The Hidden Real People Behind 6 Famous Comedians

By  · Published on September 29th, 2011

There’s an old maxim that states that everyone in show business is fake. The traditional interpretation of that is that everyone in Hollywood is ready to be kind to your face, but stab you in the back and probably piss on the wound.

That may be an exaggeration, but in the case of these 6 comedians, though, they really are fake. As in literally fake. Their public personae are carefully crafted, and you only occasionally see the real person behind it. Most of the time it’s just an extension of the person’s actual personality, but some of them are completely and totally fictitious people. For example, Bono is an experimental attention-seeking robot. Or take Neil Patrick Harris, who is actually a shaved ferret. You had no idea, right?

Here are six comedians that almost never break the fourth wall to reveal their true selves.

6. Larry the Cable Guy

Known for his sleeveless shirts, trucker hats, and obnoxious catchphrases, Larry the Cable Guy has actually completely eclipsed the successes of his fellow Blue Collar Comedy Tour performers, making untold amounts of cash every year.

He even wrote an autobiography titled, of course, Git-R-Done. (I swore to myself I wouldn’t type that while writing this. Why couldn’t he have named his book something normal, like My Life Sounding Like Your Embarrassing Uncle?)

But he’s actually:

A character created as part of the stand-up act of Daniel Whitney. Here’s a bit of Whitney’s pre-Larry material:

Larry was originally just a bit Whitney would trot out as an extreme parody of rednecks, in which he sounded a bit like a drunken Boomhauer from King of the Hill. He wasn’t trying to appeal to the people he eventually embraced. He was mocking them.

When Larry became the most popular part of his act, Whitney just adopted the persona full-time. Whitney’s not even from the South. He was actually born in Nebraska and relocated to Florida as a teenager. The accent? It’s a total put-on based on some of his college roommates. If the video above didn’t make it click for you, here’s Whitney in the full Larry costume speaking in his normal voice:

Movies he’s made in-character:

Whitney’s managed to turn Larry the Cable Guy into a bonafide film star, putting the character in movies like Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, Delta Farce, and, to the great sadness of everyone who loves Pixar films, Cars and Cars 2.

5. Stephen Colbert

A loud, boisterous champion of all things conservative, no matter what it is or how ridiculous he makes it sound. After breaking off from The Daily Show, Colbert has won several Emmys and the respect of… pretty much everyone, really. Even his staunchest enemies seem to give him a begrudging admiration and occasional bedroom eyes.

But he’s actually:

Okay, it’s not exactly world-shattering news to know that The Colbert Report’s Stephen Colbert isn’t the real Stephen Colbert. What’s kinda surprising is just how different he is. The real Steve (actually born Stephen Cole-burt, not Cole-bear) is much quieter, friendlier, and seems like a regular (and very eager) sort of dude.

He even mentions not wanting his kids to watch his show so they won’t think he’s lying or playing a character when he tells them he loves them. It’s kinda too bad because he could really use that to mess them up.

Movies he’s made in-character:

You can see what his persona would be like as President of the United States in the animated feature Monsters Vs. Aliens, where he voices the role in essentially the same manner as his faux-pundit self.

4. Lewis Black

Lewis Black’s comedy routine is bitter, sarcastic, and most of all, angry. If there’s anything wrong in his world, he’s pissed about it and will yell about it as loudly as possible directly into your metaphorical face, and maybe your real one, too, if you happen to be standing nearby. He’s been all over TV and even in a few films, but he’s never become a household name, which probably isn’t helped by the fact that his career didn’t start in earnest until he was almost 50. He could have just loafed around for a few years and then started collecting social security.

But he’s actually:

Off-camera, Lewis Black is still the same guy, but far, far calmer. If it was surprising how much more relaxed and nicer Stephen Colbert seemed out-of-character, Lewis Black’s real persona is pretty damn shocking. There’s no screaming or finger-wagging. He even makes a point of saying that if that were his real personality, he’d be dead. We’re led to believe he means from a heart attack, but I just kinda assume people would kill him for shouting all the fucking time, too.

Movies he’s made in-character:

Man of the Year and Accepted, which are the only two major films Black has done, both feature him in his standard comic persona. So really, he hasn’t made a big-name movie out-of-character at all, unless you count his odd, pre-fame cameo in Jacob’s Ladder playing Jacob’s doctor.

