Role Models : The New Comedy Cavalry


Film fans have been blessed over the years with a parade of comedy geniuses on the silver and small screens. However, the current crop of movie mirth makers are blowing big holes in the box office thanks in part to the likes of long running Stateside TV staple Saturday Night Live and the gargantuan brain of Hollywood’s hot uber producer Judd Apatow.
With worldwide comedy smash Role Models out on DVD and Blu-ray from 11 May, what better time to focus on one of its hilarious stars Paul Rudd, and nine other movers and shakers in gag land who have made audiences roll in the aisles these past few years at the cinema.

If there is one person who sums up the comedy zeitgeist at the moment, it’s the New Jersey born actor who went all Shakespearean on us in Romeo + Juliet and earnest in the Oscar winning The Cider House Rules. The Rudd comedy switcheroo started with a guest stint as Phoebe’s boyfriend Mike Hannigan on Friends. He followed it up with sly supporting turns in Apatow’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. It wasn’t until Role Models, however, that he achieved leading man status and, boy, did he deliver as sourpuss Danny Donahue. With new comedy I Love You, Man also cleaning up, the only way is up for Hollywood’s Prince Paul.

There are multi-hyphenates and then there is Tyler Perry. The genial six foot five entertainer has parlayed a hugely successful US touring theatre company into box-office gold in cinemas, after tapping into the African American market and religious demographic. Much like Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence, Perry isn’t afraid to don woman’s clothes to make the audience whoop with delight or drive home a point. Diary of a Mad Black Woman started the ball rolling with the next five films ensuring that TP has taken over Ice Cube’s mantle as the family friendly go-to guy at the flicks. Look out for him in the Star Trek revamp, ahead of his next Madea film I Can Do Bad All By Myself.

Master Rogen is pushing the likes of Sammy “Sponsored by Kangol” L. Jackson close for the title of hardest working thesp in LaLaLand, on the back of his popcorn blitz these past few years. Another graduate from the Apatow School of Comedy, Seth got his big-screen break in Anchorman and Virgin before bagging the lead in quirky romcom Knocked Up opposite screen goddess Katherine Heigl. Not one to rest on his laurels, the pudgy performer fitted in Superbad, Pineapple Express and Zack and Miri Make a Porno alongside voice gigs for pretty much every animated film out the gate. With his twisted mall cop turn in Observe and Report also getting rave reviews, super Seth’s sitting pretty.

If you haven’t heard of the New Queen of Comedy this past year, you must have been living in a cave because the Saturday Night Live alum has rocketed into the satire stratosphere. Her US sitcom 30 Rock has won her and comic foil Alec Baldwin a slew of top awards, while her scarily spot-on impersonation of US presidential candidate Sarah Palin made headlines round the world. Her winning performance in Mean Girls, which she also wrote, prepared us for Baby Mama opposite SNL pal Amy Poehler. An ensemble part in Ricky Gervais’ new jocular behemoth The Invention of Lying gives us another chance to wallow in her glorious slapstick splendour. All rise and hail the Fey!

When a musical video of you mocking your chat show host boyfriend, with the help of Hollywood superstar Matt Damon, becomes a worldwide phenomenon you pretty much know you’ve got the comedy Midas touch. Such was the case with former Saturday Night Live performer Silverman, who has popped up in several films down the years like There’s Something About Mary and The School of Rock as much needed comic relief. Stand-up Sarah, aka Big S, is loud and proud with a bright film future guaranteed alongside her TV and stage gigs, if she carries on her rapid ascent. She co-stars alongside The Office star Rainn Wilson and Dexter’s Michael C. Hall in new comedy Peep World.

Yet another Apatow alumni, Segel has risen from the TV trenches where he put in scene stealing performances in Judd’s short-lived shows Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. Not afraid to go all out in search of the biggest laugh, Segel moved onto the big screen as part of Rogen’s slacker brigade in Knocked Up. He obviously did enough to impress the powers that be as he took on the lead in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which featured a brave and very naked Jason trying to turn his rocky love life around. His roguish co-star turn alongside Rudd in buddy romcom I Love You, Man will be followed by another as Horatio, opposite Jack Black, in 2010’s light-hearted Gulliver’s Travels.

It was only a matter of time before the Americans took the wild child of British comedy to their hearts in the same manner as Peter Sellers, Dudley Moore and Borat himself Sacha Baron Cohen. The devout West Ham fan has blazed a comedy trail around the world on the back of madcap stand-up gigs, chaotic TV shows and now films that allow him to unleash his inner nutter. US audiences got their first taste of him opposite Segel in Marshall, before he was given licence to ham it up as Adam Sandler’s best friend in Bedtime Stories. Look out for him as a leading man in Get Him to the Greek with the tabloid favourite emerging near enough unscathed from his Jonathan Ross radio shame.

Long live the geek or McLovin as Mintz-Plasse became known in the sleeper slacker success Superbad, alongside comedy compadres Michael Cera and Jonah Hill. The Los Angeles native was only 17 when he got the nod for Greg Mottola’s high school romp, but he delivered his lines like a vaudeville veteran. He followed it up with a sympathetic turn as the downtrodden medieval re-enactment fan Augie Farks in Role Models, synching well with Rudd’s older mentor. He reteams with Cera for the upcoming Year One as Isaac, while starring as Red Mist in Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass.

When you’re saddled with a name like George-Michael Bluth in your comedy birthing, the immense US sitcom Arrested Development, odds are you’ll struggle to make it into the big time. Cera, though, has taken his unfortunate moniker in his stride thanks to a string of astute comic turns in films like Superbad, Jason Reitman’s indie smash Juno and cute romcom Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist alongside fellow rising star Kat Jennings. He looks set to win over the popcorn crowd with his co-starring role in Year One, together with Jack Black, and Edgar Wright’s upcoming comedy adventure Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Not bad for a lad, who lost out to Haley Joel Osment for The Sixth Sense.

You can’t have a top-10 hit list of the cream of the latest jester crop without the British genius behind Ali G, Borat and this summer’s comedy Bruno. The Cambridge Uni grad kick-started his comedy quest around 10 years ago on the small screen in The 11 O’Clock show, however it wasn’t until Borat took the world by storm in 2006 that he cemented his feature film place at the top table. The staggering success of the crazy Kazakh led him into a supporting turn for Tim Burton in Sweeney Todd, opposite Johnny Depp, but it’s his gay Austrian fashionista that has comedy fans drooling. Watch out for another blockbuster hit as the 37-year-old makes us cringe with his high camp.

If you can’t resist everyman Rudd and want to whet your comedy appetite for the other new kids on the block, then rent ROLE MODELS double quick. Or else, hang your head in shame and miss out on the rollicking film Empire magazine labelled “2009’s laugh-out-loud comedy to beat”.