Big funny business

Big funny business
Actress Melissa McCarthy and husband, Ben Falcon who directed the movie, Tammy starring Melissa McCarthy.

Melissa McCarthy is fearless. No other word defines her so well.

The US comedienne is game for anything to get laughs on screen - even if that means developing a brash, lewd and obnoxious on-screen persona. Or just making herself a physical punchline.

McCarthy's certainly not your typical actress.

One New York critic once called her "a hippo" and "tractor-sized". Such unkind words are mere water off a duck's back to her.

The plus-sized actress goes against Hollywood stereotypes and expectations, and is not afraid of using her weight for laughs.

And it has worked. Since breaking out in 2011's raunchy comedy Bridesmaids - which also bagged her an Oscar nomination - McCarthy has had a string of box-office hits.

Wall Street Journal hailed her as a rarity - someone who guarantees a strong box-office run with nothing but her name above the title.

Of course, starring in a hit sitcom (Mike & Molly, just about to go into a fifth season) can't hurt the recognition factor.

Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Identity Thief, have collectively taken almost US$700 million (S$874 million) across the globe.

It is also noted that she's the first female comedic movie actor in decades to reach the A-list without making her name in a big-screen romantic comedy.

The 43-year-old is back on the big screen with Tammy, opening here tomorrow.


It came in a dream

The eponymous comedy centres on an unemployed woman who - after losing everything - decides to take a road trip with her profane, alcoholic grandmother (Susan Sarandon). The film is the brainchild of McCarthy's husband, actor Ben Falcone.

Said McCarthy to Access Hollywood: "He had a dream... He literally came down blurry-eyed, hair all over the place, and said, 'I had the weirdest dream and I think I should write it. You go on a road trip with your grandmother. She's an alcoholic... And I think she sleeps around.'"

Tammy is a milestone for the couple who met 16 years ago at a writing class at Los Angeles' famed improv school The Groundlings.

Not only is it co-written by the duo - they wrote it six years ago - the comedy is also McCarthy and Falcone's first outing as big-screen producers with their two-year-old production company On The Day.

It also marks Falcone's debut as a director, which was something of a risk given the 40-year-old's resume is largely made up of one-off TV roles and small cameos in his wife's films.

He's the air traffic marshal who ended up in McCarthy's bed in Bridesmaids, a hotel clerk in Identity Thief, an ex-boyfriend in The Heat, and in Tammy, he's the boss who sends her packing. But directing gigs? Zero.


Absolute faith

McCarthy has downplayed any fears and has absolute faith in her husband of nine years. She told Variety: "Ben has always been great with big picture and minutiae."

The power couple, dubbed the new Brangelina by US media, are banking on McCarthy's unique brand of comedy for Tammy to hit. Falcone has little doubt that his wife's hot streak will continue to soar.

"She's done so well," he told Variety. "You want to help continue that. But then if you're given an opportunity, you have to take it. You can't say, 'Oh boy, what if this doesn't work?' "

Even McCarthy's Heat co-star Sandra Bullock is confident of her close friend's star power.

She told Variety: "Melissa has no (filter). She has no problem humiliating you or herself when she works. It's all or nothing for her, and I think audiences feel that."

The duo is already planning another comedy called Michelle Darnell, based on a self-help guru character McCarthy first unveiled in the Groundlings. Falcone again will direct his wife.

The couple has also reunited with Bridesmaids' director Paul Feig for Spy, a comedy that sees McCarthy in the lead role as a secret agent.

But there's also St Vincent, which opens here in October.

Again, McCarthy is striking out to prove herself. She plays a divorced mother, a role she fought for to show others she can do more than bring the laughs.

Filming aside, McCarthy also devotes time to her daughters, aged 7 and 4, and her fashion business - a clothing line called Pearl that she started with couture dressmaker Daniella Pearl in 2011.

McCarthy, who initially considered a career in fashion, told Redbook that she started the line because she "couldn't find anybody to do a dress for me".

But it's laughter that provides her primary drive. McCarthy credits her success to her ability to laugh at herself and to keep things real. "You're supposed to be the butt of the joke," she told CBS.

"My main thing is, tickets are expensive. I want someone... To be like, 'Oh my God, I completely lost myself for an hour-and-a-half. I just laughed myself silly.'"

She added: "I'd like to not horribly embarrass myself in the process. But I may have blown that."


You go on a road trip with your grandmother. She's an alcoholic... and I think she sleeps around...
- Melissa McCarthy on how Ben Falcone dreamed up Tammy

I'd like to not horribly embarrass myself in the process. But I may have blown that.
- Melissa McCarthy

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