The Many Times Ryan Gosling Was Hilarious Beyond Barbie and The Fall Guy

Ryan Gosling is a bonafide comedy star after Barbie and The Fall Guy. If that’s a surprise to you, we’re here to say the dude’s always had jokes.

Ryan Gosling and the Kens in Barbie
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Ryan Gosling is living his best life these days. Or certainly his funniest. After earning an Academy Award nomination purely based on his ability to persuasively turn “Kenergy” into a noun in last summer’s Barbie, he brought that pure, uncut Ken stuff to the Oscar stage. No, not by winning the prize, but by taking home the hearts and minds of the internet with an epic performance of “I’m Just Ken.”

In hindsight, the spectacle of it all might be viewed as a turning point in his career as audiences embrace the guy who seemed so stoic and tortured in the 2010s—with his understated leading roles in Drive, Blade Runner 2049, Blue Valentine, and First Man—as actually a great comedy talent. His next studio vehicle, The Fall Guy, is in theaters now, and we can vouch for it being a breezy, lighthearted entertainment given life by Gosling and co-star Emily Blunt’s wry comic timing.

It seems like a fair amount of audiences are willing to go along with that too if box office tracking holds for The Fall Guy to open in the range $35 to $40 million as a quasi-original property. (It’s technically based on a 1980s television series, but the film is wisely being marketed solely on the appeal of Gosling and Blunt’s comedy chops and, of course, the stunt work.)  If that happens, Gosling might officially be recognized as a Hollywood funny man. But if you think that’s a new development, we gotta say… the dude’s always had jokes. Here’s the proof.

The Nice Guys

While for most of the last decade, Gosling earned prestige and awards nominations for his dramatic work, there’s a growing cult of us out there who liked him best when he was doing Lou Costello double takes opposite a beefy Russell Crowe in The Nice Guys. This side-splitting laugher from writer-director Shane Black has aged like barreled whiskey as more folks discover it on streaming… which makes it more’s the pity they didn’t show up in theaters in 2016. If they had, we might’ve gotten a decade’s worth of sequels about the inept detective agency run by Holland March (Gosling) and Jackson Healy (Crowe).

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And make no mistake, Gosling’s March is the far more inept of the two. A bumbling alcoholic who cannot even successfully break and enter into a bar without slashing his arm on a pane of glass—sending him directly to the hospital—March is the kind of screw up who is parented by his tween daughter Holly (Angourie Rice). No, seriously, she has to drive him around Los Angeles half the time because he’s either too injured or loaded to function. Yet Gosling imbues him with a haggard hangdog charm that’s pitiful enough to make you root for the schmuck, or at least cackle when he squeals like a prized hog upon Healy breaking his injured arm again.

Crazy Stupid Love

As Gosling’s other mainstream comedy effort before Barbie, Crazy Stupid Love was a big hit in 2011, and yet has fallen a bit off the radar a decade later. This dramedy from directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, and written by future This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman, remains a high point in all of their careers. And a large reason for its success has to do with the casting, including Gosling as a smug happy hour player who takes enough pity on a sad sack, middle aged divorcée (Steve Carell) to help him reinvent his life as a late-blooming ladies man.

The premise is absurd but it works because Gosling plays Jacob with just enough empathy and style to somehow make the setup plausible—at least enough to allow the audience a buy-in before chuckling at the young guy lecturing his elder in the complete nude at a spa. In other words, the film relies almost entirely on Gosling’s charisma to carry it over, which proves a smart bet, as did pairing him with Emma Stone in their first onscreen collaboration. The chemistry elicited by the pair is so amusing that they have (so far) reteamed two more times, including in the first film that won Stone an Oscar, La La Land.

Lars and the Real Girl

There are so many actors who’d decline playing a character like Lars, a small town nice guy and sweetheart to Bianca… his anatomically correct blowup sex doll. There are also many more actors who would fail to make Lars anything other than sketchy and depressing. And to be sure, the concept of Lars and the Real Girl invites that reading, but the peculiar dramedy from Craig Gillespie (future I, Tonya and Cruella director) finds an unfathomably convincing sweetness thanks to Gosling’s first big screen comedic work.

Playing the introverted and hopelessly shy Lars as a bighearted bloke who just happens to be head-over-heels in love with a balloon is a deceptively dangerous high-wire act. Gosling’s pleasantness, which never once betrays the humanity of a character who in other hands would either be just a creep or an SNL sketch, is carefully calibrated. The movie’s “gee golly” aesthetic doesn’t work if you don’t believe Lars—or want to run away from him in terror. Yet the film is somehow life-affirmative affable while providing plenty of laugh lines as all the people around Lars must grapple with the crazy guy’s choice of soulmate. It warmly works and in retrospect suggests Gosling should’ve let his hair down sooner and more often in cinemas.

The Big Short

The Big Short shouldn’t really be a comedy. And by the end of this dramatization of the Wall Street greed that led to the 2008 housing crisis and a wrecked global economy, no one is laughing. Even so, much of it features a glib gallows humor that’s impossible not to cackle along with. That is a testament to Adam McKay’s ever glib humor, which has been consistent from his time at SNL to his 2000s Will Ferrell comedies that were often parodies of the American culture they led. The Big Short loses those pretenses though and goes straight for the capitalist root of American rot in the 21st century.

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In this context, Gosling’s Jared Vennett should never be mistaken as a heroic protagonist, even though Gosling gets to narrate much of the movie as a smirking, fourth-wall breaking fortune-seeker of dubious morality. You’d never trust your 401k with this guy, but he makes for a bleakly compelling jester, telling ugly truths with an oblique sneer to the audience. It’s giddy. And hey, technically it marked the first time Gosling worked with Margot Robbie.

Saturday Night Live

While Gosling’s film work has been occasionally punctuated with good vibe giggles over the past decade, the actor has more consistently proven to be a popular recurring host for the perennially long-running TV institution, Saturday Night Live. Since 2015 Gosling has appeared four times on the variety comedy series while hosting three of the episodes. And tellingly, he’s developed his own litany of recurring characters in that time span: whether it’s as straight man to Kate McKinnon’s frequent alien abductee or his recent turn as a Beavis lookalike, which has already been reprised on The Fall Guy red carpet, much to TikTok’s approval.

Still our favorite remains his insistence to play his various digital shorts characters unnervingly straight, which is probably best exemplified by the “Papyrus” skits. Written by Julio Torres, the recurring sketch follows a man so obsessed with the amateurish “Papyrus” font being used in the Avatar logo that he’ll threaten to hold an entire awards auditorium hostage after spending months “undercover.” It’s all done to learn the truth of why… Avatar 2 had the effrontery to use a papyrus font in bold! It’s more esoteric and funnier than it sounds. If you don’t believe us, click the link above.

Young Hercules

When promoting Barbie last year, Margot Robbie gave the following public service announcement: “Did you guys know that Ryan played Young Hercules? … That was a really fun day on set when you revealed that, and I went down a whole rabbit hole and kept screen grabbing. I hope people watching this go back and watch Young Hercules or at the very least google it. Just google ‘Ryan Gosling [and] Young Hercules.’ See what comes up. It’s amazing.”

She’s not wrong. As someone who actually was a kid when that series aired on Fox Kids (Gosling was 18 and 19 during the New Zealand production), vague memories remain of a goofy dude with long locks whipping his hair about and high-kicking Greek gods. But for those who don’t know about it, check out the video above—and hey he still did it better than Kevin Sorbo!