|Top Five Comic Actors Who Are Also Veterans
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Posted: November 12, 2012
by Ted Greenberg
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Yesterday was the official Veterans Day, but most people celebrate it today, November 12th. Post offices, banks, government offices and many others are given the day off to honor the men and women who have served in the armed forces of the United States of America. As our great nation celebrates this important holiday less than a week after our national elections, I take a look at some of the great comic actors who are also veterans.
Before these men were regulars on the boob tube or the big screen, they spent time defending the United States, many of them fighting in some of the biggest wars of the 20th century. A tip of the hat to:
#5 Charles Durning may have one of the most diverse careers in TV and film. It’s remarkable particularly because he didn’t get his start until he was nearing 40. Since then, he’s been seen in The Sting, a vocal regular on Family Guy, and Evening Shade, the early 90s comedy starring Burt Reynolds. With his booming, yet whiny voice, Durning possesses authority and self deprecation. And, he can make me laugh with his sly, askance looks. His performances in The Muppet Movie and North Dallas Forty are worth a second look. And his versatility makes him equally adept at drama. Add that he was wounded during World War II, and you’ve got one very talented and resilient veteran.
#4 Jamie Farr served in the Korean War and is most famous for playing a character serving as a medic in the Korean War. Corporal Maxwell Klinger challenged the US Forces in MASH as a cross-dresser in the hopes of being discharged. His Catch-22 character was a hit with the fans, and after a short stint during the series’ second season, he became a regular in the third season.
#3 Gene Wilder, as I’ve written before, enjoyed some seismic comedic teamwork with Richard Pryor. The man born as Jerome Silberman also was interestingly hilarious in Willy Wonka and rapturously smitten in The Woman in Red. His comedy Hall of Fame moment is Young Frankenstein, the film he co-wrote with our number 2 below and starred in. You can watch this film 100 times and still laugh at its over the top characters. Wilder served in the U.S. Army between 1956-58. I salute you Mr. Wilder for your comedy and your patriotism.
#2 Bob Newhart struck TV comedy gold twice. His shows — The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart — kept the country laughing for years and challenged the sitcom form. No one does deadpan better than Bob Newhart, who parlayed his wildly successful stand up career into terrific TV and film work. His wry smile has entertained our nation for decades. He was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for Humor in 2002 fifty years after being drafted into the US Army.
#1 Mel Brooks is a comic genius who has transitioned between theatre and film with ease. According to Wikipedia, the American Film Institute ranked three of his movies in the top 100 comedic films of all time. In fact, Blazing Saddles, The Producers and Young Frankenstein cracked the top 13! That’s impressive. Add to that Spaceballs and History of the World, Part I, and you’ve got a weekend of Netflix queued up. And this creative god was drafted during World War II. Wonder where the inspiration for The Producers comes from?
On this national holiday, I am grateful for these fine men, not only for their comedic prowess, but their willingness to protect our country so we can enjoy comedy.