After teaming up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Thor and Valkyrie, Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson reunite on the big screen with Friday’s release of Men in Black: International. The success of this sequel-slash-spinoff of the original franchise—this time, the focus is on the London branch of the super-secret organization that protects mankind from rogue aliens on Earth—may rest on how well its new stars can fill the void left by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, a duo defined by their “wild card vs. unamused straight man” banter. Which is another way of saying that the success of Men in Black: International rests on Chris Hemsworth’s ability to be funny.
“Chris Hemsworth is actually really funny!” is not a particularly groundbreaking observation in 2019. Just three months ago Hemsworth was wearing a fat suit, slamming IPAs, and playing Fortnite against noobmaster69 in Avengers: Endgame. But it wasn’t that long ago when Hollywood overwhelmingly considered Hemsworth to be a prototypical movie star better fit for biographical dramas like Rush and In the Heart of the Sea. For a while, Hemsworth’s preposterously good looks masked his greatest talents. Similar to how Tom Hardy has the soul of a character actor in the body of a conventional movie star, Hemsworth has the chops of a comedian in the body of a Norse god.
How did we get from Rush to Fat Thor? Let’s rewind and explore how Hollywood slowly came to the realization that Chris Hemsworth is actually a really funny dude.
Prior to his leading role in Thor, Hemsworth’s Hollywood résumé was remarkably thin, highlighted by a brief appearance in J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek reboot as Captain George Kirk and a role in the mystery-thriller A Perfect Getaway as guy named Kale. As much as Thor introduced a new character to the eventual Avengers ensemble, it also introduced most audiences to Hemsworth.
Part Shakespearean drama, part fish-out-of-water comedy, the best parts of Thor were when the film leaned into the latter. As Agard’s God of Thunder sent to Earth, he struggled to adapt to the nuances of being a regular human being. For example, he didn’t quite understand that after enjoying a cup of coffee one should not smash it on the ground and yell “ANOTHER!”
They’re somewhat few and far between, but moments like the diner scene—or the scene in which Thor sincerely asks a pet store owner if he has any horses to ride—are the best parts of the early MCU entry. While it would take one more underwhelming standalone Thor movie (the wholly forgettable Thor: The Dark World) before Marvel realized they ought to embrace the character’s playful, surfer-bro charms instead of doing Space Hamlet, it’s worth remembering that the goofy elements of Thor were present in Hemsworth’s earliest depiction. The MCU had Funny Chris Hemsworth long before they realized.
2012: The Cabin in the Woods
While filmed in 2009, The Cabin in the Woods was delayed for years due to the financial struggles of its initial production company, MGM. But once the film was finally released in 2012 through Lionsgate, there were a couple silver linings: For one, it was through Cabin in the Woods that Joss Whedon, who was a co-writer, discovered Hemsworth, which led him to be cast in Thor; secondly, it was Hollywood’s first great use of Hemsworth as a punch line.
In the film, he plays Curt, the prototypical hunk who, in most horror movies, would be a group’s savior. Indeed, for a while, it plays out that way, as Curt hops on his motorbike, says he’ll ride over a canyon like a badass, and get help for his friends—you know, typical hero stuff. But instead, Curt rides the bike straight into a force field, which kills him on impact:
While the humor of the moment comes from the way Cabin in the Woods darkly-yet-hilariously subverts the horror movie trope of the hunky protagonist saving the day, some credit should go to Hemsworth, who gamefully plays Curt with straight-on earnestness, which helps the twist land so well. But most importantly, Cabin in the Woods is an important point in Funny Chris Hemsworth’s journey, as it lays out the ways in which Hollywood might use the actor for comedy’s sake.
After Thor put Hemsworth on the map, he began appearing in dramas—Michael Mann’s Blackhat, Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea and Rush—while sprinkling in more appearances in MCU movies. It wasn’t until 2015 that Hemsworth got his first role in a straight-up comedy.
In Vacation—a continuation of the National Lampoon franchise, serving as a soft reboot—Hemsworth is Stone Crandall, a rich Southern dude whom Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) encounters on his travels. Vacation, it’s worth stressing, is quite bad—but the film did use Hemsworth as a douchey, aloof bro who doesn’t think helmets are cool and has no problem flashing his junk in front of Helms and Christina Applegate.
Vacation’s not going to make Hemsworth’s highlight reel—and it’s hard to tell whether the Southern accent is intentionally awful or he’s just struggling to keep the Aussie out of it—but the film does set the stage for him to star in more comedies rather than merely adding comedic elements to his parts in MCU movies.
2015: Hosting Saturday Night Live, Twice
In 2015, Chris Hemsworth hosted SNL not once but twice—he’s basically a comedic legend. Typical of SNL’s recent years, not all of the sketches Hemsworth starred in were particularly memorable, but both appearances yielded some hilarity. In his March appearance in the lead-up to Avengers: Age of Ultron, Hemsworth played Thor celebrating the end of a battle against Ultron like it was a sporting event. Contrast the Thor of the Avengers movies with a superhero who high-fives strangers and plugs his SoundCloud; the sketch inadvertently hews closer to the persona Thor would embody in Ragnarok and beyond. We may not have realized it at the time, but we were basically witnessing the birth of a new Thor.
The following December, Hemsworth returned to SNL—and this time, the breakout sketch of the episode played on Hemsworth’s status as a hunky celebrity. Sitting down for brunch with some girlfriends, “Claire,” whom the group slowly realize is actually just Hemsworth in a wig, dress, and heels, keeps steering the conversation back to how much of a hottie Chris Hemsworth is in those Thor movies. When Aidy Bryant contends that Liam Hemsworth is, in fact, the hottest Hemsworth, Claire blurts out that Liam was still breastfeeding at age 4; he also keeps ending sentences with “amirite, bitches?!”
