What John Candy Had That We Miss in Actors Today
Photo: Patti Gower/Toronto Star (Getty)
Hard to believe it’s been more than 20 years since John Candy left us. Today, actors of the new outrage era are under so much pressure to deliver, whether it’s over perfectly scripted words in which every other sentence has to be hilarious or their improv has to be virally infectious.
While it’s never been more different to get a laugh out of people, we look back to ‘80s comedy and some of the great John Candy roles to see a natural talent, whose lines weren’t always perfect, but his presence was felt immensely. Maybe it had something to do with the fact he weighed about 300 pounds. Now have a look at some of the things John Candy had that we’ve lost in actors today, and then you’ll really want to watch some Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
You could feel the humor in his presence
Have you ever met the kind of person who could make you laugh before they even open their mouth? It’s an exceptionally rare quality, but Candy, being the jolly blonde giant he is, had a natural comedic presence. Whether it’s because he looked somewhat cartoonish or because he weighed in more than the average comedian, you could feel his humor in his work even if the TV was muted.
He never tried to change for Hollywood
Perhaps that’s why he, like most comedy actors, died of tragic early deaths. They lived it up, ate well and had their laughs. They weren’t pandering to the public eye, trying to transform into some skinny, publicly acceptable reflection of themselves, unlike some actors we see now (ahem, Jonah Hill). Candy knew his strengths and played to them, much like someone who can play the shit out of a harp doesn’t switch to the guitar to be adored by strangers.
He was the original Chris Farley
Comedy was big in the ‘80s, but big comedy was something Candy brought into the mix, making way for more big comedy greats like Chris Farley, John Belushi and other late SNL greats. These kinds of guys were known for being sweet men with good hearts who weren’t afraid to make asses out of themselves. They made people laugh, and although they left us early on, their bigness carries over to today, which isn’t necessarily something comedic actors today (Bill Hader, Seth Rogen) will have an easy time doing.
His comedies were natural and realistic
The greatest comedies of all time feel effortless. Films like The Great Outdoors and Stripes weren’t necessarily great because of their concept. They were stories with inordinacy actors trying to be ordinary and failing, and now they’re classic films. Movies like Dumb & Dumber and Tommy Boy followed suit in the ‘90s.
Comedy nowadays is like real life hopped up on comedy cocaine, where every line has to be funny, and the crowds have become desensitized with higher expectations.
He knew what he was good at and stuck to it
Unlike Jim Carrey and many of today’s actors, John Candy wasn’t looking to diversify his acting portfolio. He was a comedy actor, plain and simple. Jim Carrey went on a comedy rampage in the ‘90s, only to turn to dramatic roles. Aside from his recent Dumb & Dumber To, we haven’t seen nearly as much comedy from him as we used to. Candy, on the other hand, stuck to laugh grabbing for the most part, whether he was the lead in Summer Rental or a side character in National Lampoon’s Vacation.
There will never be another Uncle Buck
Try as much as you like in the era of terrible reboots, but you can never replace Uncle Buck with anyone other than John Candy. Even simple roles that seem easy to replicate have his fingerprints all over them. There will never be another John Candy, much like there will never be another Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman or Jim Varney.
He made other people great, if only briefly
The measure of a true talent is someone who makes those around him magnificent, even if it’s only for the period of time they’re together. It’s kind of like how Michael Jordan made Scottie Pippen even greater, but then Pippen went and lost his hot wife all on his own. Candy made people better, like Macaulay Culkin, whose career was launched with Uncle Buck in 1989, just one year before Home Alone. Look where that kid went without Candy in his pocket: down the crapper.
He rolled with the best of them
You don’t get to roll with the comedy greats unless you’re one of the comedy greats. Whether Candy was doing Stripes with Bill Murray, Planes, Trains and Automobiles with Steve Martin or The Great Outdoors with Dan Aykroyd, it became evident that Candy was right up there with them. He did 10 films alongside SNL alum, which is more than any other actor has done. Steve Martin even moved in with Candy’s family after his death to help out, and Aykroyd gave his eulogy. That’s a good measure of success.
He was very prolific for a big guy
Despite turning down the role of Louis Tully in Ghostbusters, which might’ve potentially been one of his most iconic roles, Candy did 30 movies in his final 10 years. While he got his start in TV in the ‘70s, he didn’t appear in film until 1976, but the ‘80s is when he really took off. He had a lot of laughs to give inside that big boy body. We just wish he could’ve made Ghostbusters even better, as if that were possible. He did, however, appear in the Ghostbusters music video for the Ray Parker Jr. song. What a guy!
Candy was sweet
Like all candy (save for disgusting black licorice), John was considered one of the most genuinely kind people to those who knew him, all 300-plus pounds. In an industry where ego runs rampant, Kardashians have their own TV shows and comedies are at an all-time low, resting on the laurels of the past for reinvention, we are reminded that John Candy was part of the comedy machine that is as irreplaceable as it is incredible.
We should all be a little more like John Candy, especially if your name rhymes with Bonah Till.