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Thread: 'I'm not a funny guy, but Ricky Gervais - now he's funny,' says Ben Stiller

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    Elite Member Mrs P's Avatar
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    Default 'I'm not a funny guy, but Ricky Gervais - now he's funny,' says Ben Stiller

    'I'm not a funny guy, but Ricky Gervais - now he's funny,' says Ben Stiller

    Ben Stiller insists he can't crack a joke, so how did he become the $4.3billion King of Comedy?

    By Elaine Lipworth
    Last updated at 10:19 PM on 25th April 2009

    'You have to be willing to look silly,' says Ben Stiller of his acting career. He the third most powerful actor in Hollywood after Will Smith and Johnny Depp
    The scene is appropriately surreal. I'm perched on a chair in the National Gallery of Art, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the world's largest museum complex. Ben Stiller suddenly appears, on a metallic-blue Schwinn Beach Cruiser bicycle, pedalling furiously towards me, waving. He passes a priceless Edward Hopper, then a Roy Lichtenstein.
    'Ricky (Gervais) and I can't work together, as we laugh and laugh,' says Ben

    'Isn't this fantastic?' he says with a grin, before narrowly missing a bronze Degas ballerina. Squeezing the brakes, he comes to rest by Rodin's bronze-and-marble sculpture The Thinker.
    The allusion is clear. Stiller, crowned the King of Comedy, has always seemed a little uncomfortable with the mantle, preferring to be viewed as a serious man - a thinker, in fact.

    'I'm not Mr Funny Guy,' Stiller will profess more than once during our ensuing interviews.

    'Robin Williams is funny and outgoing. That's not me. I can't tell a joke.'
    We're on set (not in the real gallery, but in Vancouver) for Stiller's next film, Night At The Museum 2, which, like its predecessor, stars Stiller alongside his friends Owen Wilson and Ricky Gervais.
    Gervais, he says, deserves the title of 'funny guy' more than him - though not always intentionally.

    'Ricky and I can't work together, as we just laugh and laugh,' says Stiller.

    'Have you seen him in the Eighties with his rock-band look? He's pretty Bowie-esque. He has this super-skinny androgynous thing happening - you should check it out on the internet. I think he's actually wearing lipstick and rouge. He always goes red when I mention it.'

    In 2006's Night At The Museum, Stiller plays a security guard terrorised by animated museum exhibits. What started as family film fodder turned into a 400 million monster hit. But then big box-office returns are nothing new for Stiller.

    There's Something About Mary with Cameron Diaz, his first global hit, raked in 250 million. His turns as Gaylord Focker in Meet The Parents and Meet The Fockers together yielded 600 million.

    'I wasn't good at picking up the girls,' say Ben who is married to actress Christine Taylor and counts Calista Flockhart and Jeanne Tripplehorn among his ex-girlfriends
    'You have to be willing to look silly,' says the actor who was audacious enough to cast himself as the world's top male model in Zoolander.

    To date, his comedies have grossed $4.3 billion (3 billion) worldwide, prompting Newsweek magazine to name him the third most powerful actor after Will Smith and Johnny Depp.
    NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 2: 'You're calling me the little man? You're famously little! You're Napoleon - there's a complex named after you'

    Stiller is called back to work, but several months later we continue our interview over lunch in Hollywood. He appears urbane and cool in faded jeans and a black T-shirt. He's only 5ft 8in, but is classically handsome, although he plays down his looks.

    'I've never been God's gift to the world. I wasn't good at picking up girls,' he says.

    But surely comedians don't have to be good-looking to get girls?

    'Maybe. But I remember some bad dates,' he says, before laughing.
    'The worst? I took a girl to see The Jazz Singer with Neil Diamond. That wasn't a good date movie: "Orthodox Jew wants to be a singer", you know? I didn't get lucky that night.

    'And I couldn't even chat up my wife until one day I injured my toe and because I was hopped up on painkillers I felt loose enough to talk to her. I was a little bit drugged. We started hanging out and having so much fun that she came to visit me in New York and never left.'

    Stiller's wife is actress Christine Taylor. They live in the Hollywood Hills with their two children, Ella, seven, and Quinlin, three. Before Taylor, however, Stiller, 43, did manage to date actresses Calista Flockhart, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Janeane Garofalo.

    And he also had no trouble making friends with fellow actors and comedians - Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Owen Wilson. Their close association led to the media labelling them the Frat Pack.
    Stiller grew up in Manhattan with celebrity parents - actors Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara - who appeared regularly on The Ed Sullivan Show, as a bickering Jewish husband and Irish wife.

    THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY: 'I couldn't believe she knew my name, some of my best friends didn't know my name'
    'They would rehearse the "hate sketch" at home in the living room, and you couldn't tell if they were really fighting. They would scream about how they hated each other and we'd listen at the door and they'd say, "No, we're just rehearsing. It's fine."'
    Stiller was making his own movies with a Super 8 camera from the age of eight.

