Hollywood Movies

A letter to Hollywood: Let your comedians thrive

April 6, 20244 Mins Read

A few weekends ago, “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” opened at the top of the box office, despite receiving middling reviews. This was the fifth entry under the “Ghostbusters” name, but as the series has progressed since the 1984 original, it’s strayed further and further from its comedic roots.

At the front of “Frozen Empire” is Paul Rudd, who has become one of Hollywood’s leading men through films like this and by playing Marvel’s Ant-Man. Rudd’s rise to fame has made him a mainstream, household name, despite the fact that a decade ago, Rudd rarely worked outside the comedy realm.

Rudd made his mark in the 1995 teen comedy “Clueless,” putting him on the comedy map. He soon started working with big comedy directors like Judd Apatow in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and David Wain on “Wet Hot American Summer.” He also played recurring roles in sitcoms like “Parks and Recreation” and “Friends” and played one of the four main characters in the “Anchorman” films.

Now, when I rewatch these films and shows with others, Rudd is spoken about in the context of Ant-Man rather than as a viable comedic star. He’s a great comedic actor, but Hollywood hasn’t given him enough room to become known chiefly as that. Just as he was hitting his stride, he was stolen for blockbuster movies instead.

I worry for people like Ebon Moss-Bachrach, who came to prominence through the comedy “The Bear” and has already been cast in “Fantastic Four.” Moss-Bachrach has not had nearly enough time to build a reputation for his comedic acting. 

This puts him into a similar position as Chris Pratt, who was adored when he jump started his career as Andy Dwyer in “Parks and Recreation,” but people’s love for him died when he became associated with his roles in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Jurassic World” movies. Moss-Bachrach’s co-star Ayo Edebiri made a smart move pulling out of “The Thunderbolts” as she started receiving award recognition.

There are some actors who have made their careers work while still doing tentpole blockbuster films. One of Bradley Cooper’s earliest films was “Wet Hot American Summer” with Rudd, and he continued doing comedies like “The Hangover” films until he was cast as Rocket Raccoon in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films. His role as Rocket only required a voice, and he wasn’t associated nearly as much with these types of films, allowing him to work on whatever he wanted.

The bigger problem here is that Hollywood refuses to cultivate comedies. Sure, actors have some semblance of agency for which roles they play, but when the system rarely funds theatrical movies that are exclusively comedies, there’s less of a choice.

There’s also the matter of recognition. Even though Cooper has a lot more freedom with what he can do, he still has to do dramatic Oscar-nominated movies to get the recognition he deserves. If the industry treated comedy movies with the same respect as other movies, Cooper might have continued to do them.

Bob Odenkirk had a similar experience. Although he didn’t pivot to doing a Marvel movie, Odenkirk had to pivot to working on the dramatic “Better Call Saul” to get recognition, and even then, he never won an Emmy for his performance that brilliantly combines comedy and drama. 

Odenkirk shouldn’t have to be worrying about recognition with the awesome comedy career he’s had, yet people rarely seem to know he had his own sketch show or that he wrote the famous “Van Down by the River” sketch for “Saturday Night Live.”

It’s disheartening to see the genre that made me interested in the entertainment industry get pushed aside in favor of too-big-to-fail movies that merely have moments of comedy. I feel bad for the number of great comedians who won’t get their chance to lead a theatrical comedy because Hollywood just isn’t producing enough, and it’s not financially sustainable to try to circumvent the system.

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