Thursday, 25 June 2009

Why Aren't They More Famous...?

Last week I went to see a little movie called ‘The Hangover’ at my local multiplex and in spite of people still not being able to abide my law of the cinema (no talking after the second Pearl & Dean clip) I thoroughly enjoyed a very funny film that I would highly recommended to anyone (check last week’s blog for a more in depth review).

The main reason I went to see ‘The Hangover’ was its three male leads: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms – three very funny men whose work I have always enjoyed immensely. ‘The Hangover’ should be the big break that these three previously shockingly overlooked comedy actors deserve and hopefully we will now get to see a great deal more from all three of them.

This got me to thinking though: which other actors/comedians are there out there who are criminally virtually unknown to the mainstream and deserve wider recognition for their comedy genius?

So here are five very funny men who, I think, if there’s any justice in the world, are due a ‘Hangover’-esque big break…

5. Jeff Garlin

Sure he co-stars in one of the best TV comedies out there but beyond his work on ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Jeff Garlin has been criminally ignored.

I’m willing to overlook his misjudgement in agreeing to dress like a giant carrot to appear in ‘Daddy Day Care’ because this man is a very funny stand-up comedian with great comic timing as an actor.

Garlin has directed two other brilliantly funny stand-up comedians in Denis Leary and Jon Stewart for their respective HBO Specials as well as directing several episodes of ‘Curb’ and writing/directing a feature film.

He has guest starred on a plethora of TV comedies but it is his work as Larry David’s put upon agent Jeff Greene in the award-winning ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ that is Garlin’s most recognised. Garlin also produces ‘Curb’ and his contribution to this ground-breaking show cannot be underestimated.

One of my favourite Garlin roles was that of host at the painfully funny ‘The Comedy Central Roast of Denis Leary’ (Lenny Clarke’s “fuck the Kennedys story still makes me laugh just thinking about it!) where he proved that he could handle hosting duties with suitable aplomb – I personally think he’d be a great choice for the OSCARS.

‘Curb’ has obviously opened doors for Jeff Garlin and even if it has just exposed a few more people to a very funny man then it has done its job – although many people will probably know his voice more than his face after his voice roll in the sublime ‘Wall*E’.

Jeff Garlin is a larger than life (literally) character and deserves to be so much more renowned than he is, he may not be getting any younger but if ‘Curb’ continues to enjoy success then there still could be time yet for Jeff Garlin to become one of the world’s biggest (literally) comedy stars.

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4. Kevin Nealon

As I have discussed in the past, American comedy institution ‘Saturday Night Live’ can either be a gift or a curse to its alumni – and unfortunately the very funny Kevin Nealon has been struck by the latter for many years.

Nealon debuted on ‘SNL’ in the 1987-88 season and remained with the show for nine seasons, during which time he became anchor on the show’s popular ‘Weekend Update’ segment.

In the years since ‘SNL’, Nealon has appeared in several films with his former ‘SNL’ co-star Adam Sandler, like Jeff Garlin he also made the ill-advised decision to appear in the lamentable ‘Daddy Day Care’.

Nealon is a very funny man, his background in stand-up obviously giving him a strong foundation for the jump to screen – he has great screen presence and comic timing, can make you laugh with a simple look and has an acerbic wit.

His appearances on one of the most unintentionally hilarious shows of recent years ‘Celebrity Poker Showdown’ were always a highlight as it gave him a chance to showcase his biting sarcasm, yet quite warm personality. Like many a fine comedy actor, Nealon was also excellent in his cameos on the genius ‘The Larry Sanders Show’.

Nealon has recently gone some way to ridding himself of the dreaded ‘SNL’ curse with his role on a show that I really need to get into properly – the very black comedy ‘Weeds’.

As Doug Wilson, the fun-loving city councilman with a penchant for smoking weed, Nealon is perfectly cast – even going as far as improvising a large amount of Doug’s dialogue.

‘Weeds’ is currently airing its fifth season in the States on the vastly improved Showtime network, in its previous four seasons it has garnered a number of award nominations and wins, but as yet Nealon has been overlooked.

