The future of comedy—and your Netflix queue—is the past: SNL veteran Bill Hader (star of The Skeleton Twins, one of our 14 Movies You Must See in 2014) reveals the 10 guys every comedy fan will love (and every comedy writer should learn from).
1. Kenneth Mars in Young Frankenstein
Kenneth Mars is one of my all-time favorite actors. I loved him in The Producers and What’s Up, Doc?, but his Inspector Kemp in Young Frankenstein takes the cake. For a film that’s widely considered to be one the funniest of all time, Kenneth Mars (along with Madeline Kahn) steals the movie.
2. Matt Holness in Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and The Office
If I had to list my favorite underrated comedies of all time, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace would be at the top of the list. You must find a way to see it, for star Matt Holness’ hilariously narcissistic horror writer (as well as co-stars Matt Berry, Richard Ayoade, and Alice Lowe). In addition to this amazing work, Holness made the entire second season of The Office (the British one) as the IT guru Simon. He tells a story about go-karting that I can still quote line for line:
3. Charlie Ruggles in Ruggles of Red Gap
a) Rent Ruggles of Red Gap right now—it’s a classic.
b) It stars Charles Laughton, probably the greatest screen actor who ever lived, in one of his most subtly hilarious roles.
c) Charlie Ruggles steals the movie as Egbert Floud, a good-ol’-boy millionaire who wins Laughton’s uptight British butler in a card game.
Ruggles had an amazing career—from silent films all the way to a recurring role on The Beverly Hillbillies!
4. Phil Reeves in Election
Reeves is a guy you’ve seen in a ton of movies and TV shows, and he’s always good. But his role as the principal in Election is transcendent. When I first saw the film, I honestly thought they cast a stern Midwestern principal. His speech reprimanding the student assembly—“You don’t deserve to be called adults, but children…”—kills me:
5. Jim Piddock in Best in Show
Fred Willard’s dog-show color commentator in Best in Show might be, joke for joke, the funniest character in any movie. Every line kills. But it doesn’t work unless you have Jim Piddock next to him, playing it real and nuanced. He could easily milk that part to get himself a laugh, but he’s smarter than that. To make the scene work, he’s gotta be thrown and annoyed, and he does it so well that it makes Willard a billion times better. When I watch those scenes now, I just watch Piddock. He’s a genius.
6. Jacobo Morales in Bananas
I really love early Woody Allen films, and I’ve always been fascinated by his ability to get amazing performances from (I’m assuming) non-actors. They’re never trying to be funny, and they’re completely honest. As the revolutionary leader in Bananas, Jacobo Morales is a great example of this. His speech to the people of San Marcos is the high point of an insanely funny movie. He’s gone mad, but he doesn’t play it mad at all. You believe he thinks he’s giving these people a better life by making them change their underwear every half hour:
7. Robert Miranda in Midnight Run
Robert Miranda stands toe-to-toe with DeNiro in the “You gonna propose?” scene, and every time I watch the film, I’m watching Miranda. He’s so good at being dumb. They way he play-fights with Tony (Richard Foronjy) is so, so, so funny. I wonder if that was figured out on set . . . does someone know the answer? Martin Brest? Anyone?
8. Andrew Pang in Curb Your Enthusiasm (“The Bi-Sexual”)
The episode is called “The Bi-Sexual,” but in my house we call it the “Shit Bow” episode. Rarely have my wife and I laughed so hard as when Larry David confronts a Japanese restaurant owner (Andrew Pang) about whether he gave him a proper bow after an argument, or if it was a “shit bow,” a sneaky Japanese slight. Pang is hysterical when he assures Larry that “A bow is a bow,” then tries to pitch him on other Japanese restaurants in the area. I also love it when Larry asks him to apologize and Pang replies, “I say I’m sorry. You leave, you feel something, and then you move on.” Amazing.
9. Mike Gomez in The Big Lebowski
People quote this movie constantly, and they should; it’s very quotable. But my favorite scene to quote is when The Dude picks up his impounded car and asks the officer, played by Mike Gomez, if they have any leads on who stole it. The way Gomez seamlessly turns from solid cop to sarcastic dickhead is something to behold. “Leads.”
10. Lou Cutell in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
Cutell’s Amazing Larry makes the list—and he doesn’t say a word! And he’s on screen for about three seconds! But it’s one of the biggest laughs in a classic movie. It’s never too late for an Amazing Larry spinoff!