Boasting a genuine gift for physical comedy, the exuberant Roberto Benigni started his career in underground theater and later attained great popularity in Italian films and television. Discovered while performing comic monologues in Rome, Benigni began to write and act in various Italian productions, earning significant local fame. Thanks to the imaginative casting of director Jim Jarmusch, he had his international breakout role in the laidback farce "Down by Law" (1986), despite speaking no English at the time. From the start, the left-leaning comic liked to flirt with the boundaries of taste - even making fun of the Pope on Italian television, something that was simply not done. He was also determined to push boundaries in cinema, choosing risky subject matter rarely utilized in comedy. An attempt to sell him to mainstream American audiences as a successor to Peter Sellers in "Son of the Pink Panther" (1993) did not fly, but Benigni's earnest comedy-drama about the Holocaust, "Life is Beautiful" (1997), became a groundbreaking global success and the highest grossing foreign language film in America. Such comedic experiments were consistently successful in Italy, but not always internationally, with his expensive interpretation of "Pinocchio" (2002) a major failure. While Benigni's high-spirited persona exasperated some, his obvious comedic abilities and artistic daring marked him as one of the most important comedians of his generation.