Ryan Reynolds wants to make you laugh. No, scratch that. Ryan Reynolds needs to make you laugh. Whether it takes a clever, filthy tweet or a mischievous press interview, the Deadpool 2 actor is willing to do what it takes to convince you, and pretty much everyone else, that he is America’s funniest dad and A-list celebrity.
But why? Reynolds is an incredibly handsome and effortlessly charming actor and, historically speaking, incredibly handsome and effortlessly charming actors haven’t felt the need to be too funny. Demonstrate a sense of humor? Sure, but George Clooney chats about onset pranks. Reynolds seems to have gone full method on Twitter in an effort to bolster not only Deadpool marketing, but the popularity of a Van Wilderian persona. It’s a curious gambit that seems to work largely because Reynolds actually is funny (or is good at paying others to be funny). But to understand why the Canadian A-lister seems to have chosen social media as his hill to die on, it helps to understand his jokes in the context of a career.
Reynold’s determination to dominate American dad humor seems to stem from an understandable distrust of all things dramatic and serious. Despite having the looks of a leading man, Reynolds has a long history of chasing laughs onscreen. In fact, the actors’ initial rise in Hollywood was rooted primarily in comedy, as he brought his trademark wit and irreverence to roles in a variety of comedy movies and TV shows, including Scrubs, Just Friends, and, of course, his breakout role in Van Wilder. Nobody would have called Reynolds a comedian during this time, but he was understood to be a comedic actor.
Also, he was handsome.
Studios are sometimes befuddled by handsomeness. They see a face instead of a series of performances. They see the glint of white teeth, but not the snarl. This is what happened to Reynold after his initial comedy hits. He became the sort-of-funny guy in romcoms like Definitely, Maybe and The Proposal. He was suddenly supposed to be likable. He was, it’s fair to say, fine at this. Fine. His next role, in X-Men Origins: Wolverine wound up presenting a good metaphor for this late-early career period. He brought wild energy to the role and, in return for his efforts, got his mouth sewn shut.
And then it all nearly came to end. Green Lantern bombed so hard it nearly brought down Reynolds with it. It wasn’t just a critical disaster. It was a financial disaster and, if we’re to be honest, a crime against projector. The massive misfire was deeply unfunny. Reynolds played Hal Jordan as written: dull, flaccid, blank. And that almost ended it.