Comedy is a tough game. In the case of stand-ups, they have to face a live (and frequently baying) audience every time they take to the state, and for comedy actors, they have to deliver their lines with impeccable timing and poise – otherwise it just isn’t funny.
But surely neither of these jobs is as difficult as those in the business of serious acting. You know, the types of people who hold skulls and deliver Shakespearean monologues?
Well think again. In fact, comedians have long been making the transition from court jester to leading role. Here are seven acclaimed actors who started their careers in the world of comedy.
Okay, so you probably know Lenny Henry as a comic. What you might not know is that he is now also a much sought-after serious actor. He has just been signed up to appear in ITV’s gripping crime drama Broadchurch, and he has starred on the West End in the title role of Shakespeare’s Othello.
The Big Yin will surely be remembered most for his remarkable comedy career, which is still going strong. However, Billy Connolly has also shown his capabilities as a straight actor, appearing in fils such as The Last Samurai, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, and here, in Mrs Brown.
Eddie Izzard is a man of many talents. He does stand-up comedy in multiple languages including French, German and Russian, and he can run for pretty much as long as he wants without ever stopping (27 marathons in 27 days? No problem for this chap).
He can also act. He has appeared in multiple plays, including the lead role in the world premiere of David Mamet’s The Cryptogram, and also in film. His credits on the silver screen include Charlie Chaplin in The Cat’s Meow, General Erich Fellgiebel in Valkyrie and criminal expert Roman Nagel in Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen.
You might know him for his Norman Wisdom-esque physical comedy, or maybe his musical numbers. But Lee Evans has been in many films too. Though usually comic, such as his appearance as an American pretending to be a Brit in There’s Something About Mary, he can be serious too.
Here he is in Freeze Frame. Were not sure too many people are laughing.
Blackadder. Mr Bean. Not the Nine O’Clock News. The Thin Blue Line (remember that?). Rowan Atkinson is a funny man, make no mistake. He’s a national treasure for his comic work.
But Atkinson can play it straight too. He’s appeared as pipe-smoking French detective Inspector Maigret on ITV, and in 2013 took the title role in Simon Gray’s Quartermaine’s Terms. Here he is in the former.
Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie
We couldn’t publish this list without a bit of Fry and Laurie. Their sketch series was much-loved, as are their appearances on panel shows (Fry, of course, hosted QI for many years).
But both graduated from their Footlights tomfoolery to have successful acting careers. Laurie is now as well known as Dr House in the hugely successful US series House as he his for his comedy, while Fry’s many film roles include the title role in Wilde and Robert Altman in Gosford Park.