In the upcoming comedy Masterminds starring Zack Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig, Galifianakis’ character David Ghantt is forced to flee to Mexico following his role in a massive heist. With his pants lined with stolen money, David dons a horribly inept disguise featuring a women’s wig with long flowing hair and contact lenses that resemble a cat eyes. Not exactly the most quick-witted individual, this absurd scenario underscores the criminal ineptitude of Ghantt.
All of which got us thinking about the most comically inept disguises over the years, those moments when desperation drives people towards woefully inadequate anonymity.
Charlie Chaplin – Shoulder Arms (1918)
World War I, or the Great War as it was known at the time, featured the most horrific warfare that mankind had ever seen. America was reluctant to join the fray, and only did so fairly late in the war. Reluctantly on the front lines and in the trenches was Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp in the classic silent short Shoulder Arms. Midway through the film and after a number of military related mishaps, Chaplin’s Tramp obscures himself from the Kaiser’s troops by disguising himself as a tree. It helps Charlie elude the German soldiers…for a little while.
Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis – Some Like it Hot (1959)
Having been witness to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, musicians Joe (Curtis) and Jerry (Lemmon) are forced to flee when the mob is out for them. The best way for these two swinging musicians to evade their would-be assassins by taking a gig with an all-girl band, which leads the two men to live in drag as they travel to a gig in Florida. Some Like it Hot is a farce by director Billy Wilder and co-writer I.A.L. Diamond is one of the all-time classic comedies, and an important cornerstone to the mythos of Marilyn Monroe. As the perfect bit of icing on the cake, Some Like it Hot features one of the greatest final lines in the history of cinema – “Nobody’s perfect.”
Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little – Blazing Saddles (1974)
In Mel Brooks’ amazing spoof of the western genre, Blazing Saddles, the nefarious robber baron Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) is set to conduct a violent raid on the town of Rock Ridge. Lamarr is rounding up the most unsavory characters to carry out his deeds. As he says, “I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists.”
Desperate to derail Lamarr’s plans, Sheriff Bart (Little) and the Waco Kid (Wilder) take up the most unfortunate of disguises, donning the robe and hood of a Klansmen. Of course, their foolproof plan isn’t foolproof when Bart’s skin exposes their ruse.
Monty Python – Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
The immortal comedy from Monty Python (John Cleese, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, and Graham Chapman), Life of Brian is a comedy that was engulfed in controversy during its release for what some perceived (sight unseen) as blasphemous comedy. However, the story of Brian of Nazareth (Chapman) was simply a parallel to the life of Jesus Christ, and the movie itself steers clear of controversial content with a unique blend of history and comedy.
With Roman centurions on the trail of Brian for defacing their building, he seeks refuge in the quaint headquarters of the People’s Front of Judea. When the Romans come knocking, the various members of the People’s Front do their best to obscure themselves by covering themselves in the most inelegant fashion possible. Luckily for them, the Roman centurions aren’t exactly the most adept at thorough investigation.
David Cross – Arrested Development (2003)
Of course, everyone is familiar with Robin Williams’ role as the crossdressing dad in Mrs. Doubtfire, but this concept is taken to an extreme by everyone’s favorite analrapist Tobias Fünke (Cross) in the legendary comedy series Arrested Development. With his marriage on the rock and his professional life in shambles, Tobias takes his cues from Doubtfire by employing a wretched British accent, a fat suit, and some unconvincing makeup to become Mrs. Featherbottom. For a character full of comic mishaps like Tobias Fünke, Mrs. Featherbottom is one the more iconic turns for David Cross’ conflicted character.
Andy Samberg – Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
It’s not easy being a popstar, even one as humble as Conner 4 Real (Samberg) in the Lonely Island’s recent movie Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. With thousands of adoring fans, Conner slathers his recognizable visage with an array of prosthetics so he can peacefully enjoy an evening at the club with his manager (Sarah Silverman). As Conner’s musical collaborator Owen (Jorma Taccone) notices, the disguise does make Conner resemble the actor Jason Segel.
Did we leave any of your favorites out? Weigh in the comments with your suggestions.