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The Chandler Bing Effect: 10 One-Trick Ponies Whose One Trick Never Gets Old

By Dustin Rowles | Seriously Random Lists | July 9, 2013 | Comments ()


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Everyone loved Chandler Bing. Even if you didn’t love “Friends,” you loved Matthew Perry’s character, but the thing about that character is that, if you’ve seen anything else that Matthew Perry is in, Perry is Chandler Bing. He can turn it up (The Whole Nine Yards) or he can tone it down (The West Wing, The Good Wife), but essentially, he plays on the same trick: Charmingly, smarmy and sarcastic. But you know what? It works. Many of us have invested too much time in Perry’s follow-up sitcoms to “Friends” because of him, and even when those sitcoms fail all around him, Perry’s Bingness still shines through.

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Of course, Matthew Perry is not the only comedic actor with limited range with whom we have an adoring affection. Here are 9 other actors who do the same thing in practically everything they’re in, and you know what? We like it that way. As far as I’m concerned, they can never get old.

Jake Johnson: Modus Operandi: Cranky, sarcastic, belligerent teddy bear. Seen in “New Girl,” Safety Not Guaranteed and the forthcoming Drinking Buddies.

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Charlie Day: Modus Operandi: Loud, brash, overenthusiastic, and charmingly offensive. Seen in: “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” Going the Distance, Horrible Bosses and the this week’s Pacific Rim.

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Jason Bateman: Modus Operandi: Mild-mannered, dry, sarcastic straight man who gives great reaction shots. Seen in: “Arrested Development,” Hancock, dozens of romantic comedies, both good (Horrible Bosses) and terrible (Identity Thief).

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Danny McBride: Modus Operandi: Cocky, overconfident, loud, grating, egotistical, and delusional. Seen in: “Eastbound & Down,” This is the End, 30 Minutes or Less, Pineapple Express.

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Ryan Hansen: Goofy, laid back, good-looking likable jerk. Seen in: “Veronica Mars,” “Party Down,” countless television guest appearances.

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John C. McGinley: Angry, sarcastic, ranting, pseudo-psychotic teddy bear. Seen in: “Scrubs,” lots of otherwise terrible, terrible movies.

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Will Arnett: Arrogant, dim, and unsure of himself. Seen in: “Arrested Development,” “Up All Night” (toned down), “30 Rock,” and “Running Wilde.”

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J.B. Smoove: Modus Operandi: Fast-talking, smart-alec with a unique cadence. Seen in: “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” We Bought a Zoo, and small roles in a series of terrible movies and television sitcoms.


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Aubrey Plaza: Sour, dour, sarcastic, and moony. Seen in: “Parks and Recreation,” Safety Not Guaranteed, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and the upcoming To Do List

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • shg

    Don't forget John C McGinley in Office Space- different character but he was very funny.

  • naye in VA

    Can i just shout out JB in Pootietang? You can't forget Pootietang

  • e jerry powell

    Are we giving Shatner a pass because of the Twilight Zone episodes?

  • Three_nineteen

    This is what I've see of Shatner's pre-Star Trek career: Twilight Zone and the movie Judgement at Nuremberg. His characters in both of those are different from each other, and they are also distinct from Kirk. I think after Trek, he was either typecast or just realized that hamming it up got him more money and fame than decent character work.

  • e jerry powell

    non-critical nitpick: not "both," "all three." Twilight Zone was "Nick of Time" and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." It seems like everybody forgets "Nick of Time," which is actually the better of the two, IMHO.

    And you're exactly right about Shatner becoming extremely treyf after about 1971. He went from William Shatner to WILLIAM SHATNER™. Sometimes I think even he turns from camera and rolls his eyes at himself, giggles, and turns back to camera.

  • Three_nineteen

    Don't know if I've seen "Nick of Time" - my Twilight Zone knowledge is limited. Thanks for the information.

    You didn't say this, but I am not criticizing Shatner. If I could make a boatload of money doing that, I wouldn't hesitate.

  • e jerry powell

    "Nick of Time" is the one where the couple get stranded in the Cleveland exurbs and Shatner gets hypnotized by a fortune-telling machine in a diner. Somebody even did a cute Star Trek parody of it.

