For some, open-mic night is the path to heckling and misery. For others, it becomes the path to Hollywood fame and fortune. As Chris Rock's new film, 'Top Five,' proves the above, here are some of the rarified few who took it to the next level.
Philly-born Kevin Hart actually broke through in New England comedy clubs, which caught the attention of Judd Apatow. Hart was cast in Undeclared and since then he’s worked his way up to the A-list via the Scary Movie series, Think Like a Man, Grudge Match and now Ride Along.
Steve Martin started as a wild and crazy guy in a white suit, plucking a banjo with an arrow through his head. The Jerk put him on the movie map but he distinguished himself as a leading man in films like Roxanne, Grand Canyon, The Spanish Prisoner and All of Me.
Still a comedy special circuit master, Chris Rock branched out from the stage after Saturday Night Live and has pushed himself as an actor in films like Lethal Weapon 4, Death at a Funeral, 2 Days in New York and voicing that zebra with attitude in the Madagascar.
A Juilliard drop-out and stand-up comic success, Robin Williams made the leap to TV via Mork & Mindy. But his ascent to cinematic superstar was a slow one via the flop Popeye, then success in The World According to Garp, Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society and then his Academy Award winning role in Good Will Hunting.
The man who redefined standup comedy for a generation, Richard Pryor had a rough road when it came to film stardom. He put his toe in the film waters with The Busy Body but he didn’t hit critical acclaim until Lady Sings the Blues, Silver Streak and Stir Crazy. Then he brought it fill circle with the classic concert film, Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip.
Jim Carrey started doing comedy shows in high school. He made his initial splash on TV and stumbled into film with the campy Once Bitten. It wasn’t until 1994 when he landed huge hits with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask that Hollywood knew how to feature him. He owned leading man status via Liar Liar, The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Brooklyn’s Eddie Murphy followed in his dad’s comedic footsteps but really caught fire with his standup comedy routines. Saturday Night Live launched his character work to the masses and set the stage for his immediate film dominance in 48 Hrs., Trading Places and the Beverly Hills Cop franchise. He got an Academy Award nomination for Dreamgirls.
Another Brooklyn boy, Adam Sandler started doing standup when he was at New York University. Again TV was his launching ground with MTV’s Remote Control and then SNL. Film was not kind to him until Billy Madison and then critical hits like The Wedding Singer, Punch-Drunk Love and Spanglish showed there was a lot more to the guy who makes weird voices.
A musician, athlete and class clown who entertained his classmates with jokes, Jaime Foxx dabbled in a bit of everything until he started doing actual comedy with an open-mic night. TV’s In Living Color launched him nationally but film took him to another level with Any Given Sunday, Ali and his Academy Award winning turn as Ray Charles in Ray.
A life-long New Yorker, Billy Crystal started copying comedy routines from classic comedians and then developed his own act after college. His first film of note was This Is Spinal Tap, but it took films like Running Scared, When Harry Met Sally... and City Slickers to make him a leading man.