Movie comedy duos are as old as movies themselves. There’s something appealing about a mismatched pair working their way from one wacky adventure to the next. The rules are pretty simple for a successful comedy duo in that one plays it straight, while the other is a hot mess of hilarity.
Another requirement for a truly great comedy duo is that they appear in multiple films with radically different plots. They can be the same characters, and that’s part of the appeal, but the films can’t be straight sequels. The duo must expand their universe beyond a single storyline.
10Laurel & Hardy
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy couldn’t be any different if they tried, and that’s what made them such a popular comedy duo. Laurel was a skinny happy-go-lucky British klutz, while Hardy was a pompous overweight American bully. Combining slapstick antics with comedic verbal sparring, the pair were a huge hit.
Laurel and Hardy officially became a team with the Hal Roach short Putting Pants on Philip. There was magic in that short and the duo would go on to star in 107 more films together. With the first established catchphrase (“Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!”) and laying the groundwork, Laurel and Hardy deserve recognition as the comedy duo founding fathers.
9Tina Fey & Amy Poehler
The all-boys club of comedy duos was crashed by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. The two started as co-anchors of Weekend Update on SNL, which morphed into classic pairings in hilarious skits. That in turn, became a brilliant duo in comedy films, starting with 2008’s Baby Mama.
Their formula is Fey’s uptight professional versus Poehler’s loose-cannon madcap persona. They replayed this in Sisters as well as hilarious cameos in Mean Girls and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. The women are friends in real life and incorporate their comedy duo act when they host awards shows.
8Chris Farley & David Spade
Though they only ever made two movies together, Chris Farley and David Spade rank as one of the best comedy duos. In a sad case of what could have been, their pairing was cut short by the tragic death of Farley. They did however leave enough hilarious collaborations to prove they belong among the greats.
In Tommy Boy, Spade plays an uptight sarcastic suck-up to Farley’s bungling force of nature man-child. It worked so well, they were brought back for the 1996 comedy Black Sheep to do the same thing. This oil and water mismatched pair had unlimited potential and, under different circumstances, could have been the best ever.
7Bob Hope & Bing Crosby
After the script for Road to Singapore was turned down by almost everyone in Hollywood, someone at Paramount Pictures had the brilliant idea of pairing Bing Crosby with Bob Hope, creating one of the most iconic comedy duos ever. The two would go on to co-star in six more Road to… films, capitalizing on their hysterical chemistry.
Crosby was the smooth-talking crooner and Hope was his zany wise-cracking sidekick. The two would often play hapless con men who ended up in competition for Dorothy Lamour’s attention. There was a lot of meta humor, fourth-wall-breaking, and song, but mostly just a couple of friends having a great time making people laugh.
6Gene Wilder & Richard Pryor
Silver Streak wasn’t supposed to be anything more than an action comedy on a train, but the electricity between Gene Wilder and Richard prior was too great to ignore. They were brought back for an even more frenetic pairing in the prison comedy Stir Crazy, as well as two other good, but less-funny films.
Their approach to the comedy duo formula was a bit unorthodox, but highly successful. Wilder was the naive “straight man” while Pryor was the street-smart comedy foil, but in reality, they were both high-strung guys on the verge of an emotional breakdown. Most impressively, much of their on-screen magic was improvised.
5Jay & Silent Bob
It is unclear how the View Askewniverse films relate to one another, but one unifier is the hilarious Jay and Silent Bob appearances. Played by Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith respectively, the comedy duo has appeared in nine films, including Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, and an animated feature.
Jay is a profane trash-talking instigator, while Silent Bob is, well, silent. They have radically different personalities, which is where much of their humor comes from, but in reality, they share similar interests: weed, women, and Morris Day. Their first appearance in Clerks, which stole the movie, was just the beginning for this hilarious pair of slackers.
4Simon Pegg & Nick Frost
Simon Pegg plays the nervous self-conscious nerd to Nick Frost’s lazy slacker with no accountability. The dynamic between the two is undeniably riveting, and it’s worked brilliantly to convince American audiences that British humor is in fact funny. The pair first teamed up in the British sitcom Spaced, and it was clear they had to branch out to film.
Pegg and Frost’s big screen debut together was the hilarious horror comedyShaun of the Dead, which showed how ineptitude and luck are the two biggest assets for surviving a zombie apocalypse. As a great comedy duo, the two have collaborated on a dozen hilarious projects from cameos to comedic film masterpieces like Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End.
3Martin & Lewis
Singer Dean Martin and comedian Jerry Lewis first met and teamed up at Atlantic City’s 500 Club, which solidified their ten-year reign as the top comedy duo at the time. They appeared together in nightclubs, on the radio, and on TV before hitting the big screen as the comic relief for the 1949 film, My Friend Irma.
They were an updated version of the Crosby/Hope pairing, with more of an edge. Martin was the suave lady’s man while Lewis played the madcap prankster. The chemistry between them was electric and audiences couldn’t get enough through the sixteen films they did together. Sadly, the brilliant comedy duo had a falling out and never made another movie together.
2Cheech & Chong
The typical straight man/funny guy formula for comedy duos went Up in Smoke, with Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong. There’s not one thing straight about these irreverent stoners. Cheech is an oblivious dude who likes marijuana and Chong is a clueless hippie who likes marijuana.
Cheech is a bit more of a schemer with Chong blowing up his plans, but neither of them is all that bright. The duo made their film debut in Up In Smoke and kept rolling the stoner comedy through Next Movie, Nice Dreams, Things Are Tough All Over, and Still Smoking. Ironically, they seemed most under the influence of the straight non-stoner comedy The Corsican Brothers.
1Abbott & Costello
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello didn’t invent the comedy duo, but they perfected it and laid the foundation for all others to come. Beginning in vaudeville, then transitioning to radio, the pair made the jump to movies with a small cameo in One Night In The Tropics, before erupting in the hilarious Buck Privates in 1941. This launched them into superstardom, becoming an even bigger box office draw than Clark Gable.
Laurel and Hardy may have established the skinny guy/fat guy mismatch, but Abbott and Costello created the blueprint for the straight man and goofball sidekick. Costello played off Abbott’s fast-talking level-headedness with counter-intuitive absurdity. Aside from creating the most famous comedy routine (Who’s on First?) this all-time great comedy duo cracked audiences up across 36 classic films.