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5 Shows in Which Actors Play Worse Versions of Themselves

Photo of Alison Willmore By Alison Willmore | Indiewire April 12, 2012 at 10:30AM

Plenty of television shows have their stars, often comedians, playing fictionalized versions of themselves -- it's the simplest way to translate a stand-up act or other public persona to a scripted situation, from "The Jack Benny Show" to "The Cosby Show" to "Everybody Loves Raymond." But someone taking a regular gig that's centered around skewering him- or herself is a more contemporary phenomenon. Maybe it's because in this showbiz-savvy, invasive tabloid-happy era, we feel iike we have more a sense of an actor's private self (merited or not) and so are in on the joke, or maybe it's because there's no one you get freer rein to come down hard on than yourself.
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James Van Der Beek in 'Don't Trust The B---- In Apartment 23'
Adam Larkey/ABC James Van Der Beek in 'Don't Trust The B---- In Apartment 23'

Plenty of television shows have their stars, often comedians, playing fictionalized versions of themselves -- it's the simplest way to translate a stand-up act or other public persona to a scripted situation, from "The Jack Benny Show" to "The Cosby Show" to "Everybody Loves Raymond." But someone taking a regular gig that's centered around skewering him- or herself is a more contemporary phenomenon. Maybe it's because in this showbiz-savvy, invasive tabloid-happy era, we feel iike we have more a sense of an actor's private self (merited or not) and so are in on the joke, or maybe it's because there's no one you get freer rein to come down hard on than yourself.

The latest performer to embrace this idea is James Van Der Beek, who plays "himself" on the new sitcom "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23," the smarmy friend of Krysten Ritter's Chloe, still using his "Dawson's Creek" fame to get girls and lower-tier acting gigs (in real life, Van Der Beek's married with two kids and, you know, is a regular on a new network comedy). Here's a look at some other shows that have featured actors playing nastier, more inconsiderate, less successful or more embarrassing versions of themselves -- and not just in self-mocking cameos, but as cast members.

Larry David in "Curb Your Enthusiasm"

The "Seinfeld" co-creator took that show's abrasive themes to even greater highs and lows when staring in his own series on HBO in which he plays "Larry David," a semi-retired TV guy who doesn't know the meaning of letting something go. Much, if not all, of the action in "Curb Your Enthusiasm" depends on David's unwillingness or inability to change his behavior for the benefit of other people. It's both excruciating and fun to watch, but if someone were to act like that in real life, it could only be excruciating. As David told Rolling Stone, "As crazy as this person is, I could step into those shoes right now, but I would be arrested or I'd be hit or whatever."


Jennifer Grey in "It's Like, You Know..."

Created by Peter Mehlman, another "Seinfeld" alum, this short-lived sitcom starred Chris Eigeman as a devoted New Yorker who heads to L.A. to stay with his well-to-do friend and write a book trashing the town. That friend's neighbor? "Dirty Dancing" lead Jennifer Grey, whose career never recovered from her getting a nose job that changed her appearance enough to leave her unrecognizable. That fateful rhinoplasty became part of her character's storyline on the show, though the joke lost a lot of its lustre when it became evident the series wasn't going anywhere -- self-deprecation's easier to laugh at when there's clear evidence countering it.

This article is related to: Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, Television, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David, Life's Too Short, Warwick Davis, Steve Coogan, The Trip, Jennifer Grey, It's Like, You Know..., Louie, Louis C.K., TV Features





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