With Kevin Hart’s new film ‘Ride Along’ arriving in UK cinemas on Friday, it seems the Pennsylvania native has hit the big time from his humble beginnings performing in comedy clubs under the not-so-great-at-identity-concealing yet pretty accurately descriptive pseudonym ‘Lil Kev’.
Appearing in his first film over a decade ago, Kevin has left the minor roles behind as he heads up ‘Ride Along’ alongside rapper turned actor Ice Cube, in a cop caper with a sequel already on the way.
Kevin’s not the first to make the move from the mike to the clapperboard. How well does a life of stand-up comedy translate onto the big screen? Just ask these guys…
1. Lisa Kudrow
Most famous for portraying the eccentric Phoebe Buffay in NBC’s ten year hit sitcom ‘Friends’, Lisa Kudrow started her comedy career in an improvised comedy troupe called ‘Unexpected Company’ alongside Conan O’Brien. She went on to join another improvised comedy set that also performed sketches; the now infamous ‘Groundlings’. She was the first and only regular female performer the ‘Transformers Comedy Troupe’ for several years, meaning she was already a seasoned professional in the genre by the time she landed her first recurring television role in the NBC sitcom, ‘Mad About You’ playing incompetent waitress Ursula Buffay; the twin of her later character, Phoebe.
From her modest comedy circuit start, by season nine and ten of ‘Friends’, Kudrow, alongside Aniston and Cox, became the highest paid female sitcom star of all time, earning $1,000,000 per episode of the show. She enjoyed a successful film career throughout her ten years with the hit show, including roles in ‘Analyse This (1991), the sequel ‘Analyse That’ (2002), ‘PS I Love You’ (2007), ‘Hotel For Dogs’ (2009), ‘Easy A’ (2010) and upcoming Seth Rogen comedy ‘Neighbors’ (2014).
2. Robin Williams
Robin Williams started doing stand-up routines in the early 1970s, and has continued touring several of his shows worldwide. Most notably, these shows included ‘An Evening with Robin Williams’ in 1982, ‘Robin Williams: At the Met’ four years later, followed by his record-breaking show ‘Robin Williams: Live on Broadway’ in 2002 which broke many long held records for a one-man stand-up performance. His most recent tour was title ‘Weapons of Self Destruction’ and beginning in September 2009 he toured twenty-six cities with it. Williams has featured in a wide array of films that allow him free reign with his own style to bring the roles to life.
These include a role as a radio presenter in 1987 war-hit ‘Good Morning Vietnam’, a 10,000 year old wish granting genie in Disney’s ‘Aladdin’, a cross-dressing desperate dad in 1993’s ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ and various roles in ‘Happy Feet’ (2006) that held his vocal talents at the forefront of a group of rambunctious and entertaining penguins. He has never limited himself to just comedy, taking on a more poignant role in classic movie ‘Good Will Hunting’, and starring as lonely robotic Andrew Martin in Christmas Day’s 1999 release ‘Bicentennial Man.’
3. Sacha Baron-Cohen
This controversial star does not limit his notorious and divisive characters to the big screen, and opts instead to bring Borat, Bruno, and Ali G along to interviews, award shows, and the red carpet on more than one occasion. His comedy not only stands up, but also walks around and interacts with various famous movie actors, sporting stars, chat show hosts, and even political figures. Appearing as Staines gangster ‘Ali G’, Baron-Cohen would deceive celebrities into believing he was the interviewer’s assistant before calling for the cameras to role and cracking on before they could choose to opt out. Among his most famous victims have been astronaut Buzz Aldrin, businessman Donald Trump, Gore Vidal, David and Victoria Beckham, and Egyptian politician and diplomat Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
While his rise to fame has come from self-created characters, his film career is peppered with external roles and he is often cast in a position that provides light comedic relief in heavier-toned dramas, such as Thenardier in the ‘Les Miserables’ film adaption, and Signor Pirelli in Tim Burton’s 2007 dark musical ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’.
He also voiced King Julian in animated hit ‘Madagascar’. However, he does seem most at home in self-created dispositions, gracing the screen first as Ali G in ‘Ali G in Da House’ in 2002, ‘Borat’ in 2006, ‘and Bruno’ in 2009, through to the deliberately ridiculously titled President Prime Minister Admiral General Haffaz Aladeen as ‘The Dictator’ in 2012.
