Comedy MVPs: 5 Sitcom Scene Stealers

sitcom scene stealers

Sitcoms have a habit of producing breakout characters, many of them unexpected. Urkel started out life as a one-off character before taking over Family Matters and while How I Met Your Mother is Ted’s show in theory, we all know it’s Barney’s at heart. Predicting which characters will charm viewers is an impossible task, but watching a character breakout is always a fascinating and rewarding time to be a television fan.

Certain performers just have a spark. They transform even the smallest of roles into something special and then proceed to walk away with every scene they’re in. The five performers on this list have consistently stood out this season and snatched the limelight away from the leads on their shows using nothing but the sheer force of their talent (with an assist from some excellent writing, of course).

1. Maya Rudolph — Up All Night
 

Up All Night

I named Rudolph’s Ava one of my favorite female sitcom characters in the fall, and my love for her has only grown since then. Up All Night is technically about the trials and tribulations of a pair of new parents, but Ava and her show within a show are just so much more fun to watch.

That’s all thanks to Rudolph’s flawless performance as the larger than life Ava. At the beginning of the season, Rudolph was relying on channeling her Oprah impersonation from SNL, but somewhere around the midseason mark Ava emerged as a wonderfully kooky, wise, self-centric and entirely original character. Ava has become so compelling (and hilarious) that I often get confused when we follow Reagan home. Can’t we all just agree this should be Ava’s show and recalibrate the premise accordingly?

2. Max Greenfield — New Girl
 

New Girl Control Episode 16 (9)

In the beginning, Max Greenfield’s Schmidt was the roommate who was so douche-y he had to have a douchebag jar to curb his impulse to do things like buy driving moccasins. Many early reviews pointed to his character as the one most likely to grate on viewers’ nerves. Greenfield promptly stole the show. Maybe it’s the way he can turn the word “youths” into the funniest line of an episode or the way he commits wholeheartedly to indoor parkour, whatever the reason his clean freak, gentlemanly fancy man in training is officially the best reason to watch a show that’s already pretty fantastic.

If there’s any justice, Greenfield’s energetic performance and infinitely quotable character will win over enough Emmy voters to snatch a well-deserved nomination away from one of those Modern Family guys this year.

3. Busy Philipps — Cougar Town
 

cougar town laurie

For three seasons now, Busy Philipps has turned the scrappy, fun-loving Laurie into the heart of Cougar Town. No one delivers a line quite like Philipps, but she deserves extra kudos for making a character who could so easily be a one-joke liability into the most lovable and relatable character on the show. Her easy chemistry with co-star Dan Byrd has given the series an unconventional will-they-or-won’t-they relationship and her love/hate relationship with the also wonderful Christa Miller’s Ellie always produces the show’s best scenes– Philipps is the bubbly, blonde glue that holds the Cul-de-Sac Crew together.

4. Damon Wayans, Jr. — Happy Endings
 

Brad Happy Endings

At one point or another it has felt like every character on Happy Endings was the break-out character: Penny, Max, Jane–even Alex has had a turn this year–but lately the indisputable champ has been Damon Wayans Jr.’s Brad. His superpower is clearly comic timing. He turns small moments like the one where he rubs his head and laments that he’s “starting to look like Gene Wilder” into a laugh until you cry scene. All he has to do is smile just right and he’s suddenly commanding the room.

For an actor to consistently stand out in a cast so full of talent, you know he’s something special, but if you need further proof check out Brad’s going to the dentist dance.

5. Mayim Bialik — The Big Bang Theory
 

Amy TBBT

The Big Bang Theory was starting to feel a little long in the tooth before Mayim Bialik showed up on the scene as Amy Farrah Fowler. As Sheldon’s girlfriend, Bialik’s Amy didn’t just shake up the cast dynamic, she imploded it. Suddenly, the male-dominated series had enough female characters to give them their own storylines, most of them centered around the socially-awkward, but brilliant Amy and her epic girl crush on Penny.

Bialik also gave Parsons a worthy sparring partner. The scenes between the two reserved super nerds are a highlight every week. Bialik has single-handedly breathed new life into a sitcom that was on the verge of going stale and stolen viewers’ hearts in the process.

 

Now it’s your turn. Who are your favorite sitcom scene stealers? (Bonus points for anyone who can make a convincing argument for a single cast member of Parks and Recreation. Offerman, Plaza, Ansari, Scott– that ensemble is just too flawless for its own good.)

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