It all started with Steve Martin – the doofas who thought he was really cool. Will Ferrell has since made a career out of that persona (what’s his next venue, the world of cockfighting?). Steve Carell plays this clueless guy to perfection on THE OFFICE. Ben Stiller has also found comic gold in the character. So has Jay from Silent Bob &. The character has even crossed over into real life with George Bush.
I’m always intrigued by what's the latest trend in male comic leads. The gold standard is still Cary Grant but no one has come along who can fill those funny boots. In the 60’s there were the Grant knock-offs. George Segal leading the parade, James Garner right behind.
In the late 70’s Woody Allen’s neurotic Jewish nerd was popular for a minute and a half. The rest of us neurotic Jewish nerds were hoping it would last at least until our second dates. No such luck.
Then Robin Williams with his brilliant ability to take everyone else’s material and make it his own. He was the flavor (flavors?) of the month.
After Robin there was just a hodgepodge of different styles. Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal, Martin Lawrence, Rob Schnieder (dear God why?), Hugh Grant (at least he shares a name with Cary), Adam Sandler, the cast of FRIENDS, and a few others chased that comedy spotlight. Even Robert De Niro tried (his Fearless Leader in ROCKY & BULLWINKLE was grounds for giving back his Oscar).
Today we have a new comic persona topping the charts – the sloth. The slacker with more body hair than charm. Seth Rogen. As unlikely a leading man as you’ll ever find. No ambition. No money. No style. No looks. But you know what? He makes me laugh. I loved him in KNOCKED UP. Loved that he got the girl. Loved that he wasn’t a doofas who thought he was cool. It was refreshing to see a “regular guy” who was comfortable with who he is…even if who he is is, well…Seth Rogen.
For my money screen comedy is going in the right direction when Seth Rogen is the romantic lead and Paul Rudd is just the boring sidekick. How long will this trend last? I dunno, but if you’re one of those guys – judging by how long the Woody Allen window lasted – get your ass to the club TONIGHT.