There is a long tradition of stand-up comedians kicking ass in serious Hollywood roles. Ever since Charlie Chaplin inspired with his final speech in The Great Dictator, audiences learned that even the silliest of clowns are capable of breaking our hearts with brilliant performances.
Here are our picks for FIVE of the best dramatic performances from stand-up comedians.
- Our number five goes to the incomparable Steve Martin, for a role in a little known film called Shopgirl. Based on his novella of the same name, Shopgirl is a spirited film that highlights Martin’s softer side. We’ve seen glimpses of his depth in films like Roxanne and It’s Complicated, but Shopgirl is an authentic and vulnerable look into its author and star, and it makes this list because it reminds us of why we fell in love with Steve Martin in the first place.
- Jim Carrey in The Truman Show. Known for his frenetic style and elastic features, Carrey made as easy transition from stand-up comedy to film. While we love his portrayal of Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon (Check out our blog Love and Confusion in the World of Andy Kaufman for more on him) as well as his heartfelt performance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but there’s something so utterly human about Truman Burbank that we can’t help but feel a certain connection to his journey.
- Number Three goes to a performance that caught the whole industry off guard: Mo’nique in Precious. Warning– don’t click the link unless you’re emotionally prepared. Mo’nique, a famous talking head on daytime television churns out one of the most chilling performances in recent history, and took home both the Oscar and the Golden Globe for her work. In the same way that a sad song from a comedy band always hits harder, a terrifying performance from a daytime talk-show comedian packs all the more punch.
- Our man Robin Williams loved to break and re-break our hearts with stirring performances from Hook to Dead Poets’ Society, but for our money we’ve got to give our #2 slot to Sean in Good Will Hunting, who taught us how to forgive ourselves and forge on. Not only was this a break-out for America’s favorite Boston bros, Matt and Ben, but it showed us a new and much more tender side of Williams. We’d stay and talk more about our love for him, but we’ve got to go see about a girl.
- Our number one spot goes to Patton Oswalt and his performance in Diablo Cody’s Young Adult. Oswalt is vulnerable without being pitiable, and he’s a moral compass against a Theron’s delusional leading lady. Even though the Academy snuffed him, Patton Oswalt took home a Critics’ Choice Awards and our hearts.
There are our picks for the five best dramatic performances from stand-up comedians! Feel free to comment below if one of your favorites didn’t make the cut, and don’t forget to stop by Stand Up NY to catch some of the best comedians in New York!