Film Face-off: Steve Carell vs. Jim Carrey - Who Is the Funnier Funnyman?

Film Face-off: Steve Carell vs. Jim Carrey - Who Is the Funnier Funnyman?

Mar 18, 2013

In the world of comedic actors, Jim Carrey and Steve Carell are magical. The 51-year-old Carrey has a lot in common with 50-year-old Carell. Beyond the fact that their names both start with "car," and I constantly forget how to spell their last names, they also have had great success in TV, comedic films and dramatic movies. They both starred in an Almighty film, and now that they both appear in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, it's the perfect time for a Film Face-off.


The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Characters


Carell is the arrogant Burt Wonderstone, half of a magic act with Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) at Bally's in Las Vegas. He feels like he owns the town until... he doesn't. Burt finds himself out of work, trying to recapture the magic of loving magic.


Carrey is the street magician Steve Gray. He's willing to perform insane stunts that involve cutting his face, using his skull as a hammer, and lying down on a bed of hot coals. He doesn't respect Burt and wants to rule the world of magic.

Winner: Carrey. Carell gets points for being the title character, but let's focus on the CER (Comedic Efficiency Rating). Carrey only appears in seven or eight scenes. He found the perfect level of making fun of magicians like David Blane while doing the important thing; making me laugh. Yes, this is a case where Carell does the heavy lifting, but there is a really long stretch where Burt is oddly arrogant, and not funny at all. Carell is funny less than half the time, Carrey is funny almost every time, thus his CER is much higher. When you sit down to a comedy that is very close to farce, all you want to do is laugh. Don't worry, I'm sure Carell won in the paycheck category for Wonderstone.


The Almighty Films


In 2007's Evan Almighty, God (Morgan Freeman) gets a hold of Evan Baxter and tells him to build an ark. Animals gather, and Evan starts looking like Tim Allen in The Santa Clause... or Noah. The film is a mess, supposedly about family and a small housing development, and the ending has everyone dancing to C&C Music Factory.


In 2003's Bruce Almighty God (Freeman) gets a hold of Bruce Nolan and lets him play God to teach him how difficult it is. Bruce learns lessons like having ultimate power is great when driving in traffic, but taxing when trying to get his girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston) to fall back in love with you.

Winner: Carrey. I didn't care for either Almighty film, but Bruce Almighty scored a 48 percent on Rotten Tomatoes tomatomeeter, Evan received a 23 percent. Bruce made $242 million, Evan made $100 million. Most importantly, the funniest thing Carell did in either film occurred when he was just the side character in Bruce, reading the teleprompter.




Carell's most prominent TV role is as Michael Scott on the U.S. version of The Office. He also put in six years as a correspondent under Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. There's more. Carell is the voice of Gary, half of The Ambiguously Gay Duo on Saturday Night Live, and has hosted that show twice. People might have first noticed him as a cast member of The Dana Carvey Show.


For a long time, Carrey was best known as the white guy on In Living Color. He's also hosted Saturday Night Live twice. I actually remember him first in a short-lived show called The Duck Factory, but I might be the only one. Carrey had an amazing cameo on The Larry Sanders Show, and even guest-starred on The Office.

Winner: Carell. Both guys auditioned for Saturday Night Live, with Lorne Michaels deciding they weren't good fits. Both get credit for difficult situations; Carell attempting an American version of an insanely respected show, and Carrey standing out on an African-American sketch comedy show. Carrey has the best SNL sketch with "Ride the Snake," but that doesn't compare to the body of work Carell amassed at The Daily Show.


Comedic Films


The 40-Year-Old Virgin is an amazing comedy, and will stand the test of time no matter what you think of Judd Apatow. Crazy, Stupid, Love is one of the best romantic comedies in the past decade, though that's not saying much. He gets bonus points for being Brick Tamland in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. His main miss is Evan Almighty, with Dinner with SchmucksDate Night and Get Smart falling in the "not bad" category.


The string of Ace Ventura: Pet DetectiveThe Mask, and Dumb and Dumber is impressive. If you're a child of the '80s the terrible Once Bitten has a special place in your heart. The Cable Guy ages very well, Liar Liar and Yes Man are crowd pleasers, and he should get more credit for Count Olaf in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. His misses are Me, Myself & IreneFun with Dick and Jane and the cash grab Mr. Popper's Penguins.

Winner: Carrey. Out of all the films I just named, The 40-Year-Old Virgin is my favorite, with Ace Ventura being my most beloved. I was a senior in high school when Ace Ventura came out. I remember where I saw it, who I saw it with, and the tears of laughter. Nostalgia is really powerful with this one. Even though I currently have more faith in Carell, Carrey takes this category.


Dramatic Films


Carell is good in the ensemble Little Miss Sunshine. No one saw Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, which wasn't a bad film. With Hope Springs he was able to work with Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep, and prove to be deeply serious, without even mustering one joke. As far as any big awards go, he's only been nominated for ensemble work in dramatic films.


Let's not choose to pick on The Majestic, and we're not calling The Number 23 dramatic. He's great in The Truman Show. Carey channels Andy Kaufman with ridiculously good results in Man on the Moon. Most importantly, let's not forget about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, because it's a work of genius.

Winner: Carrey. He wins by a landslide. You could take any on of the three great films I just mentioned of Carrey's and it alone would win this category. He won two Golden Globes, and someone has never been nominated for an Academy Award, which probably won't change with Dumb and Dumber To, but it should at some point.


OVERALL WINNER: Carrey four, Carell one. Wow. I thought it would be closer. If Carrey had not stolen The Incredible Burt Wonderstone from the guy who plays Burt Wonderstone it would have been a tighter match. This is the first time in Film Face-off I've had real people match up instead of characters. When I'm still doing this column 15 years from now (wishful thinking), we're going to revisit Carell vs. Carrey, and see who the man of that moment will be. With Kick-Ass 2 and Anchorman: The Legend Continues coming our way, the race may already be changing.

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