Feb 26

What's so funny about fat people?

Eddie Murphy plays the loveable but chunky title character in “The Nutty Professor”

Hollywood’s obsession with fat suits: When will the hilarity, um, start?

 Who ever decided the fat suit was funny?

Fat suits — those plush wads of padding that turn svelte stars into porkers and leading men into plump elderly women — have become a kind of comic shorthand for Hollywood these days.

 Want a few cheap laughs? Stuff Eddie Murphy in a fat suit and insert some fart jokes. Making a movie musical? What about a grotesquely tubby John Travolta waltzing with Christopher Walken?

 Murphy, it would seem, has dedicated his latter-day career to the intricacies of “suiting.”

In his 1996 remake of “The Nutty Professor, he plays a good-hearted but grossly overweight professor, Sherman Klump and four members of his elephantine family. Desperate to lose weight, Sherman develops a formula to turn him into the slim sex machine Buddy Love (also played by Murphy).

Hot tickets sales led to a sequel (“The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps”) and another (“The Nutty Professor III,” due out in 2010), both  — surprise! — featuring Muphy in fat suits. 2007′s “Norbit” found him back in a fat suit — female this time.

Murphy’s hardly the only actor to plumb the comedic depths of portliness.

Martin Lawrence disguises himself as a large lady in “Big Momma’s House” and its sequel. Martin Short packs on the pounds as television interviewer Jiminy Glick. And triple threat Tyler Perry has squeezed multiple films out of his well-rounded character, Mable “Madea” Simmons, including 2002′s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” and “Madea Goes to Jail, now in theaters.

Continuing the fat suit-as-drag trend is “Mrs. Doubtfire, which famously found Robin Williams impersonating a grandmotherly Brit.

“Hairspray” serves as a fascinating example of male actors who routinely don dresses and padding to play Edna Turnblad, the over-sized washerwoman whose daughter, Tracy, dreams of TV stardom.

Large and in charge: John Travolta in “Hairspray” The original “Hairspray,” of course, starred drag queen Divine — the zaftig beauty who muscled his/her way through a series of John Waters flicks. Frog-voiced Harvey Fierstein took Mrs. Turnblad to Broadway with predictably hilarious results.

The 2007 remake has John Travolta singing and dancing in mammoth muumuus, his face and fame puffed with faux fat. It’s downright frightening.

Sometimes the fat suit is used for good — as a “big is beautiful” anthem, or a reminder about the destructive power of put-downs.

In “Shallow Hal, a grande version of Gwyneth Paltrow teaches chauvinist Jack Black about inner beauty.

Supermodel-turned-talk show host Tyra Banks said she was shocked by the “outright rude and hurtful” comments she got during a fat suit stunt. “Entertainment Tonight” had the suitcase-swinging beauties of “Deal or No Deal” blubbering after taking a padded stroll down Humiliation Lane (a.ka. Manhattan).

The fat suit phenomenon has become common that it’s even inspired super-sized parodies, such Jenna’s “Me Want Food” jaunt on the NBC comedy “30 Rock.

Chelsea Handler, host of the E! Online talk show “Chelsea Lately, bulked up for a bizarre bit in which she’s ogled by men admiring her “hot wide load.”

And what about Jeff Portnoy, Jack Black’s character in “Tropic Thunder”? Much like Eddie Murphy, he’s made his fortune portraying a family of rude, flatulent giants known as (what else?) “The Fatties.” (Tom Cruise also puts on a fat suit in the film as the appropriately named Les Grossman.)

In short, ladies and gentlemen, fat is funny — at least in the eyes of Hollywood.

The irony, of course, is that the entertainment industry passes over heavier talent almost routinely.

Pudgy men tend to have less of a problem. Just look at the successful careers of Kevin James, James Gandolfini and the Belushi brothers.

But Lord forbid the studios hire a plus-size actress. Larger gals in Hollywood are rarely comedic relief, much less leading women.

I say, chuck the fat suit.

In a nation where roughly two-thirds of the population is overweight or obese, there must be some big folks out there with fat resumes and tons of talent. (Just as there must be plenty of screenwriters with tact and sensitivity.) Let’s put this weighty issue to rest.

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  1. Pat

    Top three signs that a movie is going to be lame:

    1.) Preview features a guy getting kicked in the crotch.
    2.) Fart jokes
    3.) Fat suit

  2. Sandee

    Hollywood needs to find a middle ground. You get hired if you’re obese or if you’re an emaciated stick figure, nothing in between. Sarah Ramirez as “Callie” on Grey’s Anatomy is probably the hottest one on that show, and she’s the thickest of them all.

  3. David Middlecamp

    The only time Hollywood seems to hire large people is for reality shows. Then they deprive them of food for the “entertainment value”.
    Can we get beyond the Barbie Doll school of casting?

  4. Nick

    Fart jokes can be funny Pat if treated tastefully, of course.

  5. Piper

    Fat suits are lazy.

    But overweight people are funny. They get away with more because they are so conscious of their body, they use it for comedy. Think Farley, Belushi, Jack Black, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and even Will Ferrel is who isn’t necessarily fat or really funny any more.

    And John Travolta channeling Divine? Give me a break. I have yet to see this remake and probably will never do so.

    And by the way, I appreciate the use of the word “zaftig”. I haven’t seen or heard from that word in a long time.

  6. Alan Smithee

    The crowning masterpiece of fat humor was the “Simpsons” episode where homer gains weight to get on disability:

    “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” had some good fat humor of a sort in the form of John Goodman, Charles Durning and others. Chris Farley’s “Matt Foley” was funny.

    Monty Python’s Mr. Creosote from “The Meaning of Life” deserves an Irving Thalberg award.

  7. Erik

    All you feminists need to shut up. look at that fat chick from the parkers, or the fat chick, “Queen Latifa” Feminists disgust me always complaining about equal rights, shut up and lose some weight. No one really wants to see a fat chick in a movie where there could be a better male actor in a fat suit. Also, women in movies are supposed to be attractive if they’re not in a fat suit. Quite frankly, fat people are disgusting. I’m not fat and I don’t really care for fat people, but if it’s a suit it’s not nearly as bad. No nasty skin and cellulite. Shut Up feminists for the love of god…

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