story that Asner told Kelly Clarkson, it was Moore herself who had doubts. “A couple of years later after I was on the show, I found out that when I left the room (after his audition), Mary turned to the producers and said, ‘Are you sure?’ And then they said, ‘That's your Lou Grant.’"

Asner came full circle, reminded u/xwhy, when the character was spun off into the dramatic Lou Grant

Leslie Nielsen in ‘Police Squad!’

Prior to being cast in Airplane!, points out u/MondoMondo5, Nielsen “did mostly dramatic stuff.” 

It was Police Squad! and Airplane! creators Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers who found Nielsen’s deadpan dramatic style so funny. “They were basically like, ‘Just act exactly the same way’ lol,” wrote u/Beezus_Fuffoon18, “and it resulted in some of the most brilliant comedy ever.”

Charlize Theron in ‘Arrested Development’

u/kid_sleepy summed up the Oscar winner’s comedic performance: “FOR BRITISH EYES ONLY!”

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