As if Jordan Peele didn’t have enough feathers in his cap, his directorial debut Get Out continues to blow critics and audiences away, earning over $150 million against a $5 million budget and garnering universal acclaim and very (very) early Oscar buzz. But it’s not only Get Out’s enormous success that’s got us thinking. It’s also (despite a biting satirical wit) not necessarily the kind of movie we’d expect from an expert character comedian.
So we’d thought we’d take a spin through previous directorial debuts by comedians and comedy writers. We’ll get you a more in-depth list of our favorites soon, but for now check out these 32 debut films by comedians; some expected, and some quite surprising.
NOTE: In researching this list, the problem of gender inequality amongst filmmakers (or, the “alleged” problem, if you’re Aaron Sorkin) became even more glaringly obvious. Comedy and film directing are often both vying for the title of “Most Obnoxious Boy’s Club,” and it turns out when the two are combined, things don’t get much better. There are already too-few examples of films written by or starring female comedians, and even fewer once you just look at directors. We’ve tried to make this larger list as exhaustive as possible, but if there are other films directed by female comedians that we were unaware of, we want to see them!
1 of 32
Harlem Nights, Eddie Murphy: Murphy's first and only film as a director sees him team up with Richard Pryor in a period piece about nightclub owners in 1930s Harlem. Despite the cross-generational team-up of Murphy, Pryor, Della Reese and Redd Foxx (in his last film), a weak script and unfocused direction made this a big nominee at the 1990 Razzies.
2 of 32
Sleepwalk With Me, Mike Birbiglia: Birbiglia adapted his one-man show and book into this autobiographical movie about a struggling stand-up with a dangerous sleep disorder.
3 of 32
Take the Money and Run, Woody Allen: Technically, Allen made his debut with What's Up, Tiger Lily?, a re-dubbed Japanese spy film. But his first time behind the camera was actually this mockumentary focused on a bank robber.
4 of 32
Real Life, Albert Brooks: Albert Brooks elaborated on the "Albert Brooks" persona from his early SNL shorts with this brilliant spoof that predicted the rise of reality TV.
5 of 32
A New Leaf, Elaine May: Comedy legend Elaine May began an illustrious directing career with this little-seen comedy where Walter Matthau attempts to marry her for her family fortune.
6 of 32
Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, Richard Pryor: Pryor also only directed one film in his life, this semi-autobiographical drama where he played a thinly veiled version of himself named Jo Jo Dancer. If you didn't know how tragic Pryor's life was, you'd quickly learn from this movie.
7 of 32
Other People, Chris Kelly: Molly Shannon won an Independent Spirit Award for SNL head writer Chris Kelly's moving tribute
8 of 32
Anchorman, Adam McKay: Oscar-winner McKay started his directorial career off with a little period piece about a San Diego TV station, which also spawned a companion film made of improvised alternate takes.
9 of 32
MacGruber, Jorma Taccone: The Lonely Island's Jorma Taccone turned a SNL sketch into a thoroughly insane and brilliant movie that bombed in theaters but became a cult hit.
10 of 32
Freak Dance, Matt Besser: UCB founder Besser co-directed this musical dance film with Neil Mahoney, which also featured an ensemble cast of well-known improvisers.