Debate Club: Best Comedic Supporting Performances

Debate Club: The 5 funniest supporting performances in genre movies

Contributed by
Jun 13, 2018

Welcome to Debate Club, where Tim Grierson and Will Leitch, the hosts of the Grierson & Leitch podcast, tackle the greatest arguments in pop culture.

In this week's installment, in honor of comedy month here at SYFY WIRE, we're picking the funniest supporting performances in genre films.

Sometimes, things can get a little intense during a high-octane action flick or terrifying horror movie. That's when it's the comic relief's job to break the tension, either by cracking wise or simply by being himself.

Because superheroes and other extraordinary characters often populate these films, it's nice to have that one person in the ensemble who's more like us: a regular goofball who lacks the courage and athleticism of those around him.

With that in mind, let's salute the smart-asses and lovable dorks who made us laugh when we weren't too busy gripping the edge of our seat.

Dave Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy series (2014-present)

Before Guardians of the Galaxy, the biggest role professional wrestler Dave Bautista had ever played was a minor part in Riddick, and, suffice it to say, it was not as comic relief. So among the many strange pleasures James Gunn discovered for the Galaxy series, foremost among them is that Bautista is a secret comedy weapon. At first, the fact that Drax was so insecure and goofy simply played against Bautista's hulking size, the huge dude who also could look scared and silly. But by the second film, Drax's muscles were beside the point; he's the go-to comedy guy in these movies, the one character who can make you laugh just by looking at him.

Are we sure this guy really was a professional wrestler? Or was he a comic all along?

Simon Pegg, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

The Shaun of the Dead star and co-writer joined this Tom Cruise franchise with 2006's Mission: Impossible III, but his finest comedic performance came in the 2011 sequel. Ghost Protocol finds Benji, who's recently graduated to field agent, really being part of the IMF team, although he doesn't get himself involved in the same amount of crazy stunts that Cruise's Ethan Hunt does. Instead, Benji's job is to mostly freak out, offer unhelpful advice at the worst times, and try his best not to blow the team's cover during high-risk operations.

Because Pegg's known for being a funny guy, it made sense that he'd be the comic relief in the Mission: Impossible films, but what's interesting is that, as the series has gone along, he's become more of a dramatic actor. For 2015's Rogue Nation, he doesn't have quite as many one-liners — he's actually a little too busy helping save the world.

Lil Rel Howery, Get Out (2017)

The wacky best friend character who stands outside the plot and keeps reminding our hero that he's in a terrible spot is a horror film trope, but, like with everything else in Get Out, Jordan Peele uses that trope to upend the audience's expectations. After all, usually that character gets killed; his death raises the stakes for our hero and gives him/her something to fight for. But here, Howery's Rod Williams is not only the one guy who's right about everything... he's the one guy who can save the day.

This was Howery’s first film role and he's essentially perfect, whether he's obsessing about sex slaves or bothering some unwitting police officers who are no help. Don't worry: he's T-S-f***ing-A — consider this situation handled.

Bill Paxton, Aliens (1986)

If you watch too many movies, you might get the impression that all soldiers are earnest, courageous souls who are always conducting themselves with dignity and honor. But the truth is, at least some of them have to be like Private Hudson, the grade-A dummy who saunters into Aliens just looking to make some jokes, quickly realizing that he's signed up for a harrowing, life-or-death mission. Does Hudson find new wellsprings of bravery after being thrust into such a terrible predicament? No, he does not.

As played by Bill Paxton, who died in 2017 at the age of 61, Hudson is one of sci-fi's greatest numbskulls, and his meathead stupidity gives Aliens its much-needed moments of levity that allow the audience to take a breath between nerve-wracking action sequences.

Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic Park (1993)

You could have gone with Thor: Ragnarok here — and that is a more purely comedic performance — but we'll go with the original this-movie-sure-could-use-a-shot-of-Goldblum blockbuster. The fun of Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm in the original film is how he's the wry audience surrogate, the one who keeps waving his hands, saying, "this is a terrible idea and you're all going to end up eaten." As always, Goldblum has a unique spin on all his lines, giving the movie a quirky energy it wouldn't have otherwise. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) took away a lot of his power by putting him front and center, but Jurassic Park is the only movie you remember anyway.

 

Grierson & Leitch write about the movies regularly and host a podcast on film. Follow them on Twitter or visit their site.