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Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

A Guide to Comedians in Commercials: "Hey, It's That Guy!"

Comedians in commercials are definitely a thing. I’m no good at trivia, but I can always impress my (non-comedy nerd) friends and family members by knowing the names of actors in commercials because so many of them are stand up and improv comics. From a 2009 episode of The Comedy Nerds Podcast called Comedians in Commercials comes this: “It’s a great way to make money and also to get seen. For many comedians, they’re good actors, and have good comedic timing and good comedic abilities and it’s hard to get someone to actually pay for that in the stand up comedy world. The path of least resistance is probably commercials. … For those people who are talented enough to do it, it’s a good way to survive between better paying gigs or no paying gigs. … It also becomes a good vehicle.” And that explains it! Though, in the same podcast episode, commercial acting is jokingly referred to as the “whoring out of talent for commercial purposes.” Fair enough.

But as a comedy fan, because there aren’t many remaining outlets on television showcasing up and coming comedic talent — late night shows, John Oliver’s New York Stand Up Show, and Live At Gotham come to mind, it’s always a nice treat to see a comedian whose work I enjoy pop up on screen.

Let's look at some examples, shall we?

Lauren Ashley Bishop for Midol and Mini Babybel Cheese
Female stand up comics in commercials for women’s products. Slim-Fast did it with Shari Albert and Michelle Maryk. Midol did it much better with Lauren Ashley Bishop and Lynne Koplitz. In the commercial below, Bishop manages to steer clear of “AMIRITE, LADIEEEZ?” territory employing her trademark brand of humor fans of her real stand up (in which she often talks about her family and Southern upbringing) have come to love.

David Cope for Fins.com and more
David Cope’s funny, purposefully low energy on-stage stand up persona translates well to the screen in these amusing commercials for Fins.com, Scion, and Home Court.

Andrea Rosen for Bing, Yoplait, The New York Lottery, MoveOn, Staples, and more
From an interview with Adam Ullian, Andrea Rosen on her commercial success: “One night I was doing characters at a show and there was a casting person in the audience and she said ‘Oh you should come for this commercial tomorrow for Crunch and Munch.’ So I went in the next day without an agent or anything. She had just seen me at a show the night before and I booked that job. And then, as a result, I got a commercial agent. But I had been trying trying trying to get a commercial agent up until then and no one was interested. …I got recognized one time by a 12-year-old boy who was obsessed with Stella and he was really psyched to meet me… and maybe one or two times I got recognized for commercials.”

Matt McCarthy for Verizon, Office Max, Guinness, US Cellular, and more
In his stand up, his Front Page Films videos with fellow stand up comic and commercial actor Pete Holmes, and in the commercials below, Matt McCarthy displays a wide range of comedic talents. He can veer absurd or be the straight man… which is probably why he’s ubiquitious!

Pete Holmes for E*Trade
From The Comic’s Comic, Holmes on his E-Trade baby experience: "It was an incredibly fun and rewarding experience. I got to do the voice, of course, but I got to write the jokes, too. I had a hand in everything. That is to say, they let me have a hand in everything — I even got a writing credit, which is great."

Maria Bamford for Target
In her Target commercials, Maria Bamford expands on the everyday-woman-character she affects in one of my favorite bits of hers, creating something casual viewers and longtime fans of her off the wall stand up and endless voices alike can appreciate.

Rob Huebel for Cingular
A lot of Rob Huebel’s character work is based on the idea that he plays a great asshole, confirmed by his role in I Love You Man, many of his Human Giant sketches, and below as Cingular’s Inconsiderate Cell Phone Man.

Reggie Watts for DieHard Batteries
Even Reggie Watts’ name is perfect for this DieHard commercial – in which he is 100% true to the one of a kind act he’s cultivated on stage. If only there were more outlets for Watts’ unique comic style!

Rob Delaney for Progressive
Twitter favorite Rob Delaney has a face and voice for television, so it’s really a wonder we haven’t seen him on screen more!

See what I mean? Tons of comedians in tons of commercials. And there was Joe Piscopo for Miller Lite in the late 80s, Tina Fey for Mutual Savings Bank in the 90s, Lewis Black advertises pistachios, John Hodgman for Mac, David Spade for 7UP, Chevy Chase for… Chase Sapphire, and many more I’m leaving out. Like these:

Chris Gethard for NBA on ESPN, d-Con, H&R Block
Rosa Salazar for Microsoft Kin
Ali Wong for NBC New York
Vanessa Bayer for California Blue Cross and Blue Shield
Kyle Grooms for T-Mobile
Brian Huskey for Toyota Sienna
Brett Gelman for The New York Lottery
Donald Glover for GAP
Danny Pudi for T-Mobile
Jim Gaffigan & Michael Ian Black and Showalter for Ebay
Jeff Hiller for American Airlines & ESPN 3D
Natasha Leggero for Aflac

For more comedians in commercials, The Apiary’s “Ask For It By Name” feature’s got you covered!

Is Becca O'Neal a Chicago-based freelance writer? Because her mom is kind of worried.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Caroline-Anderson/731041782 Caroline Anderson

    Beccers! Is this your first piece on here? WHOOP WHOOP!

    Here's a nice little gem for Jimmy Pardo fans: Here he is as the spokesperson for Lloyd Center- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fFuY4TlTr8

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Caroline-Anderson/731041782 Caroline Anderson

      So, apparently it's not. I'm just not observant. Forgive me.

      • Megh Wright

        Becca's been blowin' up this joint since 22 A.D. PS — Love this collection of clips!

      • http://www.twitter.com/becca_oneal Rebecca O'Neal

        Lololol. Aaaand Videogum just posted 5 Kristen Schaal commercials.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pt2LMfeJiw4

  • http://flavors.me/incredimarc incredimarc

    Danny Pudi for the golden arches: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXsVjomhvww

    Great list Becca!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josh-Kurp/46301792 Josh Kurp

    Nice work, Rebecca.

  • Bradford Evans

    Cool article, Rebecca!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adan-Gabriel-Gutierrez/763057629 Adan Gabriel Gutierrez

    Matt McCarthy had 2 lines in The Other Guys and they were both killer.

  • http://www.twitter.com/becca_oneal Rebecca O'Neal

    I forgot Amy Schumer for Butterfingers Snackerz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrQs4iS8Al4

    Caught this during The Daily Show!