If he continues to be one of the best things about the show though, then maybe he will finally get that recognition he so richly deserves.

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3. Jason Jones

When former ‘Daily Show’ lead correspondent Rob Corddry left the show he jokingly claimed the reason was that Jason Jones had raised the bar too high and that he wasn’t able to say the things to people that Jones does.

While many of his former ‘Daily Show’ peers, such as Corddry, have left and gone on to bigger things Jason Jones has remained on the show that made him.

Since we finally got ‘The Daily Show’ in the UK a few years back, Jones has consistently been my favourite ‘Daily Show’ correspondent – he recently had me in tears with his gag to New York Times executive editor Bill Keller.

During a report on how traditional newspapers are struggling against the internet, when Jones asked Keller to tell him a joke (I forget the context) Keller suggested Jones tell him one – has this guy never watched ‘The Daily Show’!? – to which Jones duly replied “What’s black and white and red all over?”

A classic right…? Quick as a cat Keller replied innocently “a newspaper” to which Jones beautifully responded “no, your balance sheets…”

‘The Daily Show’ special reports are designed to, in a similar vein to Sascha Baron Cohen’s comedy creations, expose people’s ignorance by making themselves sound stupid. Jason Jones just does it in the most hilarious fashion though, and he has quickly become Jon Stewart’s MVP.

Outside of ‘The Daily Show’ Jones’ work has been limited; he has appeared in the inexplicably popular US sitcom ‘How I Met Your Mother’, as well as several commercials.

Married to fellow ‘Daily Show’ star Samantha Bee, with whom he has two children, Jones is reportedly currently working on a sitcom with his wife in which he will star.

Given the success that other, less funny, ‘Daily Show’ alumni have gone to achieve it should only be a matter of time before Jason Jones goes on to achieve great things and although it will be sad to see him leave ‘The Daily Show’ I would be the first person in line to check out whatever he comes out with next.

2. Eric Christian Olsen

Eric Christian Olsen played the ill-fated George Mason’s son on season 2 of ‘24’, and as if that wasn’t cool enough; he’s also a very funny actor.

Olsen moved to tinsel town just before the turn of the Millennium and quickly found success and critical acclaim in TV drama such as ‘ER’. His first series role was on the short lived FOX dramedy ‘Get Real’ opposite Anne Hathaway.

Olsen soon found his forte though when he made the move into comedy and he has racked up supporting roles in a veritable smorgasbord of comedy films, invariably being the best thing in gash films, i.e. ‘The Hot Chick’, ‘Not Another Teen Movie’, ‘Beerfest’ and ‘License to Wed’.

Olsen also had the unenviable task of filling Jim Carrey’s shoes when he played Lloyd Christmas in the horribly ill-conceived ‘Dumb and Dumber’ prequel – Olsen was again the best thing in the film and actually came away from the film not only unscathed but with certain plaudits.

Eric Christian Olsen first came to my attention playing Jensen Ritchie on the short-lived second season of ‘Tru Calling’ and Olsen has continued to combine both supporting roles in drama and comedy on both the big and small screens.

After stealing the show in yet another supporting film role in the Zach Braff-starring ‘The Last Kiss’ – which boasted an excellent cast (Braff, Casey Affleck, Michael Weston), Olsen landed a series regular slot on yet another TV show that wouldn’t survive too long when he played Sully on ‘The Loop’ opposite ‘Reaper’ star Bret Harrison.

In his short career Olsen has proved himself to be a versatile actor but it is his aptitude for comedy that should eventually make him a massive star. He has the goofy, slacker friend shtick down to a fine art, but hopefully his drama work should prevent him becoming typecast, as he is capable of so much more.

Olsen’s gift for comedy has gained a cult following in the last year or so thanks to Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s website Funny or Die. There are a series of videos circulating starring Olsen as Perry Hilton – a borderline retarded male socialite unashamedly based on Paris Hilton.

The video of him annoying Jeremy Piven is great and there is also a spoof sex tape with Eva Longoria, but it is the video of Perry being caught drink driving that always has me in stitches and features the genius line: “I went over to Lindsay Lohan's barbecue. And by barbecue, I mean she heated me up a hot pocket and blew me."

