Welcome to TV Guide's 12 Days of Chris-Mas, a festive celebration of famous dudes named Chris. Every day leading up to Dec. 25, we will honor a single Chris, counting down to the best Chris of the year. Today, that honor goes to Chris Parnell, the eighth best Chris.
Chris Parnell has been the secret weapon in most of the good comedies of the past 15 or so years, and has been the best part of most of the bad ones, too. I could walk you through some highlights, and I will: grown-ish, Rick and Morty, Archer, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Hot Rod, Anchorman. He was in "Lazy Sunday," one of the most important pieces of comedy of the century so far (seriously). He was the only actor to not crack up in the legendary "More Cowbell" Saturday Night Live sketch. He played Dr. Leo Spaceman on 30 Rock, arguably the funniest character on a show where every character was the funniest character.
He's one of the most prolific actors in Hollywood (both live-action and voiceover) because he is the embodiment of a trope: the seemingly average, white, suburban, middle-aged man who's actually pathetic or oblivious or hypersexual or a cosmically weird blend of all three. His voice sounds trustworthy and authoritative, so of course everything he says is delightfully peculiar. Chris Parnell has become shorthand for the unhinged Everyman. He's so good at what he does that he and Andy Daly have a virtual duopoly on the category.
However, Parnell has never had a live-action leading role. Stating it baldly like that, it sounds disappointing, but it's actually fine, because a lead role would undercut his essential Chris Parnell-ness. His gift is as a supporting player. He shows up, steals the scene but also makes his scene partners look good, and gets out. He's a specialist. He's like Steve Kerr, coming off the bench and making championship teams even better, only instead of draining threes he makes sexually inappropriate comments and wildly inaccurate statements.
Not that I wouldn't welcome Parnell in a lead role, or in any role that allows him to showcase more range. I'm sure he would be great, because comic actors as good as Parnell can often do a lot. He has depths we have not seen him fully explore yet. But there's something to be said for finding what you're good at and sticking to it.
In closing, I will now transcribe a few of Chris Parnell's most iconic lines, which will make you laugh just by reading them because you'll hear how he said them in your head:
"I happen to be a kickass accountant." — Cyril Figgis, Archer
"F--- cats!" — Theo, Walk Hard
"If you want the shot, you're going to have to dance for it." — Dr. Leo Spaceman, 30 Rock
"Let's go start makin' another one!" — Tom, Saturday Night Live
"Poop! Poop mouth! Poop out of your mouth!" — Garth, Anchorman
I rest my case.