What's so Funny, Anyway: Is it Time to Comedies Seriously?

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
First off, that Whizbang guy is a weirdo. No one should be listening to anything he says.

Second, I definitely agree that there's an idea that "if it's grim, it has to be more thoughtful and intelligent than the stuff that makes us laugh." All I can think is that this thought occurs to us when we're about 13 years old and pretending we don't like Lego any more and many of us never fully grow out of it.

I will put The Good Place up against any somber movie about how society functions and death any day -- it's got more ideas in 30 minutes than many doorstop non-fiction books do.
 

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
I will put The Good Place up against any somber movie about how society functions and death any day -- it's got more ideas in 30 minutes than many doorstop non-fiction books do.

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Free advice- if someone asks you who your favorite philosopher is ... never say Heidegger.

You're welcome.
 

It’s still funny to me to think Annie Hall beat out Star Wars and Close Encounters for best picture and best director.

Shows how times have changed, hard to imagine a Woody Allen film going up a Star Wars film in either category these days.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him) 🇺🇦🇵🇸🏳️‍⚧️
It’s still funny to me to think Annie Hall beat out Star Wars and Close Encounters for best picture and best director.

Shows how times have changed, hard to imagine a Woody Allen film going up a Star Wars film in either category these days.
Annie Hall is a hell of a film. In 1977, Star Wars was kind of the upstart - it made a big splash, particularly on what would be the next generation of movie-makers who suddenly had the roof blown off what they though they could do with movies and special effects - but at the time, sci fi films mostly got nominations for score, cinematography, or art direction - and very occasionally for any of the big, splashy awards. I don't think the Academy voters were anywhere near ready to really pick a sci fi film for best picture. Though, honestly, since they don't publish the vote totals, we'll never know how close it was, if close at all.

It's also entirely possible that Lucas and Spielberg split voters for director, opening the way for Woody Allen. But, again, we don't know any vote totals.
 

pukunui

Legend
I especially appreciated the comments about Adam Sandler's films--he's billed as a comedian (and he is a comedian), but some of his best film work is in dramatic roles.
I think the same could be said for Jim Carey. He became famous for his screwball antics in movies like Ace Ventura and the Mask, but I would argue his best work is in movies like the Truman Show and the Majestic.
 

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
It’s still funny to me to think Annie Hall beat out Star Wars and Close Encounters for best picture and best director.

Shows how times have changed, hard to imagine a Woody Allen film going up a Star Wars film in either category these days.

Annie Hall is a hell of a film. In 1977, Star Wars was kind of the upstart - it made a big splash, particularly on what would be the next generation of movie-makers who suddenly had the roof blown off what they though they could do with movies and special effects - but at the time, sci fi films mostly got nominations for score, cinematography, or art direction - and very occasionally for any of the big, splashy awards. I don't think the Academy voters were anywhere near ready to really pick a sci fi film for best picture. Though, honestly, since they don't publish the vote totals, we'll never know how close it was, if close at all.

It's also entirely possible that Lucas and Spielberg split voters for director, opening the way for Woody Allen. But, again, we don't know any vote totals.
Smokey and The Bandit was the one that got robbed!
smokey-smokey-and-the-bandit.gif
 

p_johnston

Adventurer
I think the same could be said for Jim Carey. He became famous for his screwball antics in movies like Ace Ventura and the Mask, but I would argue his best work is in movies like the Truman Show and the Majestic.
It happens a fair bit. I'd be willing to argue that the best Will Ferrel performance is Stranger then Fiction (which while a comedy has him playing the serious straight man and really killing it). Turns out that a lot of really good comedic actors are just....Good actors.
 

Disconnected responses...

As someone who's been a big fan of animation my whole life, I call tell you that people are just plain prejudiced about different forms of entertainment. Sometimes you just have to accept it.

People are more comfortable accepting uncomfortable bits in old movies when they are can hand wave it away with "well, that's not the central point of the story", or "it's historically accurate/significant," or similar adages. When you dismiss a joke like that it's harder to laugh with it.

Over time, the academy awards have become increasingly detached from movies people actually watch. Movies for the general public may still get attention for special effects and songs, but the Best Picture and Actor awards are increasingly going to movies that cater niche audiences. A comedy that caters to a niche audience is often unfunny to outsiders. Also, the go-to example of a comedy sweeping the Oscar's should be It Happened One Night.

Regarding the AFI list, by my count it has more comedy than sci-fi, more comedy than animation, more comedy than musicals, and more comedy than westerns. So, overall comedy ain't doin' that bad.

It's common for a movie to have just the right amount of comedy but not be classified as a comedy. It's extremely rare for a movie to be just a little sci-fi, or a little bit of a musical, etc, and not be labeled as such. In that regard "comedy" is a kind of unique category that can be represented and not represented at the same time.
 
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MGibster

Legend
I think comedies are difficult to place on any greatest of all time lists because they're very much products of their time. Okay, sure. Technically all movies are products of their time. But what's considered funny can change in a relatively short period of time. I remember laughing uproariously when we found out Einhorn was actually Finkle but it's not something I'd think was funny today.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
I will put The Good Place up against any somber movie about how society functions and death any day -- it's got more ideas in 30 minutes than many doorstop non-fiction books do.

Oh, this reminds me of something, so thank you!

I don't recall the original source, but I read an interesting bit on the nature of comedy that might be relevant.

Comedy, broadly, and in general, operates on the basis of deviation from expectations. The nature of any particular comedic piece, then, lies in what expectations are the focus.

Movies like Airplane, Taladega Nights, and Ace Ventura are leaning on expectations of a genre, and social structures of the day. The "I speak Jive," joke works based on social norms of the 70s, for example. The joke loses impact when those social norms are no longer the lived experience of the audience, or when that genre loses popularity.

Some other comedies, like Young Frankenstein, the musical of The Producers, or Singin' in the Rain, are attached to genres and social norms that are somewhat longer lasting - they tend to retain relevance longer, and (I expect, I haven't double checked) are often considered "better movies" in the longer run.

Yet other comedies - Ted Lasso and The Good Place and The Orville are good recent examples - are "about something meaningful". These don't actually need to have their every moment be comedic, and give the breaks from expectation greater contrast and focus, which used properly can make comedy more sustainable over time, supporting series work.
 

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