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The Rise of Jon Hamm
Imagine having a friend who suffered a tragic accident that put him into a coma in 2006 (or your mother-in-law, whatever makes you feel good). Now imagine that they woke up from their protracted slumber in 2011 and continued to read and hear about this “Jon Hamm character”. If they asked you to explain who he was, I imagine the conversation would go something like this:
You: Jon Hamm rose to prominence in 2007 when Mad Men started. Mad Men crushed it during awards season, and everyone loves Hamm’s performance on this show.
type of coma: That’s great. Does he look like a good guy?
You: That’s the thing. He looks like a extraordinarily nice guy. He adapts to all interview situations, isn’t afraid to make fun of himself (he seems to enjoy it, really) and loves sports. The ladies love him and the guys want to hang out with him.
type of coma: Glad to see that there are still nice people. He looks like a nice young actor.
You: Man, he is 40 years old.
Coma Guy (slightly in disbelief): 40?! Did he start playing a few years ago?
You: Actually, he was a recognized actor dating back almost 10 years before your coma.
type of coma: What was he doing before that?
That’s the thing, we don’t really know. When I say we don’t know, I don’t mean we don’t know what he was doing (thanks, IMDB), I mean we have no idea why this guy took so long to arrive where he is now. If you haven’t already, watch Hamm do his thing on Mad Men. He exudes charisma when he’s on screen, commands every scene he’s in, and can move grown men to tears in a pitch meeting. Since everyone now agrees that Jon Hamm is a superstar, why didn’t anyone see him 15 years ago?
A lot of people will say it’s not that bad because a lot of actors have become names later in life than Hamm. They will name people like Gene Hackman, Abe Vigoda, Dan George and a few other notable names. They will be right in their argument. The problem is that not one of these guys has reached the level that Jon Hamm is on right now. A rapid rise from obscurity to prominence is not uncommon (after all, isn’t everyone obscure before they are prominent?), but Hamm’s late rise is breathtaking to say the least. If an athlete had a sudden meteoric rise out of nowhere, we’d all excuse them for using performance-enhancing drugs (rightly or wrongly, I’m looking at you, Jose Bautista).
Therein lies part of the mystery of Jon Hamm. Not only is he now considered a superlative actor and A-list celebrity, you can’t find anyone who matters to say a crossword about him. I consulted my brother’s friend, Dr. Google, to see if Jon Hamm had any bad reviews. Google returned no results. He did his best, but the best he could do was have Hamm recall a bad review written by Tom Shales of The Washington Post. In the end, even he didn’t slam Hamm; he criticized Matthew Weiner’s direction and narration. I even tried typing “Jon Hamm sucks” and didn’t even get a loser complaining about Jon Hamm on an interweb forum somewhere.
Why doesn’t anyone have anything bad to say about Jon Hamm? Because there’s nothing bad to say about Jon Hamm. All those things you said to your friend/mother-in-law that came out of the coma are true. He does a great job of not taking himself too seriously by taking on various roles that make him look like a jester. He even earned 2 Emmy nominations for playing an idiot who ends up having both his hands chopped off. 30 Rock. He’s a woman killer (just ask the TV Czarina any woman) and a man at the same time. He dominated the small screen, and is now making inroads with the big screen (The city, the bridesmaids).
By the end of the year, he will be credited in 7 different shows/movies other than Mad Men. He’s everywhere, but nobody’s going to complain about that, because that would be speaking ill of Jon Hamm.
The TV Czar
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