Do comedic films not age well?
October 15, 2004 11:08 PM   Subscribe

Do comedic films age poorly? [more inside]

I started with Netfilx recently, and I have decided to aquaint myself with the great comic films. Last week I watched Blazing Saddles. Right now, I'm in the middle of The Pink Panther. I find both of these movies boring (as does my wife; she's asleep on the couch as I write this). But I saw Zoolander for the first time a couple months ago, and it cracked me the fuck up. Do I have no taste, or does comedy simply not age well? I like other "good" movies: I'm a huge Bergman fan, and a huge Truffaut fan. Why not comedy?
posted by mr_roboto to Media & Arts (52 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'd argue that you're just picking shitty comedies. Though each of those movies was popular in its day, they don't hold up well now. Zoolander will be considered shit soon enough (I thought so during my screening; same for the Panther movies and Blazing Saddles, actually).

However, there are some comedies which, in my opinion, have (or will) stand the test of time:

-- Bringing Up Baby
-- His Girl Friday
-- The Graduate
-- The Philadelphia Story
-- Spinal Tap
-- Happiness
-- Raising Arizona
-- After Hours
-- Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
-- Monsters, Inc.
-- Manhattan
-- The Dinner Game
-- Hail the Conquering Hero
-- Something About Mary
-- The Lady Eve
-- Adaptation
-- Being John Malkovich
-- Decline of Western Civilization
-- The Awful Truth
-- City Lights
-- Crimes and Misdemeanors
-- Down by Law
-- Paper Moon
-- Dr. Strangelove
-- Fireman's Ball
-- Modern Times
-- The Jerk
-- Midnight Run
-- The Heartbreak Kid
-- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (okay, not a comedy but pretty damn funny in parts)
-- The Player
-- Modern Romance (and most of Albert Brooks pre-1995 movies)
-- Withnail & I
-- How to Get Ahead in Advertising
-- Trust
-- The Knack and How to Get It
-- Some Like It Hot
-- The Apartment
-- Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
-- Rushmore
-- Stardust Memories (my fave Woody Allen film and I think you'd like it if you like Bergman)
-- Most Buster Keaton flicks
-- etc.

Why do I think these films do/will hold up? For the most part they have strong characters and the comedy is based on relationships rather than situations (though of course many of them are firmly rooted in their premise first and foremost).

Okay, so some of them aren't really comedies (Virginia Woolf and Cuckoo's nest, for instance), but they still have some fantastically funny parts to them so I'm including them anyway.

In addition, comedy's a tricky thing (obviously) and not everyone will like all of the above... (someone may just not like slapstick (Keaton and Chaplin) or dark comedy (Happiness and After Hours) or sex comedies (The Knack) but if you've seen all of those or even a good chunk and you're still wondering if there's such a thing as a funny movie, I'd say you're broke. :)

*sits back and waits for someone to chime in and say, "You forgot such and such actor (Jerry Lewis, etc.), director (Bill Forsyth, Lubitsch), etc." *
posted by dobbs at 12:18 AM on October 16, 2004 [1 favorite]

Your question may be too borad, given the narrow time scope of your sample, mr_roboto.

Peter Sellers and Mel Brooks are iconic examples of a certain school of 1960's humor that relies on its audience to have been raised in the UK or America during the 50s, to be male, to be somewhat racist and sexist, and to be rather repressed.

You probably don't have most of those qualities, or if you do, they manifest themselves differently, such that you now find the newer versions of these themes funny, (e.g. Paul Weitz, the Farrelly brothers).

FWIW, I think Blazing Saddles is comedy gold, but I view it in time context, the same way I would read, say, Dostoyevsky.
posted by squirrel at 12:26 AM on October 16, 2004

I think the question "does comedy age well" more generally speaking is worth talking about. A couple years ago I went to the local library and borrowed all the big classics of comedy albums. I love George Carlin today, and have since I first heard him in the 80s as a kid, but jesus was his late 60s stuff stupid and painfully unfunny. I concluded it was all new at the time, so a fart joke was funny because it hadn't been done much yet.
posted by mathowie at 12:28 AM on October 16, 2004

1. dobbs is wrong about many of those movies. Don't get me wrong, After Hours is one of my favorite movies ever, but you can't tell me it isn't badly dated 20 years later.

2. Dude, hello, Marx Brothers?
posted by jjg at 12:33 AM on October 16, 2004

dobbs: you forgot the Marx Brothers. geez. Maybe it's more situational than you'd like, but don't you tell me that Rufus T. Firefly isn't a character.

And you forgot the many Looney Tunes cartoons, which include some funny shit.

And if you're going to watch Bringing Up Baby, you should also watch Desk Set and either Charade or Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House.

If you find neither Blazing Saddles nor The Pink Panther funny, I confess to thinking there's an element of no-taste involved. Most people with a sense of humor will like at least one of them. On the other hand, both are primarily simple, rude, or physical humor.

Maybe you'll like more verbal / wordplay humor better? Try A Night at the Opera or Duck Soup next, or Spinal Tap if you want something post-WW2.

There's an element to comedy aging less well, because what's fresh and exciting and maybe-shocking at one time becomes an old standard later. Like the mirror gag from Duck Soup -- it's such old hat now that it's hard to realize while you're watching DS that this is the *original*.

Also, if comedy is topical, you have to get the topic. I'm sure half the jokes in a WW2-era Bugs Bunny cartoon go over my head because I don't get the references.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:41 AM on October 16, 2004

Dobbs, I watched "How to Get Ahead in Advertising" back in the 80s and found it wickedly funny. Then I watched it last year and it looked really dated. Not just the unfortunate wardrobe and that decade's particular take on the zany screwball schtick; I also found the politics embarrassingly naive, which had been, you know, most of the fun the first time.

"How to Get Ahead" is a prime example of why comedy relies so heavily on context. Like Carlin and Cheech & Chong, humor that arises from one era's particular set of repressions, gripes, and paranoias often doesn't carry on to the next. But, as you point out, some comedies, like Grant's "Withnal and I," transcend that. I find Lenny Bruce really funny today, although he was a hit in the 60s.
posted by squirrel at 12:43 AM on October 16, 2004

Withnail and I is genius because of the delicate use of language. The British will always have this advantage over us -- they just know how to construct thoughts better, and more subtlely. Only the British could have come up with Rhyming Slang.

The best American comedy (best = pass the test of time) tends to be simple yet perfect and direct -- Charlie Chapman's stuff is just wonderful. Steve Martin as well. "Comics" in general have a harder time remaining memorable and at the same time remain up-to-date and topical. The few that accomplish this would include: Bill Hicks, Lenny Bruce, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and perhaps Chris Rock (off the top of my head).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:01 AM on October 16, 2004

I doubt many teens today appreciate Monty Python
Really? Perhaps it's different across the pond, but in europe I think they're still rather popular, among both teens and the people who saw them the first time around.

Many of those films have aged pretty badly to me actually dobbs. And "the odd couple" should definately be on it.
posted by fvw at 4:46 AM on October 16, 2004

"Singing in the Rain"
"The Producers"
"Ruthless People"
"A Fish Called Wanda"

And dobb's list have a few that haven't really had time to stand the "test" thereof. ("Monsters, Inc"??? 2001 ;) )
posted by RavinDave at 5:12 AM on October 16, 2004

M. Hulot's Holiday?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 5:53 AM on October 16, 2004

The first Wayne's World is still hilarious.
posted by pieoverdone at 6:09 AM on October 16, 2004

Just about anything starring Steve Martin has aged very well, in my opinion. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and Bowfinger should be included with the other Martin movies listed above. In fact, I still believe that PTA is the funniest movie ever.

Some comedies that I believe have not aged well include Spies Like Us (the '80s Cold War jokes just don't work unless you remember the Cold War), Three Amigos! (a fun lampoon of westerns, although today's generation most likely has never seen a classic western), and Stripes (again, it's just a victim of being from another time). Don't get me wrong; these films are still funny as heck provided you remember the context in which they were made. In fact, I have all three of them in my DVD library. Some comedies are timeless; Ghostbusters comes immediately to mind, although the sequel feels locked in the late '80s.

I studied film comedy for one semester in my early college years and wound up doing my final paper on Steve Martin's comedies. The paper is posted here at Everything2 should anyone care to read it.
posted by Servo5678 at 6:11 AM on October 16, 2004

Duh but, depends on the comedy.

There's this really acclaimed Hindi comedy Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, from 1984. When I first saw it as a kid, I loved it. Just like 99% of other people who saw it. I saw it again a year back and for the most part, I _hated_ it. Now, it seemed so slapstick and inane humor. OTOH, I love the Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister British comedies as much today as I did a decade back. And here lies the key difference. The elements parodied in YM apply today as much, if not more, than they did during Thatcher's reign. And they are still potent within contemporary cultural context. The Hindi movie JBDY doesn't work as well anymore, because although the themes are still potent, the treatment and execution is pretty outdated. So, after having been exposed to lots of evolving comedic offerings(TV, movies, books..etc) since my first viewing of JBDY, JBDY itself no longer packs a punch.
posted by Gyan at 6:20 AM on October 16, 2004

True comedy stands the test of time -- as referenced above, The Marx Brothers will never NOT be considered funny. Airplane! too will stand the test of time. And so on.
posted by davidmsc at 6:38 AM on October 16, 2004

I am aware that no one has interest in my opinion, but I believe that the 1944 Frank Capra film 'Arsenic and Old Lace' remains to this day an incredibly humorous film.

I certainly am in agreement with Mr dobbs in re: 'My Girl Friday'.

The 1940 Charlie Chaplin film, 'The Great Dictator', while somewhat spooky in its foresight, I do find funny after all has been said and done.
posted by tenseone at 6:54 AM on October 16, 2004

I'd also like to add, that while most are not to be considered 'comedic films', any Mary Pickford moving picture which includes scenes of her getting into fights can make me smile like no other.
posted by tenseone at 7:05 AM on October 16, 2004

FWIW, I find Dr. Strangelove absolutely hilarious for example, and I'm in my mid-twenties. Actually, Peter Sellers is pretty amusing in general, from what I've seen of him. Good comedy is timeless, even if the trappings are dated (for example, Ghostbusters is still a damn funny movie, despite the Eightiesness of the whole endeavor).
posted by neckro23 at 7:10 AM on October 16, 2004

In many ways Lee outstaged Hendrix at Woodstock, but for various reasons Ten Years Gone isn't as culturaly important nor as "sticky."

Ten Years After, dude. Otherwise you're right.
posted by jonmc at 7:12 AM on October 16, 2004

When I first saw Mel Brooks' Silent Movie, a few years ago, I thought it was hilarious. And Monty Python is definitely still appreciated.

You may have seen the wrong Pink Panther movie; I think the first one is pretty slow. A Shot in the Dark appears to be the best by common consent.

The Graduate is a comedy? And how well Down by Law has aged will depend a lot of on how much you like Jarmusch in general.
posted by kenko at 7:13 AM on October 16, 2004

I think The Producers remains one of the funniest films of all time, but my elderly mother and her friends watched it recently and said they were shocked at a/the gay stuff and b/how unfunny they found it, having loved it years ago.

It's not our age, it's how we look at the movie and in what context.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:23 AM on October 16, 2004

Do comedic films age poorly?

More often than not.
posted by rushmc at 7:33 AM on October 16, 2004

Blazing Saddles had some funny stuff and some not-so-funny stuff. I think at the time it was released a lot of its gags were pretty new to American audiences, now they're like blah, the movie's breaking out of the set, what next? Pink Panther I was never a huge fan of, only watched them because I went through a Peter Sellers kick after getting introduced to the Goon Show.

I dunno. When I was about 15 years old in... umm... the mid 90's... I was obsessed with the Marx Brothers, Burns and Allen, the Goon Show, Monty Python... so obviously those things aged pretty well in some respect, maybe not for everyone. Of course, there are bits in Marx Brothers movies that make ya cringe, but the core is there, and funny as hell.

Going back even further than that, if you get your hands on some decent translations of Aristophanes, Plautus, etc., that stuff is funny as hell...
posted by dagnyscott at 7:42 AM on October 16, 2004

Don't get me wrong, After Hours is one of my favorite movies ever, but you can't tell me it isn't badly dated 20 years later.

"Dated" doesn't concern me unless you mean "no longer funny". At least, that's the way I read the question. My list was only of films that I think would be consistently funny throughout time. I just watched AH a week ago for the first time in a decade and it was still great.

And if you're going to watch Bringing Up Baby, you should also watch Desk Set and either Charade or Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House.

You can pick:

a. I can tell you you're on crack or
b. I can point at you and yell "blasphemer!"

I'll give you Desk Set, sure, but Charade?! Charade is poo top to bottom and always was. I put it in the same category as The Italian Job, Lord Love a Duck, and, uh, Mr. Blandings, which are movies people have always said were good but... never were. :)

Monsters, Inc

That's why I also said the list would include movies I thought would age well.

The Graduate is a comedy?


And how well Down by Law has aged will depend a lot of on how much you like Jarmusch in general.

I was going to add a disclaimer like this at the bottom of my list. If something is not your style of humor to begin with (one doesn't "get it", so to speak), the date of the film will probably be irrelavent. I.E. You'll still find it unfunny 20 years later.

I think The Producers remains one of the funniest films of all time, but my elderly mother and her friends watched it recently and said they were shocked at a/the gay stuff and b/how unfunny they found it, having loved it years ago.

It's unfortunate when films that are hysterically funny in parts become dated by their politics. The Producers and its "gay stuff" is a perfect example. (I *cringe* every time Mickey Roony comes on screen during Tiffany's, for instance.) And, imo, what's happened is most filmmakers today only know how to make the jokes that are funny *only* within context. The ability to make all the clever stuff in between the gay stuff in Producers has been lost.

And for you Steve Martin and Marx Bro fans... gimme a break. It was 230 in the morning when I pulled the list out of my ass. I of course agree with you.
posted by dobbs at 8:05 AM on October 16, 2004

Ah, so! But ah-Mickey Loony so solly!

Here's a tip for those not in the know: Steve martin was abducted by aliens in 1983, just after shooting All of Me and was replaced by a warm, fuzzy family-comedy schmaltz-hose replicant. He escaped briefly in 1987 to make Planes Trains & Automobiles, the last funny movie of his career.
posted by squirrel at 9:06 AM on October 16, 2004

After Hours is one of my favorite movies ever, but you can't tell me it isn't badly dated 20 years later.

I don't understand. How is the film dated? I guess I'm confused by your definition of the word "dated." To me, it means that the story was designed for a target audience that non-longer exists (i.e. people who can no longer appreciate certain political references or societal attitudes that the story depends on). I don't see how this applies to After Hours.

Unless by "dated" you mean that the costumes and setting don't look contemporary. But by those standards, any historical film is dated.

In any case, I think comedy is likely to age well (at least for me) if it is character driven. Politics and social-values change, but basic human psychology doesn't. Which is why I think "Bringing Up Baby" (for example) is 100% contemporary. I can relate to everything the characters go through. But if a comedy is based around spoofing trends that are no longer relevant, then of course the movie will no longer be funny.

One of my favorite (dark) comedies -- a HIGHLY underrated film -- is the Stanley Kubrick version of "Lolita", with Peter Sellers, James Mason and Shelley Wintes. People misunderstand this film because they compare it to the book. But it's its own animal. And it's all character driven.

I also recommend "Housekeeping," "You Can Count on Me," "Monsieur Verdoux" (in which a talking Charlie Chaplin plays a serial killer! Even if you don't think it's funny, it's a curious bit of film history.), "King of Comedy" (Why don't more people like this film? It's one of the most brilliant character-based comedies ever made. It must have something to do with expectations that it's something other than what it actually is.), "Hannah and Her Sisters," "The Apartment," "The Hospital," "Sense and Sensibility", "Clueless" (in my opinion, the closest in spirit to Jane Austin of all the adaptations of her novels, in spite of the contempory settings) and "Network."

Since "Meet the Parents" is character driven, it will probably age well. In any case, I really enjoy it now.
posted by grumblebee at 9:35 AM on October 16, 2004

By the way, if you're a member of "The Onion's" premium service, you might enjoy the article that starts like this:

Area Man Really Wants To Like The Marx Brothers
AUSTIN, TX–Despite repeated attempts to gain an appreciation of the legendary comedy team, area graphic designer Craig Logan confessed Monday that he still can't get into the Marx Brothers.
posted by grumblebee at 9:37 AM on October 16, 2004

Strangelove was more laugh-out-loud funny years old. Still a great film, but for me it's more of a quiet enjoyment now, much more subtle. Maybe some movies age like wine.
posted by gimonca at 9:39 AM on October 16, 2004

Seems like such an odd target for The Onion to pick, The Marx Brothers. I saw Duck Soup when I was 13 and completely unpretentious, and I laughed until I cried. It's still one of the funniest movies I've ever seen.
posted by 4easypayments at 9:42 AM on October 16, 2004

I find it amazing that Monty Python's Flying Circus is still incredibly funny today, despite the fact that it was produced nearly a decade before I was born. I believe that the degree to which comedy stands the test of time depends on how intelligent the humor is. Which is not to say that people who appreciate $x are intellectually superior; only that historical references, musical interludes, and subtle comedy are often lost in an era of pie-fucking and sperm-in-hair jokes.
posted by Danelope at 9:43 AM on October 16, 2004

Monty Python first hit U.S. audiences in the mid-1970s. A very common reaction was that it was brilliantly inventive absurdist, dadaist humor--where did they come up with this stuff? Only later did the same people become aware that a lot of the routines and premises were taken from British experiences. Things that a British audience would have recognized as parody were taken here as completely from outer space.

A similar thing happened to me around the SCTV television series. Remember the episode when the SCTV staff went on strike, and they "borrowed" a broadcast feed from the CBC for one episode? Funny enough on its own, but a couple of years later I actually spent a few days in Canada--some of it watching television. Hey: they weren't making this up!
posted by gimonca at 9:49 AM on October 16, 2004

Two thoughts...

First, any physical comedy always lasts throughout time. We always want to see our brethren in some level of pain; this is why the Three Stooges is still funny for some people; as well as Harold Lloyd's work still being fun.

Second, you're living in the land of sub-reference. Look at it this way - have you ever had a friend think a mind blowing movie wasn't funny because he'd seen a derivative work? They know the derivative work, but they don't know the original. And this problematic.

The Pink Panther films weren't terribly funny for me (I was a juvenile when they came out.) On the other hand, go see Being There if you want to see Peter Sellers in a funny movie (although it probably moves too slow for many people.) I don't like much of Blake Edwards works.

Just some thoughts from a film geek.
posted by filmgeek at 9:52 AM on October 16, 2004

It seems like U.S. comedy in the 60s and 70s had a bit of a slower pace, too, maybe. "Young Frankenstein" has been on TV several times recently. I still enjoy it, but I'm really struck by the time between gags. Probably a difference there between seeing it in a theatre with an appreciative audience versus seeing it at home on television, DVD, VHS or whatever.
posted by gimonca at 9:54 AM on October 16, 2004

The only bad thing about Duck Soup to me is the musical numbers. Otherwise yeah, it's awesome. The Three Stooges would be a better one.

The 1952 Importance of Being Earnest is still funny if you count adaptations. The first time I read/saw it (reading and seeing were about two days apart) I didn't get the "flowers are as common in the country as people in the city" line, though.
posted by kenko at 9:55 AM on October 16, 2004

You can pick:

a. I can tell you you're on crack or
b. I can point at you and yell "blasphemer!"

Odd you should put it that way. All I'll say is that I'm feeling very energetic right now, and, boy howdy, that church will have an unpleasant surprise when they show up tomorrow. Who knew you could do that with a chalice and a melon?

I suppose you're not-wrong about Charade or Mr.B. Except that anything with Audrey Hepburn in it is by definition unpoo. Mr. B still has timeless elements to it -- the father who's helpless in the face of the horde of women who surround him -- but it is awfully slight.

All I meant is that if you see if Hepburn/Grant comedy, you owe it to yourself to see a Hepburn or Hepburn/Tracy comedy and a Cary Grant comedy to see the elements of the pair in another context. It was too late to think of a really good just-Cary-Grant comedy.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:56 AM on October 16, 2004

As has been mentioned, I think the concept of "aging poorly" is only directly relevant toward topical humour - if you don't have the frame of reference, you won't get the jokes. But I think the real issue with comedies seeming to age poorly is that the concept of comedy is so exceptionally subjective, and our subjective realities change fairly regularly (and are so influenced by external realities), that some things which we might have found funny in the past are often no longer funny in the present. When a medium evolves, sometimes the early examples of its evolution seem primitive by modern standards, because they are, and they do not age well in the sense of continuing to be successfully funny. But other early examples so obviously contain the essential elements that they are as refined as their modern cousins (Bringing Up Baby is a good example).

There are certain types of comedy which I have never found funny, and which I likely never will find funny, with notable exceptions. I do not like slapstick, I have never liked slapstick. Except when Peter Sellers or Steve Martin do it - they bring a level of class and elegance which sets up a tension between what they're doing and how they approach it which I find brings a whole new level to the humour, to the point where I find it funny. I can understand from an academic standpoint why people think Blazing Saddles is iconic, but I don't think I chuckled more than once or twice when I saw it, and I very much doubt I will ever watch it again. The Pink Panther movies, on the other hand, I adore.

In short (too late), I think the issue isn't aging as much as it is the fundamental subjectivity of what contitutes "comedy", and since our subjectivity changes, so does what we find comedic.
posted by biscotti at 10:01 AM on October 16, 2004

I still enjoy it, but I'm really struck by the time between gags

You should watch a dvd of Simpsons season 1 or 2... Groening and co. consistently discuss how *slow* the episodes are compared to the pace of even a few years later. For sheer number-of-jokes though, it's hard to top MST3K.

The only bad thing about Duck Soup to me is the musical numbers

The musical numbers aren't my favorite parts of any Marx Bros. movie, --but-- they do make the movies more interesting to me, since they make it more clear that what I'm seeing is a vaudeville show performed in front of cameras.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:01 AM on October 16, 2004

I still believe that PTA is the funniest movie ever.

Absolutely yes. I have actually been looking for a DVD-rip on the various p2p networks for the past 5 years, to no avail. I already own the VHS copy of it, but every day it degrades a tiny bit more!

"People train run outta' Stubbsville."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:18 AM on October 16, 2004

I don't have the time to read through this whole thread but comedies that have held up extremely well include

The In-Laws
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Some Like It Hot
A Christmas Story
The Producers
The Man in the White Suit (more droll than funny, but still)
posted by iconomy at 10:24 AM on October 16, 2004

I still break out the Blues Brothers every few years. Maybe it's because I'm not very good at that "grow up" thing but I still enjoy it. Some comedies I assume will suck if I watch now, for instance as a teenager Stripes with Bill Murray and Eugene Levy was the best thing ever. I'm positive if I watch it now I'll tell myself: self, you were a dumbass. Oh, and the Three Stooges never gets old to real males!
posted by substrate at 10:58 AM on October 16, 2004

ROU_Xenophobe--even Funny Face?
posted by kenko at 11:20 AM on October 16, 2004

For everybody on both sides of Blazing Saddles may I offer up the James Garner westerns Support your local Sheriff and Support your local Gunfighter. I think they're pretty funny too but I enjoyed Blazing Saddles a great deal too.

On another note, I think the Pink Panther movies are dumb, dumber and outright stupid. I like Peter Sellers, though, just not those films.
posted by codger at 11:27 AM on October 16, 2004

It seems like U.S. comedy in the 60s and 70s had a bit of a slower pace, too, maybe.

Even Airplane! seemed kind of leisurely the last time I saw it, which was really not how I remembered it. Held up well, though.
posted by furiousthought at 11:57 AM on October 16, 2004

Somehow Kentucky Fried Movie manages to be dated and still hilarious at the same time. It has the quality of being very much a product of its time yet still outrageous and irreverent enough to be enduring.
posted by euphorb at 12:05 PM on October 16, 2004

Sorry, A Shot in the Dark is still hilarious.
posted by raysmj at 12:06 PM on October 16, 2004

even Funny Face?

I'll admit I haven't seen that. Mayhap it is poo.

But I'd watch a movie with Audrey Hepburn (or Ingrid Bergman) reading insurance policies, so I doubt I'd mind its poo-osity.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:37 PM on October 16, 2004

"Two things are not debatable: eroticism, and comedy. If you don't think it's sexy, or funny, there's no way I can change your mind." - Gene Siskel
posted by gluechunk at 1:17 PM on October 16, 2004

The musical numbers aren't my favorite parts of any Marx Bros. movie,

agreed, except for maybe the "Whatever it is... I'm against it" ditty from Horse Feathers.
posted by .kobayashi. at 4:26 PM on October 16, 2004

I heard Lysistrata is suposed to be very funny. And who doesn't crack up at Twelfth Night?

But now I have "Springtime for Hitler" running through my head again.
posted by jb at 12:49 AM on October 17, 2004


Bill,Chevy,Ted & Rodney, for me a classic for others ho-hum?
posted by johnny7 at 3:56 AM on October 17, 2004

Aristophanes was a master of the fart joke.
posted by kenko at 7:46 AM on October 17, 2004

Isnt comedy and artifact of culture? Sure seems that way, and as culture changes the comedic successes (and formulas) of the past simply no longer work.

I'm with PinkStainlessTail on this one. Jacques Tati was a master of comedy, and I'm not a 1950s Frenchman.
posted by Vidiot at 8:06 PM on October 17, 2004

Before anything else, I beg you to check out Preston Sturges' comedies. I just watched Sullivan's Travels for the first time this weekend and was stunned at how witty and funny it was, especially the first half. I loved The Lady Eve too; Barbara Stanwyck is not just funny but one of the sexiest things I've ever seen -- if you like the ladies, you will be felled.

I also love Buster Keaton, to the point where I've attended this festival. Similarly, I adore the sexy spunky silent stylings of Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin, Clara Bow; I never knew Laurel and Hardy were funny until I saw their silents. Starting with comedies that lack dialouge may help; it's one less thing to puzzle through, which is the death of comedy.

That's why comedy ages a bit more sensitively than other art: it's all about the timing, which is thrown off by the willful effort you must make to ignore anachronisms, language strangeness, historical references you don't get, etc. But if the material's really funny, and aligns with your particular sensibility, the process will cease to be willful at some point, and you will be swept up. You may find your sense of humor suits best to a particular age: for me, it's the screwball 20s silents, and 40s gal-on-the-go wisecracking comedies and noirs. The more you devote yourself to a period, the more you understand the slang, mores, political references, and most important, the way jokes time out. I love the fast, double-entendre-filled back and forth of a Bringing Up Baby; that's my ideal comic pace. Find yours, and you'll appreciate just about anything in that rhythm.
posted by melissa may at 9:24 PM on October 17, 2004

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