Comedy- a proving ground?

‘Trial by fire’ the perfect metaphor for the way in which most actors must prove their worth in today’s cut-throat entertainment industry. With hundreds of new offerings across TV, Cinema and Streaming services, it’s very hard for actors to showcase their talents. Even though there is so much more on the air it seems that a lot of new talent pops up in one genre: Comedy.

Comedy is a genre of extremes. It evokes some of the best emotions in a person, though to fully understand and be able to create effective comedy, you need to be in touch with some of the darkest things about being human. This is exemplified by the sad fact that there have been many cases of comedians suffering from clinical depression, (many more claim that a great deal of good comedy relies on misery).

Tom Hanks and Bill Murray, both excellent actors who have shown a keen eye for comedy.

A lot of comedians nowadays, whether it is on TV, in standup, or in Movies, don’t just focus on what’s ‘funny’ for their routines and writing, instead attempting a fuller understanding of human emotions. This means that many of the greatest actors in recent history have been weaned on and spotted because of comedic genius, or at least a good grasp of the genre.


Let’s take a look at one example, a man who everyone at first thought, was only good for laughing at: Robin Williams. Talking about him is difficult, especially because of the myriad of problems that affected him before his untimely passing late last year, but he’s also a prime example of why the genre of comedy has become such a good place to look for new stars. Williams started his career as a standup comedian, and quickly worked his way up in television through the 1978 series Mork & Mindy. Throughout this time, Robin forged himself an impressive comedic background and reputation, which quickly lead him to a career in movies, where as we all know, he stared in some of the funniest, as well as most compelling, films of the last few decades.

Throughout his comedy career, Robins’ material covered anything and everything: Life, death, soldiers, cheerleaders, you name it, he made jokes about it, and jokes that somehow hit everyone’s funny bone with surgical precision. His improvisational skills were also legendary, which eventually landed him a voice-acting role as the iconic Genie in Disney’s Aladdin. This also led him to experiment- he worked on several movies with a more somber tone, many of which were received with critical acclaim and financial success, as Williams managed to not just captivate audiences with his skills as a comedian, but also his skill as a dramatic actor. He forged his reputation with the public’s laughter, but with movies like Good Will Hunting, he sealed the deal with the public’s tears.

We’ve also seen other great actors pass from comedy to more serious roles, Tom Hanks and Bill Murray, both excellent actors who have shown a keen eye for comedy in the past and made an almost seamless transition into drama, hitting it off the park in both instances.

In a more recent example, take a look at the work of Chris Pratt. Through his charisma and on-screen presence in Parks & Recreation, he proved that he is more than capable of making people laugh, though lately we’ve seen his qualities as the main character of Guardians of the Galaxy, in which his performance surpassed all expectations.

Despite its role as something of a talent pool, comedy is, unfortunately, somewhat looked down on in today’s television and movies. Very few shows actually manage to stand out in the crowd of stale canned laughter and overused gross-out humour. This proliferation of bad comedies gives the genre a bad name when compared to its dramatic counterparts. However the genres use as a talent pool remains important- Next time you’re watching a comedy on TV and find that one otherwise unknown actor standing out due to their energy and charisma, take a moment to realize you may very well be watching the beginning of something even bigger.

By Jaime Parra

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