With the outright insanity of Key & Peele’s Keanu hitting theaters this week, it’s clear the old practice of the comedy duo is alive and well. Dating back to the days of Laurel & Hardy, it’s a formula that’s thrived under every pretense imaginable; from fat and skinny and cool and dorky to smart and dumb. The hilarity of contrasting personalities never gets old for the audience, who’ve found decades worth of greatness in strict partnerships or joyous combinations of well known performers. That’s the beauty of a great comedy team. For every inseparable pair like Abbott & Costello, there’s a hilarious combo that come together when busy schedules allow it; i.e. modern pairings like Stiller & Wilson or Tatum & Hill.
Content fluctuates from crass to clever, but the chemistry between well-practiced pros knows no bounds. The rule for this list in a minimum of two feature length films, while a distinct ‘duo’ aspect must be present, leaving a team like Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi off even though they co-starred in films (1941, Neighbors) besides The Blues Brothers (1980). Paired with honorable mentions Cheech & Chong, it seems as though everything is in order to break down the ultimate in onscreen laughter.
Here are Screen Rant’s 15 Best Comedy Duos Of All Time.
15. Tina Fey & Amy Poehler
From groundbreaking television to hilarious hosting gigs, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler ensure this club of comedy no longer belongs exclusively to the boys. Becoming friends in the early 90s, the witty duo became the first female co-anchors of the Weekend Update segment on Saturday Night Live, a success that dovetailed into now-famous skits and cult favorite films. The first of these outings, 2008’s Baby Mama, solidified the perfect Fey-Poehler formula: uppity business woman meets zany live-wire, and the closet goofball hiding beneath both of them. It opened to mixed reviews, but viewers still adore this thing and it’s easy to see why.
More recently, Sisters (2015) reunited the duo for another mess of lady-fueled laughter, aided by a plot that somehow enables these two to play siblings. Meh, whatever, fans rolled with it, as the duo’s dynamic chemistry salvaged yet another mixed outing. And until the Queens of Crazy decide to bestow fans with another collab, terrific cameos in Mean Girls (2004) and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013) will have to suffice.
14. Jay & Silent Bob
Granted, their real names are Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith, but this entry wouldn’t be the same without identifying them by their onscreen alter egos. The brainchild of writer/director Smith, these loitering legends first appeared in cult classic Clerks (1994) before taking off on a whole other level of stardom with appearances in Mallrats (1996) and Chasing Amy (1997). Smith’s Askewniverse often orbits around what these two wackos do and how they do it, in the process fleshing them out far beyond what was originally intentioned. Silent Bob, pensive and cloaked in a black coat, is the tech specialist who occasionally drops profound advice.
Jay, on the other hand, is as raunchy a dude as has ever been on the big screen. With a sexual appetite to fear and a penchant for profanity that makes Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) look like a priest, the skinny smoker is just the right amount of crazy for Smith’s stylistic approach; which is typically more fartsy than artsy. Dogma (1998), Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back (2001), and Clerks II (2006) all sport the duo front and center, and with talk of Clerks III buzzing about, there’s no reason to think we’ve seen the last of Jay & Silent Bob. All hail Morris Day.
13. Seth Rogen & James Franco
There’s just something different about Seth Rogen and James Franco. Ever since their tenure on the cult favorite TV series Freaks & Geeks, the duo have cultivated a reputation as the raucous party boys of Hollywood; a banner that’s coasted them through spirited comedy and viral videos alike. Though this match made in pothead paradise were always in each other’s corner, things wouldn’t fully come to fruition until 2008’s Pineapple Express. With Rogen the worry wart and Franco the loose canon, the duo found favor with a grand audience as odd as they were.
As one of the least conventional comedy pairings in recent memory, Rogen and Franco function at their best when tackling cultural taboos and tabloid fodder. No other duo on the list could shake the nation through satire (The Interview) or outright celebrity clowning (This Is The End, Bound 3) in the span of a few months, let alone pull it off without an ounce of concern on their parts. It’s a rarified air these two loonies inhabit, but that’s precisely why we love them.
