film this! picks our favorite comedy

performances out of the blood & guts...


Bob Newhart in Hell is for Heroes


Bob's performance as Pfc. Driscoll is essential to director Don Siegel's eclectic view of the American soldier and serves well as the comedy relief in this otherwise taut war drama. He essentially performs one of his proven standup bits in this film; elsewhere he plays the bumbling enlisted man to Bobby Darin's street-smart straight man.

Newhart's performance as Major Major in Catch 22 also stands as a milestone in the comedic use of military jargon.



Eileen Brennan in Private Benjamin


Her smug Captain Doreen Lewis is deflated by the daffy Private Benjamin (Goldie Hawn) and watches her perfect military world, and career, fall to pieces. Hawn is perfect as the thorn in her side, but it is Brennan's straight-man role that ensures that the majority of the laughs go to her.

She would go on to recreate the role for television in the series of the same name (along with co-star Hal Williams).



Warren Oates in Stripes


Uncle Hulka?

How could we not select Oates' dry and deadpan Sgt. Hulka as one of the all time great comedy roles in a military picture. And although Stripes is a straight up comedy, with countless gags, it is Oates' authentic turn as a career drill instructor that provides the funniest performance in the film; A perfect contrast to Murray's slob humor.

For further proof that talented character actors can be funny as hell, just consider Oates' performance as Col. "Madman" Maddox in the unfairly criticized 1941 (which also features hysterical performances as military personnel by Robert Stack and Toshiro Mifune).



Robert Strauss in Stalog 17



This gruff voiced, hulk of a man played supporting roles in countless war time comedies and dramas, but none better than Stalag 17. His role as Animal, along with on-screen partner Harvey Lembeck as Shapiro, provides the funniest moments in this classic P.O.W. drama. His handful of comedic moments in the film practically steal the show, as well as provides the appropriate sadness and desperation of a war time prisoner.

His prior work in the Martin & Lewis comedies Sailor Beware and Jumping Jacks also highlights his comedic talents, primarily in the role of the oafish bully. A funny, funny man.



Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator



Chaplin's duel rolls as the good natured Jewish Barber, and as the Dictator of Tomania, is with out a doubt his funniest performance in a sound film. The even mix of shtick and sight gags, reminiscent of his silent screen work, is equally matched with witty dialogue and nonsensical jargon; The Dictator's address to his people is a perfect example of the later. Mistaken identity eventually comes into play, with great comedic effect, and sets up the film's finale: a plea for freedom and respect for all of humanity.

Chaplin stated in his biography that had he known of the concentration camps he would never have made this comedy. Luckily for us his intuition into the state of the world did not envision the true horrors of that war, as the film's indictment of Nazi Germany and Hitler predated the full escalation of World War II.



Jack Lemmon in Mister Roberts



Lemmon was a master of comedy and drama, a true genius of the human soul. As Pulver he is less of the average guy he became known as and more of the average dope. A character content to look at the female form in medical books, rather then worry about little things like…WWII! While his character goes through some dramatic changes at the end of the film, it is the comic moments throughout the movie that make this change so memorable.



Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove



It has been said of the greatest of actors that they could even make reading the phone book interesting. Well, for me, Mr. Slim Pickens is the man I want reading my phone book. Just check him out reading the list of survival rations to his crew and you will be a believer. Also, for more of the same see 1941.



John Candy in Stripes



I miss the late John Candy and his show-stealing performances like that of Dewey "Ox" Oxburger in Stripes. Candy played every moment in this film to the fullest: whether it was in his ernest explanation of why he joined the Army, abusively teaching Cruiser how to play poker, or mud wrestling wild women. He was a comedic gem.

And if this was Italy we'd be making his bunk for him right now...



Mario Van Peebles in Heartbreak Ridge



Maybe not the greatest film or funniest performance but I've always enjoyed Mario's character wearing a t-shirt that says "I'm a Sweetback", referencing his father's classic film.

Too bad his bio-pic about his father is nothing more than a string of hokey scenes of unresolved father/son issues..



Bruno Kirby in Good Morning Vietnam



In a very funny film, Kirby plays a patently unfunny character which, I believe, takes a special kind of comedic timing all of it's own to achieve.