Friday, January 09, 2009

Friday Favorites: My dirty little secret regarding Comedy

I wrote this entry before the stream of *blank* Movie's really started to pick up steam. I didn't know that there would be so many more of them after Date Movie. I feel sort of prophetic with this August 2006 entry.


This is going to be anathema to countless lists of great comedies produced by experts, along with a lot of the comedy lovers out there.

The majority of comedic movies in the Jim Abrahams/Mel Brooks mold just don't appeal to me. I admit it. Ok, that is putting it mildly. I loathe them. I am not saying that their entire portfolio is awful or anything like that. But there is just something about comedy that is trying to make me laugh by introducing an element which is internally inconsistent that irritates me and therefore do not provoke laughter in me.

There are certain qualities I look for in the comedies I watch, no matter how silly or inane. I am willing to accept a lot of things in a movie if it conforms to the internal reality of the story.

I think that is part of the reason that if I ever tried to create a list of what I felt were the best comedies of all-time, I would make a lot of people upset, because movies like Spaceballs, Airplane, Naked Gun and the like would not appear.

Now, to make it clear what kind of comedy I am talking about, I will give an example. In Spaceballs, there is a scene when the hero and his canine buddy "jam" a larger ship's radar.... by firing an actual jar of jam at a radar. I know why it is supposed to be funny, but really, it sort of falls flat for me. Gag humor just doesn't do it for me.

radar jam

There is also a quality in a lot of these movies that in my mind makes them less than timeless. They are very topical in their references, though the jokes they produce are about as cutting as a Jay Leno show monologue joke. They want the lowest common denominator and they sort of want to be offensive in a low grade way. It is like they want to take the easy, safe laugh.

I also know that if Leslie Nielsen is in it, the movie is most likely going to suck to me. For example, when I saw he was in the last two Scary Movies, I knew they were going to be especially terrible to me, and I was right.

Now the argument could be made that I am contradicting myself, as I have in the past professed quite the love for Family Guy and the like, and it has been a well-observed that their bread and butter method of getting a laugh is by introducing some really outlandish element that has nothing to do with the narrative. But the way it happens is in some other scene(chicken-fighting excepted of course). Dreams, visions and the like make a lot of these problems go away as well(the Wayne's World effect if you will).

There is an exception that proves this rule in my mind of course, and in this particular vein of humor, Blazing Saddles still works today and makes me laugh almost every time I see it. Somehow, no matter how weird or stupid the gags get, it just strikes the right chord.

Now I know a lot of you are probably going to disagree with me about this, and that's fine. I would love to discuss this with you all, as it isn't so much a fast and hard rule as it is a predilection. So, if you think I am full of crap or you can think of a movie which is like that and yet you know or think I like based on some of my other entries, well, you can call me on it, because this could be an interesting discussion.

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