12. Bob Hope & Bing Crosby
Changing things up with the song-and-dance men of Hollywood, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were sophistication embodied. Close friends on and offscreen, it was a chance encounter with Paramount’s rejected script Road To Singapore (1940) that made the duo box office royalty for the next decade. Casting Crosby as a smooth operator and Hope as a witty trickster, Singapore brought out the magic in both men, who typically duked it out for the wiles of Dorothy Lamour between lavish musical numbers.
It was a classic case of the studios milking a formula, with subsequent efforts both hitting (Road To Morocco, Road To Rio) and missing (Road To Zanzibar, Road To Utopia) the mark with ease. But even when things erred on the side of predictable, the winning charisma of Hope and Crosby was simply too good to pass up. A lame plotline still provided ample opportunity for Bing to burst out in baby-smooth song, while Hope’s fourth-wall breaking was both bold and hilariously ahead of it’s time. By the time Road To Bali (1953) came along, the seasoned vets had already inscribed their mantle as an all time comedic duo.
11. Chris Tucker & Jackie Chan
The brilliance behind the Rush Hour brand was nailed by the movie’s 1998 tagline: “The fastest hands in the east meet the biggest mouth in the west.” Aside from having one hell of a ring to it, it laid out exactly what viewers were to expect in this inspired clash of cultures. Starring slickster Chris Tucker as LAPD cop James Carter and karate superstar Jackie Chan as Chief Inspector Lee, Brett Ratner’s witty trilogy is all that’s right with the action/comedy genre. Fresh off a classic pairing in Friday (1995), Tucker works his motormouthed antics at staggering speeds while providing some of the era’s most iconic quotables (especially this one).
Chan, on the other hand, channels his action ability into scenes that are intense to watch while retaining a brilliant sense of physical comedy. Bemusement at Tucker’s ill-fated fighting skills, blended with a love for all things Beach Boys, gives the duo a feel-good vibe that solidifies their fan-favorite status. And let’s be real for a second, those blooper reels have more gold than most actual comedies. That’s not even getting into Carter’s glorious MJ fixation.
10. Ben Stiller & Owen Wilson
As founding members of the Frat Pack, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson sport a weirdness that just works. Neither is the atypical comedian type; bypassing witty, outlandish, or physically extreme, and instead focusing all attention to perfecting the ‘everyman’ that’s so often ignored in modern comedy. Fortunately for everyone involved, Stiller and Wilson go about achieving this in wildly different ways. The former, a product of comedy royalty (Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara), is the consummate dork; uptight, awkward and self-serious to the point of hilarity. As for the latter, Wilson’s ‘dude’ archetype thrives off a chillaxed eccentricity – the hombre never seems out of sorts.
When these two forces butt heads, it’s downright gut-busting. Supermodel standoffs in Zoolander (2001) are all kinds of uncool, but the committed intensity behind both pros keep the mood nimble with nuttiness. It’s a routine that even works when Wilson cameos in Stiller flicks (Meet The Parents, Night At The Museum), adding to whatever scenes bear both signatures. Of course, there’s no substitute for the full duo experience, and outings like Zoolander and Starsky And Hutch (2004) are not to be missed as alternatives to the comedy formula.
9. Will Ferrell & John C. Reilly
A moment of silence for the men who forever made “Shake-N-Bake” a verbal celebration. Will Ferrell, the emperor of idiocy, and John C. Reilly, the Swiss Army Knife of actors, have come together on several occasions to construct comedy that’s both utterly illogical and relatable for anyone who was ever a dumb teenager. The opening scenes of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) captures this in seconds, as Shake-N-Bake, Baby Jesus, and spider monkeys come together in the span of a few lines. But Ferrell and Reilly, oblivious to all good taste, were simply warming up for what would be their magnum opus: Step Brothers (2008).
As one of the most adored comedies of the millennium, Brothers pits the (im)maturity of both men in a deadlock for last place, fleshed out by God awful fights and codas of cussing. Every word that slips from their smug characters has become a pop culture staple – Good Housekeeping, Prestige Worldwide, The Catalina Wine Mixer, the influence is unavoidable. We’ve also heard it’s good for shoulder pain.
8. Gene Wilder & Richard Pryor
These guys were wild. Few comedy teams could be as amped on both ends as Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, fellas who constantly seemed as if they were on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Wilder, a Mel Brooks veteran, knew how to work his curly haired insanity to a tea, while Pryor, a standup legend (and a key creative force in the Brooks-directed, Wilder-starring Blazing Saddles), had the intensity of a man who figured out comedy’s core elements. The results? A slick serving of hilarity and thrills in 1976’s Silver Streak. Though unintended for anything more, it was clear from the start that Wilder and Pryor had something special, and studios quickly reunited them for Stir Crazy in 1980.