3) Pee-wee Herman

The only reason some people even know there’s a real person behind Pee-wee Herman is because of his public indecency charges in 1991. Before that time, all of his public appearances and interviews were as Pee-wee, and now he’s even picked the character back up to bewilder whole new audiences. Even when he’s not Pee-wee, he’s usually some kind of zany one-off character (except for a small handful of dramatic roles). It’s hard to imagine him as anything other than a weird man-child.

But he’s actually:

Paul Reubens, a fairly normal guy. His voice isn’t even all that weird. Reubens still does very few interviews, and most recently he’s back to solely doing them in the character of Pee-wee. He’s done a few bit parts in movies and guest spots on TV shows in the time between his two stints as Pee-wee, but nothing that’s well-remembered in the public consciousness. So, seeing him as a regular dude is a little weird. Check out this Conan interview from 2001:

He’s relaxed, even a little nervous. He says in the interview that he was sick that day, but come on, the dude’s totally shy, like a real man-child. But hey, at least it’s nothing like the time he was on The Gong Show in 1977.

(For the record, they won.)

Movies he’s made in-character:

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Big Top Pee-wee. Come on, you know these. However, as of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, you can also add Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Movie to the list. It’s expected to start filming soon.

2. Andrew Dice Clay

Unapologetically offensive and never shying away from controversy, Andrew Dice Clay has been involved in comedy for nearly 30 years, although his popularity has declined quite a bit since the 80s. If you’re like the majority of people on XBOX Live and enjoy making jokes about women being in the kitchen and sandwiches and yada yada, Dice is your guy. His stand up is about 99% stereotypical tough-guy Italian and 1% anything else, breaths included. He’s had boycotts levied against him, he was banned from MTV for over 15 years, and he’s probably kicked a dog at some point, I don’t know.

But he’s actually:

Andrew Clay Silverstein, who previously performed under the name Andrew Clay, without the “Dice” moniker. Much like Larry the Cable Guy, “Diceman” was a character that Clay created to satirize the loud-mouth douchebag Brooklynite image, and also like Larry the Cable Guy, it became so popular with the people he was trying to make fun of, he just took on the character persona full-time.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find any videos of Clay performing before he became the Diceman character, although I did find an audio interview where he briefly dropped the act:

Weirdest of all? He’s not even Italian, like most people would believe. Clay is actually Jewish.

Movies he’s made in-character:

Minor roles in movies like Pretty in Pink and One Night at McCool’s. Sadly, a few producers apparently lost their minds and actually gave him couple of starring roles in the early 90s, each stretching credulity more than the last. First he starred as a PI in The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, a horribly panned Renny Harlin movie. Then, he was the lead in a superhero movie/romantic comedy called Brainsmasher: A Love Story, opposite Teri Hatcher. Oh, and weirdest of all, he was cast out-of-character as a villain in a really stupid action movie called No Contest. See for yourself.

1. Gilbert Gottfried

Yet another loud, offensive comic, and probably the most famous one of that genre. Gottfried made headlines after he got fired from his gig as the Aflac duck for making jokes about the 2011 Japanese Earthquake/Tsunami. In 2001 he even managed to win back a crowd who was pissed about some 9/11 jokes by telling an incredibly filthy rendition of the infamous Aristocrats joke.

He also arguably has the harshest, most annoying voice on the planet and it’s kind of a shock that he hasn’t been murdered for it.

But he’s actually:

That whole voice? It’s an act. Gilbert Gottfried actually has a totally normal human being voice, as demonstrated by Howard Stern on his show a few years ago:

Gottfried uses the voice when he’s in public at all times (except when his private voicemail messages are played publicly). This recording outs him as a regular person and not some sort of alien with a voice meant to aurally scar people. Unless Howard Stern is pulling some elaborate prank, that is. Except he’s totally not, because back when Gilbert was on Saturday Night Live, he didn’t use the voice either. He also didn’t squint and had an afro. Jesus Christ.

Movies he’s made in character:

Far, far too many to count. Essentially, everything he’s ever done, including Aladdin, the Problem Child series, Look Who’s Talking Too, and dozens of other voice and television appearances. If casting agents need a character with a shrill, screeching voice, Gilbert is totally there.

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