Stand-up comedy can be a very lucrative career if a comic works hard enough, and if they get lucky enough to land their own specials and tours they can quickly become millionaires. It can also lead one down a road to stardom unlike anything you have ever seen or could have expected. Plenty of now A-list Hollywood actors and box-office magnets started in the world of stand-up, sketch, or improvisational comedy. Steve Carrell was a correspondent for Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show before he ended up on The Office. Hugh Laurie from House was originally Stephen Fry’s comedy partner for the BBC sketch comedy show A Bit of Fry and Laurie, and the pair had the privilege of working with future Oscar winner Emma Thompson as well. Too many actors to count started as stand-up comics, even the guys who played Hellboy and Batman.
From stand-up comedy, these actors branched into careers on television and eventually the big screen and have since made waves in box-office smash hits, classic TV shows, and even won some Academy Awards. Which celebrities started in stand-up? Well, our answers might surprise you.
Yes, Batman was a comedian. In fact, the announcement that Tim Burton cast Keaton as Bruce Wayne originally raised some eyebrows, because Keaton was not known at the time as a respectable dramatic actor. Keaton was originally a stand-up comic and like other comics of the 1980s, he cut his teeth on the comedy club circuit before his big break. Although his comedy background made sense to audiences when they saw him in Beetlejuice, fans were suspicious that he could handle Batman. Needless to say, he proved them wrong and Keaton is now one of the most respected dramatic actors in Hollywood, and one of the most iconic portrayers of Bruce Wayne. He is not above returning to comedy however, and he did so in Adam McKay’s The Other Guys for a supporting role.
7 Jamie Foxx Was A Stand-Up And A Sketch Star
The famous singer and actor got his start in stand-up comedy as well. After touring the stand-up circuit for some time, Foxx eventually auditioned for a role on the 90s sketch comedy show In Living Color, which also started the acting career of another comedian, Jim Carey. Thanks to In Living Color, Foxx eventually found his way into major Hollywood blockbuster films like Collateral with Tom Cruise, Miami Vice with Colin Farrell, and the lead in Quintin Tarintino’s Django Unchained.
6 Seth Rogen Was Doing Stand-Up Before Stoner Comedies
We all know Rogen got his start in Hollywood with stoner comedies like Knocked Up and before that he was on other Judd Apatow cult classic projects like Undeclared and Freaks and Geeks. But he got those roles because Rogen was discovered when doing his stand-up comedy. Rogen returned to stand up, in a way, when he starred in Judd Apatow’s film about stand-up comedians, Funny People with Adam Sandler.
Thomspon has won an Academy Award for Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay, and when interviewed she is rarely seen without some kind of elegant fur or a piece of jewelry as stunning as she is. So it might surprise people to learn that she started by doing crass stand-up comedy and improv. Thompson originally rose to fame in England as part of several comedy troupes with shows on the BBC, and she worked with other future stars like Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry for short-lived sketch shows like There’s Nothing To Worry About.
4 Whoopi Goldberg Was Doing Stand-Up Before ‘Star Trek’
Goldberg is now a host on The View, has been in Star Trek, and starred in several films of her own. She is even becoming a cannabis entrepreneur as well. But all of this came after she started in stand-up comedy. She then made the leap to serious roles, partly thanks to her role as Quinan, the sage and immortal bartender on Star Trek The Next Generation. Goldberg has revived the character for the new Star Trek spin off, Picard.
3 Eric Bana Did Stand-Up In Australia
The star of Stephen Spielberg’s Munich and other Oscar-nominated performances started as a standup comedian in Australia. He even used to have his own sketch comedy show, The Eric Bana Show Live. Bana leaped from comedy to drama in 1997 with The Castle.
2 Kevin Spacey Did Impressions
Although he has since been disgraced after accusations he preyed on child actors arose, the star of House of Cards and The Usual Suspects was originally a standup comedian. He was quite good at doing impressions, something that has helped him as an actor because roles like House of Cards have required Spacey to use an accent. When interviewed by Jimmy Fallon one time, Spacey dusted off his old stand-up comedy impressions.
1 Ron Perlman Did A Little Bit Of Comedy
It was incredibly short-lived, and little evidence that it ever happened exists. But the star of Hellboy and Sons of Anarchy was indeed a comedian first. Although it was not long before his unique looks and intimidating stature earned him a place in Hollywood. Still, one can’t help but wonder how those comedy club audiences felt when they saw Perlman stomp onto the stage.
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About The Author
James J. Jackson
(166 Articles Published)
James J. Jackson is a poet and activist from California. He studied English and Film at Humboldt State University. He has words in Ariel Chart Journal, Sacramento News and Review, and HotCars. When he is not writing, he is watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 or vibing to a Tom Waits album.
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