This is where things really started to get fun. As unlucky losers who get slapped with a 125-year prison sentence, the film unleashed one ridiculous rant after another, catering to both by allowing them carte blanche in their unorthodox chemistry. Another case of a critical flop that came in big at the box office, Wilder and Pryor bounded back with even sillier outings in See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) and career swan song Another You (1991).
7. Simon Pegg & Nick Frost
Journeying abroad for a little U.K. exposure, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost earn their marks as an charming combo of clever humor. Initially coming together for Shaun of the Dead in 2004, the parameters of what made Pegg and Frost such a riveting duo were laid out immediately. Frost, the scruffy slacker with no worries and even less responsibility, was a tried-and-true staple of comedy: the man-child. But to the credit of both Frost and director Edgar Wright, the character avoided typical annoyances and arrived as a fully formed person. Albeit, an underachieving person.
Pegg played another one of his nebbish nerds, a guy striving to do good if only his incompetence didn’t get in the way. Even worse, affiliations with best pal Frost are typically cause for such lame results – until absolutely insane forces alter it all. Dead, coupled with Hot Fuzz (2007) and The World’s End (2013), continue to showcase this classic chemistry in action, as Pegg and Frost pummel through zombies, serial killers, and aliens while forced to face their friendship shortcomings. It’s predictable, whatever. It’s also awesome, and delivered with kickass quality.
6. Jonah Hill & Channing Tatum
Bromance, though tough to say with a straight face, is the only word that truly captures the Jonah Hill/Channing Tatum experience. Polar opposites in physical force, this David and Goliath duo were seen by many as odd selections when it came time to reboot 21 Jump Street (2012) for a touted summer release. After all, Tatum was a rom-com specialist known more for his dance moves than his acting chops, and Hill was still a student at the Seth Rogen school of silliness. Backup players at best, they were given a shot at the big time – and they absolutely killed it. Jump Street turned out to be a surprise smash, solidifying not only the duo’s starpower but their killer chemistry onscreen.
Why it works is tough to pin down. Tatum does his dumb schtick splendidly, as does Hill playing the witty whiner, but both manage to underpin their characters with surprising role reversal. For every smartass comment Hill rattles off during the films, he’s upstaged by the likable logic of Tatum’s action stud. As for the aforementioned bromance, this is a trait that gets played to full effect in 22 Jump Street (2014), including a breakup montage set to John Waite. It’s cleverly self-aware in the age of self-awareness, a trait this duo takes all the way to the bank.
5. Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis
Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were the hottest act in Hollywood during the 1950’s. Linking up in Atlantic City on July 25th, 1946, their union lasted ten years to the day – but what a decade it turned out to be. Debuting with My Friend Irma in 1949, the comedy act quickly surpassed Abbott & Costello as the world’s leading trafficker in laughs, as evidenced by adored outings in Sailor Beware (1952) and Scared Stiff (1953). Though their routine was essentially an update of the Hope & Crosby formula, the duo’s manic energy onstage far surpassed any signs of structure in sight; and fans went nuts for for it.
Sadly, the cracks between ladies man Dean and squeaky prankster Jerry began to show by the time Artists and Models (1955) hit theaters. Lewis, considered the true talent in the group, wanted to expand his comedy canvas, and felt restrained by the Paramount formula of songs-and-silliness. Martin, on the other hand, became bothered by a lack of credit from fans, who simply felt he was there to look good and sound even better. Fortunately, the two happily made up later in life, and a quick viewing of The Colgate Comedy Hour or flicks like The Caddy (1953) are all that’s needed to ensure their place as an all-time comedy team.
4. Chris Farley & David Spade
When it comes to sheer quotables, this SNL duo might take the cake. On the strength of only two films, Tommy Boy (1995) and Black Sheep (1996), Chris Farley and David Spade proved themselves a worthy successor to the fat guy/skinny guy school of comedy. Farley, big, boisterous, and brilliant, was an uncaged dog constantly in the pursuit of the perfect punchline, willing to risk life and limb to get it. Surpassing comedy hero John Belushi through sheer conviction, the Wisconsin native was a once-in-a-generation talent. But, as evidenced by the mediocrity of Beverly Hills Ninja (1997), Farley couldn’t fly solo without David Spade co-piloting the plane.
