30 Funny Comedians Turned Actors

Steve Carell

The Comedian: After working for a children’s theatre company, Carell went on to join Chicago troupe Second City in 1991.

The Actor:
Carell landed in Hollywood with a resounding crash in The 40-Year-Old Virgin , which made him a star. He’s gone on to Anchorman, Bewitched, Evan Almighty and Get Smart.

Dramatic Chops?
Little Miss Sunshine showed Carell could reign it in as he played a gay man who’s just attempted to commit suicide.

John Candy

The Comedian: A stint as a member of the Second City comedy troupe got Candy noticed, and led to his graduation to cast member of NBC’s variety show Second City Television .

The Actor: Candy’s movie CV is filled with modern classics, the loveable oaf wisecracking in The Blues Brothers, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Splash, Uncle Buck, Home Alone and JFK .

Dramatic Chops? Candy could blend ticklers with tragedy like nobody else, brilliantly spinning in-yer-face comedy into unexpectedly poignant drama (see Trains, Planes & Automobiles et al).

Hank Azaria

The Comedian: Trained by acting coach Roy London, Azaria became a popular performer at LA comedy clubs before he landed a gig voicing numerous characters on The Simpsons .

The Actor: Azaria often crops up in supporting movie roles, most recently in Love And Other Drugs . He showed off a surprisingly sculpted figure in Along Came Polly , and fought a giant reptile in Godzilla .

Dramatic Chops? Hank doesn’t often play it straight, though he proved he could when he did Heat . Untapped dramatic potential there, perhaps.

Tina Fey

The Comedian: Bespectacled funny gal Fey took classes with the Second City comedy troupe after ditching DePaul University, and became integral to NBC sketch show Saturday Night Live ’s continued success when she joined in 1997.

The Actor: She is best known for 30 Rock , the show that she both stars in and writes, and which lampoons the behind the scenes shenanigans of a TV sitcom. But Fey has also lent her writing talents to the hilarious Mean Girls , and the slightly-less-successful Baby Mama.

Dramatic Chops? Fey’s definitely a comedy lass, choosing laughs over length monologues.

Matt Lucas

The Comedian: Before he made it with Little Britain , Lucas settled for bit-parts in comedy sketch show The Smell Of Reeves And Mortime r. He followed the eponymous pair to their game show Shooting Stars.

The Actor: Lucas graduated to blockbusters with Alice In Wonderland last year, in which he played Tweedledee and Tweedledum. This year he had a small role in Bridemaids and will voice a character in Aardman’s upcoming Arthur Christmas .

Dramatic Chops? Lucas still seems to be favouring comedy over drama, but watch this space.

Tom Arnold

The Comedian: Arnold started his career with Tom Arnold And The Goldfish Review , a comedy show that pivoted around the use of props. Later, he went on to write for sitcom Roseanne .

The Actor: Arnold hit the big time with 1994 Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle True Lies . Since then his big screen presence has been minimal, with a role in the first Austin Powers the only notable standout.

Dramatic Chops? Arnold excels at playing the straight man, which surely must take some doing in the drama stakes?

Tim Allen

The Comedian: Allen first got up on stage as a dare, only to find he had a talent for the quick laugh. After moving to LA, he became a member of The Comedy Store and did stand-up on late-night talk shows.

The Actor: Home Improvement made sure Allen was in everybody’s homes throughout the ’90s, while voicing Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story and playing Santa in Santa Clause ensured he found an audience with the nippers.

Dramatic Chops? Not so much – Allen’s most comfortable being the butt of everybody’s jokes.

Bill Bailey

The Comedian: A veteran of stand-up, Bailey started out touring the country before forming a double act in 1984 with Toby Longworth. He’s since become one of Britain’s most loved comedians.

The Actor: After a lead role in sitcom Black Books , Bailey has tried his hand at numerous movie projects, appearing in Hot Fuzz , Burke And Hare and Nanny McPhee And The Big Bang. This year he had a lead role in Chalet Girl.

Dramatic Chops? Surprisingly, yes, especially in Chalet Girl as an exploitative father.

Tracey Ullman

The Comedian: A good all-rounder, Ullman’s dipped her toe in numerous pools – she was a popstar in the early ‘80s after a stint on the West End, and then ended up in BBC sketch comedies A Kick Up The Eighties and Three Of A Kind .

The Actor: Ullman made her film debut with black comedy I Love You To Death , and has appeared in Small Time Crooks , A Dirty Shame , Flushed Away and I Could Never Be Your Woman . She also had a recurring role as a therapist in TV’s Ally McBeal.

Dramatic Chops? Ullman knows what we love her for, and it ain’t drama. Her career has duly respected that.

John Cleese

The Comedian: Before he was a part of the Python troupe, Cleese worked as a scriptwriter and actor in the 1963 Footlights Revue A Clump Of Plinths. It was while performing in musical Half A Sixpence that he met Terry Gilliam and Connie Booth. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Actor: Though best known for his Monty Python movies, Cleese has weathered the decades with appearances in numerous big hitters, including Bond (as gadget-making Q) and A Fish Called Wanda , though his role in the first two Harry Potter films was mostly cut.

Dramatic Chops?
Cleese’s unique brand of haughty, stressy over-acting means he’s mostly stuck to comedic roles. As well he should.

Josh Winning has worn a lot of hats over the years. Contributing Editor at Total Film, writer for SFX, and senior film writer at the Radio Times. Josh has also penned a novel about mysteries and monsters, is the co-host of a movie podcast, and has a library of pretty phenomenal stories from visiting some of the biggest TV and film sets in the world. He would also like you to know that he "lives for cat videos..." Don't we all, Josh. Don't we all.