Almost two years ago I wrote, “[Jason Mantzoukas] is WAY overdue for his own starring vehicle.” The everywhere That Guy of comedy, Mantzoukas has popped up on sitcoms like The League, Parks & Rec, Brooklyn 99, The Good Place,Transparent, and Big Mouth, and in movies like The Night Before and How to Be Single. He’s also one of the co-hosts of How Did This Get Made?, one of the best bad-movie podcasts out there. He’s hilarious, a total scene stealer, and he is finally—FINALLY—getting his due as a leading man. Mantzoukas stars in The Long Dumb Road, a road trip movie about a college-bound guy who picks up a reckless drifter (guess which one TV’s favorite dirtbag is playing). It looks solid, and mostly interesting for being Mantzoukas’s first starring role. And the title is apt, as it’s been a long, dumb road to leading man status for Zooks.
His long, winding path to stardom comes up in an interview in GQ. He says a casting director once warned him that “It's gonna take a while for you to work because nobody’s looking for you. Nobody’s looking for somebody that looks like you. They’re not picturing you when they’re writing the part.” What do you mean nobody is looking for a vaguely ethnic guy with big hair and crazy eyes? On one hand, I do see that casting director’s point. Mantzoukas doesn’t fit a mold, and Hollywood can be very unimaginative when it comes to casting. But he’s SO funny, that should—and eventually did—overcome any preconceived notions of what a character should look like. Also, the way he looks? Is hot. Jason Mantzoukas is hot. He looks like that guy at the bar that you see and you’re like, Danger Will Robinson, but then you start talking and quickly realize he’s the best guy in the place. And he’s funny and his voice is incredible, which only makes him hotter. If you look at Jason Mantzoukas and don’t see a hot guy, you’re not trying hard enough.
Mantzoukas is also in Vanity Fair, having a similar conversation about his winding path to stardom. It’s nice when a That Guy—or Gal—gets their due and finally gets a starring role, something Peak TV has been good at, and the tone of these interviews with Zooks is that everyone is really happy to see him finally arrive. He’s one of the funniest and most likeable people in comedy, and it’s about f-cking time he gets to be the star. And he is definitely on the rise. You know what his next movie is after The Long Dumb Road? John F-cking Wick. He’s playing “The Tick Tock Man”. Perfection.
Here is Mantzoukas on The Late Show, being funnier than Colbert knows what to do with.