A true New Yorker, Hank Azaria was born in Queens in 1964. He followed his acting dreams and trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and hasn’t looked back since. His early career saw him taking up the usual assortment of bit parts but then, in 1989, he was signed on as a cast member of The Simpsons and the world of acting opened up for him. While majoring as a voice actor, Azaria has starred on screen in big budget films and—probably the role for which he is most globally renowned—as David, in Friends (why Phoebe turned down his proposal, we will never know). Whatever he does, on screen or off, Hank’s personality shines through. So let’s take a look at some of his finest acting moments.
15 Godzilla (1998)
In 1998, Godzilla was released to the world. This summer blockbuster sees Manhattan under threat from a giant reptilian beast, with the fate of the nation hinging on the investigative powers of scientist Dr. Niko Tatopoulos. But, in a side plot, we see Azaria take on the role of Victor ‘Animal’ Palotti, an opportunistic cameraman. Long before the days of video phone and Instagram, reporters were the first to get the big scoop on news stories and Victor was ready to risk his life to get the story of his career. Alongside his on-screen reporter, Audrey Timmonds, Victor ventures into the unknown. Azaria’s anxious style fits perfectly in this setting (even the bravest of us would be feeling apprehensive with a dinosaur lurking round the corner).
14 Friends: The One with the Monkey (1994)
Hank made his first appearance as Phoebe Buffay’s true love, David, in 1994. Can you believe it’s been 23 years since we saw him win over her heart in the coffee house, after debating with his fellow scientist about her being the most beautiful woman he had ever seen? His nerdy charm—well before geek chic had become a desirable male trait—won her over. But this episode didn’t have a happy ending and Phoebe’s hopes at happiness are dashed when David tells her that he is going to work in Minsk (which, by the way, is not in Russia). Normally a comedian, Hank is able to play this emotional role beautifully, even if he does break Miss Buffay’s heart. But this isn’t the last we saw of him.
13 Run Fatboy Run (2007)
In 2007, Azaria brought his comic genius to the film Run Fatboy Run, in his role as Whit. The film centers on Dennis, who is trying to win back the love of his life. What Dennis hasn’t bargained for is that Libby, the woman he left at the altar, is now shacked up with an Adonis. That’s right—Azaria clearly attended more than a few gym sessions in preparation for this film. On top of his hot body, Whit is also a very successful business man. But he does have his flaws and as the film goes on, we start to learn just what a jerk he really is. Despite his charming nature off screen, Hank pulls of this sleazy character with ease—leaving us all ROTFL.
12 The Simpsons: Chief of Hearts (2010)
Hank takes on the upstanding role of police chief at the Springfield Police Department. However, he isn’t the figure of athleticism one would normally hope for in a member of the police force. Instead, he is much more at home lurking in his police car chowing down on doughnuts.
It isn’t just his fitness that Clancy Wiggum has let slip, with his take on policing being a little more relaxed than the average police chief. While driving around with Homer in "Chief of Hearts," he is happy to look away while Homer gets a little creative with his police files. But then we see another side to Clancy’s, as he shares an emotional tale of the lonely life of a cop and how precious friendships are.
11 Happy Feet 2 (2006)
Following the success of Happy Feet (2006), the penguins returned in 2011 for a sequel. This time there was even more fun to be had, with the addition of Sven. Voiced to perfection by Azaria, Sven is a puffin who escaped from captivity after fearing that he was going to be eaten. The penguins all marvel at Sven, believing him to be a multi-colored penguin. But this isn’t just any voice role; Sven has a vocal performance too. "The Mighty Sven" is sung by Sven, Lovelace and the Adelie-Land Choirs and it tells the tale of his past and how he found himself in this new land. Who knew Hank Azaria could sing? If only they had known while Friends was in production..."Smelly Cat" anyone?
10 The Smurfs (2011)
In 2011, Director Raja Gosnell brought the classic '80s cartoon, The Smurfs, back to life and this time, the characters have been plucked from their quaint village and thrown into the big, wide world. After Gargamel, the evil wizard, scares them from their cozy homes, the little blue creatures fall into New York City. While the Smurfs remain animated, the evil Gargamel appears in human form and it is this role that Hank takes up within the film. Despite being a pro at voice acting, he takes on the acting role with gusto and shows us that he isn’t just about comedy. A giant (well, compared to the Smurfs), menacing and cloaked Azaria makes the perfect villain.
9 Mad About You: Her Houseboy CoCo
Azaria starred in 16 episodes of the hit sitcom Mad About You, between 1995 and 1999. His recurring role saw him take on the part of a dog walker.
The show follows the trials and tribulations of a down-to-earth couple (Paul and Jamie Buchman) living in New York City, as they deal with the mundane tasks that are part of all our lives. The couple have a dog, named Murray and this is where Hank comes in, taking on the role of dog walker, Nat Ostertag. His appearances on the show saw him nominated for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series at the Primetime Emmy Awards.
While on screen, he was employed by Helen Hunt’s character, off screen Hunt and Azaria went on to get married.
