By EW Staff
Updated August 11, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
Surviving Christmas: Suzanne Tenner

Over the past year, Ben Affleck had people laughing at him for ”Gigli.” But this year, he’s hoping people will laugh with him for the farcical Christmas, in which he plays an obnoxious rich businessman whose psychiatrist advises him to return to his childhood home for the holiday. Finding another family living there, he pays them to act out an ideal yuletide with him, driving Dad (James Gandolfini) insane and falling for the daughter (Christina Applegate) in the process. Though he has loved doing broad comedy while hosting ”Saturday Night Live,” the actor found studio heads nervous about whether they should dare put Daredevil in charge of getting belly laughs. ”They would say, ‘It’s not that we don’t think you’re funny, we’re sure you are funny,”’ says Affleck. ”Which is just a patronizing way of saying ‘We have no f—ing idea if you’re funny.”’

Affleck’s hoping ”Christmas” will convince more studios that he can joke around. ”I’ve completely exhausted myself with action movies, it’s just so incredibly boring to me and not something I want to do anymore,” he says, adding that comedy has always been his goal. As evidence, he cites writing the hilarious scene in ”Good Will Hunting” where he loudly impersonates Will at a recruiting meeting stuffed into a too-small suit. ”It doesn’t even fit in the movie,” he laughs. ”But I wanted to play it so much, we just put it in there.” Well, it did get him an Oscar…

WHAT’S AT STAKE Affleck’s future comedy roles. Besides that, he needs a hit after a trio of underperforming films.