Hopefully Perry Hilton could start the internet buzz that kick starts Olsen’s career and just remember: “life’s tasty”.

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1. Michael Ian Black

Michael Ian Black is the proverbial ‘Jack of all trades’ – comedian, writer, actor and a damn good poker player.

His book ‘My Custom Van… And 50 Other Mind-Blowing Essays’ is a spectacularly funny read and has turned me into a huge fan of this very funny man.

Please follow the link below and start following him on twitter, he has some of the funniest, non-sequitar updates I’ve seen and the fact that he has amassed close to 700,000 followers speaks volumes.

He even instigated what he dubbed the “World’s first twitter war” with Levar Burton (the guy who played Kunta Kinte) to see who could get the most followers.

Black first came to real prominence in the States as a commentator on the ‘I Love the…’ series – we get Kate Thornton they get Michael Ian Black, how’s that fair!?

Along with members of his comedy group The State, Black performed on the shows ‘Viva Variety’ and ‘Stella’, he also had a supporting role in the dramedy ‘Ed’.

He has recently been seen on the awesome ‘Reaper’ as a gay (now dead) demon alongside another very talented comedy writer Ken Marino and his new Comedy Central show ‘Michael and Michael Have Issues’ with frequent collaborator Michael Showalter begins next month in the States.

Black co-wrote ‘Run, Fatboy Run’ with Simon Pegg – a man who has great taste in comedy – and he also wrote and directed, slightly less impressively, ‘Wedding Daze’, the spontaneous marriage comedy that starred “the pie-fucker” himself Jason Biggs.

As with Nealon and Garlin, Black also appeared on ‘Celebrity Poker Showdown’ and was consistently praised for his poker playing as well as being extremely entertaining at the table.

Black’s comedy is very pop-culture heavy and is the sort of thing that I personally eat up, he has proved with his screenwriting, his stand-up and his book that he is an exceptionally funny man and it’s about time that more people knew about him.

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Other Televisual Musings this Week:

- While tucking into the Salt & Pepper Chicken Wings I had as a starter for my Chinese takeaway on Saturday night, I caught a bit of ‘Totally Saturday’.

Now this new BBC Saturday night show has been on for a couple of weeks now and I’ve already seen most TV critics completely lambasting it but I thought I’d give it a chance… Turns out the likes of Hyland and Ross were right it, because what I saw was an unadulterated pile of fresh, steaming horse shit.

You’ve got to feel for Graham Norton, ever since he signed that golden handcuffs deal with the BBC they’ve had no idea what to do with him – all that money they’re paying him and they still haven’t found a decent vehicle for him beyond the rehash of his old Channel 4 chat show, which, while enjoyable still feels watered down.

So instead they just throw him at every new Saturday schedule filler that they dream up (although whether the term ‘dream up’ really applies to the most shameless rip-off of ‘Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway’ the world will ever see remains to be seen).

Watching ‘Totally Saturday’ on Saturday night, Norton looked like he would have rather been anywhere but there and gave new meaning to the phrase ‘going through the motions’ – this is the lamest incarnation of the Saturday night variety show I’ve seen yet and actually made me long for John Barrowman to return.

The BBC are clearly just treading water until ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ comes back to save Saturday nights, which when they have the unmitigated gall to continue claiming a license fee, is more outrageous than an MP’s expenses claim.

- I don’t think I’ve ever flip-flopped in my feelings towards a show as I have done with the second season of ‘Flight of the Conchords’, but this week gave us probably the best episode of the season so far and one of the show’s all time best.

It had it all, great gags, plenty of Dave and Murray, an ace song and some brilliant guest stars, including a bonkers cameo from Art Garfunkel.

- ‘Kerry Katona: What’s the Problem?’ – Where do I start?

TV Moment of the Week:

Larry David breaking his talk show boycott to appear on ‘The Daily Show’. Larry and Jon Stewart were in Jew heaven together and it made for a very funny interview.


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