Guy Adams: Jack of all trades, a master of Hollywood

LA Notebook
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The Independent Online

Who is the most famous American you've never heard of? A NASCAR driver, perhaps? Some leading light from the world of baseball? Or maybe one of those country musicians who sell millions of records, but only to people with very red necks?

Actually, he's probably Tyler Perry, a comic actor who earns $125m a year and is one of the most successful men in Hollywood. Since 2006, Perry's fronted seven films, four of which went straight to number one. This week, his new flick, I Can Do Bad All By Myself, hit the top of the box office charts.

Out here, Perry isn't a household name so much as a national institution. Forbes magazine listed him as the third biggest black entertainer in America, after Oprah and Will Smith. His seven films have sold more than $330m-worth of tickets, yet all cost less than $15m to make.

Despite this, he is anonymous outside the US – where most of his films aren't even released. Fans only tend to exist within a large but geographically-limited demographic: church-going black Americans, who happen to like slapstick comedy.

Yet Perry has still flourished. He writes, produces, directs and finances all of his work, making him as independent as possible from major studios (like a cinematic Marxist, he owns his means of production). He is, in other words, a film star who defies accepted logic.

This summer, Hollywood's flops have been star- vehicles, from actors like Eddie Murphy and Julia Roberts; all the hits have been concept-driven, like Transformers and Star Trek. It's fashionable to cite this as evidence that film stars, as an institution, are in decline. But Tyler Perry's massive success makes you wonder if, instead, they're simply changing.

Not-so clinical comic timing

Kanye West's stage invasion at Sunday's MTV awards show overshadowed this week's edgiest topical joke, delivered later that night by the event's host, Russell Brand.

Comparing Britain to the US, the comedian noted: "Instead of truck, we say lorry; instead of elevator, we say lift; and instead of letting people die in the street, we have free healthcare."

The crowd were bemused. But they should have known what to expect. Last year, at the same event, Brand called George W Bush a "retarded cowboy" who "shouldn't be put in charge of a pair of scissors".

Hefner quits playing dad

Hugh Hefner, pictured, has announced he is divorcing his wife, Kimberly, 11 years after they separated: "I only remained married for the sake of our children," he told reporters. But how, exactly, do kids benefit from having a dad who lives next door, with a harem of blonde girlfriends?