Just for laughs

Chaplinesque … Szubanski as Sharon, with Gina Riley as Kim in <em>Kath & Kimderella</em>.
Chaplinesque … Szubanski as Sharon, with Gina Riley as Kim in Kath & Kimderella.

After roles in Babe, Happy Feet and Bran Nue Dae, Magda Szubanski is heading back to cinemas as the hapless Sharon in Kath & Kimderella. As one of the country's finest comic talents, what does she regard as the greatest comedy performances in movie history? When Spectrum asked Szubanski to nominate her favourites, she came up with a surprising list.

Charlie Chaplin in The Kid (1921)

Charlie Chaplin is my all-time favourite, because he has that ability to 'make 'em laugh, make 'em cry'. I find The Kid so incredibly moving. If in spirit Sharon resembles anyone it's him, although I wish I had the level of skill he had. He's like an elite gymnast. I'm someone who came in very sideways to comedy. I always feel like I'm just winging it, but I really love that old-fashioned, brilliant skill.

Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot (1959)

I would have seen Some Like It Hot 50 times or more. What a genius filmmaker Billy Wilder was but Jack Lemmon is impeccable. That moment when Tony Curtis says to him, 'Why would a guy wanna marry a guy?' and he goes, 'Security!' is so funny. And Marilyn Monroe is fantastic. I'm a bit of a lover of ensemble work. I love craftsmanship in anything. I'm probably part of the demise of that because I come from the punk era when not being slick at things was the intention.

Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie (1982)

Another one of my absolute favourites. It's also about a guy who has to cross-dress but it's an updated version. Those moments when he breaks out of the feminine, when he hits the guy when he's trying to get into the cab, are really funny.

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

There's an energy you get from improvisation - where you can be so real in the characters - that I absolutely love. People always go on about 'it goes up to 11'. For me, that's not the funniest moment. I really love the details: that they live in Squatney and the names - Nigel Tufnel and David St Hubbins - are just perfect. I went on my own to a cinema to see it. When they were singing Big Bottom, I was screaming with laughter.

Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)

I once had a night on the town with Maggie Smith talking about Scottish accents. They are really hard to do well. And what she does in Miss Jean Brodie is not just an Edinburgh accent but a Morningside accent - a very hoity, posh accent. This was one of the first times for me growing up when comedy felt relatable and possible, not on a conscious level, but something must have clicked in terms of women doing comedic performances. I suppose this film really resonated because of being half Scottish. When I started to feel in my teens that I wanted to be an actor, I wanted to be Maggie Smith.

Madeline Kahn in Clue (1985)

Clue is not a great film but Madeline Kahn is fabulous in anything. I was living in this house with a bunch of teenagers in the late '80s and they were rewinding the scene where she gives her explanation of why she committed the murder: 'I hated her, so much [she stammers] flames, flames, on the side of my face.' It's got to be improvised: you couldn't write that stuff. It's just hilariously funny.

Kim Jong-il, voiced by Trey Parker, in Team America: World Police (2004)

Kim Jong Il's song I'm So Ronery is one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen - comic genius. Team America really got stuck into the perceived sanctimoniousness of some Hollywood actors who are activists -

I thought a bit harshly - although all of those actors had a really good sense of humour about it. The film took no prisoners.

Edna Mode, voiced by director Brad Bird, in The Incredibles (2004)

I find Edna Mode absolutely hilarious. In fact, a little bit of me dies inside every time I watch her because I feel like it should have been me, which is a really bizarre thing to say about an animated character. I feel like somehow Brad Bird snuck into my brain and stole a part of me.

Bridesmaids (2011)

That scene in the bridal change room, I was screaming with laughter. Hopefully Bridesmaids finally put to bed the hoary old chestnut that women can't be funny and there's not money to be made from women being funny. It's incredible to me, because I come from a family where the women are really funny. My mother is 88 and still hilarious. Bridesmaids is a beautiful ensemble where everyone is given a fantastic role and they all shine.

Kath & Kimderella opens on Thursday.

This story Just for laughs first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.