Comedy is subjective. If you’re not familiar with this saying, it’s the fact that not everyone is going to find everything funny. When comedians goes on stage, they are entertaining an honest audience, especially more experienced and popular comedians, so you can only imagine the pressure on their chests even after having done several shows.
Not everyone on this list does or have done stand-up, but they all have one thing in common– they’ve worked in the comedy genre and they’ve proven to have the ability to write fluent and serious films without depending on laughs.
Actor Jonah Hill is definitely a familiar name if people like comedy. He’s been in several of the most popular 2010’s comedy movies, like 21 and 22 Jump Street, This Is The End, and several others. Throughout his now 15 year long career he’s built a reputation for having hilarious roles and wasn’t expected to do much else– he even quotes, “I think I’m pretty good at being in movies. I am not good at being a famous person.”
This changed in late 2018, a little more than a year ago now, when he wrote and directed his first film, Mid90s. Now, he is not the first popular actor to do this, however, an actor who built his career around being a funny movie star wrote and directed one of the most underrated serious films of the 21st century. Yes, Jonah Hill wrote a serious film all by himself.
The movie centers around a young boy growing up in, like the title indicates, Los Angeles in the mid-90’s era. Living with a neglectful mother and an abusive older brother, he meets a group of older kids in a skate shop, people who he can finally relate to, and grows an interest for skateboarding.
The movie focuses on serious themes like poverty, drug and alcohol use, abuse, bullying, self harm, loss of family… the list goes on. The young characters connect and relate with one another not only with their interest in skateboarding, but the things they’ve gone through. Considering all of this, you can understand why some might be surprised to some degree that Jonah Hill was able to compile all of this into a powerful, highly rated movie with morals and important messages.
Like Jonah Hill, the next comedian built his career in the acting industry. He might seem less familiar than Hill, unless you’ve seen a lot of Seth Rogen and James Franco movies. You might recognize his name– Danny McBride.
If you don’t know this guy, a quote from a Q&A article by AzCentral captures him perfectly:
“Danny McBride is no dope. He plays one sometimes, maybe because of his southern accent, but he’s also a talented actor and writer.”
Danny McBride is a generally well known comedy actor who, more times than not, plays the “dumb guy” in his movies, like the quote hints. He has been in multiple movies with actors like James Franco and Seth Rogen, some might jog your memory.
McBride has written a few small projects and TV show episodes here and there– but was just recently recognized for his work in 2018’s Halloween film, which was considered one of the best horror movies of the year.
Halloween is one of the most popular horror movie series, but despite this, it has not had the best track record. Starting all the way back in 1978, the series had an iconic first film, a decent sequel, a questionable anthology film, a few bad sequels, and a pair of awful remakes. The series was as popular as it’s ever been, but the quality was deteriorating. When it seemed all hope was lost to the die-hard Halloween fans, McBride and several other writers compiled something that just worked out.
Rather than following the messy timeline left by his predecessors, McBride made this sequel based directly off the first movie, ignoring any and all additions to the series past that point. 2018’s Halloween ended up being the highest rated Halloween film since the first one.
When McBride was asked about participating in such a strange project for him, he responded:
“It’s fun and, quite honestly, pretty terrifying to verge into new territory. Now, it’s accidentally even more terrifying not because of this character, but the history of this franchise and the reputation of remakes.”
Yet, despite his worries, him and his team winded up making it work, with a multitude of box office achievements, such as being the biggest Halloween grosser ever, the biggest slasher movie opening ever, the biggest debut for a horror movie with a female lead, and many more.
And while on the topic of horror movies, the last comedian really needs no introduction; the famous Jordan Peele. He’s best known as being part of the popular duo Key and Peele. A skit writer and small-time voice actor, just two years ago he made his debut in directing and writing with his horror movie, Get Out.
Like McBride, nobody expected Peele to get into writing, let alone writing horror movies. Get Out, unlike most horror, had very limited amounts of jumpscares, loud noises, and other basic horror movie standards. Peele used problems with modern day society as themes in his movie, and tossed in multiple hints throughout the movie leading up to the twist toward the end that people expected but nobody could have guessed.
Peele did not stop at Get Out, however. Just this year, he released his next movie in his directorial career, Us, which was nearly as successful as his first film. There’s a lot to talk about in these movies, but they’ve already been reviewed. Check out this article (https://centralscene.org/2924/ae/is-jordan-peeles-us-better-than-get-out/) for more discussion and comparisons on his work.
At this point, you should see the connection between these three. All three built their reputations in comedy but made unexpected, yet surprisingly pleasant 180’s in their career and succeeded in writing outside of their usual work. Hill, McBride, and Peele are just a few examples– there are dozens of more actors and actresses who have done the same.
Like said in the beginning, comedy is subjective. It is hard to please everybody. When a comedian spend several hours of their time writing material for their audience, you can expect that when you are limited to the standards of modern day comedy, a lot of personal ideas are kicked to the side. With all of this, it seems safe to draw the conclusion that comedians who bundle up their own original ideas are bound to make their mark in other areas of entertainment– and we can only hope that more do the same.