  • e jerry powell

    Oh, and apparently I'm the only one completely immune to Matthew Perry. I was only minimally hooked into Friends. Six white people living in multiple spacious New York apartments that they could barely afford collectively, and who only know other white people.

    Yeah. I kind of blew through that really quickly.

  • e jerry powell

    You don't think Jason Bateman has broadened even a little bit since he was playing little Ricky Schroeder's frenemy?

    McGinley is definitely solid on this list, since he's never really hired to play anyone but John C. McGinley lately. He has taken the place of Ted McGinley, only without the show-killing history.

  • Amanda

    I think Will Arnett has a bit more range. His character on Up All Night was really different from GOB Bluth. It was hard to get used to him NOT being an asshole.

  • Bodhi

    Ok, ok, I'll watch Safety not Guaranteed. I can't stand Aubrey Plaza (bring on the down votes), but I'm willing to change my stance.

  • pumpkin

    I take issue with your characterization of Matthew Perry. He also can play a near-patricidal, screen-writing, West Beverly tennis star.

  • Kong1965

    You should have just named every comic actor working today. They all play the same character over and over again. Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jay Baruchel, Jack Black, Michael Cera, and the absolute king of playing himself in every comedy role, Adam Sandler. Even Spade and Farley pretty much did the same roles over and over. It's not like you walk into a movie starring any of these guys wondering what "twist" they are going to introduce in their role. In fact, the much harder list to put together is comedic actors that DON'T play themselves in every role. Give it a shot.

  • e jerry powell

    Peter Sellers. That's all I've got.

  • Mrs. Julien

    That's all you need.

  • Maddy

    Can we call the opposite of this the Michael Cera/George Michael Bluth effect?

  • Kobie

    I actually just watched "The Whole Nine Yards" last night for the first time in years, and I had apparently blocked out exactly how much he channeled Chandler Bing in that movie.

  • Uriah_Creep

    Even if you didn’t love “Friends,” you loved Matthew Perry’s character

    Speak for yourself, "overlord".

  • Jeremy Gordon

    this picture says it all...

  • e jerry powell

    And now I must find things to stab.

  • Three_nineteen

    I like John Corbett. I like every character he's played, because they are basically the same character, ever since he was George's himbo crush on Seinfeld. The fact that he's pretty easy on the eyes doesn't hurt.

  • kirbyjay

    That was Dan Cortese, not John Corbett. Cortese was in Veronica's Closet and some MTV sports show. Sorry to burst your Corbett Bubble

  • Three_nineteen

    You're right. I guess I like two actors that play the exact same character.

  • Arran

    While it can't be said Ryan Hansen has buckets of range, Kyle Bradway is pretty different to Dick Casablancas. Kyle is completely oblivious about pretty much everything, but barely has a mean bone in his body. Dick, on the other hand, is actually a giant jerk, even though he can be charming at times.

  • kirbyjay

    Actually thought that was Wooderson up there.

  • soapyme

    Hugh Grant. Oh wait, it does get old.

  • e jerry powell

    Oh, that one was born old.

  • DarthBetty

    Paul Rudd is always Paul Rudd to me. Does this count? Usually plays a nice guy that can't figure out "x"

  • Robert

    Audrey Plaza showed a lot more depth and heart in Safety Not Guaranteed than sarcasm. That impression could only come from watching the trailer and tossing it in because Audrey Plaza.

  • HowardTheDeck

    Amazing list idea, and brilliantly executed. I'd add Ryan Reynolds to the list, based on the hope that most people don't remember Buried or the Amityville remake.

  • AnnaKendrick'sLoveMuffin

    I believe the Internets require me to dismiss this post as it fails the Bechdel test.

  • e jerry powell

    I'm watching out...

  • Kate

    I would say Perry has limited versatility, rather than range. He's only really equipped to play certain types of people (no one's going to cast him as a chilling serial killer or put him in a non-comedic action movie for example), but he can do a lot within those roles. I actually think he's a very good dramatic actor, just not in the showy Sean Penn way or uber versatile DDL or Gary Oldman way.

