Michael Keaton Was a Stand-Up Before He Started Acting: 'I Was So in Love with Comedy'

Michael Keaton could've gone with the funny route instead of acting

Michael Keaton almost had a very different career.

The Dumbo actor, 67, stopped by the Ellen DeGeneres Show where he connected with DeGeneres, 61, on their comedy background. Turns out, Keaton did some stand-up before his acting career took off.

“I really wanted to be an actor but I was so in love with comedy and I started to write a little bit and I started doing stand up in New York, actually,” he explained, adding that he didn’t do stand-up for that long. “And [then] I went to acting class and started getting more roles. But I really, really only want to be great at something, so I threw the focus kind of into acting as opposed to stand up.”

Keaton then complimented DeGeneres’ recent Netflix special Relatable, which marked her return to the stand-up stage after taking time off to focus on her show. And her special reminded Keaton of how good stand-up can be when it’s done well.


“The thing about it is, when it works, and I mean when it’s really working right at that point where you want it, there’s nothing close to it, I don’t think,” he said.

The actor also opened up about his character in Dumbo, where he plays the corporate bad guy swooping in to buy the struggling circus from Danny DeVito’s character. And there was one piece of the process he wasn’t totally happy with.

“But the wig, here’s the deal on the wig — I hate sitting in the makeup chair,” he said. “And I’ve worked with some nice, unbelievably talented people and I enjoy their company, but I just don’t like being there. I just want to show up and go to work.”

Michael Keaton, Eva Green and Colin Farrell in Dumbo. Walt Disney Studios

But when he imagined his character, he saw Vandevere wearing a wig. It only took suggesting it once to director Tim Burton for him to unfortunately jump on board.

“I go, ‘Hey Tim, what do you think about a wig?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, wear a wig!’ And I thought, ‘S—, now I gotta wear a wig.’ “

Dumbo flies into theaters March 29.

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