A few days ago I Tweeted a link to a list by Screen Junkies of the 10 Best British Comedy Actors. I received a few replies, all of which were expressing sincere shock and dismay at the exclusion of Rowan Atkinson (of Blackadder and Mr. Bean fame). Admittedly, it was an odd omission, especially on a list of British comedy actors, but one reason I posted the link was because it was a tad refreshing in that it listed performers who don't normally make such ranks. People like Peter Sallis and Frank Thornton, to name just two.
I am, however, willing to embark upon my own list of Best Comedy Actors (note the omission of British from the title, as this will be an international gallery of rogues). After all, the gift of laughter is something to be cherish, isn't it? Ok, so, here we go...
- Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy: This comedy team, now long-gone, has made me laugh since childhood, when the local CBS affiliate would air their shorts and films on Saturday afternoons. The banter, physical comedy and looks of desperation that flowed between the corpulent Hardy and the skinny Laurel was pure comedy gold. I think their best outing has to be the Music Box short, in which they portray piano movers who have to lug one up a long flight of outdoor steps. I've seen it several times, and it never fails to amuse.
- The Three Stooges: Once again, this goes back to my childhood. The Stooges teams from 1934 - 1956 were golden. Whether it was Curly, Larry & Moe, or Shemp, Larry and Moe, their antics were almost always guffaw-inducing. Watching them trying to eat lobster, or getting into an upper birth on the train, or being hapless dry cleaners under threat from the mob, or trying to find a bride for Shemp, has consisted of -- without doubt -- some of the most entertaining moments of my life.
- Peter Sellers: I never really got into this fellow much until my partner Ashley showed me a couple of his films. I was only familiar with him through a great little movie called Murder By Death, wherein he played a variation of Charlie Chan, but the rest of his work had eluded me. True, I'd seen some Pink Panther films, but only the later ones, where they were keeping the franchise alive long past the comedian's death. Then I saw (courtesy of Ashley) The Party and Being There, two very different films, yet ones that showcased the versatility of Sellers' ability to do varyingly humorous (and touching) roles. A total pro.
- Tom Hanks: Yes, that's right -- Tom Hanks. You can't discount his career, pre-Oscar wins (when he thereafter took on many more serious roles). I mean, who can forget his hilarious turn as Pep Streebeck in Dragnet? Or his wonderful turns in The 'burbs, Big, Bosom Buddies and The Money Pit? It's been awhile since we've seen that true comedic spark from Mr. Hanks but, when he had it, he was on fire.
- Hugh Laurie: Look here, all you House fans.... yes, Mr. Laurie is good in that role, but I'll always think of him first in his roles in Blackadder, Jeeves & Wooster and A Bit of Fry & Laurie. These shows highlighted the talents of the all-too-serious Laurie, and showcased what a fine comedic actor he really is. This is an even more impressive feat when you see how low-key Laurie is in real life.
- Sinbad: I don't think he's all that good when he's in a TV show or a movie, when others are writing his material, but when he's on stage doing a one-man show, this brother is side-splittingly funny. And even though I'm not a prude when it comes to language, it is refreshing that his routines are devoid of profanity. I love the way he presents his topics, whether they be about parenting, marriage, hair weaves, childhood memories, trips to the mall, or just everyday relationships. Sinbad can make almost any subject hilarious.
So, there you have it. I could, of course, have gone on and listed others: John Cleese, John Inman, Clive Swift, Patricia Routledge, Roger Lloyd-Pack, etc. etc., but I didn't want to make this into a comedic version of War and Peace. As it stands, I think the aforementioned comedians are extraordinary in making folks laugh. Especially me.