    'I used to make Death Wish-style revenge films. A kid would get mugged and then run after the other kid and beat him up, and that was it. My dad was in the real Airport 75 and I made "Airport 76". We turned the foyer in our apartment into the plane, my sister played a stewardess and my friends were passengers. We made the plane crash - we had a model of a 747, and we set it on fire and blew up the cockpit, doing special effects for the camera. It was all pre-9/11, of course.
    'It was an amazing time to be in New York,' he adds, recalling the childhood events that shaped his early years, most notably the death of his idol, John Lennon, in December 1980.
    I was having a bad LSD trip so I called Dad, but all he said was, 'I know what you're going through. I once smoked a pall mall and was sick for two days'

    'I lived on 84th Street and Lennon lived at the Dakota, 12 blocks away. My friend Jonathan and I were fledgling musicians - we had a band and we were big Beatles fans. When we heard he'd been shot, we went down to the Dakota and stayed out there in that crowd of people the whole night. It was so sad I couldn't believe it. No one knew what to do - people were crying and chanting Give Peace A Chance.

    'It was like group mourning and I think for a teenager it was a unique experience. I felt connected to him because of the music and because he was a real New Yorker. I always felt it was the coolest thing in the world that he lived in our neighbourhood.
    'New York was a lot rougher around the edges at that time - it was a little more dangerous, a little dirtier, but also very exciting. There was so much going on. I dabbled in drugs - just dabbled. I did LSD once, only once. It was peer pressure, a high-school thing. But it was scary and I didn't like feeling out of control.
    'It was a very bad trip - I freaked out and called my parents, who were in California doing an episode of The Love Boat, and tried to explain to my dad what I was feeling, but all he said was, "I understand what you're going through. When I was a teenager I smoked a Pall Mall cigarette and I got sick for two days." I'm like, "Dad, no, this is worse. You don't understand." But they had never had any experience of the drug culture, because they were working so hard all through the Sixties.'
    There weren't any harsh words afterwards.

    'They were always very cool parents, always there for us.'

    TROPIC THUNDER: 'Mama, I'll see you again tonight in my head movies. But this head movies makes my eyes rain'
    Anne and Jerry Stiller did take the children to family therapy, but not because of any specific problems.

    'I guess it was that progressive New York Upper West Side thing to do - to discuss feelings and relationships,' says Stiller.

    'I think it's healthy, actually - it's good to explore that stuff.
    'It was a very New Agey time - it was all about Earth Day, that crunchy granola thing, getting in touch with yourself... Yet there was also the showbusiness aspect to our lives.
    It was an interesting combination. 'I was definitely awkward as a teenager. I wasn't cool.'

    And yet to illustrate this, he says his sister Amy would, when he was still only 13, dress him up in 'Mickey Mouse sunglasses, a Fiorucci polka-dotted shirt and an army jacket', and take him to legendary nightclub Studio 54.
    'It was frequented by every star imaginable, from David Bowie, Mick and Bianca Jagger and Elton John to Warren Beatty and Liz Taylor.
    'We were friendly with a bouncer named Mark, who would let me in. It was pretty crazy. I remember talking to some guys from the Average White Band, but mostly I would just sit and watch people dance.'
    Life with the Stillers was rarely boring. The legendary American comic Andy Kaufman (played by Jim Carrey in Man On The Moon) joined the family for Thanksgiving dinner one year.

    'We were all eating turkey and I remember he asked my mum to make him a peanut-butter sandwich instead - that's all he wanted.
    'Rodney Dangerfield (Caddyshack) was a family friend; he had a club, which we went to a lot.

    'I met John Belushi there, which was exciting - he was such a comedy god. I remember sitting at the bar with him and he said, "Hey, how you doing?" I said, "Good", and I think I froze up - I just sort of stared in shock.
    'I remember meeting Robin Williams at the Improv in LA - I was with my mum. It was very crowded and he whispered to me, "Stay close to your mother and you'll be safe", in that crazy Robin Williams voice.'
    ZOOLANDER: 'There's more to life than being really good-looking. And I plan on finding out what it is'

    During his teens, Stiller spent hours in New York's Museum of Natural History (the setting for Night At The Museum).

    'As a kid I loved anything to do with ancient Egypt: mummies, sarcophagi, hieroglyphics and all that stuff - it just seemed magical. Growing up, I wanted to be an archaeologist.
    'I don't know why - I just enjoy feeling a connection to the past.
    'I've always been fascinated by the idea of time travel and the specifics of how people lived in ancient times - how they went to the toilet, how they would hunt, what they ate. I often wonder what it would have been like if you suddenly had to go off to fight in the Peloponnesian War.'
    But it was acting, not archaeology, that became Stiller's career.

    'My early rebellion against my parents was that I wasn't going to be funny,' he says.

    'That's what I thought when I was in high school. I was going to be a serious actor and make serious movies. I tried to do that for a while, but unfortunately you can't help what's in your system.'
    On screen he invariably plays the likeable anti-hero.

    'If you don't feel anything for the characters, you're not going to buy into the story.'

