When comedians get serious: 10 breakthrough performances
When you’re bored of the successes that come with stand-up and situation comedy, maybe follow suit like these 10 actors and go the dramatic route. It seemed to work out well for all of them.
1. Jim Carrey, The Truman Show
Everybody was upset in 1999 when the Academy Awards snubbed Carrey for a best actor nod—”The Truman Show” picked up three nominations overall. (You didn’t exactly see any picks and axes when the Oscars didn’t bother to recognize Carrey’s finest film “The Cable Guy” with any nominations whatsoever.) Anyway, he picked up a Golden Globe for “The Truman Show.” So that’s pretty good.
2. Richard Pryor, Blue Collar
Roger Ebert called director Paul Schrader’s labor union drama “a stunning debut” that “took courage to make the movie that honest.” The same goes for its star, Richard Pryor, whose big smile stretched across the theatrical poster as if it was a screwball comedy. It wasn’t, and it bombed. But critics recognize the levity Pryor helped bring to Schrader’s film: “A mastery of small detail, an empathy that enabled him to disappear into character, an imagination that made even his despair about social issues funny.”
3. Jerry Lewis, The Day the Clown Cried
Jerry Lewis’s unfinished Holocaust film stars himself as German circus clown Helmut Dorque, who entertains Jewish children as he leads them into the gas chamber. Though never released in theaters, the legendary 1972 title made a new generation of Hollywood recognize Lewis for something more than his goofy Nutty Professor and Bellboy roles. Lewis eventually starred in Martin Scorsese’s 1983 masterwork “The King of Comedy”.
4. Sarah Silverman, Take This Waltz
The New Yorker appreciated the “refreshing frankness” of Sarah Silverman’s shower scene, which seems to be the thing pretty much everyone — not just Mr. Skin — walked away with from this quiet and beautiful ensemble film. Perhaps she’ll bring gravitas to Seth MacFarlane’s upcoming western as the town’s well-worn prostitute.
5. Mary Tyler Moore, Ordinary People
After a string of spin-offs from her adorable titular sitcom, Mary Tyler Moore joined the cast of Robert Redford’s Best Picture Oscar winner and picked up a Best Actress nomination for her role as a suburb mother who grieves the loss of her son.
6. Chris Rock, New Jack City
Chris Rock slayed in Mario Van Peebles’ crack epidemic crime drama at a time when he was just an up-and-comer on “Saturday Night Live”. He went on to direct the critically acclaimed documentary “Good Hair” in 2009.
7. Adam Sandler, Punch-Drunk Love
Adam Sandler, another SNL alum, teamed up with auteur Paul Thomas Anderson to invert his hackneyed characters’ juvenile temper tantrums into a sadistic reality. “Anderson hasn’t reinvented Sandler,” writes the Detroit Free-Press’s Terry Lawson. “He’s just allowed those of us who tired very quickly of his innocent naif shtick to see how effectively it can be put in the service of something to care about.”
8. Albert Brooks, Drive
After years of directing heartwarming comedies, Albert Brooks turned into a sinister sonofabitch that almost earned him an Oscar nod. “You don’t like me,” he tweeted the morning of his 2012 snub. announced. “You really don’t like me.”
9. Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple
Whoopi won Best Actress in her film debut of the Steven Spielberg-directed drama, which was only the beginning for the standup to land herself on the exclusive list of EGOT winners (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony).
10. Rodney Dangerfield, Natural Born Killers
Rodney Dangerfield didn’t exactly pick up any awards for his turn as Mallory Knox’s pederast father, but, hey, it’s better than “Ladybugs”.