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Drive’s Albert Brooks & Other Top Comedians Turned Actors

Albert Brooks takes a dramatic turn in Drive. Albert Brooks takes a dramatic turn in Drive.

In the new movie, Drive, starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan and Bryan Cranston, legendary comedian and filmmaker Albert Brooks gets serious. Brooks plays the psychotic Bernie Rose, a gangster with a penchant for knives in a role that has the awards ceremony sewing circle all abuzz. Brooks started his career as a standup comic in the ‘70s, and picked up steam when his satirical slice-of-life short films played on Saturday Night Live. Brooks says that he is amenable to more serious roles and is open for business, noting that he turned down a lot of parts in the past because he was working on his own films. Many other comedians have thrown their clown noses into the ring, playing teachers, therapists, studio heads, and average Joes. Some made us laugh and then we remembered that wasn’t their intent. Here are some of our favorite stand-ups who achieved success in a non-comedic role:

Robin Williams

Hate on him on all you want, but Mork has some acting chops. The hirsute thespian took home a little naked Oscar for his role in Good Will Hunting, a nomination for Dead Poets Society, and a Golden Globe for his turn as a borderline schizophrenic in The Fisher King with Jeff Bridges. Our guilty pleasures include the exposure of his sentimental side in The World According to Garp and his straight man restraint in Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry. We also applaud him for his role as cofounder of Comic Relief, an organization that since 1986 has raised millions for the homeless.


Jim Carrey

It’s no secret that Jim Carrey is a tortured soul with his failed relationships and child custody issues keeping tabloid reporters in business. He even spoke candidly of his battle with depression on 60 Minutes in 2004. For him, it seems that laughter is good medicine, and we love his sophomoric antics and butt-speak just as much as anyone. However, we flat out adore him as Joel Barish in the mind-bending Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and as Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon. Please sir, may we have some more?


Bill Murray

We would’ve lost a bet if you’d wagered that Carl the greens keeper from Caddyshack or Nick the Lounge singer from SNL would win a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, an Independent Spirit Award and receive an Oscar nomination for a serious role. Of course we’re talking about Lost in Translation, where Murray plays a melancholy actor caught in mid-life crisis…okay, maybe not such a stretch, but his boundary-pushing performance was close to perfect. Also, Wes Anderson captured Murray’s subtle brilliance in both Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums.


Lily Tomlin

Tomlin cut her comedic chops on the stage, slaying audiences with her character-driven standup. She then mastered the condescending snort as Ernestine the operator on television’s Laugh In. Lucky for us, director Robert Altman saw a serious side to our favorite funny lady, casting her as the Bible-thumping, gospel-singing mother of two, Linnea Reese in Nashville, a role that snagged her many, many award nominations. We’d love to have been a fly-on-the-wall at that pitch meeting. She again proved her ability to evoke a serious side in the ensemble cast of Short Cuts also directed by Altman.


On a final note, Steve Martin, please return to standup. No offense meant, but was It’s Complicated a comedy or a drama? We need a ruling on this.

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Drive, starring Ryan Gosling, Bryan Cranston, and Albert Brooks.
Last modified on Tuesday, 17 July 2012 18:59

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