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Sarah Silverman takes unexpectedly dramatic turn in 'I Smile Back'

Sarah Silverman arrives at the premiere of

Sarah Silverman arrives at the premiere of "I Smile Back" at ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood, California on Oct. 21, 2015. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Mark Davis

There are things in the new drama "I Smile Back" Long Islanders might recognize -- like Five Towns College in Dix Hills (standing in for an elementary school) and Malverne's Broadway Tavern -- but one thing you likely won't recognize is the star. Not at all.

Sarah Silverman plays Laney, a suburban wife and mother unraveling because of mental illness and addiction. It's a devastating, nuanced performance made all the more powerful by the fact that . . . we just don't expect it. Not from a snarky, taboo-trampling comic.

But Silverman's not alone. Every so often, comedians get to test their dramatic chops. Alas, such opportunities usually go to the guys: Steve Carell ("Foxcatcher"), Bill Murray ("Lost in Translation"), Robin Williams ("Dead Poets Society," "Awakenings," "Good Will Hunting") and so on.

It seems women don't get the chance as often to break the mold. So kudos to Silverman and these other funny females who -- when finally given that big dramatic break -- seriously delivered.

CAROL BURNETT,"Friendly Fire" (1979) After winning five Emmy Awards for her zany TV antics, Burnett surprised viewers by playing a mother who exposes government cover-ups after her son is killed in Vietnam. Based on a true story, the TV film attracted 64 million viewers and earned her another Emmy nomination.

MARY TYLER MOORE,"Ordinary People" (1980) Known for perky, wholesome gals (Laura Petrie, Mary Richards), Moore was startling (and Oscar-nominated) as Timothy Hutton's icy-cool mom obsessed with appearances. Roger Ebert called it "inspired casting."

ANNE MEARA, "Fame" (1980) The Rockville Centre native and popular comedian (with husband Jerry Stiller) shines here as a tough-as-nails English teacher. (You'll also spot her as a catatonic patient in "Awakenings.")

MO'NIQUE, "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire" (2009) A star of goofball comedies ("Phat Girlz") as a foul, abusive mother? Riveting. She won a best-supporting-actress Oscar -- and this year earned raves as Ma Rainey in HBO's biopic "Bessie."

JENNIFER ANISTON, "Cake" (2015) She was robbed of a deserved Oscar nomination this year after her gritty portrayal of a woman suffering chronic pain. Someone, give this "Friend" another drama.

LILY TOMLIN, "Grandma" (2015) Not your typical granny, unless yours is a broke, sarcastic lesbian poet prone to rages. The "Laugh-In" alum is stirring up major Oscar buzz for this career-renaissance star turn.

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