Anthony Anderson, Eugene Levy and 8 More Comedy Actors Reveal Dream Roles and Which Co-Star Makes Them Break Scene

12:30 PM 6/20/2020

by Michael O'Connell

The Hollywood Reporter also polled Alan Arkin, Martin Freeman, James Marsden, Danny McBride, Tony Shalhoub and J.B. Smoove to find out which performances make them LOL and what stand-up specials rank as their favorite.

ANDERSON: ABC/Ali Goldstein. ARKIN: Michael Yarish/Netflix. FREEMAN: Miya Mizuno/FX. MCBRIDE, SMOOVE: COURTESY OF HBO. LEVY: COURTESY OF POP TV. MARSDEN: Saeed Adyani/Netflix. SHALhOUB: COURTESY OF AMAZON STUDIOS.

  • Anthony Anderson

    'Black-ish' (ABC)

    ABC/Ali Goldstein

    Playing patriarch Andre "Dre" Johnson for six seasons on the sitcom — a perennial favorite among TV Academy voters — Anderson has twice been nominated for lead actor in a comedy at the Primetime Emmy Awards.

    Co-star who most successfully makes me break

    "Deon Cole. In every table read, there's something special. Sheer brilliance and brings the house down."

    Recent series I wish I could work on 

    "Not to slight anyone, but I wouldn't wish to work on any other show outside of Black-ish. To be able to work with a cast as talented as ours and to tell the stories about the community in which we come from — and how they affect us and the world around us — is truly a blessing."

    My all-time favorite stand-up performance 

    "A tie between Eddie Murphy's Delirious and The Kings of Comedy."

  • Alan Arkin

    'The Kominsky Method' (Netflix)

    Michael Yarish/Netflix

    The Oscar winner has been nominated for two Golden Globes and an Emmy for his role in the Chuck Lorre dramedy, in which he plays an aging talent agent navigating life as a recent widower.

    Co-star who most successfully makes me break

    "I've worked with Steve Carell three times now and can no longer look at him at all. Each time it gets worse."

    The last performance that made me laugh out loud

    "I'd have to say the Macbeth episode of [British sitcom] Toast of London. It's completely insane and abstract — but simultaneously exactly what it's like to do most theater."

    Recent series I wish I could work on "The only TV series I ever wanted to be on was Laverne & Shirley. It was wonderfully stupid and done by very intelligent people."

    My all-time favorite stand-up 

    "I'd have to split it between middle period Eddie Izzard and middle period Chris Rock. Both are geniuses."

  • Martin Freeman

    'Breeders' (FX)

    Miya Mizuno/FX

    In a role informed by his own experience as a father, Freeman stars with Daisy Haggard as parents who love and are deeply frustrated with their children in Breeders, co-created by the actor, Chris Addison and Simon Blackwell.

    The last performance that made me laugh out loud 

    "I've loved Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle in PEN15; so well-observed, touching and funny as all hell. Also, Roisin Conaty in [British sitcom] GameFace. She's got such a lovely natural way about her, and her comedy instincts are completely on point."

    Recent series I wish I could work on

    "Normal People was great. Every department was on fire — writing, acting, direction, photography, all of it. And The Crown is … well, The Crown, innit?"

    My all-time favorite stand-up 

    "I just choose one? That's crazy. But because I've rewatched it most recently, Bill Burr's [2017 stand-up film] Walk Your Way Out. His mix of anger, bafflement and self-deprecation is wonderful."

  • Eugene Levy

    'Schitt's Creek' (Pop)

    Courtesy of POP TV

    Closing out six seasons of his cult comedy turned major hit in April, Levy heads into Schitt's Creek's final Emmy run with heat from his first-time nomination in 2019.

    Co-star who most successfully makes me break

    "Chris Elliott. He carries a playful glint in his eye at all times that lets you know something is about to happen. And it never fails. He'll get you off camera or on camera where you can't stop laughing. The man is just truly and innately funny."

