So maybe I was a little late to the party, but over the weekend I finally caught a screening of Observe and Report and as I wandered from the theater in a misanthropic haze, I began to wonder: Just how funny is Seth Rogen? Being hailed "the new hero of comedy" is a lot of pressure for anyone -- and don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I don't like the guy; I know he's a great writer and a whiz at improv, but after getting a load of the darker side of Rogen's range as Ronnie Barnhardt I was kind of happy to see that maybe he wasn't the soft and fuzzy stoner (not to mention one-note wonder) that Hollywood would like us to believe.
Think back to 1999 when Rogen made his acting debut in Judd Apatow's Freaks and Geeks as the acid tongued 'freak', Ken Miller; it was a role that was perfect for Rogen's sarcastic laid back style, and he's been doing a variation of it ever since. Whether it was Cal from 40 Year Old Virgin, Ben in Knocked Up, or Zack Brown in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, each character wasn't necessarily someone you wanted to bring home to Mom, but they charmed audiences nonetheless. Sure they were all kind of jerks, but they were all loveable jerks, and more importantly they were relatively 'toothless' when it came to their bad behavior -- compared to Ronnie, Officer Michaels was practically a choirboy.
But I think Observe and Report was a new chapter in Rogen's career. By playing Ronnie, Rogen showed us a character that wasn't necessarily a redeemable guy; in fact, he was downright unpleasant. Maybe I'm reaching here, but Report was Rogen's chance to break from the mold, and by golly he went at it with full force. Now I'm sure that when Funny People hits screens this July, and Rogen gets to work on The Green Hornet, we will be back to the loveable smart-ass we've seen so many times before. But it doesn't matter, because now every time I look at Rogen I'm going to know there's some dark stuff going on under the surface, and I don't think I would want it any other way. How about you?
As an added bonus, take a look at a young (and I mean young) Rogen tackle controversial topics like Jewish grandparents and summer camp in a clip from 1996. (Warning: Mildly NSFW)