Athletes Who Actually Make Funny Commercials
When someone lands an acting gig, and his day job is anything besides "actor," he's graded on a generous curve. This holds true for summer blockbusters and local commercials alike.
Despite the low expectations, non-actors often give a performance on-screen so stilted—so terrible—that no curve can salvage it. Few celebrities are more guilty of these acting atrocities than athletes, and no situation is more ripe for failure than one where an athlete is supposed to be funny.
Since some commercials featuring athletes trying to both (gulp) act and be funny are so freakin' bad that they transcend failure and give us the commercial equivalent of The Room, usually your first instinct is to cringe.
However, such a large margin for error presents a great opportunity for a solid performance to far exceed expectations—to transform a good job into a great one.
When an athlete nails it (on a curve or especially on his own merit) everything comes together, and a hilarious, effective commercial is born. This may be a rare phenomenon, but that just makes it even more precious.
These are athletes who actually made legit, funny commercials.
In addition to his tragically Canadian sensibilities (a joke from a gloriously Canadian movie, so don’t freak out, Canada), aging Laker Steve Nash is also pretty small for an NBA player, which adds up to a pretty good sense of humor.
Although he doesn’t actually speak until the final seconds of the spot, Nash’s “Are You Nash Enough” spot for Vitamin Water Canada is hilarious and a fantastic demonstration of his dance moves. Nash has done other great commercials for Vitamin Water, as well as EA Sports.
Peyton Manning tends to get most of the credit for being the funny Manning brother, but Eli has proved time and time again that comedy chops run in the family.
Eli easily hangs with Peyton in commercials for Oreo and DirecTV, usually stealing the spotlight. And, like his brother, he was one of the better athletes to ever host Saturday Night Live.
To be fair, the Old Spice commercials starring Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker are comedy gold that would likely work with almost any other semi-likable athlete replacing him. They’ve got a formula that just works.
That being said, Welker is great in them, and we already know the guy is funny.
You don’t continually (and deliberately) rankle Bill Belichick and systematically drop 10 foot references in a single press conference to slag off a division rival coach without a very sizable funny bone.
Perhaps taking a page from the book of teammate Blake Griffin, Clippers superstar point guard Chris Paul has found himself in the starring role of funny ad campaigns pretty regularly in the last few years. That, coincidentally, happens to align with his time playing with Griffin.
CP3’s State Farm commercial was particularly well received, as were his videos to promote the spot. Paul has also starred in a Foot Locker commercial with Griffin, an NBA on ESPN spot and a Nike spot with Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade, among others.
It should come as no surprise that the always ostentatious Deion Sanders can deliver the funny in a commercial. Then again, if you saw him host Saturday Night Live back in his heyday, perhaps it’s a little bit of a surprise.
Sanders, now clearly ready for prime time, was pretty good alongside the Manning brothers as a DirecTV fairy in recent years. Nevertheless, it was in the NFL Network Super Bowl commercial, “Leon Sandcastle,” that Sanders really shined.
Timberwolves big man Kevin Love is one of those guys that has to be funny. Even though he’s great at basketball, being that big and that pale really requires a sense of humor.
Golf great Tiger Woods is known as a serious dude. He’s privacy obsessed, inexplicably driven and, given his notoriously scandalous past, understandably weary of the media.
All that aside, Woods has also proved himself a very solid comic performer (carefully chosen wording, given that I don’t believe he’s a super funny guy) in a few commercials.
Retired footballer David Beckham is probably best known in the U.S. for his super sexy and smoldering H&M commercials, which (through the grace of God) have aired during the last few Super Bowls.
As it turns out, though, Becks is more than just a piece of (very beautiful) meat. This BBC Sport commercial from 2012 is one of the funniest athlete commercials I’ve ever seen.
“Serious as a heart attack” is one of the best ways I can think of to describe former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, which is why it’s such a surprise that the guy can actually be funny sometimes.
Lewis was good in those ridiculously over-the-top Old Spice commercials a few years ago, but the series of Madden NFL 13 spots he did with actor Paul Rudd—a Steelers fan—back in 2012 were even better.
Kobe Bryant & Lionel Messi
Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and Barca superstar Lionel Messi have starred in two—of what will hopefully become a long-running series—commercials for Turkish Airlines.
They were both surprisingly understated and fantastic in “Legends on Board” last year. This year’s “Selfie Shootout” is one of the few sequels that manages to outdo the original.
Dodgers relief pitcher Brian Wilson wasn’t particularly well known as a middling and mediocre reliever for the Giants. Apparently, that insane beard of his is the source of all of his comedy (and money-making) superpowers.
Wilson trademarked “Fear the Beard,” but what he really wants you to do is laugh at it. In the last few years, Wilson has done some legitimately funny commercials for NBA2K12, ESPN, Taco Bell and MLB 2K11.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is another athlete who comes across as completely devoid of a sense of humor when dealing with the media but is obviously a very funny guy to be around in real life and less official situations.
His penchant for photobombing is well documented and popular enough with fans to have an entire website dedicated to it. Rodgers has done funny commercials for Pizza Hut, Associated Bank and the Milwaukee Brewers, but the State Farm ads are definitely fan favorites.
Thunder superstar Kevin Durant may not have the hardware to legitimately challenge LeBron James for NBA supremacy at the moment, but he’s definitely got King James beat in the comedy department. LeBron may be great, but he doesn’t have a king-sized sense of humor.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is, without question, one of the funniest acting athletes ever. He doesn’t seem particularly comical or fun loving in his real life, but he certainly knows how to fake it with a camera in his face.
Manning’s series of commercials for MasterCard back in the day were nothing short of glorious (Cut that meat! Cut that meat!). He’s also done some noteworthy spots for Sprint, Oreos, DirecTV and—although it was fake—the United Way.
Clippers power forward Blake Griffin is one of the most commercially bankable stars in the NBA, thanks in large part to his penchant for posterizing opponents with some of the most brutally disrespectful dunks the league has ever seen.
Griffin’s comedic abilities also add greatly to his bankability—he famously interned for Funny or Die back in the fall of 2011. Since then, he’s starred in hilarious commercials for GameFly, Kia, ESPN, Foot Locker and VISO Games.