Popular comedians are often seen in comedic movies and TV shows, but every so often we’ll see one star in a dramatic role. It may seem surprising at first, but it doesn’t take much to realize that many comedians are dealing with the same dramatic themes in their humor as are found in serious movies.
Kristen Wiig in Skeleton Twins
Kristen Wiig became popular as a prominent cast member of Saturday Night Live and went on to star in the hit comedy Bridesmaids. She also had smaller supporting roles in movies like Knocked Up, Semi-Pro, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, all comedies. When Wiig did The Skeleton Twins with fellow SNL alum Bill Hader, it was a surprising but well-done turn as they both pulled off dramatic acting like seasoned pros.
Steve Carell in Little Miss Sunshine
Since 2006 when Little Miss Sunshine came out, Steve Carell has starred in multiple dramatic movies like Foxcatcher and The Way, Way Back. However, many people remember Carell’s role as the suicidal Uncle Frank to be his first dramatic breakthrough, as up to that point his big credits had been from The Daily Show, The Office, and movies like Anchorman and The 40-Year-Old-Virgin. It shows that as much as Steve Carell can bring the laughs, he can also bring the crushing sadness of a suicidal gay Proustian scholar rejected by love.
Mo’Nique in Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Before Precious, Mo’Nique was popular mainly for her stand-up and role in TV show “The Parkers.” Her portrayal of the cruel and abusive Mary Lee Johnston, mother of Precious, earned her an Academy Award and credit for being able to imbibe even the most horrible of characters with a level of humanity.
Sarah Silverman in I Smile Back
Sarah Silverman is widely known for her stand-up comedy and has had a slew of supporting comedy roles, which is perhaps what makes her role in I Smile Back even more hard-hitting. She plays a suburban wife with a seemingly good life, but is dealing with mental health issues and destructive behavior. Silverman herself has said that the role took a lot for her emotionally, and watching the movie, one can see why.
Much of comedy draws from the same material as dramatic stories. If you’d like to see how it works, check out a show at Stand Up NY.