Hosting SNL is a solid litmus test for an actor’s comedic ability, and after two successful appearances in a short period of time, it was clear Hemsworth could deliver laughs at a high volume.
The online toxicity surrounding Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters remake distracted from one of the high points of the film, Hemsworth’s scene-stealing turn as Kevin.
Riffing on the ditzy secretary trope, Kevin was an ineffectual goofball whose expertise in graphic design was limited to drawing a ghost with big boobs. The moment when he scratches his face through empty glasses frames— “They just kept getting dirty, so …”—is perhaps the movie’s best physical gag. And he even got to boogie his way through the end credits.
As Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon told Graham Norton in 2016, Hemsworth was also legitimately hilarious on the set. “He was funny like a guy who’s had to fight his way off a playground his whole life and he had to be funny, so he did,” McCarthy put it, which is quite a compliment for a dude who had already been named People’s Sexiest Man Alive.
2016: Team Thor Sketches
With Captain America: Civil War essentially serving as another Avengers movie, fans wondered: Where were Thor and Hulk, and what the hell were they up to during this paradigm-shifting conflict? Team Thor, directed by Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi, was a web series intended to bridge that information gap. You see, Thor moved in with a normal human roommate in Australia named Darryl, and Bruce Banner visited him and they grabbed some coffee while Thor wondered why Tony Stark and Captain America were fighting and ignoring his emails.
Shot in a mockumentary style similar to What We Do in the Shadows, the series is, obviously, not MCU canon—if only!—but it effectively establishes the tone that Waititi would set in Ragnarok. Team Thor is a fun, quick watch, and a helpful precedent for understanding how much the character’s personality—and how Hemsworth would portray him—would change for the remainder of the MCU.
2017: Thor: Ragnarok
OK, so here’s what Thor and the Hulk were really up to between Civil War and Infinity War: They were fighting goth Cate Blanchett in space. Ragnarok isn’t just one of the MCU’s strongest entries, it’s among the funniest films in the MCU. Much of that comes down to Waititi, an auteur who made a name for himself writing and directing oddball indie comedies in his native New Zealand, and who turned Thor from a self-serious god with a penchant for melodramatic soliloquies into, frankly, a really good hang.
Ghostbusters was a compelling hint, but Ragnarok solidified it: Hemsworth is a gifted comedic actor. Ragnarok wouldn’t work if he wasn’t—his good looks are part of the fun, but Hemsworth also brings a charismatic goofiness befitting a character who used to take himself so seriously. Seemingly overnight, Thor went from being an MCU hero with too much import to the overarching plot to a beloved character we couldn’t get enough of.
2018: Crocodile Dundee Tourism Spot
In the lead-up to Super Bowl LIII, trailers hit the internet intimating that Danny McBride and Hemsworth had teamed up for a Crocodile Dundee reboot. It didn’t take a lot of online sleuthing to discover this wasn’t the case, and that actually, Hemsworth was an ambassador for Tourism Australia and the trailers were the country’s big spot for the Super Bowl.
Incredibly, it wasn’t clear to Hemsworth whether he was supposed to be playing a character or himself. The director, Steve Rogers (no relation to Captain America), apparently told Hemsworth, “We don’t really know either. Just have fun with it.” Whatever the case, Hemsworth’s own country was willing to have him star in a funny commercial that aired during one of the biggest sporting events of the year, which is a delightful endorsement.
2018-19: Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame
With Funny Chris Hemsworth fully unleashed, it was time to insert his new charms into the Avengers. In Infinity War, Thor does undergo an underrated amount of trauma: He watches his brother Loki get choked to death by Thanos, fails to kill Thanos, and then watches half of the universe’s population get decimated. Somehow, among all that, he’s also really damn funny. He affectionately refers to Rocket Raccoon as “sweet rabbit” and also reveals that he learned how to speak Groot by taking it as an “elective” in Asgard.
But of course the culmination of Funny Chris Hemsworth occurs in Endgame with the introduction of … Fat Thor. Depressed and defeated, presiding over New Asgard—which is apparently the same coastal town Aquaman used to hang out at in Justice League—the Thor we reunite with after an early time-jump in Endgame has gained weight and is spending all of his time playing Fortnite and chugging beers with Korg. It was sad to see how Thor had coped with his failure to stop a cataclysmic event—it was also undeniably funny to see Chris Hemsworth in a fat suit wearing the same outfits as the Dude from The Big Lebowski.
It’s unclear (minor spoilers) whether Thor will be integrated into future MCU movies or allowed to retire like Captain America and Iron Man. It’s entirely possible he shows up in at least one more Marvel flick, since by the end of Endgame he’s attempting to rebrand the Guardians of the Galaxy as the “Asgardians of the Galaxy.” Guardians 3 is happening, and while Hemsworth has more than earned his MCU retirement, too much of that time was spent on a character its creators didn’t realize could be as funny as the actor portraying him. So consider this a plea: Please put Thor in Guardians 3, and please give Hemsworth another fat suit.
Chris Hemsworth is shockingly good at comedy—this is an indisputable fact. Going forward, he doesn’t have much on the docket aside from starring in a Hulk Hogan biopic, which is, uh, an extremely kind gesture to Hulk Hogan. But Hemsworth’s still got movie star good looks, and more importantly, he’s willing to make himself a punch line and knows how to deliver funny material when it’s presented to him. Save the majority of the action movie heroics for the other Hollywood Chrises—Hemsworth is far and away the best Comedy Chris.