Friday, April 17, 2009
I Love You Kenneth the Page
I've always been a fan of the comic character actor. They always play the second banana, the sidekick, the best friend, the dumb friend, the mother-in-law, the nosey neighbor, the secretary - the list goes on and on. One part they never play, however is the lead. And who wants to be the lead anyway? - they never get the belly laughs.
It could be argued that Art Carney as Ed Norton was the first great character actor on television. Ed was the original goofball best friend and he made Ralph Kramden even funnier. Ethel and Fred Mertz weren't bad. They were a touch less crazy than the star of the show Lucy Ricardo, and thus created one of the staples of sitcom relationships: the star/lead is a nut and the surrounding cast is sane. (The opposite structure is also prevalent - the lead is reasonable but the rest of the cast is wacky. Think The Andy of Mayberry show as an example.)
As I was perusing our television DVD collection, I couldn't help but smile at so many of my old friends. There's George Costanza and Kramer. Frazier and Lillith. Frank Burns and Hot Lips Hoolihan. Mr. Burns is a character actor, but not Homer. How about Cartman or Towelie?
Currently, my vote goes to almost everyone on 30 Rock but especially Kenneth Ellen Parcel, an NBC page. Played by Jack McBrayer who has Chicago connections, Kenneth is a country bumpkin who refuses to allow the cynicism of New Yorkers tarnish his love of his job or his high opinion of mankind in general. I can not stop laughing at him.
I do have an all-time favorite t.v. sitcom character but I thought I'd open the floor to your votes before I reveal my own. For your consideration, may I suggest a few names, all of which you can see again in the DVD section of your local library:
Ernest T. Bass
Hawkeye (he's probably a lead though)
Larry and my other brother Larry
I've left my all-time favorite off the list, eager to hear your favorites instead. Here's a clue, however. Kenneth and he have a lot in common.