    Perry's one of those actors I immediately buy into as whatever character he's playing, even when his characters are similar. I don't think he's always playing Chandler though, he just has unique line delivery that's always going to be associated with Chandler Bing. Matt Albie was nothing like Chandler, and in his two latest sitcoms he's played characters who were all ego whereas Chandler was always a bundle of insecurities tied together with sarcasm. He was also really good in Birds of America which was very different from all his past roles.

    Honestly other than maybe Jake Johnson, I think Perry's the only one on the list whose shtick hasn't or won't get old for me. I don't care for McBride at all, and a lot of these actors can be exceptionally annoying when they're doing bad work (Arnett, Bateman, McGinley). I love Charlie Day and I really enjoyed Aubrey Plaza in P&R and Safety Not Guaranteed, but I can see both being extremely grating in the wrong vehicle.

  • Horatio Postlethwaite

    What about Jason Statham?

  • e jerry powell

    Well, if you're gonna go there, I'll see your Jason Statham and raise you a Chuck Norris and a Jean-Claude van Damme.

    And be careful with re-raising, because I have Arnold Schwarzenegger in my chip stack, too.

  • Horatio Postlethwaite

    True, true. But I tend to enjoy Stathams stuff, despite his typecasting (the theme of the list) whereas Chuck Norris films are shit and everyone got pretty tired of Van Damme pretty quickly after Kickboxer and Blood Sport. As for Arnie, well, I'd have to say I'm a bit biased when it comes to him because so many of his films had a cultish effect on my early teen life in that time of the late 80's early 90's. Same with Jackie Chan.

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    A Stathaming is always in order.

  • Horrible Bosses was a romcom?! I think I missed something.

  • Nope. I always found Jason Bateman pretty boring, and the more I watch with him in it the more tired I get of him. So by now he makes me not want to watch something. I think the problem with him--as opposed to the others on the list--is that his schtick as the straight man is just flat-out boring.

  • Well, goddammit, I thought I hated one-note actors. I was ready to strafe all over this list like a Spitfire of scorn but all these guys are awesome and now I'm having to pour love all over it like some sort of Hugs Hurricane. I need a drink.

  • Nadine

    Fucking Danny McBride. I have found him astonishingly annoying in literally every single role he has ever been in, ever. I just fucking hate the guy. Not the actual guy, Danny McBride might well be the nicest man alive, I don't know and if he is then fucking super.

    But the character? The whole bit? Oh my god, I want him to be eaten by bears. Bears. BEAAAAAAAARS.

  • e jerry powell

    RRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWRRRRR.

  • rn3

    All the Real Girls is the exception. It's definitely the first step on the road to Kenny Powers, but he's so, so good in it I'll forgive everything else

  • DehydrationStation

    Your response to Danny McBride can likely be explained away by an exposure, early in life, to a narcissistic sociopath. Anyone who has been the real-life victim of one of these asshole characters rarely finds them entertaining.

  • Nadine

    Well at least there's some rational reason behind it

  • ExUSA

    Pajiba, I do love you, but I think a more apt description of this article would have been "The Chandler Bing Effect: 8 White Guys and 2 Token One-Trick Ponies Whose One Trick Never Gets Old"

    Before anyone jumps on me about lack of such actors (don't get me started on why THAT is) I can name more than a few for you:

    Sandra Bullock/Connie Britton: Sassy/strong minded/heart of gold

    Morgan Freeman: Sage/wise/preternatural knowledge

    Alfre Woodard: Matriarchal

    I'm not asking your lists to be over the top politically correct, I'm just asking for a bit more representation here other than the white male demographic- they tend to get enough love as it is.

  • AudioSuede

    Morgan Freeman actually has only done the "magical negro" trope a few times. More often, he plays hard-luck tough guys whose veneer of cool indifference is challenged and shown to be a facade (see: Shawshank, Seven, Bucket List, etc.)

  • e jerry powell

    But...

    There Can Only Be One™ Magical Negro™ at a time, and Will Smith flunked that course, so Morgan Freeman has to keep hanging on until Denzel decides to step up.

    And Morgan Freeman hasn't always been this old, so it follows that he hasn't always been this type.

