question of the day: Why is Tom Hanks so awesome?

Tom Hanks

As I watching Tom Hanks’s appearance on The Colbert Report last week, I was moved to spontaneously tweet:

Because, you know, this is a fascinating and important issue of our time. It’s a wonderful mystery! We all know Hanks is awesome, yet no one can quite put a finger on, precisely, why he is awesome. We can offer evidence for his awesomeness, tons of which has accumulated over just the past week. There’s his multiple performances in Cloud Atlas. There’s that Colbert appearance during which he makes fun of himself and of celebs hawking their own shit on TV:

Tom Hanks on The Colbert Report

We can note that he drops an F-bomb on morning TV

Tom Hanks Good Morning America

and everyone thinks it’s adorable. (Well, almost everyone.)

He has down-to-earth fun with fans

Tom Hanks with fan viral fun

that goes viral because it demonstrates Hanks’ awesomeness. (To be fair, that one is from August. But I only just heard about it.) But that’s circular logic! Hanks is awesome because he’s awesome? That’s not a scientific explanation.

Let’s see if we can get to the bottom of it: Why is Tom Hanks so awesome? The finest minds in pop culture have been pondering this since Bosom Buddies, so I don’t expect we’ll be able to find the definitive answer. But perhaps we can make some scratches on the surface of this conundrum.

(Thanks to Stephanie for the BuzzFeed link.)

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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Mon, Oct 29, 2012 11:08am

Did you hear about how Chris Hardwick got him to appear on the Nerdist podcast by bribing him with a vintage typewriter? The story of the appearance is entertaining enough by itself, but the actual podcast is really entertaining, too.

Mon, Oct 29, 2012 12:44pm

Just about every time I’ve seen him on a chat show or promotional thing, he’s a joy. He seems genuinely happy to be there, knows what sort of show he’s on, throws in a few local cultural references and plays along with the whole thing. Not an air or grace about him. He should run master classes in how to do promotion for certain Thespian grinches out there.

Here’s one of several examples where he charms the pants off all and sundry:

Mon, Oct 29, 2012 12:55pm

He’s funny, charming without being too charming, polite, good manners, he’s cool because he doesn’t think about it and he has nothing left to prove, acting-wise and boxing office wise.  He’s happy, comfortable in his own skin. He knows he got lucky in life and never complains about it.

In short, he’s the American David Tennant.

Mon, Oct 29, 2012 1:39pm

Tom Hanks, well, he is the man.

Mon, Oct 29, 2012 2:55pm

I think it boils down to authenticity and aspiration. The desperate need for validation that drives most performers (and I know a fair few of them, so I speak from experience) seems completely absent from Mr. Hanks in his acting and in his life, so he comes across as refreshingly “real” in the self-absorbed world of Hollywood. His acting isn’t showy or self-indulgent (with the possible exception of Forrest Gump), and he seems genuinely curious and fully engaged in everything he does. The aspirational part is why we love him: We all would like to believe that we could achieve wild success and be as gracious and funny and humble as he is about it.

Mon, Oct 29, 2012 4:24pm

I think its because he’s a an undeniably cool guy and he’s genuinely a nice person–the whole package of an ideal man!

Mon, Oct 29, 2012 4:25pm

I think it finally got to me when he pimped In-N-Out Burger on Conan.  That’s a man that knows the joys of life. :)

Mon, Oct 29, 2012 7:36pm

i’m not sure how the parents group wanted ABC to actually *stop* Tom Hanks for saying the F-word on a live show?  tom hanks is awesome because he’s exactly the kind of man who seems like a grown up and a person you could have  a drink with if you got stuck at an airport during a storm — always assuming you’re in the first class lounge with hanks.

Mon, Oct 29, 2012 8:45pm

Because he comes across as a “normal” guy despite his Hollywood success. He looks just like everyone’s next door neighbor. He’s totally a guy you could sit down and have a beer with. Or at least seems like he is.
Because of his “normalness” he hasn’t been shoehorned into stereotypical roles like so many actors are. He’s been able to take a wide variety of roles, in a wide variety of films. Many of which could be considered daring compared to other actors.
Top it all off with his self-awareness, which so many actors seem to lack, and you’ve got a lot of the ingredients for Awesome.

Tue, Oct 30, 2012 9:05pm

I’ve always been pleasantly indifferent to Tom Hanks, but watching him do slam poetry about Full House changed my opinion for the better.

reply to  applekate
Tue, Oct 30, 2012 10:40pm

whoa. that was perfect.

reply to  applekate
Wed, Oct 31, 2012 4:51am

For an infinitesimal moment, as Tom paused dramatically before the conclusion of his narrative , the desire to watch an episode of Full House rose unbidden in my breast, and I saw in the subsequent shuddering instant that it would be my fate to wander the loneliest shores for the remainder of my dark and soundless days forever haunted by the spectral memory of those disremembered joys in that house full of girlish merriment, and mischief, and of men.  Curse you Hanks, you magical bastard.