Comedy movies have a habit of throwing up really quite inspired supporting characters as they go about their business, with even the recent Jim Carrey vehicle Yes Man happily stolen by Rhys Darby whenever he was allowed on the screen. Then there was another Rhys, Rhys Ifans, who waltzed into the Hugh Grant-Julia Roberts romcom Notting Hill and promptly devoured every scene he was allowed anywhere near. Rupert Everett in My Best Friend’s Wedding? And what about Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder, giving even the sublime Robert Downey Jr a run for his money? Bluntly, if you’re the lead in a comedy, you absolutely need to watch your back, as more and more it’s the supporting characters, without the pressure of carrying the film, who appear to be having the most fun.
But is there a finer supporting comedy character in recent times than weatherman Brick Tamland? (And, incidentally, the last big screen comedy weatherman, Bill Murray’s Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, is also a treat) Played pitch-perfectly by a pre-Office Steve Carell, Tamland is the stand-out member of the Channel 4 news team. As he reveals himself: “Years later, a doctor will tell me I have an IQ of 48, and am what some people call ‘mentally retarded’.”
But there’s more here than just being the less intelligent member of the team. It’s the masterclass in brevity and deadpan delivery that stands, surely, without recent parallel. And bluntly? Brick is hilarious.
Examples? How about the pants party invitation? The riding of the furry tractor? The lying with the bear and being tickled? Burning his tongue? And his ultimate fate as a political advisor to George W Bush.
And then there’s our favourite, where he simply looks at the camera, shouts “Loud noises”, and the film moves on. It’s short. It’s swift. It’s brilliant. Brick Tamland is, bluntly, a masterful comic creation, and quite possibly the best thing – Michael Scott included – that Carell has committed to film. Carell has, of course, gone on to achieve much-deserved success since Anchorman, but the proposed sequel would clearly be a whole lot poorer without him. He needs to be one of the first people to be signed up, and the mere prospect of more Tamland is enough to get us to prebook tickets right now.
Credit, of course, should also go to the team around him. Will Ferrell, love him or hate him, has always been happy to share the comedy limelight with other actors, as his recent pairings with John C Reilly have proven. But Anchorman is a flat-out ensemble piece, with a collection of highlights. Ferrell himself is in career-best form as Ron Burgundy, but he leaves enough room in the film for several other cracking comedy performances, as well as the terrific rendition of Afternoon Delight, the accompanying music video for which is one of the most played in the Den Of Geek office.
It seems wrong to remove the character of Brick Tamland from the context of the Anchorman movie, as inevitably his segments work best in the midst of the film. But a thank you for the YouTube user who managed to put together the following montage of Tamland moments from the film. Because even taken independently of the film, this is comedy gold.
We salute you, Brick.
9 January 2009