1. GROUCHO MARX (1890-1977).
He is well known as a master of quick wit and is widely considered one of the best comedians of the modern era. His rapid-fire, often impromptu delivery of innuendo-laden patter earned him many imitators and admirers. His distinctive appearance, carried over from his early career in vaudeville, included quirks such as an exaggerated stooped posture, cigar, glasses, and a thick greasepaint moustache and eyebrows.
Notable films: Monkey Business; Horse Feathers; Duck Soup; Animal Crackers.
Lemmon was known for playing likeable but down-on-their-luck characters, as well as often playing average, working-class men trying to get ahead in life. Frequently collaborating with Billy Wilder and Walter Matthau, Lemmon became a true anti-hero for aspiring actors.
Notable films: The Apartment; The Odd Couple; Some Like it Hot; Glengarry Glen Ross.
He became known to a worldwide audience through his many film characterisations. Despite the bulk of his work being comedic-based, often parodying characters of authority such as policemen or military officers, he also performed in other film roles and genres.
Notable films: Dr. Strangelove; Being There; Lolita.
As a comic he developed the persona of an intellectual, insecure, neurotic guy, which he insists is quite different from his real-life personality. His characters (that he plays himself) are often a semi-famous, semi-successful film/tv writer, director, or producer… or a novelist.
Notable films: Manhattan; Annie Hall; Play it Again Sam; Sleeper.
His persona in The Marx Brothers was that of a dim-witted albeit crafty confidence man, seemingly of rural Italian origin, who wore shabby clothes and sported a curly-haired wig and Tyrolean hat. Moreover, his musical ability, which was demonstrated frequently on film, was undoubted.
Notable films: The Cocoanuts; A Night at the Opera; Duck Soup.
His writing/acting ability uses humour derived from awkward social situations, as well as it being acerbic and neurotically dark.
Notable films/television shows: Curb Your Enthusiasm; Whatever Works; Seinfeld.
Matthau was known for his deadpan voice and slouching posture. Like his frequent collaborator and long-time friend, Jack Lemmon, he often played underachieving down-and-outs, but there was a real sincerity in his performances.
Notable films: The Odd Couple; Meet Whiplash Willie; The Sunshine Boys.
The Canadian-born actor is famous for his rubbery body movements and flexible facial expressions. His characters are often lacking in manners or social awareness, and he often has catchphrases and an erratic manner of speaking in his roles.
Notable films: Dumb and Dumber; Ace Ventura: Pet Detective; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; The Mask.
Myers is renowned as being a prolific character actor, often playing multiple roles in his films and speaking in various accents.
Notable films: Wayne’s World; So I Married an Axe Murderer; Austin Powers; Shrek.
He is arguably one of the most talented and fruitful character actors working in British television today. His ability to switch, in character, between genders, accents, ages, and guises is effortless.
Notable television shows: The League of Gentlemen; Psychoville; Benidorm.