4. Andy Samberg
Andy Samberg’s biggest break in stand-up came in 2005 when he became a regular writer and feature player for the long-running NBC live television sketch comedy show ‘Saturday Night Live’. His first year with the show saw him writing and starring in pre-recorded material, and after he gained notoriety with The Lonely Island (in particular the songs ‘Dick in a Box’, ‘Like a Boss’ and ‘I’m on a Boat’), he moved onto live broadcast material such as ‘Blizzard Man’. Samberg also has a number of celebrity impersonations that he calls upon, including Mark Zuckerberg, Zac Efron, Adolf Hitler, Prince William, and Chuck Norris.
He left the show in 2012 to focus on his own television show ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’, which Premiered on the FOX Network in 2013. He has also appeared as minor characters in comedy films such as ‘I Love You, Man’ (2009), ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ (2009), ‘Friends with Benefits’ (2011), ‘Hotel Transylvannia’ (2012), ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2’ (2013), and ‘The To-Do List’ (2013).
5. Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey didn’t have the easiest of rides in his early stand-up journey. His initial fame and audience appreciation came from doing impressions, but he soon decided he didn’t want to be famous for imitating others and craved fame in his own right. Not everyone took to his new routine so easily, and there were nights when he would be lying on a half broken table fighting off drunk audience members who were desperate to see his old impersonations. Criticism has followed him through his career, as for his decision to be as much a part of drams as comedies. His affinity for different voices has assisted him throughout his career, particularly in 1994 film ‘The Mask’. 1994 became one of Carrey’s most defining years in his film career, producing ‘Dumb and Dumber’, and ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.’
Rarely since has he held a role in a movie that hasn’t become a household name. ‘Batman Forever’ followed in 1995, and from there Carrey landed lead roles in ‘The Cable Guy, ‘Liar Liar’, and ‘The Truman Show’. Even his characters have become iconic; Bruce Almighty and The Grinch among them. He has received award nominations for several of his roles, with ‘Dr. Seuss’ how the Grinch Stole Christmas’ and ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ among his most critically successful films.
6. Louis C.K
Louis may be well known for his comedy now, but his first attempt in 1984 went badly enough to put him off doing a routine for the next two years. Gradually gaining success and notoriety opening for other comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld and featuring on ‘An evening at the Improv’ and ‘StarSearch’, HBO released his first half hour comedy special in 1996. C.K.’s career grew from there, and since that first half hour he has released two hour-long specials, ‘Shameless’ and ‘Chewed up’ and went on to produce his own independent concert film, ‘Hilarious’ which became the first stand-up film to be accepted into the Sundance Film Festival.
His fourth and fifth one-hour specials followed, the most recent premiering on HBO in 2013. The majority of his film and television work has involved appearing as himself, or various versions of himself, more notably in his self-created show, ‘Louie’, which has been commissioned for it’s fourth series. His films include ‘Role Models’ (2008), ‘The Invention of Lying’ (2009), ‘Blue Jasmine’ (2013), and ‘American Hustle’ (2013). Over the course of his career, for his acting and writing work, he has received nominations for 25 Primetime Emmy Awards in total.
7. Tina Fey
Tina Fey grew up watching comedy from an early age, often citing ‘Saturday Night Live’, ‘Monty Python’, and staying up late to watch ‘Honeymooners’. After deciding before the age of 10 that she wanted to be involved with comedy, she soon joined The Second City improvisational comedy enterprise along with Kevin Dorff and Mick Napier. At the age of 27 she submitted scripts to ‘Saturday Night Live’, was hired as a writer, and within two years was promoted to head writer, making her the first ever female head writer in 1999.
In the seven years that followed, she because most famous on the show for her Sarah Palin impersonation, and when she appeared in one episode to perform her impression alongside the woman herself, it became the most watched episode of the show since 1994. She co-anchored the ‘Weekend Update’ with Jimmy Fallon and, later, Amy Poehler.
Poehler and Fey were the first all female anchor pairing on the show, and achieved critical success leading to hosting the Golden Globe Awards together and being asked to return the following year. She left SNL in 2006 to focus full-time on her NBC show ’30 ‘Rock’ which she writes and stars in, and is loosely based on her experience working on Saturday Night Live. The show ran until 2012 and in 2011 Forbes Magazine named Fey TV’s highest paid actress.
