The 10 Most Irreplaceable Performances in Comedy Films
Sometimes a comedy role is such a perfect combination of casting and performance that it's unthinkable for another actor to ever attempt it. Here are the top 10 roles that could never have been and never will be replaced.
#10. Anthony Michael Hall: Weird Science
There are three main types of movie nerds. One is an academic stereotype who doesn't talk much. The second is a hilarious weirdo who would be totally popular if he wasn't in a movie script. In Weird Science, Anthony Michael Hall perfected the third: the nerd whose sexual frustration has driven him insane.
Hall performs in Weird Science like his captured family will be killed if he's not funny. He packs more manic desperation into his lines than a dry-humping seventh grader. He delivers lines in ways that would make Christopher Walken say, "What a strange WAY to deliver your lines."
To be fair, almost every casting decision in Weird Science is irreplaceable. Bill Paxton will never have a more perfect role than Chet, and even after 25 years of filmmaking, this is still Robert Downey Jr.'s greatest moment:
#9. Fred Willard: Best in Show
In Best in Show, Fred Willard plays the color commentator for the Mayflower Dog Show. In just a few lines, he creates a character stupid enough to be confused by everything, but clever enough to fuck with his broadcast partner. He asks inane questions about foreign dog accents, jokes about sex fetishes and you can never tell if the actor next to him, Jim Piddock, is caught off guard by Fred Willard or the character he's playing.
No one else has the ability to make intentionally unfunny jokes work like this. His comic delivery is so natural that I don't think he can prevent it. If Fred Willard was a doctor, it would take him 15 tries to convince you he wasn't kidding about your bone cancer.
#8. Eddie Murphy: The Golden Child
No movie has ever been rescued harder than Eddie Murphy rescued The Golden Child. It's the story of The Chosen One entering a secret world of Tibetan mysticism to rescue a magic boy (played by a girl). The Golden Child script is so simple and racist that its daughter married a black man just to piss it off. Obese people make up better stories when their doctor asks them what they've been eating. The special effects are embarrassing enough to make modeling clay suicidal, and there are more clever plot twists on a dildo's storage instructions. The Golden Child is more disrespectful to Tibet than the People's Liberation Army of China.
What's awesome is that Eddie Murphy thinks it's as stupid as we do. He mocks every line, prop and character he encounters. They could probably release nine hours of deleted scenes where Eddie Murphy turns to camera to tell his agent to fuck himself. No one else could make this mess funny. To give you an idea of how lucky the movie was to get Eddie Murphy, his role was originally going to go to Mel Gibson. That would have been a disaster. Mel Gibson wouldn't have even noticed how ridiculous or racist it was. He took a village of barbarian children seriously in Mad Max 3, and his idea of respecting other cultures is bringing a bottle of scotch into an Ethiopian restaurant and telling the homos to stop Jewing him over a corking fee.
#7. Curtis Armstrong: Revenge of the Nerds
Booger stole every scene in Revenge of the Nerds, but his greatest performance was at the Lambda Lambda Lambda fraternity party. Booger opens the door for the Omega Mu sorority girls and a parade of homely beasts march past him. His disappointment looks so real that half of them cried when the director called cut.
He starts to close the door, but gets stopped by a giant hand. There's a group of stragglers -- a group of enormous women whose acting reels are used as Bigfoot proof. As each one squeezes past, Curtis Armstrong gets more and more into it. The subtle, unspoken way he transitions from disinterest to eye-fucking should be taught in every theater class. It's nothing short of amazing. If there was a category for it, it would have won the Academy Award for Greatest Performance of an Actor in a Fat Joke.
#6. Alan Rickman: Galaxy Quest
Alan Rickman can pack so much tragedy, rage, injustice and disgust into a single line that you'd swear it was a McRib.
#5. Vanilla Ice: Cool As Ice
This film was the result of an avalanche of unfortunate decisions. We'll never see anything like Cool As Ice again. It was based around such a rapidly fleeting concept of cool that by the time it hit theaters, it was less of a culture shock to walk in on a slave auction. After they finished this story of Vanilla Ice as himself the motorcycle crimefighter, there was enough unintentional comedy that they had to give irony a producer credit.
You have to hurry when you're making a movie like this, so for most his screen time, Vanilla Ice is dressed in different sacks of unwanted pajamas. It seems his only direction was "be your coolest!" so he moves like a drunk alien driving a Fonzie robot. He delivers lines in a dodgy hip-hop accent that sounds like a New Kid on the Block doing a dramatic reading of a bottle of Afro Sheen, and he's such a bad actor you can't tell if he's trying his best or crying inside. In 1991, my grandmother gave me a dinosaur birthday card that had more longevity and toughness than Vanilla Ice's image, and we should consider ourselves lucky that such strange filmmakers preserved that image forever.
#4. Paul Rudd: Wet Hot American Summer
Paul Rudd attacks every scene of this movie with the soul-crushing apathy of a hitchhiker handjob. I've listened to my girlfriend explain a dream for an hour, and I can't even approach the hilarious level of disinterest Paul Rudd shows when he watches a camper drown or suddenly shoves a kissing girl off his mouth. Paul Rudd is so good at playing a dick boyfriend that Rihanna ducks when she watches Wet Hot American Summer.
#3. Bill Murray: Ghostbusters
Almost any Bill Murray role fits on this list, but Ghostbusters is one of the most lovable movies ever made, and 90 percent of that is Bill Murray's fault. If you actually look at the character of Pete Venkman, he's a borderline sex offender who uses electrical torture as a punchline. He tells presumably-dicked representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency that they have no dicks. He mocks the spirits of the dead in a world where he knows they can hear him. If Bill Murray wasn't a comic genius we'd probably be asking why someone made a movie out of some script they found on death row.
#2. John Belushi: Animal House
It's incredible that 30 of the funniest seconds in movie history was just written down as "EXT. NIGHT - BLUTO warily approaches DEAN WORMER'S office." John Belushi's legendary character resonated through the biomorphic field that connects all drinkers. Whenever you're drinking with more than six guys, one of them has been training his whole life to be John Blutarsky. John Belushi partied so hard that if you breastfeed your baby on his grave it grows a tail.
#1. Leslie Nielsen: Airplane!
Leslie Nielsen was an impossible combination of deadpan and cartoon. One might argue about some of the names on this list, but Leslie Nielsen has actually been proven to be irreplaceable. When the creators of Airplane! went on to make movies without Nielsen as the lead, they ended up committing international crimes against comedy. If you put a toddler in front of Scary Movie 4, it will grow up only being able to laugh when it murders.
Airplane! was a ridiculous concept. On paper, more than half the script is jokeless, and it was cast almost entirely with actors who had no comedy experience. And through this strange set of circumstances, the world discovered that Leslie Nielsen could read you a parking ticket and get a laugh. Some of the jokes he saves in The Naked Gun movies should be verified by the Catholic church as miracles. For example, he once looked up a woman's dress, told her she had a nice beaver and he was talking about a taxidermy prop. If he can make that hilarious, surely you have to consider him for comedic sainthood.