Monday, February 26, 2007

Top Ten Unconditionally Funny Characters from TV and Film

I was sitting on Amy’s couch the other night watching South Park, and because of Eric Cartman I found myself laughing uncontrollably for about ten straight minutes. By the time the commercial break finally hit I was light-headed from breathing so frantically and gasping for air in between muffled chortles. Amy, I think, just was going under the assumption that I had flipped out and turned simple on her.

But I didn’t turn simple, I was just happy because that’s what Cartman does to me. He’s such an unapologetic prick trying to act so mature, yet falling so completely short. I wouldn’t want that kind of kid in my life, but my goodness is he funny to watch on television.

It got me thinking about other TV/movie characters that make me laugh frenziedly for the duration of their time on their screen. Like the chorus of a good song, or the dessert after a good meal, I find myself desiring the company of these characters, waiting on baited breath for the time that they finally pop onto the screen and deliver their hysterical lines. The following is a list of my Top Ten Unconditionally Funny Characters from TV and Film, and you best believe Cartman’s on it…

***Warning*** Some of these clips contain adult language. Parental discretion is advised. Clips that are not safe for work will be labeled “NSFW.” Enjoy the clips!

10. Fez, “That ‘70s Show”

In real life, Wilmer Valderrama is about as funny as drying wallpaper glue, and to prove this I submit his gig hosting that crappy MTV show with all the “yo mama” jokes, in which he basically hops around like a jumping bean on Flubber yelling inaudible retorts like “Oh snap!” etc.

On “That ‘70s Show,” however, Valderrama rocks the house as foreign exchange student Fez, whose ignorance of American culture and broken English combine for some extremely funny moments on the show. It’s a great sitcom on it’s own, but there’s hardly anything funnier than when Fez calls someone a “son-of-a-bitch” in his rapid-fire accent.

9. Vince Vaughn, “Swingers”

Vaughn, in my opinion, is the successor to Dennis Miller as the King of the Rant. He goes off on these never-ending, angst-laden tirades about all kinds of things, and it’s the anger, the fast talking, and random details thrown into the fray that make what he says so funny. He goes so quickly sometimes that it takes a minute for the rant to register and for the jokes to really set in.

He’s got his moments in “The Wedding Crashers” and “The Breakup,” but probably my favorite Vince Vaughn performance is in “Swingers.” The Vegas pep talk, his trailer park re-hashing of an acting gig he failed to nail, and the NHL ’94 match at a buddy’s place are all Vaughn classics. They’re all laced with “F-bombs,” but hilarious once you get past all the profanity.

Then again, what’s so wrong with profanity? NSFW.

8. Rod Farva, “Super Troopers”

“Super Troopers” is kind of a cult movie hit made by the same group of guys that recently put out “Beerfest.” However, where “Beerfest” is tailored almost exclusively to a college, alcohol-obsessed audience, “Super Troopers” is a little more diverse, and a little more timeless. Plus, it stars Brian Cox—a real, live, credible actor—as the highway patrol captain, so it’s got to be good, right?

Farva is sort of the idiot guy on the squad—a meathead cop who is part of the profession for all the right reasons, which is part of why the other lazier guys hate him so much. However, Farva has a really short temper, which leads him into all kinds of ridiculous predicaments, including one ambiguous incident involving a school bus full of children. The “Large Farva” scene below is cult comedy classic. NSFW.

7. Gary Busey

An underrated comedic genius/completely insane person, Busey starred in a show for Comedy Central early in my college career called “I’m with Busey.” The premise revolved around a completely nerdy kid named Adam learning life lessons from one of the battiest people on the face of the planet.

Most of the show was improvised, and these two guys had real chemistry together, but unfortunately I can find no video from the show, no DVD for sale, not even a stinkin’ audio clip. You’ll just have to trust me that it was extraordinary. If you’re dying to see for yourself, and you can get a hold of the “Entourage” DVD’s, there’s an episode in which Busey almost kills Turtle for breaking a piece of Busey’s weird art. The man is completely cocked, which is fabulous, because it also means he’s funny.

6. Sarah Silverman

Noticeably the only woman on my list, because she’s probably the only female comic in the entire world who makes me laugh. My girlfriend Amy is funny, I have a friend from college named Ashley who’s always been a big hoot, and then there’s Sarah Silverman. Outside of those three, I feel like women’s humor is too tailored towards other women for me, a manly man, to fully appreciate it.