A smarmy comedian with a penchant for snappy snarkiness, Spade’s contrasting persona was the perfect balance for Farley’s full-on force of nature. Their relationship, mainly consisting of mockery and stupidity in equal measures, was a fresh approach to the traditional comedy formula, and the quality of their pictures captured that better than any other SNL flicks in the 90s (save for The Wedding Singer). Tragically, Chris Farley passed away from a drug overdose in 1997, nixing both a wonderful person and the opportunity to see the duo’s brilliance in future films. A true shame, given the laughs these guys conjured up together.
3. Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy
A duo list wouldn’t have been complete without these guys charting high, especially given their influence on nearly everyone else here. Coming of stardom during the early days of sound, Laurel and Hardy took the movie world by storm with their fresh approach to cinematic comedy. Stan Laurel, a stick thin Englishman with a happy-go-lucky face and a demeanor reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin, embodied the upbeat ray of sunshine. Oliver Hardy, rotund and irritated at every turn, provided the silly cynicism that made him feel superior to Stan.
Thing was, neither of them were ahead of the curve, and seeing the duo struggle when the shenanigans hit the fan was what made them the hottest act of the 30s, opposite The Marx Brothers. Movies like Pardon Us (1931), The Music Box (1932), and Babes in Toyland (1934) captivated audiences with a skillful blending of physical humor and early verbal delights; bypassing the still silent efforts of a guy like Chaplin. Though primitive by modern comparison, these Laurel and Hardy shorts are still the cream of the crop when it comes to early Hollywood humor.
2. Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau
As the greatest acting combination to crack the list, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau comprised flips sides of the same frazzled coin. Lemmon, the hyper-tentative modern man, prone to insomnia and migraines, was the squalid stress machine of the era. His greatest roles, whether dramatic or comedic, centered around this core conflict. Conversely, Matthau was a guy who more often than not carried crumbs on his shirt and a beer in his head; the consummate fella, and reminder of man’s stereotypical slobbery. Though their pairings should’ve mixed like oil and water, they instead crafted some of the best comedies of the 20th century’s latter half.
Jumping off with Billy Wilder’s The Fortune Cookie in 1966, Lemmon and Matthau fell right into their steadfast archetypes. The worry wart and the schemer, constantly bumping heads and bringing out the best in both of them before a Hollywood happy ending made everything alright – it worked in The Front Page (1974), Buddy Buddy (1981), and of, course, in all-time classic The Odd Couple (1968). Adapting Neil Simon’s seminal stage play for the big screen, Lemmon and Matthau turned every tick, wince, and well-placed insult into colorful clinic of cutting comedy. And if all that wasn’t enough, reunion hits Grumpy Old Men (1993) and Grumpier Old Men (1995) proved they could still tear the screen up in their old age. Few duos did it better.
1. Bud Abbott & Lou Costello
These guys are the end-all-be-all of comedy teams. Both emerging from the golden age of vaudeville, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello joined forces in 1936, quickly hitting the big time through national appearances and a hit radio show. And though they embellished their physical humor onstage, it was the verbal abilities of their radio program that truly made the duo stand out from their lesser-skilled competition. As a result, they ran away with a bit part in 1940’s One Night In The Tropics, before exploding onto the movie scene with Buck Privates in 1941. Miraculously making eight films in a two year span, the duo became the biggest attraction in the world, bypassing both Mickey Rooney and Clark Gable in box office success.
It was an ideal marriage of humor. Abbott, nasally and berating beyond his quick-talk demeanor, was the antithesis to everything Costello stood for. At a wider, shorter stature than Bud, Lou was the childlike favorite with wide eyes and the occasional fast one to pull on his pal. Though many of their films centered around trying to up each other, there was a genuine sense of camaraderie that elevated classics like Who Done It? (1942) and Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) to artistically grand capsules of comedy. Oh yeah, and they also happened to coin the greatest comedy bit of all time: a little ditty by the name of “Who’s On First?”
Can you think of any other comedy duos who should be listed here? Let us know in the comments!
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