How Melissa McCarthy became a comedic genius

How Melissa McCarthy became a comedic genius

Late bloomer

Text: Adibah Isa

Image: Getty Images,
United International Pictures Singapore

Melissa McCarthy's the first woman to win the Comedic Genius Award at the MTV Movie Awards. We chart her rise to stardom and how she became one of Hollywood's funniest

Who are you going to call for some good old, laugh-out-loud slapstick comedy?

Melissa McCarthy. The 45-year-old recently picked up the Comedic Genius Award at the MTV Movie Awards 2016 last weekend, one of the two big awards of the night (the other was the MTV Generation Award, given to Will Smith). As she crowd-surfed to the stage, each helping hand seemed to signify each milestone she's achieved in the last five years since her breakout role in 2011's Bridesmaids — each career move leading up to that very moment.

Not that the MTV Awards gives one a particularly esteemed or critic-approved recognition. We think it the younger, trashier, and louder sister of the Golden Globes — but it does give an insight to what the current, impressionable generation is digesting:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens bagged the movie of the year award, Chris Pratt took home the best action performance for Jurassic World and best kiss went to Rebel Wilson and Adam DeVine for their work in Pitch Perfect 2. Some wins also aligned with that of the Oscars: Leonardo DiCaprio for best male performance in The Revenant, and Amy for best documentary.

Credit: The Boss' Facebook page

McCarthy's recognition is a timely one. Her movie, The Boss, opened last Friday in America, taking the number one spot in the box office from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which had stayed on top for two consecutive weeks. She didn't just star as the lead Michelle Darnell — she also co-wrote it with her husband Ben Falcone, who also directed. Drawing on a character McCarthy created as a member of the Groundlings comedy troupe, the film also stars Kristen Bell, Peter Dinklage and Kathy Bates.

Her MTV award is also one for the ladies, in a time when Hollywood's major stars have continued to call out sexism in the industry. From Patricia Arquette's 2014 Oscar speech calling for wage equality among the sexes to Salma Hayek's 2015 Cannes comment on Hollywood's lack of investment in stories targeted at women, McCarthy's win is a triumph for females in entertainment — she's the first woman to be recognised as a "Comedic Genius" (past awardees include Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell). In her acceptance speech, the
Bridesmaids star singled out her comedic heroines: Carol Burnett, Jane Curtin, Phyllis Diller, Whoopi Goldberg, Teri Garr, Madeline Kahn, Lucille Ball, Gilda Radner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Diane Keaton, Tracey Ullman, Bette Midler, and Lily Tomlin.

Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Bell in The Boss


It's been a steady climb from being referred to as
Playboy playmate Jenny McCarthy's cousin in the 1997 television series, Jenny, to coming in third in Forbes' list of the world's highest-paid actresses in 2015. After playing Lorelai's klutzy best friend Sookie St. James for all seven seasons from 2000 to 2007 of the 'dramedy' Gilmore Girls (where she'll be reprising her role in the Netflix reboot) McCarthy acted in a string of independent comedies and supporting roles in somewhat forgettable romantic comedies such as The Back-Up (2010) and Life as We Know It (2010).

Melissa McCarthy as Sookie St. James in Gilmore Girls | Credit: Girlmore Girls' Facebook page
It wasn't until her breakout role in 2011's Bridesmaids that audiences sat up and took notice. She stole the show in the all-female ensemble cast, which also comprised of SNL favourites Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph. The Judd Apatow-produced movie was both a critical and commercial success, earning McCarthy an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, a BAFTA nomination and a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. After all, some of the most memorable lines were delivered straight from McCarthy's mouth: "I'm glad he's single, 'cause I'm going to climb that like a tree", and "Physically, I don't bloat. It's a gift."

McCarthy continued her comedic streak with leading film roles that often cast her a devil-may-care character — brazen, loud and refreshingly unapologetic. A frequent collaborator with director Paul Feig, she's starred in a number of his movies:
The Heat (2013) opposite Sandra Bullock, Spy (2015) with John Statham and Rose Byrne and the upcoming Ghostbusters, a revival of the comedy-horror franchise. Slated for release in July, it'll star McCarthy as one of the all-female ghost-busting foursome alongside more SNL favourites Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. Another frequent partner is her husband Falcone, who's acted as her love interest in Bridesmaids, directed McCarthy's lead role in Tammy (2014), and co-wrote and directed The Boss.

Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids

What's great about the former stand-up is her wicked talent that makes everything she does comically pleasing. McCarthy weaves both heart and humour in each performance, which is probably why her comedy is so damn accessible. Kathy Bates, her co-star in Tammy has even compared her to I Love Lucy's Lucille Ball, lauding McCarthy for her fearlessness. 
Even in movies that haven't garnered the critics' approval (The Boss is currently rated 18% on Rotten Tomatoes), her fans never fail to show up — she even thanked them for buying movie tickets in her MTV acceptance speech.

In another show of girl-bossing, she also mentioned her mother Sandy for her three nuggets of advice: Not to fear being the butt of the joke, not to worry about being likeable or perfect and to lovingly go for the kill. In her mother's eyes, and certainly in those of Hollywood's, McCarthy has done just that. 

For more coverage of the MTV Movie Awards, click here