  • Amanda

    YOU WILL SAY NOTHING AGAINST CONNIE BRITTON AND HER WONDROUS MANE.

  • Three_nineteen

    You may want to check out Connie Britton's work before 2005. Her characters, at least then, are different than your view. Nikki on Spin City was kind of neurotic, and her West Wing character was no-nonsense, calm, intelligent, and extremely competent.

  • AudioSuede

    Wait, Connie Britton was on The West Wing? I'm pretty sure you're mistaken. That's my favorite show, and I don't remember ever seeing her face.

  • Three_nineteen

    She was in a multi-episode arc in Season 3. Leo brought in Connie, Evan Handler, and Ron Silver to help with the re-election campaign.

  • AudioSuede

    OMG I TOTALLY FORGOT ABOUT THAT!!!!!!

    Well remembered.

  • cgthegeek

    If Pajiba were to make a list of all the Actors of Color who play the same tired one-dimensional stereotype over and over, they'd have to list nearly every Actor of Color. (For the record I'm not too mad at folks for eating, just mad at hwood for limiting the selection at the buffet.)

  • Mrs. Julien

    What is your job? My job is being Matthew Perry.

    Nice work if you can get it and a fine tradition in acting.

  • e jerry powell

    If such a thing can be called acting.

  • cgthegeek

    So... they are closeted character actors?

  • Mrs. Julien

    Doesn't this make them the opposite of character actors?

  • cgthegeek

    Well these characters aren't too unusual or eccentric, but they are repetitive. Does that count?

  • Artemis

    I think Will Arnett is a stretch. GOB and his Up All Night character had nothing in common, and even Devon Banks was a very different kind of obnoxious than GOB.

    I would add to this Kristen Bell. She's always the sassy, sarcastic smart bitch, and even in lesser vehicles (House of Lies) she's generally the part that works best.

  • Marc Greene

    Thank you for putting Danny McBride on this list.

  • e jerry powell

    I'd be happier if they'd sew Danny McBride into Sarah Palin and blast them both into deep space, but I can't say that out loud.

  • I would leave out Bateman because while he's best known for that type, he's shown range with State of Play, The Kingdom, Smokin' Aces, Dodgeball, and The Change-Up. Whether you like those movies are not, he's playing a different character than the Michael Bluth variation he's known for.

  • Jill

    Yes, he was the best part of State of Play and Dodgeball for me. I kind of like it when he plays guys with just a tad too much coke in their system.

  • Don't forget Juno.

  • Agreed. He was genuinely moving (well, to me) in The Switch (or whatever that Aniston movie was that he did), and he also plays a total douchey asshole really well, too - which is not very Bluthian of him.

  • e jerry powell

    "and he also plays a total douchey asshole really well, too..."

    That right there is what he carried with him from two years of playing Ricky Schroeder's frenemy.

  • Three_nineteen

    "Der-Rick's Ice Cream Parlor"

  • e jerry powell

    That had to have been the strangest...

    And I grew up strange, so you know that had to be out there.

    TV 'shipping pre-Twitter.

  • koko temur

    Aubrey Plaza started as dour and sarcastic in "safety", but was quickly healed of that in the first ten minutes or so. She spent the whole movie being goofy and warm, and it was lovely. And Perry is not really Bing-like in the good wife. the rest is spot on though.

    I also wouldnt go as far as to call anyone on this list as "having a limited range". Many of them showed range, we just either didnt accept them in out of those character roles, or hollywood just really likes to cast them in the role they are best suitable for, in their opinion. Nothing wrong with that. From executive point of view, it is a business after all. You wouldnt let your marketing guy fixing your printer in your business. He may be exellent at it. He might wanted fixing printers all his life. But why take the risk? You use people the way you already know is the most efficient.

  • Maguita NYC

    Has Jason Bateman ever played a sadistic mass murderer? A Baby-faced sadistic sarcastic murderer would do his career some good.

  • Mrs. Julien

    That's why I want Michael Cera to play a crime lord: Mumble, mumble, [shoots someone in the head].

    It would be hilarious!

