Ten Memorable Non-Comedic Performances By Comedians

Patton Oswalt in Big Fan

I’ve found that this list comes up fairly often on the Internet – however every time I read one I’m surprised by how many redundancies they all share. While a few of said redundancies will also appear in the following (because sometimes you just can’t deny a good performance) I’m going to try and mix this up and give a you a few of my personal favorite and slightly less talked about non-funny roles some real funny people took on. Let’s get started with a picture of a pen jabbed into Jon Stewart’s eye.

10. Jon Stewart in The Faculty

Jon Stewart in The Faculty

I love Jon Stewart, but I also think there should be more movies out there where he turns into an alien and gets stabbed in the eye. I don’t know why, I just love watching it happen in this film. This happens right after he also gets his finders lopped off by Josh Hartnett, one of the many random actors stuck in this early Robert Rodriguez film. Seriously – the cast features Robert Patrick, Elijah Wood, Famke Janssen, and Christopher McDonald just to name a few. Oh and Usher, Usher’s in this film as well.

Here, check out Jon’s alien death for yourself:

9. Adam Sandler in Spanglish

Adam Sandler in Spanglish

Spanglish probably isn’t the most serious role you could say Sandler has been in. I’d even argue that his role in Funny People was probably more dramatic – however with films like Punch Drunk Love and Reign Over Me, while his roles have been more serious they’ve also been a lot more outstanding in nature. What I like about this particular role is that it is not only fairly serious, but extremely subdued as well. It’s a simple character, a man struggling to keep faithful in a marriage, and Sandler plays it beautifully by downplaying his own sense of humor – often appearing as not the funniest person in the room, such as with the following scene:

8. Steve Carell in Little Miss Sunshine

Steve Carrell in Little Miss Sunshine

This is, of course, one of those you see in all the lists about serious roles by comedians. I actually don’t think the reason why has much to do with the level of drama involved in the part, to me it’s the same Steve Carell personality we see in some of his other work, only heavily downplayed – muted. But that’s why it works too, the character comes across as a skeleton of a man that was once jubilant, humorous, and charismatic. Any humor that comes from this beaten down suicide case is from his exhaustion with those around him and the reactions of his family. This clip really says it all:

7. Steve Martin in Shopgirl

Steve Martin in Shopgirl

I hate it when a movie like Shopgirl comes along, adapted by Steve Martin from a novel he himself wrote, and shows me this wonderful window – Steve Martin taking on a serious role that was clearly something person to him – and then the window shuts and never seems to open again. Since The Jerk, this man has made me laugh consistently, but it was so cool to see him try something as subdued as this role. My guess is that it’s because of the subdued nature of the role, and the film in general that it didn’t see the success it deserved. Also you can’t beat co-star like Claire Danes and Jason Schwartzman.

Of course when I mean subdued, I really mean subdued – as you will see by the first time Steve Martin’s character meets his future lover at her place of work:

6. Rodney Dangerfield in Natural Born Killers

Rodney Dangerfield in Natural Born Killers

This role had both absolutely nothing to do Dangerfield’s actual performance and at the same time had everything to do with it. The reason why is because his character in this film is not really unlike any of his comedic performances – which is what makes it so scary when you hear the words coming out of his mouth. This is probably one of the smartest scenes in a film I’ve ever seen – as director Oliver Stone disturbingly juxtaposes Rodney Dangerfield’s reputation and performance as well as a sitcom like environment with the extremely dark portrayal of a dysfunctional suburban family. Watch if you dare.

Click to the next page below to see the final five… 

David is a video editor, writer, and movie fanatic. After graduating from Full Sail University he now spends his days in Western Massachusetts working as a freelance article and sketch writer, as well as a comedy workshop moderator for Cracked.com. (Click Here to View David's work on Cracked.com) He enjoys over-analyzing movies, punk rock, and referring to himself in the third person.

Read More from David Christopher Bell
Get Film School Rejects in your email. All the cool kids are doing it:
Previous Article
Next Article
Reject Nation
Leave a comment
Comment Policy: No hate speech allowed. If you must argue, please debate intelligently. Comments containing selected keywords or outbound links will be put into moderation to help prevent spam. Film School Rejects reserves the right to delete comments and ban anyone who doesn't follow the rules. We also reserve the right to modify any curse words in your comments and make you look like an idiot. Thank You!