Kings of Comedy?

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Following the news that Russell Crowe has taken up the mic for an upcoming Bill Hicks biopic, Time Out offers its thoughts on which Hollywood bigshots might bite into the funnybone of some other great comedians…

Nicolas Cage as Jerry Seinfeld

After those noggin-scratchingly popular ‘National Treasure’ outings and the upcoming turkey shoot ‘Bangkok Dangerous’, Cage would do well to gussy up his thespian credentials with a timely art-house nugget or two. It’s a feat he’s managed before, punctuating the meathead medley of ‘Con Air’, ‘The Rock’ and ‘Face/Off’ with a remarkably subtle performance in Scorsese’s ambulance drama (amb-dram?) ‘Bringing Out the Dead’, and following up the debacle of ‘Windtalkers’ with the dual role of bickering twins in Spike Jonze’s 'Adaptation.'. What better project for the horse-faced killer to sink his gnashers into than a trawl through the broiling snake-pit of the late-’80s Manhattan comedy circuit in the stonewashed Levis of world-class pedant Jerry Seinfeld? Just imagine the unchecked vitriol with which he could imbue the apparently casual inquiry, 'What’s… the deal… with those airplane… FREAKIN’… peanuts, okay?!?!?!'

Keira Knightley as Joan Rivers

She can sport a comely bonnet, rattle a sabre and bend it like Beckham, but can she actually act? Quivering your lips through a Bafta-magnet like ‘Atonement’ is like going heavy on the lipstick when the fleet’s in town, so if we are truly to get behind KK we’re going to need the kind of commitment she has thus far been shy of providing. Rude, lewd and utterly courageous, Rivers paved the way for the careers of top comediennes Ellen DeGeneres and Roseanne Barr, and should get a medal for her contribution to cultural suffrage and the idea that women – Stop Press! – might actually be funny. We’re ready, Keira – are you?

Ricky Gervais as Tony Hancock

Mainly remembered as star of his seminal radio and TV sitcom ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’, Tony started out as a stand-up comedian in the notorious breaking ground of London’s Windmill Theatre. Alfred Molina, Paul Merton and Ken Stott have all harrumphed their way through the tragicomic tribulations of the Brummie class warrior on TV, but the big screen interpretation deserves somebody far less discriminating. Slap a Homburg and an astrakhan-collared coat on Ricky Gervais and you’ve not only updated your neuroses for a modern audience but you’ve also spared us another series of ‘Extras’.

Daniel Day-Lewis as Jackie Mason

Let’s face it, the boy needs to lighten up. While the last third of ‘There Will Be Blood’ might have oozed with unintentional zaniness and his immigrant-baiting turn as Bill the Butcher in maligned non-starter ‘Gangs of New York’ was all ironic asides and sly wit, we have yet to see Double-D in that breakout comic role. Filling the yarmulke of Rabbi-turned-iconoclastic ‘Jews vs Gentiles’ comedian Jackie Mason (born Yacov Moshe Maza) might be just the thing to put a bit of fun up Ireland’s finest.

Various as Richard Pryor

The Pharaoh of Funny, the Oligarch of Observation, the Picasso of Patter; Pryor remains the greatest comedian of all time. With that in hand, he is perhaps the most deserving of the wrong-minded yet right-headed approach taken by director Todd Haynes when attempting to distill the life of Bob Dylan into his phantasmagorical biopic ‘I’m Not There’. Viggo Mortensen’s brand of non-acting charms always seem to go down well in these sort of things, as does the presence of a heavily-subsidised contemporary music-hall act (Lethal Bizzle/Mike Skinner). Toss in Tilda Swinton, Jeremy Piven and some CGI and we’re done.

John Turturro as Jack Benny

Cheap, petty, vain and self-congratulatory – the professional persona of America’s favourite radio and TV star of the '40s and '50s is sure to be put under the microscope by some swineherding director sooner or later. With any luck it will be with all the restraint and élan which Tim Burton lent to the travails of Ed Wood in his lo-fi, b/w masterpiece. Should that be the case, we might hope to see someone like John ‘King Tut’ Turturro taking up the reins. Back in the real world we can expect to see the extroverted introspection of John Malkovich or – God help us all – Jim Carrey fiddle while Rome burns.

Author: Adam Lee Davies


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