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Get Serious: Comic Actors in Dramatic Roles

Updated September 27, 2010

Slide 1: Zach Galifianakis in It's Kind of a Funny Story
Slide 2: Bill Murray in Lost in Translation
Slide 3: Lucille Ball in Dance, Girl, Dance
Slide 4: Ben Stiller in Greenberg
Slide 5: Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Slide 6: Jerry Lewis in The King of Comedy
Slide 7: Peter Sellers in Being There
Slide 8 Whoopi Goldberg in The Color Purple
Slide 9: Mo'Nique in Precious
Slide 10: Rodney Dangerfield in Natural Born Killers
Slide 11: Art Carney in Harry and Tonto
Slide 13: Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People
Slide 1: Zach Galifianakis in It's Kind of a Funny Story

Slide 1: Zach Galifianakis in It's Kind of a Funny Story

In a recent article on the Vanity Fair website, “Real World Toronto: When Comedians Stop Being Funny and Start Getting Real,” John Lopez explored the places where comedians play it (kind of) straight. Lopez noted that in It’s Kind of a Funny Story, “Galifianakis is as zany as ever, but with a new pathos, vulnerability, and sweetness that calls to mind Harpo Marx in a moment of quiet retreat.” This wasn’t Galifianakis trying to be dramatic, but rather, according to co-director Ryan Fleck, staying in character: “He wasn’t trying to be silly during the dramatic scenes. He knew what each scene was and what it required, and we just urged him to bring as much of his real personality into the role as he could.” While many early, silent comics like Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin wove comedy and pathos into every role, later comedians were often typecast in only funny roles. So when they broke off and accepted a serious part, their talent became all the more visible. In this slideshow, we survey a group of other performances, much like Zach Galifianakis’ part in It’s Kind of a Funny Story, in which otherwise funny actors get (somewhat) serious.