She’s dabbled in the big screen on multiple occasions, but so far has stuck pretty rigidly to her television roots. Her films include ‘Mean Girls’ (2004), ‘The Invention of Lying’ (2009), ‘Date Night’ (2010), and ‘Muppets Most Wanted’ (2014).
8. Ricky Gervais
Ricky Gervais made his first attempts at stand-up comedy in the late 1990s to little success, although his work did land him a spot on Channel 4’s ‘Comedy Lab’ which became his mainstream television debut. In 2001 he took his first collaboration with Stephen Merchant public at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in a sketch titled ‘Rubbernecker.’ Two years later and Gervais had his own stand-up tour, ‘Animals’, followed one year late by ‘Politics’, both of which garnered favourable attention. The third instalment of his tour saw him adding more dates to his Blackpool venue after tickets sold out in less than 45 minutes; statistics that secured him a fourth tour, this time with eleven dates, sales helped along by the phenomenal success of ‘The Office’.
Another collaboration with Merchant, ‘The Office’s UK success saw the show re-created in the United States, Sweden, France, Germany, Brazil, and Quebec. With his name now known in America, his next series, ‘Extras’, was broadcast on both BBC in England, and HBO in the States. Gervais has sidestepped into film on numerous occasions, voicing a pigeon in the animated film, ‘Valiant’ (2005), playing the museum owner in both ‘Night at the Museum’ (2006) and its sequel, a minor role in Stardust (2007), and the lead in his own film (writer and director credits), ‘The Invention of Lying’ (2009), as well as ‘Cemetery Junction’. And he’s on fine form in the recent furry outing, ‘Muppets Most Wanted’.
9. Bill Murray
Bill Murray is yet another The Second City alumnus, joining the same year as fellow comedian John Candy. If you can’t guess which television show he ended up on next, you haven’t been reading this article closely enough. Murray joined the cast of Saturday Night Live, first on ABC in the Howard Cosell short-lived attempt at the variety show, and joined the NBC show two years later to replace Chevy Chase. He stayed with NBC for two years before leaving to focus on his growing film career.
His first starring role was in ‘Meatballs’ in 1979, a Canadian comedy film and although Murray wouldn’t always stick with comedy and took on more serious roles, particularly later on in his acting career, his most famous films remain within his preferred genre. ‘Groundhog Day’ (1993), ‘Rushmore’ (1998), and ‘Lost in Translation’ (2003) made him a household name, and he ended up appearing in several movies as himself, most notably ‘Space Jam’ (1996), and ‘Zombieland’ (2009). Murray took a break from comedy to portray more dramatic roles in 2010 film ‘Get Low’, as Franklin D. Roosevelt in the historical drama adaption, ‘Hyde Park on Hudson’, and Sgt. Richard Campbell in George Clooney’s war-film, ‘The Monuments Men’.
10. Russell Brand
This controversial comedian is relatively new to the film world, with his first appearance occurring less than a decade ago in the 2007 adaption of ‘St Trinian’s’, exploiting the use of deviant school girls as dastardly Flash Harry. His roots are decidedly less glamorous than his current Hollywood lifestyle, having been expelled from multiple stage and drama schools including the famed Italia Conti after just one year. He debuted his first one-man show at the Edinburgh Festival in 2004 and attracted all the right attention from his honest accounts of his own life, and 2006 saw him with his first nationwide tour, ‘Shame’.
He broke into America in 2009, with Comedy Central airing a recorded special titled, ‘Russell in New York’, the same year in which he toured the UK, America, and Australia. Despite receiving backlash against his material from more politically correct audiences for his language and choice of topic, there grew to be a demand for Brand’s acting talents in comedy films, and he was cast as wayward rocker Aldous Snow in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’ (2008).
His unique portrayal resulted in him reprising the character, this time in the lead role, in ‘Get Him to the Greek’ two years later. Brand has an affinity for portraying self-indulgent characters. He appears as the spoilt and uninhibited heir Arthur Bach in the remake of ‘Arthur’ (2011), and back-beaten, tax-owing, rock ‘n’ roll activist Lonny Barnett in ‘Rock of Ages’ (2012). His most recent comedy tour is The Messiah Complex.
Ride Along is out in cinemas across the UK this Friday. Watch the trailer below…