Whether it is with their razor-sharp wit, physical performances, or an innate ability to tell side-splittingly hilarious stories, great comedians are always capable of making us laugh until our sides hurt. However, many of the best comedians have also displayed a surprising talent for taking on more dramatic roles as well.



The question of which comedians had shocked audiences the most with their acting ability was put to the r/AskReddit community, netting thousands of responses. Dating back to pioneering comedians who made the transition like Robin Williams to more recent break-outs like Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul, these 10 comic geniuses impressed Reddit with their dramatic chops.

10 Adam Sandler

Barry Egan standing still and looking to the distance while holding a thermos in Punch-Drunk Love.
Image Via Sony Pictures Releasing

With his irreverent style and his penchant for humorous outbursts of rage, Adam Sandler became one of the defining comics of the 1990s. His major films of the time included Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, The Wedding Singer, and The Waterboy, and while he was a great comedic presence in those films, few would say he showcased the potential to be a great actor.

RELATED: The Best Adam Sandler Movies on Netflix Right Now

Someone who did have faith in him though was Paul Thomas Anderson who cast him as the lead in Punch-Drunk Love which remains one of Sandler’s most lauded performances. More recently, he has also won praise for his role in Uncut Gems. One Redditorsaid that “when Adam Sandler puts on pants he becomes an Oscar-level actor. It’s the weirdest f*cking thing.”

9 Nick Offerman

Bill (Nick Offerman) taking off a gas mask in HBO's 'The Last of Us'
Image via HBO

Not only a great comedian but the man behind one of the most iconic comedy characters so far this century in Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson, Nick Offerman is renowned for his ability to make audiences laugh. That notion was flipped completely on its head though when Offerman put in an astounding performance in his one-off episode of The Last of Us.

Appearing as Bill, a misanthropic who survives the apocalyptic world alone before meeting Frank (Murray Bartlett) and falling in love, Offerman’s performance was shockingly good. Vertigo01simply said “he made me ugly cry for a solid half hour after that incredible performance.”

8 Bill Hader

Bill Hader as Barry in Barry Season 4
Image via HBO

After working in the industry for years as a great comic actor, Bill Hader has recently broken out as a major dramatic performer with his role in Barry. In addition to co-creating and often directing the show, Hader also starred in it as the titular hitman and ex-serviceman who, while researching a target in L.A., discovers a great and therapeutic love for acting.

Mixing black comedy with crime thrills and moments of bitterly poignant drama, the series has unveiled the complete scope of Hader’s talents. Highlighting his ability to do anything, kayla7253commented “absolutely my favorite actor, he’s one of the only actors I’ve seen be so phenomenal in both comedic and dramatic roles.”

7 Bill Burr

Migs Mayfeld drives an Imperial transport alongside Din Djarin
Image via LucasFillm

With his blunt style, his hilarious, rage-fuelled rants, and his simple logic, Bill Burr has become one of America’s most well-known and celebrated stand-up comedians. Alongside his stand-up, Burr has also forged a solid career as an actor and while most of his roles of been comedic, his surprising appearance in The Mandalorian left some viewers impressed.

RELATED: Every Star Wars Show Made for Disney+, Ranked According to IMDb

With a recurring guest role as Stormtrooper-turned-mercenary Migs Mayfield, Burr was able to bring his comedic appeal to the series but excelled at delivering the character’s more dramatic beats as well. SooperFunkpraised Burr’s performance, saying “Brilliant performance. The bit where he and Pedro Pascal are sitting with the Imperial Officer having a drink was excellent.

6 Steve Carell

Steve Carell in The Patient
Image via Hulu 

Whether it was as the quirky side character or as an awkward leading man, Steve Carell has long been one of the most accomplished actors in American comedy. However, in the mid-2010s, Carell began to change the trajectory of his career with striking performances in Foxcatcher (for which he received an Oscar nomination) and The Big Short.

