It starts with the character’s look. Reilly’s physical appearance has always served him well as an actor. There’s something about the combination of his large frame and round, expressive face that makes him look not so much tall as overgrown, like a child stretched to adult proportions. This gives him an air of vulnerability that belies his size; it lends pathos to his dramatic performances, like the sad-sack cop in Magnolia, and a goofball naïveté to his comedic turns, like the fake music legend in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. It’s how a guy who’s six-foot-two can sing the ode to interpersonal invisibility “Mr. Cellophane” in the film adaptation ofChicago and earn an Oscar nomination, or pair up with the relatively diminutive Mark Wahlberg in Boogie Nights and come across like a natural sidekick.
In these strictly physical terms alone, Dr. Steve is his magnum opus, the idiot man-child he was born to play. Wearing a brown suit that’s at least two sizes too small, teasing his curly hair to fright-wig proportions, twisting his mouth and squinting his eyes to give his face a vibe of permanent confusion, Reilly leans into his quirks as Dr. Steve.
I wrote about how John C. Reilly’s turn as the title character on Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule is one of the best dang performances in TV comedy today for Vulture. I’ve been saying it for years and I’m so glad I got the chance to obsess on it publicly.