Movies that win Oscars tend to be dramatic, but performers and filmmakers with a background in comedy — specifically sketch comedy — have done surprisingly well over the years. The latest sketch alum-turned-Oscar nominee is Jordan Peele thanks to his work behind the camera as a writer, director and producer of “Get Out.”
Peele got his start on FOX’s “MADtv,” where he was a cast member from 2003-2008. He and his “MADtv” co-star Keegan-Michael Key followed that by co-creating the sketch comedy series “Key and Peele” which ran from 2012-2015 on Comedy Central and finally won them the Emmy for Best Variety Sketch Series in 2016. After they concluded that show Peele co-wrote the action comedy “Keanu” (2016) before making his directorial debut with “Get Out,” which explores racism in America through the prism of the horror genre. Its critical acclaim (99% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and commercial success ($255 million grossed worldwide) has carried over into awards season, culminating at the Oscars where Peele made history as the fifth black nominee for Best Director and the first black filmmaker to earn nominations for writing, directing and producing the same film.
Peele is far from alone among Oscar nominated sketch grads. Adam McKay was on the writing team of “Saturday Night Live” from 1995-2001 and was the head writer from 1997-1999. After leaving “SNL” he transitioned to the big screen, directing Will Ferrell comedies like “Anchorman” (2004) and “Talladega Nights” (2006), but it was his adapted screenplay for “The Big Short” (2015), co-written with Charles Randolph, that won him an Oscar. McKay was also nominated for directing.
Kristen Wiig was a cast member on “SNL” from 2006-2012. While she was still on the show she co-wrote the original screenplay for “Bridesmaids” (2011) with Annie Mumolo, which made her the first female sketch-comedy alum to earn an Oscar nomination for writing.
To date four male “SNL” cast members have been nominated for acting Oscars. Dan Aykroyd (“Driving Miss Daisy,” 1989), Eddie Murphy (“Dreamgirls,” 2006) and Robert Downey Jr. (“Tropic Thunder,” 2008) were nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Downey Jr. also contended for Best Actor (“Chaplin,” 1992), and so did Bill Murray (“Lost in Translation,” 2003). So far only one female performer from “SNL” has been nominated by the academy for acting: Joan Cusack for Best Supporting Actress for both “Working Girl” (1988) and “In and Out” (1997).
None of those “SNL” stars won their nominations, but one veteran from FOX’s “In Living Color” did: Jamie Foxx, who claimed Best Actor for “Ray” (2004).
The iconic NBC variety show “Laugh-In” produced three Best Supporting Actress nominees: Goldie Hawn (“Cactus Flower,” 1969), Lily Tomlin (“Nashville,” 1975) and Eileen Brennan (“Private Benjamin,” 1980). Hawn won for “Cactus Flower” and earned an additional nomination for Best Actress for “Private Benjamin.”
So maybe sketch comedy is the real proving ground for future Oscar contenders. Do you think Peele will become one of the few sketch stars to actually win?
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