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10 Comic Actresses Who Deserve A Big-Screen Leading Role

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist April 28, 2014 at 2:15PM

Happily, we can say something in 2014 that we haven't been able to for a long while: it's a good time for comedy actresses in movies. What once was a barren, bromance-filled wasteland, has filled up somewhat with the success of "Bridesmaids" and "The Heat," among others, convincing studio executives and indie financiers that there's a sizable audience for female-led comedy out there.
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Shelby Fero

Shelby Fero
Whereas once a comedian would break out by performing stand-up on Letterman or Leno, now you can reach a substantial level of fame purely through your Twitter presence. Alongside the likes of Chelsea Peretti and Megan Amram, one of the most promising prospects who’ve taken this route is the disgustingly young and talented Shelby Fero. The comic was barely in high school when she started writing articles for Cracked, before establishing a Twitter presence that gained over 100,000 followers, and remains one of the most consistently funny feeds around. After moving to L.A to attend USC (she’s subsequently dropped out to focus on comedy), Fero started gigging as a stand-up, and already feels like she’s been doing it for a decade, with a preternatural confidence and smart, sometimes button-pushing material. Fero’s currently focusing on writing, having penned an episode of FX’s animated series “Chozen,” and has a gig on the writing staff for late night show “@midnight,” but her relatively brief acting appearances (most notably a few appearances on “Key & Peele”) have suggested that it won’t be difficult to make the transition. As a former screenwriting major, we imagine she’s cooking up her own projects for herself, but it surely can’t be long before some canny studio executive gives wisely gives her a vehicle to call her own.

Retta

Retta
One of the benefits of a long-running show is that it gets to delve into and expand the supporting characters who at first might have been one-note or one-joke. Having unexpectedly made it to seven seasons, despite low ratings, NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” has been particularly good at this, with everyone from disaster-area news anchor Joan Callamezzo to the incomparable Jean-Ralphio getting extra shading, but one of the finest beneficiaries of this is Donna, the “Scandal”-loving man-eater played by stand-up comic Retta. Born Marietta Sirleaf, she’s been successful on the live circuit for a few decades, and picked up small roles in the likes of “Fracture” and “First Sunday,” but she’s been present pretty much from the beginning of “Parks and Rec,” and has been more and more vital as it’s gone on, often walking away with scenes despite competition from the series’ killer ensemble. Indeed, the last few episodes, which have finally seen her enter a real relationship with Keegan-Michael Key’s schoolteacher, have been a reminder that Retta isn’t just a comic force, but capable of some real emotional range. There aren’t many leading ladies who look like her, admittedly, but in a time when Melissa McCarthy is arguably the biggest comedy movie star around, few would doubt that someone with her presence and skill could explode with the right role.

Gillian Jacobs

Gillian Jacobs
Speaking of shows that are unexpectedly still on the air, “Community” is coming off its fifth season firmly back on form after the return of Dan Harmon, and with a return looking remarkably likely, given its long-term status as the brilliant runt of NBC’s Thursday night litter. The fabled Six Seasons And A Movie approaches, which is great news, except for the fact that, short of someone doing a Donald Glover and bailing on the show, we’ll go another year without certain cast members becoming the movie stars they deserve to be. Alongside the great Alison Brie, the one we’ve been tipping for longest is Gillian Jacobs, whose inept campaigner Britta has gone from slightly bland love interest to inept social justice campaigner and show highlight. Jacobs picked up some impressive theater and TV credits after graduating Julliard, landing a substantial role in Clark Gregg’s “Choke” opposite Sam Rockwell, before signing on for “Community,” and her deft, somewhat fearless comic chops have been a huge asset to the series even in the Harmon-less fourth season. And more so than most, she’s managed to fit in movie roles in between other things, with “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” and “Bad Milo!” among her credits, while coming up she has “Hot Tub Time Machine 2," Blumhouse horror “Visions” and indies “The Lookalike,” “Black And White” and “No Way Jose” coming up. She actually plays the second banana to Elizabeth Banks in “Walk Of Shame,” which has the unintended effect of making you wish she had a similar vehicle of her own...

Erinn Hayes

Erinn Hayes
There are some actors where it’s understandable that it takes them a little time to get the right foothold to the stardom, and there are some where it becomes a touch baffling that they’re not bigger than they are. Erinn Hayes is definitely in the latter category. The 37-year-old actress is ludicrously beautiful and even more talented, and has credits going back to the turn of the 21st century, but despite being seemingly omnipresent, has never quite found the one role that would launch her into the stratosphere. Early one-offs in “CSI” and “The West Wing” turned into a recurring role opposite Bradley Cooper in “Kitchen Confidential,” and then a regular in Seth MacFarlane sitcom “The Winner." That was swiftly cancelled, as was the better-received “Worst Week,” but since then Hayes has turned up on everything from “Parenthood” to “Parks and Recreation,” but her own leading roles on TV have been on material that’s been somewhat beneath her. There’s been one major silver lining, though, with the great, and unhinged “Children’s Hospital,” in which Hayes really gets to let loose and show what she can do. On the big screen, she’s a big favorite of comics-turned-directors like David Wain, David Cross and Matt Walsh, and shone in the underrated “It’s A Disaster,” so she’ll surely soon end up with a bigger part worthy of her skills.

This article is related to: Features, Elizabeth Banks, Walk Of Shame, Feature


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