    Owen Wilson has been his close friend since Stiller saw him as an unknown in a short film.

    'I wrote to him to say how much I enjoyed it. He wrote back a letter that was really badly written and full of typos. It said, "Dear Ben Stiller, thank you for your note, your interest has been duly noted. All the best, Owen C Wilson. And it ended "Dictated but not read".
    'I just thought it was so funny because obviously he was making out that he couldn't care less that I was into him. I still have the letter.
    'I love Owen - he has always marched to his own drum. You go to a restaurant with him and he'll order his starter and eat it before anybody else has ordered, just because he's hungry. He doesn't think. It's not like he's trying to be rude or anything.
    'When I was single, back in the day, we would take trips to Hawaii and Las Vegas and we got into a lot of single-guy trouble.'

    Like what?

    'Just single-guy stuff - misadventures that are way too embarrassing to discuss. But we had some close calls - which luckily nobody ever found out about.'

    DODGEBALL: 'I know you. You know you. And I know that you know that I know you'
    Wilson returns in the sequel to Night At The Museum, as Jedediah, a cowboy figurine. During filming, however, the friends saw little of each other.

    'We were never acting in the same place at the same time, because they have to shoot "the little people" later. So I do all my scenes talking to a matchstick or a doll.'
    More recently Stiller directed Tropic Thunder with Tom Cruise as a bald, overweight studio boss.

    'That was Tom's idea - I didn't have to persuade him. If you watch Jerry Maguire you'll see he's very good at comedy.'
    Stiller has a knack of getting comic performances out of serious actors - including Robert De Niro.

    'Well, De Niro was funny in Meet The Parents, but he was also great in Analyze This. But there are even funny moments in Raging Bull and Mean Streets.'
    Fame has never been of interest to Stiller.

    'I'm used to it,' he says. 'People are usually polite - they just want you to be with them. But I've found with some people, all bets are off when they recognise you. Someone at my wife's grandfather's funeral asked me for an autograph. I was like, "Maybe we should go in the other room where there's not an open casket."
    'I love acting and it can be the most amazing and creative experience in the world. But it's a weird thing to do for a living. If you think about it too much it can be paralysing. You just have to do your own thing and people respond well - or they don't.'
    Stiller has tried his hand at drama, and says, 'I'd definitely like to do more serious films.'

    In 1998's Permanent Midnight he played a heroin-addicted writer, and he's developing a political film about the famous trial of the 'Chicago 7' - hippy revolutionaries who were charged with conspiracy and incitement to riot during the 1968 Democratic Convention.
    'But Hollywood is very reactionary - if you do something that makes money, they give you more money.

    'The problem is that the more success you have, the more pressure there is for you to do what made you successful in the first place. I need to have control of my own destiny.'

    'Night At The Museum 2' is released on May 20

    'I'm not a funny guy, but Ricky Gervais - now he's funny,' says Ben Stiller | Mail Online

  2. #2
    Hit By Ban Bus! AliceInWonderland's Avatar
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    you already know.


    you're right Ben, I don't know how you even got into the business!.....oh yeah, you're fucking parents

  3. #3
    Elite Member msdeb's Avatar
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    you got it right Ben, you ARENT funny
    Basic rule of Gossip Rocks: Don't be a dick.Tati
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    Eh, I like Ben.

  5. #5
    Elite Member Lalique's Avatar
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    The land of ice and snow


    Aww, I like Ben! I still laugh my ass off when i watch Zoolander!
    What I really want to know is whether it makes your poop glow in the dark after eating it! ~ Kittylady

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    Elite Member heart_leigh's Avatar
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    I don't find him particularly funny, but he seems rather likeable.

    He's only 5ft 8in, but is classically handsome, although he plays down his looks.
    Say what???
    Rock the fuck on!

  7. #7
    Hit By Ban Bus! AliceInWonderland's Avatar
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    you already know.



  8. #8
    Elite Member Sylkyn's Avatar
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    He's not 'stand-up funny', but some of his movies are quite the hoot. To me, he's always pretty dry...not really a laff-riot like others are.

    I wouldn't call him classically handsome either. He looks like a skeleton in those pictures.

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    Elite Member nana55's Avatar
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    I like him. He is not "stand-up funny", but "plays funny". I have heard he is a real asshole though. Hope not, his parents aren't.
    If I can't be a good example, then let me be a horrible warning.

  10. #10
    Elite Member Sylkyn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nana55 View Post
    I like him. He is not "stand-up funny", but "plays funny". I have heard he is a real asshole though. Hope not, his parents aren't.
    You said it better. He 'plays funny'. And I adore with all my heart and soul, Anne Meara and Jerry Shiller. THEY are the king and queen of old-school, rib-cracking comedy.

  11. #11
    Super Moderator twitchy2.0's Avatar
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    Man, he's looking gaunt these days.
    "But I am very poorly today & very stupid & I hate everybody & everything." -- Charles Darwin

  12. #12
    Elite Member bychance's Avatar
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    Nice arms.

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