20 Serious Actors and Directors That Killed It in Comedies

These people are so talented, they make comedy look easy.
20 Serious Actors and Directors That Killed It in Comedies

Artsiest of the artsy directors Terrence Malick is a big Zoolander fan. Now, we totally get it, Zoolander is a bonkers classic, but that is a fascinating factoid nonetheless. Similarly, Christopher Nolan, director of You Know Damn Well Who Nolan Is, is a major comedy buff, and the genre intimidates him so much that he doesn’t even dare make a comedy. As he once explained, the issue with comedies is that its creators cannot hide behind the old “you just don’t get it” excuse – either a comedy makes people laugh or it doesn’t. Comedy, then, is an attractive challenge even for the most serious of artists.

In this Pictofact, we take a look at a bunch of serious creators who successfully dabbled in comedy with surprising (and hilarious) results. We mostly focus on performers, but you’ll also find directors here and there. You might call this a new version, if you will, of our past investigations into Mozart’s butt-related works or James Joyce’s, erm, also butt-related works? What’s with high-brow creative geniuses and fart jokes? Anyway, if you excuse us, we have to finish writing the fart scene from Hot Bikini Philosopher Ph.D. before sending it to Nolan – it’s much more challenging than your usual, somber, meditative reflections on the weight of absolute power, Christopher. What? What do you mean that’s a lame joke? Whatever, you just don’t get it.

Jeff Bridges

Serious actors and directors doing comedy Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski After a lifetime making dramas, Bridges stumbled upon comedy gold with the Coen brothers by just playing a heightened version of his mellow self. Yes, he also appeared in the Barbra Streisand-led om-com The Mirror Has Two Faces, but we don't talk about that movie. Nobody does. CRACKED.COM

Ralph Fiennes

Serious actors and directors doing comedy Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel Fiennes is a British Thespian™. In this charming Wes Anderson comedy, however, he breaks with his usual dramatic roles and brings a sort of mischievous, eccentric energy instead-and absolutely succeeds. His line delivery is just flawless, and he almost makes seducing rich old women for their money look like a respectable career path. CRACKED.COM

Dustin Hoffman

Serious actors and directors doing comedy Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie Hoffman came to prominence with 1972's The Graduate, which is, yes, a comedy-but it's an angsty, dramatic comedy. In the following years, he continued making serious stuff like Midnight Cowboy and Marathon Man-which makes it insane that he pulled 1982's Tootsie so brilliantly, the sort of ridiculous farce that even critics fell in love with. CRACKED.COM

Meryl Streep

Serious actors and directors doing comedy Meryl Streep in Don't Look Up Yes, Streep has been doing comedies for a while, including awesome ones like Death Becomes Her and Mamma Mia! But she mainly turned to comedy after decades of serious dramatic roles and winning, like, every Oscar. By the time Don't Look Up came along, she could easily rock as a ridiculously dumb and corrupt, gender-swapped version of Donald Trump. CRACKED.COM

Martin Scorsese

Serious actors and directors doing comedy Martin Scorsese directing The Wolf of Wall Street Scorsese's failed foray into comedy was 1985's After Hours. The King of Comedy, of course, is a classic, but that was all the way back in 1982. In 2013, however, he returned to the genre with the goofy, ridiculous, and hyperkinetic The Wolf of Wall Street, a depressingly funny movie about corporate greed that even succeeds in getting into haha-funny territory. CRACKED.COM

Emma Thompson

Serious actors and directors doing comedy Emma Thompsn in Love Actually Thompson has been doing comedies for a while, but at this point she had serious high-brow cred with dramas like The Remains of the Day and Sense and Sensibility. Here she may not provide the biggest laughs, but she does play her small role with charm and wit, classing up a rom-com already full of greats. CRACKED.COM

Omar Sharif

Serious actors and directors doing comedy PE Omar Sharif in Top Secret! 0 Sharif was kind of a big deal in old-timey Hollywood, having appeared in such epic productions as Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago. In 1984, however, the Egyptian actor appeared in Top Secret!, a goofy action slapstick from the guys behind The Naked Gun. Не even kills it with the poop jokes, so, you know, our kind of movie. CRACKED.COM

Michael Shannon

Serious actors and directors doing comedy Michael Shannon in They Came Together A parody of rom-coms led by Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd sounds too good to be true -and it is, as the movie is not really that funny. One of its credits, though, is allowing the way-too-intense Michael Shannon to goof out as a way-too-intense ex-con trying to get together with Poehler. CRACKED.COM