8 The Simpsons: New Kid on the Block (1992)
Another character that Hank takes on in The Simpsons is that of Moe, the hapless bartender and owner of Moe’s Tavern. Despite being a grown man, Moe is often picked on by a school kid (the one and only Bart Simpson). In "New Kid on the Block," we see Bart engage in a classic prank phone call with Moe, prompting the unsuspecting bartender to ask around the bar of "a man to hug and kiss." Hey, we’ve all been there.
Moe’s short temper makes him the ideal candidate for Bart’s prank calls and his angry outbursts upon realizing he is being pranked further encourage the young prankster. For such a mild mannered actor, Azaria pulls of this furious temper with ease.
7 Friends: The One with All the Cheesecakes (2001)
Seven years after he left New York to research positronic distillation of sub-atomic particles in Russia, David returned...well, for the night. In "The One with All the Cheesecakes," Phoebe bumps into David while at Central Perk (we don’t think he needed to use much of his scientific skills to work out she’d be there sooner or later). Not wanting to waste this second shot at happiness, Phoebe agrees to meet David, who is the perfect gentleman, even reciting some Russian to Phoebe. He may only have been able to pull off the Russian for "please clean my beakers," but most things sound hot in a foreign accent anyway. Alas, David has to bid another emotional farewell to his true love. What an emotional roller coaster!
6 The Simpsons: Eight Misbehavin’ (1999)
Yet another of Hank’s roles on The Simpsons is that of Apu. Does this man’s talent know no bounds? In the show's early years, Apu was only really seen at the Kwik-E-Mart which he owns and he has a backseat role in the show’s storylines. But this all changes when he meets his wife in season nine of the show. It is then that we see Apu coerced into an arranged marriage with Manjula. Despite fearing his fate, worrying that he would have to marry some scary women selected by his parents, Apu instantly falls for his Indian princess. The pair decide to start a family and in "Eight Misbehavin'" we see the shocked Nahasapeemapetilons welcome octuplets into their family.
5 Inside the Actors Studio (2003)
In 2003, Hank Azaria appeared on Inside the Actors Studio, alongside his fellow voice actors from The Simpsons. Here, James Lipton asked the cast about their roles and encouraged them to delight the audience with a few of their characters’ lines. The actors did not disappoint, showing us that they could still remain down to earth despite their international fame.
Azaria shared a great moment with Nancy Cartwright (the woman behind Bart Simpson’s cheeky vocals) where they acted out a prank phone call to Moe in which Bart asked to speak to a ‘Homo Sexual.’ The cast themselves seemed just as mesmerized by the scene's humor, showing what a fun place the set of The Simpsons must be. No wonder the show has been running for 28 years!
4 Along Came Polly (2004)
In 2004, Hank took up a supporting role in the romantic comedy Along Came Polly. Despite only appearing for a few minutes on screen, Azaria makes quite an impression in his role as Claude.
The story follows the ups and downs of Reuben Feffer’s love life. One very low point comes when his new wife, Lisa, cheats on him on their honeymoon after falling for a scuba instructor. The instructor in question is none other than Claude, who first meets the couple while he is walking naked down the beach. Obviously, this meeting had rather an impression on Lisa, resulting in her act of infidelity. Despite taking on the role of a complete douche, Azaria’s charm still shows through—now that’s talent.
3 Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)
This film focuses on the rivalry between two local gyms. Average Joe’s is struggling to make enough money to pay the bills because of the new high spec Globo-gym across the street. Grabbing at straws to try and earn some extra cash, the gym’s owner (Peter LaFleur) enters his staff into a dodgeball tournament. The team are a hopeless bunch and resort to watching a series of vintage films on the art of dodgeball. This is where Hank comes in to play dodgeball aficionado, Patches O’Houlihan.
Full of useful tips on how to get ahead in the game of dodgeball, Patches recommends selecting ‘the bigger, stronger ids for your team, that way you can all gang up on the weaker ones’- I’m glad he wasn’t my gym teacher.
2 America’s Sweethearts (2001)
In 2001, America’s Sweethearts hit the big screen. This rom-com tells the story of a film publicist desperately trying to handle a break up between two of his film's main stars, Gwen and Eddie, but things escalate somewhat when a director takes a copy of their latest film hostage. Hank joins the cast to take up the role of Hector Gorgonzolas, one of the men behind this high-profile breakup. We find out that Hector has been having an affair with Gwen, played by the effortlessly glamorous Catherine Zeta-Jones. Gwen tries to move on and smooth things over with Eddie, at dinner, but what they don’t count on is Hector turning up at the restaurant. As is often the case with Azaria, hilarity ensues.
1 Friends: The One in Barbados: Part 1 (2003)
In 2003 Hank Azaria made his last appearance as David, in Friends, during "The One in Barbados: Part 1." The gang have all journeyed to Barbados, as you might imagine from the title, to attend a speech Ross is giving. But, in a much more interesting side story, Phoebe’s love life hangs in the balance. After a lot of meddling from Monica and Chandler, Phoebe finds herself being fought over—with both David and Mike offering to marry her. David even has a ring, albeit with a very small and low quality diamond. Despite the millions of fans at home screaming at their TV sets for her to pick David (who is still as anxious and love-struck as they day he first saw Phoebe singing), Phoebe picks Mike. Madness!