The Hangover Star Panicked When The Comedy Made Him Famous

Ed Helms reveals that the sudden fame he experienced after The Hangover was difficult for him, personally and professionally.

By Sean Thiessen | Published

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Fame can make or break an actor, and for Ed Helms, the fame that came with the 2009 hit The Hangover nearly broke him. An article from Uproxx detailed a conversation Ed Helms had with Conan O’Brien about the overwhelming jump in fame he experienced after The Hangover released, which sent the Vacation actor into a state of panic as he wrestled with how to proceed with his career. “Like, what do I do? I dunno,” the actor explained, “I was kind of spinning out and panicking about different things. Like, ‘Well, what kind of career do you want?’”

Ed Helms was already a recognizable figure before The Hangover. He spent four years as a correspondent for The Daily Show and played the musical Cornell graduate Andy Bernard for seven seasons on NBC’s American version of The Office. According to Helms, the fame he experienced then was what Stephen Colbert liked to call “toy fame”, meaning he could still go out in public and live a regular life.

But for Ed Helms, life can be divided into two parts: before and after The Hangover. The 2009 comedy scored over $468 million at the box office off of a $35 million dollar budget, and the film was an instant classic. Its impressive box office turnout spawned two sequels that took the franchise box office total over the $1 billion mark, and rocketed Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper, and Zach Galifianakis into superstardom.

“I definitely felt a lot of anxiety,” the actor explained, “and like identity kind of — just turmoil.” Ed Helms said that after The Hangover, his head was spinning with a bombardment of new scripts and opportunities. Though opportunities are every actor’s dream, Helms said the shift caused unease, making it a challenge to stay sane as he lost control of much of his life.

ed helms
Ed Helms on The Office

Thankfully for Ed Helms, he had real-life friends from The Hangover to help him through. Helms’ co-stars Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis were on the same rocket to stardom, and the trio were able to help each other navigate the biggest impact to their careers they had ever experienced. Helms said that he and his cast mates anchored each other and kept each other in check; if anyone could understand what Helms was going through, it was Cooper and Galifianakis.

Though the heat of The Hangover has died down for Ed Helms, the actor has continued along with an impressive career. He starred in comedy hits like National Lampoon’s reboot of Vacation (2015), Tag (2018), and the Peacock original series Rutherford Falls, which Helms co-created with Sierra Teller Ornelas and Michael Schur. Helms is currently at work on a body switch comedy called Family Leave from The Babysitter director McG.

Ed Helms has cemented himself as a comedic legend with iconic roles in some of the 21st century’s biggest comedy hits. Whether you recognize Ed Helms for The Hangover, The Office, or any one of his many roles across the spectrum of entertainment, most are certain to know him from something. Though fame comes and goes, along with its host of benefits and trials, Ed Helms, with the help of his co-stars, has managed to stay the course and continue entertaining the world with his unique humor.