Comedy is perhaps my favorite thing in the world. Besides distracting me from the fact that I will die alone, screaming in agony and in fear of the unknown, it keeps me laughing on a day-to-day basis, which is great exercise for my face. (But mainly it makes the realization of my frail mortality bearable.)
I love discovering “young” (by which I mean new to the scene) comedic actors and obsessing over them, watching everything they’ve done from their first completely independent film/sketch through their eventual starring role in a Hollywood feature/television program. Though when I say discover, I’m not saying I check out underground comedy clubs seeking new talent a la Lorne Michaels. I simply mean I see them in a supporting role in something mainstream, notice their comedic potential, and seek out other works, following them closely until fame hits.
I was a huge fan of Will Ferrell long before ANCHORMAN (though who wasn’t thanks to SNL), loved Seth Rogen before KNOCKED UP, and have worshipped the celluloid that Will Arnett appears on since ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (though it unfortunately looks like he will never have Ferrell- or Rogen-sized success). My other absolute favorites among the household- to nearly-household-name comedians include Trey Parker, Tina Fey, Larry David, Simon Pegg, Ricky Gervais, and Matt Berry (ok, he’s about as far from a household name as you can get in the US, but hopefully he is famous in the UK).
I’m about to highlight four of my favorite up-and-coming comedic actors in hopes that you will check them out, expanding their fan base a smidge. None are complete unknowns, all have appeared in something mainstream with a Hollywood budget, yet none have received the Rogen-sized attention they deserve.
(If you haven’t guessed yet, this is going to be another edition of THREE HITS & A MISS that would be more aptly titled “FOUR HITS & NO MISS, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.” I won’t even include the “Verdict” bit.)
This talented young comedian first caught my eye on the very funny (no copyright infringement intended, TBS) PARKS AND RECREATION as the fast-talking Jean-Ralphio. When an actor can steal a scene from the very talented Aziz Ansari, I take notice, and that’s exactly what Schwartz did on his very first appearance on PARKS AND REC. He then proceeded to steal scenes from Nick Offerman, Chris Pratt, and Aubrey Plaza. Though I’m not generally a supporter of thievery, Schwatz’s comedy outweighs crimes committed.
I have since enjoyed the man’s shorts online, from TERRIBLE DECISIONS WITH BEN SCHWARTZ to his appearances on College Humor’s JAKE AND AMIR. That’s about all I’ve seen of his work (I’m new to the Ben Schwartz game), but it’s enough to recognize his talent. Nobody plays a smarmy, fast-talking douchebag quite like Schwartz.
Schwartz is one of the leads in the recent release, PEEP WORLD (which I haven’t seen) alongside Michael C. Hall, Rainn Wilson and Sara Silverman, so someone recognizes his potential as a movie star. He was also a regular on NBC’s short-lived UNDERCOVERS (again, which I haven’t seen) and I’m sure he can’t take any of the blame for its cancellation.
Gelman is pretty much just a variant on the Will Ferrell/Danny McBride style of comedy; he is great delivering jokes in an inside voice, but really shines when he’s shouting at someone. For the best of Gelman, watch MR. CELEBRITY and THE THERAPIST, both on Funny Or Die. But for a real master’s course on the man, watch 1,000 CATS from HBO’s FUNNY OR DIE PRESENTS.
Okay, so Day is probably recognizable to most of you, but he’s far from a household name. Though he’s had a six-season stint (thus far) as the most hilarious part of one of TV’s most hilarious shows, IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, he’s had little exposure past SUNNY’s young audience.
SUNNY is really one of the only things I have seen Day in, but it’s enough to make him one of my top five comedic actors overall (not just among this up-and-coming set). Nobody does stupid with a dash of crazy quite like Charlie. Nobody! He’s made playing under-educated and illiterate an art form, truly delighting when he goes off the deep end.
His biggest role to date outside of SUNNY was in last year’s barely watched GOING THE DISTANCE (which I haven’t seen…) where he played one of Justin Long’s friends. Hopefully, more will see him this summer in HORRIBLE BOSSES (I’ll be there this time!) alongside Jason Bateman and Jason Sudeikis. That could be his break-out movie role, securing him the star vehicle he deserves.
When Tina Fey hires you out of college to write for 30 ROCK, you must be pretty damn funny. Such is the case with Glover.
I have loved Glover since I first saw him featured in skits by the group Derrick Comedy. Though also very well written, the highlight of these short online skits is nearly always Glover who is absolutely hilarious whether he is ridiculously over the top or trying something more subdued.
Nearly any sketch by Derrick is gold, but totally check out MEMORY LOSS (aka Dickmento), GIRLS ARE NOT TO BE TRUSTED, and JERRY for a showcase of Glover’s early talent. To continue your Donald Glover education, follow this up with the Derrick Comedy feature, MYSTERY TEAM, of which Donald is the lead, both serving as a convincingly naïve man-child of a protagonist and delivering countless laughs without breaking a sweat. Wrap it all up with an episode of COMMUNITY (“Epidemiology” would be the ideal episode) on which Donald is a regular and your D. Glover education will be complete.
Among this set, I feel Donald Glover has the most potential to become the next Will Ferrell: A star of high-grossing comedy vehicles. He may not be Spider-Man, but someday maybe he’ll be the next Ron Burgundy or Ricky Bobby.