He has since switched between dramatic and comedic roles to great effect, receiving critical praise for his work in films like Beautiful Boy while still making the masses laugh in stuff like Asteroid City. Saltycookhighlighted Carell’s versatility as an actor, saying he is “great in black comedies like Little Miss Sunshine or completely serious roles like The Patient.”

5 John Lithgow

Trinity Killer from Dexter in a hardware store holding a hammer and looking suspicious.
Image via Showtime

In an acting career spanning across six different decades, John Lithgow has done it all. While he may not have been a household name early on, he shined in significant parts in films such as All that Jazz, Terms of Endearment, and Footloose among many others before landing what would be his best-known role as Dick Solomon in 3rd Rock from the Sun.

Since establishing himself to television audiences with his comedic chops as Dick though, he has continues taking dramatic parts with noteworthy roles in The Crownand Dexteramong his highlights. Likely commenting on the stark contrast between Lithgow’s performances in 3rd Rock from the Sun and Dexter, Mashy6012simply said “he can be f*cking terrifying.”

4 Bryan Cranston

Walter White confronts Jesse about watching Jane die.
Image via AMC

Having announced his retirement from acting earlier in the year, Bryan Cranston will depart the screen as one of the most revered and celebrated actors of this century. In addition to portraying Walter White in the hit crime series Breaking Bad, Cranston has also received an Oscar nomination for his role in Trumbo.

RELATED: The Best Episode of Every Season of ‘Breaking Bad’

However, there are many television fans who first got to know Cranston through his comedic performances, namely Hal in the American sitcom Malcolm in the Middle. While there was some conjecture about whether Cranston qualified as a comedian, LowSugar6387’s comment of “if we count him, Bryan Cranston is the slam dunk answer” was met with 1.6k upvotes.

3 Jim Carrey

A young man in a beanie looks out a bus window with a devastated look on his face.
Image via Focus Features

After toiling away at converting his stand-up magnificence to a film career through the 1980s, Jim Carrey finally made his mark on cinema through the mid-90s with Dumb and Dumber, Ace Venture: Pet Detective, and The Mask all hit films of 1994. While Carrey has never turned his back on cinematic comedy, he did excel when given the chance to showcase his acting chops in the Oscar-nominated hit The Truman Show.

This success of the film and the universal acclaim for his performance saw plenty of opportunities open for Carrey, with VonDinkeyviewing the actor’s role in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mindto be his stunning best. The Redditor said that “he was really good in The Truman Show, but Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is his greatest role, both as a role, and how well he acted.”

2 Robin Williams

good will hunting, robin williams, matt damon, bench, monologue
Image via Miramax

While plenty of stand-up comedians had transitioned the film before him, it is difficult to think of many who embraced dramatic cinema quite like Robin Williams did. Proving himself to be one of the industry’s most versatile performance, he surprised fans over and over again with roles in Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting, and even in darker roles to like Insomnia.

Usersouthwales1985’s simple statement that “Robin Williams was always very good in dramatic roles” received 4.3k upvotes on the Reddit post and was met with dozens of comments covering a whole range of Williams’ performances. Shagalisciousreplied “he was an actor that went to Julliard that then turned into a stand-up comic after the fact. He was always an actor first and foremost.”

1 Bob Odenkirk

lawyer speaking to cops with coffee on the table
Image via AMC

One of the more recent comedians to emerge as an immensely gifted actor, Bob Odenkirk capitalized on his iconic role in Breaking Bad by excelling in the spin-off hit series Better Call Saul. The crime drama follows Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman, an ex-conman who becomes a small-time defense attorney before becoming embroiled in a major drug dealing operation.

Odenkirk’s career in comedy stems back to the 1980s when he was hired as a writer on Saturday Night Live and worked on a number of similar sketch comedy shows through the 90s as a writer and actor. Commenting on his performance in Better Call Saul, puckitwrote that “he showed signs of being great in Breaking Bad. But I still wasn’t expecting the caliber of performance he showed in [Better Call Saul].”

KEEP READING: 10 Dramatic Actors Who Need to Do More Comedies, According to Reddit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *