Friday, January 1, 2010

Comedy? What Comedy?

So I got a note from one of my friends this morning taking me to task for not including more comedies on my list of best films of the decade. Tropic Thunder and The Handover were two movies he insisted that I include. No fucking way.

When it comes to comedy, I am extremely difficult to please. Hollywood has gone entirely towards the Saturday Night Live format of comedy. This means the production of stupid Stoner comedy within a set of Left/Liberal & network censor boundary rules. People laugh, but not because the jokes are funny. Rather, they laugh because they an assortment of FDA schedule 1 drugs circulating in their blood streams.

For me, Comeday must be all the following things:
  1. Intelegent, intelegent, intelegent. This means going over the heads of morons and Stoners, which means abandoning the primary demographic of Saturday Night Live. This is why you almost never see an intelegent comedy come out of Hollywood.
  2. Transgressive: If you produce comedy according to PC, Left/Liberal, or network censor rules, you are absolutely and completely wrong. I can tell you that Richard Pryor never did that. Neither do Matt Stone & Trey Parker. Neither did Sarah Silverman, and that is why Loren Michaels cut her from the SNL team. Good comedians take very high-risk shots. If you produce according to rules, you are utterly predictable, and not funny.
  3. Mean as hell, and right on point. Comedy is best when it is like a straight razor shoved right up the ass of somebody you don't like. To make it hurt more, it better be accurate as hell. The truth hurts. Some may attempt to defend SNL on this ground, saying they frequently attack conservatives in a mean way. Believe me, it's the same predicatable shtick every time out. Most of this shit is way off point, an mere imposition of standard hypocracy grid upon anyone who happens along.
  4. Silly as hell. It is best if you creat preposterous situations. The more preposterous the better.
  5. Don't focus on the punch line. The punch line is the least important aspect of the joke. The situation is 10 times funnier than any punch lines. Guy Ritchie is the world's foremost authority on this subject. Watch his movies. The dialog is somewhat humorous, but the situation is everything.
  6. You better have a really damn good ultimate point that you are trying to make. There better be a final moral to the story, and it better be insightful, complex, and well made.
What qualifies as comedy in my opinion? Monte Python is good comedy. Richard Pryor doing standup is great comedy. George Carlin doing standup often did great comedy. Trey Parker and Matt Stone do great comedy. Katt Williams often does great comedy. Guy Ritchie is extremely funny, but not in Sherlock Holmes. Don Rickles was a funny guy. Once upon a time, Peter Sellers did incredible comedy.

Unfortunately, Hollywood is in the grips of folks like Steve Carell, Will Ferrell, Sasha Baron Cohen, Ben Stiller. Of these, only Ben Stiller is intermittantly funny. He's a bit like the little girl with the curl. When he is good, he is very very good. Zoolander was a good comedy. When he is bad, he is horrid. Take Starsky and Hutch for example.

Tropic Thunder is movie that might almost qualify, but not for reasons you would suppose. I object strenuously to any movie in which Tom Cruise is (by far) the funniest guy happening in the movie. Only Cruise's performance as Les Grossman qualified as comedy in that movie.

Study the elements of the Les Grossman character. Cruise is obviously taking up a straight razor and shoving it up the ass of every producer he ever hated. He is taking pot-shots at some very powerful men who have paid him (personally) millions of dollars. Cruise is willing to put on a fat & ugly suit, show massive body hair, and go bald to get the job done. What makes it funny is that there are several very powerful men in Hollywood (like Jerry Bruckheimer) who are puking up their guts in rage over this performance. Knowing that there is a dude named Jerry Bruckheimer shitting himself, knowing the joke is on him, is what made me laugh at that performance. For Cruise, this is a very high risk shot. He is transgressing big time by biting the hand that feeds. He's ruining his look & his glamor to take a massive killshot on some folks he didn't like. Wow... now that is funny.

But the rest of the movie wasn't really that good. In fact, Tropic Thunder was quite borring. We lost an hour walking around in the jungle doing nothing funny at all.

So what might my list of top 15 comedies look like? How about this:
  1. South Park: Bigger Longer Uncut
  2. Dr. Strangelove
  3. Monte Python: The Life of Brian
  4. Monte Python: The Quest for the Holy Grail
  5. Airplane!
  6. Richard Pryor: Live in Concert 1979
  7. The Producers (original 1968)
  8. Kung Fu Hustle
  9. Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
  10. Snatch
  11. Team America: World Police
  12. The Incredibles
  13. Wall-E
  14. It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
  15. Groundhog Day
If you were to look at the list of Comedies on IMDB, certain movies that do not truly belong in the comedy list are listed there anyhow. Pixar movies such as Up, Wall-E, and The Incredibles are only tangengially humorous. Those are actually beautiful movies with serious points to make. They are much heavier than the morons realize. Still, there is a comedy component, so two will make they list. To me, Up is just not funny. That was a heavy and sad movie about getting over grief. A good movie, yes. A comedy? No. The Incredibles is probably my favorite movie of all-time, but I just don't think of it as a comedy as such.

So what comes out of this discourse is the following: Two movies were forgotten and need to be added to my list:
  1. Kung Fu Hustle
  2. Zoolander.