daniel cohen looks at his favorite cinematic funny people…
As the first big comedy of the year approaches (Movie 43), it got me thinking about the great comedies of yesteryear. And with Movie 43 basically being a smorgasbord of comedians and actors playing a multitude of crazy characters, I started to wonder…what are the best comedic characters to ever appear on screen? Bill and Ted? Lloyd and Harry? Ace Ventura? Howard the Duck…relax, that’s a joke. But with so many outstanding comedies, there are five characters that no matter how many times I watch their respective films, I’m guaranteed to laugh. There were some tough cuts, but let’s take a look at my Top 5 Best Comedic Characters!
5) The Ghostbusters (Ghostbusters):
Played by: Bill Murray (Peter), Dan Aykroyd (Ray), Harold Ramis (Egon), and Ernie Hudson (Winston)
Yeah, I’m cheating right out of the gate. But I have to group the Ghostbusters all together. They don’t work without each other. Sure, Murray is funny on his own, but when with the other Ghostbusters, these guys are pure gold. You watch the original Ghostbusters, and their chemistry is just so special, it’s depressing to think we only got one truly great film out of this team. Even with Ernie Hudson’s Winston coming in late to the game, he still added a hilarious dynamic to an already near perfect troupe. Whether it’s Venkman making some smart ass comment, or Egon talking like a science teacher on steroids, the Ghostbusters aren’t remembered for busting ghosts…they are remembered for making us laugh.
Best Line: (Venkman) “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria!”
4) Walter Sobchak (The Big Lebowski):
Played by: John Goodman
Just thinking about this character makes me laugh. The Big Lebowski is one of the greatest comedies ever made, and while Jeff Bridges, Steve Buscemi, and John Turturro are a huge part of that, it’s John Goodman who takes it to that special place. The dialogue is gorgeous, but it’s Goodman’s timing and tone that is simply a wonder to watch. This is comedy at it’s finest, as we watch an absolute lunatic on screen…but we can’t help but laugh our asses off.
Best Line: “Three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax… You’re goddamn right I’m living in the fucking past!”
3) Max Fischer (Rushmore):
I can honestly say that Max Fischer is one of the most original characters I’ve seen in the last 15 years. Even though director Wes Anderson made Bottle Rocket before this, I consider Max Fischer the genesis in the world of Wes Anderson. What other character in any genre of film can you honestly say is like Max Fischer, aside from Anderson’s other movies…and even I’m not sure that’s entirely true. He’s certainly not like any teenage character we’ve seen. The writing, and performance by Schwartzman have had a real influence on my life. And sort of like The Truman Show did in the same year, Rushmore and it’s slacker teenage genius protagonist changed the way I looked at movies forever.
Best Line: “My top schools where I want to apply to are Oxford and the Sorbonne. My safety’s Harvard.”
2) Dark Helmet (Spaceballs):
Played by: Rick Moranis
He sells you on the first line: ‘I can’t breathe in this thing!’ It is the single greatest parody of any character that I can think of. From his questionable leadership of going to ludicrous speed, to demanding his coffee as he watches radar, to the magical moment of playing with his Spaceballs dolls, Dark Helmet is simply a comedic delight. Moranis gives a legendary performance.
Best Line: “I bet she gives great helmet.”
1) Garth Algar (Wayne’s World):
Played by: Dana Carvey
I don’t know why Dana Carvey’s career never truly took off. Maybe he could never get the right characters, but he certainly did here. This one is hard to explain. Garth for some reason is the character who simply makes me laugh the most. It’s hard to pinpoint what specifically makes this character transcend above all others, but Carvey’s voice is a good place to start. How can you not laugh whenever Garth opens his mouth? While a lot of the characters I’ve mentioned above probably improvised a great deal, they also had great scripts. I get the sense that Carvey’s performance was almost all improvised. I really don’t have anything else to say, other than Garth ‘makes me feel kind of funny…like when we used to climb the rope in gym class.’
Best Line: “Did you ever find Bugs Bunny attractive when he put on a dress and played a girl bunny?”