I’ve always found Silverman to be a riot, making her much more attractive than she actually is, and her new show, “The Sarah Silverman Programme” is genuinely hilarious. (Ex - In talking to a class of first graders about AIDS awareness, she says, “You think you’re invincible, huh? I was that way once. I knew it all! Nothing could touch me! Sure, I did some drinkin’, some druggin’, tried it in the butt one or nine times. Just have fun. Or so I thought…”). Who knows how long the show will last on the air, but the gal’s got a gift. A special, special gift.

5. Dwight Schrute, “The Office”

It’s hard to choose only one representative from the office because Michael Scott (Steve Carrel’s character) is also one that makes me laugh with regularity. However, I think Dwight’s here instead of the World’s Best Boss because Dwight’s on screen with less frequency, so I miss him more.

Rainn Wilson (the actor that plays Dwight) said once that “There’s a lot of comedy in taking yourself too seriously,” which is exactly the kind of character Dwight is. He’s tough guns, loves what he does, and truly believes he’s superior to everyone else in every possible way. He’s also extremely gullible, making Pam and Jim’s prank scenes that much more pleasant.

4. Tobias Funke, “Arrested Development”

Since “Arrested Development” is my favorite show of all time, I could list almost anyone in the cast. GOB is a favorite, as is Buster, but Tobias is the guy that gets me tittering with more habitually than anybody else. He’s a former psychiatrist who quits the medical profession to pursue an acting career. Going nowhere under the tutelage of Carl Weathers (of “Happy Gilmore” fame), he drives his wife and daughter absolutely mad with his constant failures. He truly sucks at acting, which makes for some entertaining auditions (also that he sends studios headshots marked with his own lipstick kisses in bags filled with glitter and confetti—just one of many vague hints that Tobias is a homosexual).

He then later tries to join the Blue Man Group to no avail, but for the rest of the show’s life you can see blue body paint in the background on pretty much every wall and major appliance in the house. It’s the small things like that which make “AD” the greatest of all time. If you haven’t watched this show yet, you must. You absolutely must.

3. Jiminy Glick

Martin Short’s still got it in so many ways, but none of his characters has been more enjoyable than faux talk-show host Jiminy Glick. Glick is a fatso who drives the interviews more towards discussion about himself than towards the celebrities he’s working with (Stephen Colbert basically ripped off and watered down this interviewing style for the “Colbert Report,” which is coincidentally one of the funniest shows currently on television). He’ll rip on his guests, mispronounce their names, and go on wild, off-the-cuff tangents that last for minutes at a time.

Some of the guests play along, some get angry, and some can’t help but laugh the entire time. No matter how you shake it, it’s high-shelf humor. Some of the best you can get.


2. Ali G

The world’s on a bit of a Borat trip right now, but Sacha Baron Cohen’s best character is that of Ali G, an idiot gangster wannabe from a suburb in England who somehow manages big-time interviews with people in high political and social standing. The interviews are always very well-planned, as Ali G asks only questions certain to rile up or confuse the person he’s interviewing. In one instance I swear Andy Rooney was going to kill him. You almost feel sorry for the guests because they try so hard to explain things rationally to Ali G, but he’s just not rational. Not at all.

But irrationality leads to great fun, and nearly every single Ali G interview is a scream the whole way through.

1. Cartman, “South Park”

When I started writing this I had no idea who’d be my number one, but I guess it all comes back to Eric Cartman of “South Park.” He’s my fave for the reasons listed above, and I guess it’s just because I never grow tired of him. The show’s been on for years, and I have yet to tire of the fat little jerk. But that’s how great comedy is supposed to work, right? Timeless… NSFW.

So there you go! Comedy at its best, people! Who is ranked too high? To low? Who was left off of the list entirely (because I’m sure I’m forgetting somebody)? Hopefully, at the very least, you got a few laughs at home or at work, because let’s face it: We all need a giggle here and there, even if laughing at the evil of Eric Cartman feels totally wrong. If finding this stuff funny is wrong, then baby, I don’t want to be right.

1 comment:

john curtis said...

In no particular order I would suggest that the following would be considered in this discussion:

Walter - The Big Lebowski
Stewie - Family Guy
Everett-O Brother, Where Art Thou
George - Seinfeld
Bob - What About Bob?
Clark - Christmas Vacation
Fletch - Fletch
Navin R. Johnson - The Jerk