    The last performance that made me laugh out loud

    "The Broadway production of Oh, Hello, starring John Mulaney and Nick Kroll. It only took George St. Geegland and Gil Faizon 12 seconds before they had me buckling over and gasping for air."

    My all-time favorite stand-up performance 

    "Chris Rock: Bigger and Blacker. Powerful material. Impeccable delivery. Energy that's almost exhausting to watch."

  • James Marsden

    'Dead to Me' (Netflix)

    Courtesy of Netflix

    After his original character, Steve, was killed off in season one, Marsden returned to the Netflix series as his decidedly funnier twin brother, Ben — a move that made the actor an even bigger part of the Liz Feldman comedy.

    Co-star who most successfully made me break 

    "There have been many, but no one made it more difficult to keep it together more than Jim Carrey [in Sonic the Hedgehog]. Every take was new, hilariously explorative and surprising."

    The last performance that made me laugh out loud

    "Watching legends like Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara play opposite each other on Schitt's Creek is like comedy comfort food for me. Catherine is the Meryl Streep of comedy. If you want to see them again at their best, watch Christopher Guest's Waiting for Guffman."

    Recent series I wish I could work on

    "To this day, I'm regretful I never got to work on Veep. I think it was the smartest comedy on television."

  • Danny McBride

    'The Righteous Gemstones' (HBO)

    Courtesy of HBO

    For his third HBO series, one that follows Eastbound and Down and Vice Principals, McBride stars as the spoiled, immature and comically flawed heir apparent to a megachurch dynasty.

    Co-star who most successfully makes me break

    "I used to pride myself on never breaking. But between Walton Goggins, Edi Patterson, John Goodman and Adam Devine, it's been pretty hard to keep a straight face on Gemstones."

    The last performance that made me laugh out loud

    "I recently introduced my son to the beauty of Jackass. We have to fast-forward over some of the language and pubic-hair trimming — but without a doubt, we both end up belly laughing at that insane crew. True wild stallions."

    My all-time favorite stand-up performance 

    "When I was a kid, I had Eddie Murphy's Delirious memorized. It still makes me laugh."

     
  • Tony Shalhoub

    'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' (Amazon)

    Courtesy of Amazon Studios

    The Emmy incumbent in the supporting actor category, Shalhoub is likely to see his third nom for his work as frustrated father Abe Weissman — whose season-three arc saw him dabbling in beat culture after quitting his job.

    Co-star who most successfully makes me break

    "Caroline Aaron [who plays Joel Maisel's mother]. The character of Shirley is so completely out there, and yet somehow so endearing, I am desperately hanging on for dear life."

    The last performance that made me laugh out loud 

    "The entire cast of last year's off-Broadway hit Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow by Halley Feiffer. This was a beautifully executed contemporary adaptation of Chekhov's Three Sisters … and the performances were hilarious and heartbreaking. Outstanding, courageous and raucous work all around."

    My all-time favorite stand-up performance 

    "Lewis Black's Red White and Screwed."

  • J.B. Smoove

    'Curb Your Enthusiasm' (HBO)

    Courtesy of HBO

    As Larry David's self-satire hit its 10th season, so returned Smoove's Leon — the wingman who's become central to the comedy ensemble since joining in season six.

    Co-star who most successfully made me break 

    "Bob Einstein (aka Super Dave, aka Marty Funkhouser) would make me crack up the most. I miss my buddy. He had some of the most hysterical stories about all his years working in Hollywood. When I get to heaven, I'm going to bust his balls and remind him, 'I told you to put all that shit in a book!' "

    The last performance that made me laugh out loud

    "I binged Game of Thrones last year, loved it! The breastfeeding scene where the kid is stating, 'I'm hungry!' He had to be at least 10 years old."

    Recent series I wish I could work on

    "Got to be Black Summer on Netflix! I would love to have been one of those fast zombies, chasing people. You would think I would want to be a lead and have some real lines to say. Nope!"

    This story first appeared in a June stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.