George C. Scott

Serious actors and directors doing comedy George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove Scott was such a powerful character actor that his theater scene in Hardcore has become a meme. By 1964, he had only done TV shows and dramatic movie roles, but going almost cartoonishly silly for Kubrick's anti-war masterpiece showed he could easily bring his brilliance to comedic roles. CRACKED.COM

Annette Benning

Serious actors and directors doing comedy Annette Bening in The American President Bening is super underrated. By 1995, she had done a few comedies, but mainly honed her acting chops in challenging dramas like Valmont and Guilty by Suspicion. In this forgotten rom-com, her smart and independent character also gets to be all clumsy and quirky, and she totally nails the awkwardness of dating an Aaron Sorkin-penned president. CRACKED.COM

Mandy Patinkin

Serious actors and directors doing comedy Mandy Patinkin in The Princess Bride Patinkin is such a serious character actor that he had to quit TV trash like Criminal Minds because it was affecting his mental health. Dude takes his job seriously. Among his dramatic theater and movie work, however, he made comedy history with his portrayal of Inigo Montoya, the avenging Spanish swashbuckler in that movie we all love. CRACKED.COM

Stanley Kubrick

Serious actors and directors doing comedy Stanley Kubrick directing Lolita Out of the blue, the serious director of The Killing, Paths of Glory, and Spartacus made two comedies back-to-back: Lolita and Dr. Strangelove. Yes, Lolita adaptations have always been too male-gazey, but the film masterfully combines the darker drama with the goofball insanity brought about by Peter Sellers. Kubrick understood comedy to a T. CRACKED.COM

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Serious actors and directors doing comedy Philip Seymour Hoffman in Along Came Polly Along Came Polly is a disposable Ben Stiller comedy that doesn't deserve an artist of Hoffman's stature, and is redeemed by the man's few scenes. Hoffman, of course, was one of the best character actors of his generation, as proven by Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights, Magnolia, or Punch-Drunk Love. CRACKED.COM

Ryan Gosling

Serious actors and directors doing comedy Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love Gosling's comedy cred peaked in 2016, when The Nice Guys and La La Land came out. But a string of serious dramas and indie films was already sprinkled with silliness when he appeared as a pick-up artist with a heart of gold in 2011's Crazy, Stupid, Love. Seriously, every scene with Steve Carell is just hilarious. CRACKED.COM

James Caan

Serious actors and directors doing comedy James Caan in Elf While we cringe at Robert De Niro or Al Pacino's comedic output, fellow Godfather-verse legend Caan actually killed it in Elf. His tough on-screen persona works brilliantly as the straight man to Will Ferrell. Не didn't even have to change his acting style: it was just a matter of acting annoyed at Ferrell's insanity, grounding the film's emotional core. CRACKED.COM

Michael Douglas

Serious actors and directors doing comedy Michael Douglas in Wonder Boys By 2000, Douglas had already appeared in a few interesting comedies, but had also built a solid career with dramas like Fatal Attraction, Wall Street, or Falling Down. Wonder Boys, however, is not only a perfect comedic drama. Douglas also leads a cast of greats with a hilarious performance as a stoner creative writing professor with writer's block. CRACKED.COM

Vincent D'Onofrio

Serious actors and directors doing comedy Vincent D'Onofrio in Men in Black We could also talk about Tommy Lee Jones' hilarious deadpan as Agent K, but D'Onofrio truly killed it with his disgusting, human-suit-over-a-giant-bug, Steve Bannon-like villain. A career starting with Full Metal Jacket and full of powerful dramas eventually led to this (and our childhood's nightmares were born). CRACKED.COM

Tom Cruise

Serious actors and directors doing comedy Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder After Mission: Impossible, Cruise's preference for action blockbusters over the dramas that helped build his career became clear. But then came 2008's Tropic Thunder, and suddenly he could play a fat, sweaty, coked-up Hollywood producer that took an already hilarious comedy to the next level. CRACKED.COM

Glenn Close

Serious actors and directors doing comedy Glenn Close in 101 Dalmatians Close is pretty much synonymous with serious character actress. But in 1996, she went full insanity with her portrayal of Cruella de Vil in this live-action remake. The movie is meh, but her gleefully evil Cruella runs circles around Emma Stone's. CRACKED.COM

Ldeslie Nielsen

Serious actors and directors doing comedy Leslie Nielsen in Airplane! Nielsen is the archetypical serious actor becoming a comedy legend. The Naked Gun movies are all brilliant, but the real game-changer was 1980's Airplane! Before that, Nielsen was a character actor, having appeared as a heartthrob in 1956's The Forbidden Planet and a bunch of serious disaster films like 1972's The Poseidon Adventure. CRACKED.COM
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