Monday, August 6, 2007

Things that are underrated: The funny fat guy from the '80s

The '70s had John Belushi. Then he died. The '90s had Chris Farley. Then he died. Both of those hysterical fat guys who did assloads of drugs and drank like the Bacchae are held in reverence today, with many of us wishing we could have seen just a little bit more of them before they met their ends.

Only one man deserves to fill the oddly missing '80s slot, and for some reason he is generally not given near as much credit as Belushi and Farley.

That's right. John Fucking Candy.

J.C. began his comedy career at Second City, the same Chicago comedy troupe that also gave us the aforementioned Belushi and Farley, but also Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Mike Myers, Steve Carell, and Stephen Colbert (among many others).

When you think back on movies from the '80s, certain actors pop into your head right away, especially the funny ones. But I really feel like John Candy might be the most unsung comedian from that era. I find it especially odd because he clearly filled the "funny fat guy" gap between Belushi and Farley.

Why isn't he better appreciated? His resume is packed with amazing performances and memorable films. I'd like to single out a few of his performances which I feel would be featured on John Candy's never-filmed episode of "Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton."

1. Ox, in Stripes. Though he played a small part, one scene in particular left a lasting impression on me, and for a simple reason: He mud-wrestled two chicks and ripped their clothes off while doing it.

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2. Uncle Buck, in...I forget the title. Here's a movie that still, to this day, really gets me every time I watch it. A classic Candy role -- he's put in a position where common sense tells you he could never succeed, but he somehow finds a way. And one great little sequence involves a young Macaulay Culkin. Here, take a look:

3. Barf, in Spaceballs. Who didn't love this movie the first time you saw it? And Candy simply owns every scene he's in. He's not a man, not a dog, he's a Mog. And what is Bart short for? Barfolomew, of course.

4. Del Griffith, in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. I'd have to say this is my favorite John Candy movie, and also my favorite performance. Del manages to be annoying, charming, funny, idiotic, name it. At the end, when it's revealed that Del is homeless and his beloved wife Marie died years ago, how can you not shed a tear? The following clip doesn't actually feature Johnny C., but it's still one of the single funniest scenes I've ever watched. And if you're at work, you may want to keep the volume down, as the word "fucking" is used about 18 times.

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5. Chet Ripley, in The Great Outdoors. This flick isn't nearly as good as many of John's others, but it does contain one truly memorable scene. If you're familiar with this movie at all, then you surely remember "The ol' 96-er."

He may not have a signature role to compare to Belushi's Bluto in Animal House, or even Farley's performance in Tommy Boy (though I think his SNL parts of inspirational speaker Matt Foley and the guy trying out against Patrick Swayze for Chippendales are far more memorable Chris Farley roles), but I still think we all have a favorite John Candy moment or role or film. Beyond what I've mentioned, he's got Who's Harry Crumb?, National Lampoon's Vacation, Blues Brothers, Brewster's Millions, Little Shop of Horrors, and Cool Runnings under his belt. Not to mention a few splendid dramatic performances in Only the Lonely and JFK.

Perhaps John Candy will never receive his proper due. Perhaps most people will always consider him a second-rate Chris Farley (who was, himself, a second-rate John Belushi, according to "most people"). But he still left some indelible performances for us. Hopefully, as time goes on, he will turn out to be the Van Gogh of the fat comedians -- unloved at the time, but later revered.

1 comment:

Joe said...

"I'm my own best friend."

I think part of the reason he isn't posthumously sweated is that he wasn't on SNL. Also, his roles weren't as dirty or edgy. Lastly, he wasn't a maniac who partied till he dropped. He was a (at least publicly) clean-cut guy who was just too fat.