  • Samantha Klein

    John C. McGinley!! I love that man. (Yes, as well as Chandler Perry. ;)

  • DehydrationStation

    Yes, John C. McGinley starred in lots of terrible terrible movies... like 'Platoon' and 'Office Space' .

    And how could anyone devise a list of One-Trick Ponies without Michael Cera not only claiming the #1 spot but actually teabagging everyone below him via a funny animated GIF? My outrage is both infinite and profound.

  • Blank Stare

    Also, not a one-trick pony. The "Scrubs" trick is good, but he was funny with an entirely different schtick in "Office Space."

    That is to say, I'll never get tired of endless permutations on Dr. Cox, but McGinley does have comedic range.

  • BlackRabbit

    And a huge neck. I just noticed that.

  • Uriah_Creep

    That thing he calls a neck used to mesmerize me when I watched Scrubs. That is some anaconda.

  • lowercase_ryan

    The Cera thing is part of what killed me in This is the End.

  • ohwhitneykay

    Because the Michael Cera trick gets old

  • DehydrationStation

    Huh. I see your point. Maybe Cera does get old. You know, like Jason Bateman does. Oh, except Bateman made this list, and Cera didn't. You will not foil my outrage.

  • randomhookup

    Well, sir, you are in luck, because we no longer foil outrage. We use these neat little recycled paper containers for you to package your outrage in and take home with you for later.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Outrage is a dish best served the next day, reheated in a microwave?

    The things you learn.

  • randomhookup

    I recommend you sprinkle a little cheese on it before reheating. Really livens it up, even after a couple of days.

  • DehydrationStation

    Well I'll be damned.

  • e jerry powell

    Ain't it just the most?

  • llp

    My outrage was packaged in styrofoam last week. I can't even recycle it.

  • Repo

    Thank you. Voice of reason. McGinley shouldn't be anywhere near this list. See just as recently this years 42 for proof. (which also featured a out of type part with Alan Tudyk as well)

  • DehydrationStation

    Alan Tudyk. Don't even mention that name. His voice acting in the latest 'Defense Grid' took me right out of the game and deposited me in a petting zoo with mangy goats in it.

  • e jerry powell

    But at least you could make tiny little wheels of moldy goat cheese...

  • cgthegeek

    Word. Mumbling and squeaking is not acting.

  • e jerry powell

    Has Joe Swanberg gotten the memo?

  • Sirilicious

    I've seen Mathew Perry in a few things now, and i think The Good WIfe was the first one where i really saw someone other than Bing. That might have something to do with the fact that he played a bad guy (kinda) in it. I hope to see more of him there.

  • e jerry powell

    I'm guessing that he's not under a development deal at NBC or ABC anymore, so he's got time to fill. He could do far worse than guest spots on The Good Wife, certainly.

    Like guest spots on Episodes.

  • kinoumenthe

    He's deliciously dislikeable in The Good Wife.

  • Sirilicious

    I know i've always been attracted to guys that aren't vanilla, but i didn't consider myself bound to bad boys. I never understood the attraction to Hugh Grant AT ALL, right until i saw Bridget Jones. I walked out of that theatre with tingly ladybits and a head hung in shame and self loathing.

  • Emm82

    We all felt like that after Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones. It's still a source of shame that it's still appealing in my 30's.

  • kinoumenthe

    I still don't understand that attraction. Ew Grant. Blech.

    In Bridget Jones, I probably was blinded by all the Firth on screen…… Aaand now I just reminded myself of the horrible Darcy sculpture thing. Way to go, me.

  • Sirilicious

    I'm sorry i stirred your Grant Trauma. I was just trying to share how deliciously dislikeable characters can fuck you up.

    :o)

  • kinoumenthe

    No worries. It's not a very deep trauma. :)

    The tingling has happened for me as well. (Though, to be honest, the last time I was tingled by surprise by a character, he was not really dislikeable.)
    In the case of Perry on The Good Wife, for me, it's more a genuine delight at his evilness, I guess. No real tingling involved. But I'm far from immune to bad boys, or dislikeable characters. As long as they are not too cliché…

  • Pants_are_a_must

    Isn't Danny McBride's most famous performance as the Danny McBride character "Tropic Thunder"?

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