Billy Bob Thornton is back and badder than ever in Bad Santa 2. But he’s actually outdone in the bad behavior department by Kathy Bates, who steals the belated sequel to the 2003 cult hit as Sunny Soke, the epically awful mom of Thornton’s not-so-master thief, Willie T. Soke. Bates’s gung-ho comic performance in Bad Santa 2 shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has followed her eclectic career over the years. Although best remembered for her chilling Oscar-winning star turn as the mother of all psycho fans in 1990’s Misery, some of her most memorable performances have come in roles where she’s playing it for laughs. Here are five examples illustrating why Kathy Bates is one of Hollywood’s secret comedy greats. (Warning: At least one of the clips below is NSFW.)
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
The same year Bates picked up her Oscar for Misery, she gifted the world with this classic bit of parking lot politics. “I’m older and I have more insurance” deserves to be made into its own bumper sticker.
As the unsinkable Molly Brown, Bates expertly punctures her tony dining companions’ inflated egos during mealtimes aboard the doomed ocean liner. She’s welcome to be a regular dinner guest at our table anytime.
The Waterboy (1998)
Speaking of dinner, who wouldn’t want to sample Mama Boucher’s down home Louisiana specialties: baked snake and electrified squirrel. Yum, yum — crispy squirrel. Just what a growing waterboy needs.
Rat Race (2001)
Bates worked with those furry-tailed rodents again in her brief cameo in this all-star road comedy. We’d like to think that she gave those squirrels a good home after production wrapped.
About Schmidt (2002)
While Jack Nicholson hems and haws, Bates lets it all hang out — literally — during a hot tub session. It’s her absolute comfort with her body that gives this scene its comic charge, making Nicholson and his obvious discomfort the…if you will, butt of the joke.
Bad Santa 2 (2016)
The red-band teaser for Bad Santa 2 is NSFW — and it still only hints at the lewd, crude, and rude relationship between Bates and her onscreen son. If you think her expletive-laden nickname for Thornton is hilariously profane, wait until you see the movie and hear how she fed him as a baby. You’ll never look at caramels the same way again.