Comedy on film

March 29, 2011

It seems that it has been a long time since I saw a good comedy on film. Good comedies, I know, are rare, but at least part of the seeming scarcity might be attributed to my sweeping ignorance of good films in general, comedies included. I love to have a good belly laugh, and I wish I knew more comedies that could provoke one.

May I ask your advice? I would very much like to hear about your favourite comedies, with perhaps a word or two (or not) about why you like them. For the record, my favourite comedies to date are probably these, each of which I can watch again and again in a spirit of contented delight:

That list is in alphabetical, not ranked, order, but it is fitting that Groundhog Day is at the top, for it is my overall favourite, and the only film on the list that qualifies as deep comedy. As is evident, I am not a great enthusiast for black (that is, dark) comedy; Fargo, as great as it is, was left off intentionally. I want to laugh heartily, not uneasily.

I have only just now realized that The Hudsucker Proxy is a Coen Brothers film. I had no idea. And it was co-written by Sam Raimi. No wonder I like it so much.

Note that the oldest film on the list is Spinal Tap, from 1984. This reflects my general ignorance of, and slight allergy to, older films. I have tried Dr. Strangelove, and I have tried Blazing Saddles, and I just couldn’t get through them. It’s my fault. I am willing to try others.

Suggestions?

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18 Responses to “Comedy on film”

  1. Christina A. Says:

    Zoolander and Space Balls are both classics around here.

    Best recent funny film was Date Night with Steve Carroll – not amazing, but best I’ve seen lately.

  2. Christina A. Says:

    Dr. F would like add

    Blues Brothers

    I would like to add anything with old cast members from SCTV like John Candy and Eugene Levy.

  3. cburrell Says:

    My sister once told me that ‘Zoolander’ was one of her favourite movies. Now here is another recommendation. I’m making a note.

    I think that I saw ‘Blues Brothers’ when I was about 12 or 13 years old; I didn’t think much of it at the time, but that may not have been the fault of the movie!

  4. Mac Says:

    I missed Blues Brothers when it was a huge hit, and only saw it for the first time a few years ago. I didn’t think it was so great. Likewise for Animal House. Likewise for Young Frankenstein. Never saw Blazing Saddles, which I think is from the same era.

    I love the Marx Brothers, but now we’re talking really old. And I was surprised a few years ago at how much I liked Buster Keaton’s The General (my comment on it here)

    I thought that movie that was in part a satire on Star Trek and its cult, which I can’t remember the name of right now, was pretty funny. I liked Men In Black.

    It’s a tv show, not a movie, but I think Fawlty Towers is pretty much my favorite comedy, period. I can watch it over and over.

    I didn’t really think of Fargo as a comedy, btw. Comic elements, maybe, but also scary. I like Groundhog Day a lot, too, but I think of it as only half-comedy.

    The various satires by what’s-his-name who was involved with Spinal Tap–Best In Show, Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind–have some really good moments. I know several people who think AMW is brilliant but I found it a little disappointing.

    I thought at the time that Woody Allen’s ’60s-’70s comedies were often very funny, though hit-and-miss but I haven’t seen them since, and I don’t know how I’d like them now.

  5. cburrell Says:

    Thanks for all those ideas, Mac. I am going to try the Buster Keaton film, if I can find it.

    I have seen Best in Show, but it wasn’t half — nor even one-third — as funny as Spinal Tap. Maybe I’ll take a look at A Mighty Wind; I wonder if it’s a case of ‘you had to be there’?

    Can you believe that I have never seen Fawlty Towers? The only British comedy to which I have much exposure is Monty Python, and while it is funny, I find it is usually funnier to think about afterward than to actually watch.

    I think that classifying Fargo as comedy — even ‘deep comedy’ — is defensible, principally on account of Marge Gunderson’s role, but it is definitely not light comedy.

    I can’t think of the Star Trek satire to which you might be referring. Spaceballs?

  6. Giovanni Says:

    Dumb and Dumber…absolutely brilliant. Maybe a couple of “questionable” scenes…
    –GF

  7. cburrell Says:

    I wondered if anyone would bring up Dumb and Dumber. I saw it one afternoon, with a group of friends, after finishing my final exams in undergrad, and I was in such a loose and relieved state of mind that I — we — laughed ourselves silly. I have often wondered, however, if it would still be funny if I saw it again. I’ve suspected not, but maybe I am wrong.

  8. Mac Says:

    I watched about 10 minutes of Dumb & Dumber and thought it was…dumb.

    I finally remembered that Sigourney Weaver was in that Star-Trek-takeoff movie, and via her filmography was able to find the name of it: Galaxy Quest. (Oh my goodness–Snape (Alan Rickman) was also in it.) I don’t make any greater claim for it than that it made me laugh.

    For what it’s worth: to my taste, Fawlty Towers is far more consistently funny than Monty Python, although MP certainly has many wonderful moments.

    “you had to be there” for A Mighty Wind…that’s just it, I was there, albeit as a distant spectator, and although it had massive potential it just seemed to miss more often than hit for me.

  9. KathyB Says:

    If you are looking for older movies, I grew up watching “Some like it Hot” with Marilyn Monroe. As an adult, it is even funnier – I now realize that most of the adult humor in the movie was going completely over my head in my earlier years.

    And yes, I like Spaceballs.

  10. Beth Says:

    My all time comic fave is “Big Business.” Nothing at all objectionable, and just imagine Bette Middler yodeling!

    Another is “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.” My grown kids can still quote vast amounts of dialogue. It’s silly classic.

  11. cburrell Says:

    I haven’t seen either of those, Beth. I think I have a bad allergy to Pee Wee Herman, but I thank you for the suggestion nonetheless.

    Ah, Kathy! Some Like it Hot is definitely going on my list. I have actually been meaning to see that one for several years, but I had forgotten about it. Thanks.

  12. cburrell Says:

    Update: I put Zoolander on this weekend, being in the mood for comedy. About five minutes in I realized that I had already seen it. After another five minutes I turned it off. It’s not my thing.

  13. Mac Says:

    I believe I’ve seen snatches of Zoolander…[checks Netflix]…yes, I have, because one of my children likes it. It didn’t seem to be especially my thing, either. I think I wasn’t really getting the fashion humor.

    I remembered another one: Office Space. I think a good after-the-fact test of whether I really liked a comedy is whether I laugh when I think about it, and that one definitely passes the test. I’ve seen it twice, with a 5 or 6 year interval, and it was if anything funnier the second time. It helps if you’ve worked for a somewhat tech-ish company.

  14. cburrell Says:

    Office Space looks promising; I am putting it on my list. Thanks.

  15. Tracy Stephen Altman Says:

    _Bringing Up Baby_ and _His Girl Friday_, both with Carey Grant, are also both funny. _His Girl Friday_, in particular, always astounds me with the sheer amount of dialogue–the script must be twice the length of most movie scripts.

  16. cburrell Says:

    Now we’re talking. Thanks, Tracy. I hadn’t heard of either of those films before, but I’ve just looked them up and they look very promising. My list is getting quite long!

  17. Hal Says:

    One movie that I want to watch again is “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming!” It deals with a Russian invasion of a sleepy coastal town during the Cold War. Although the subject doesn’t sound funny, and it certainly has tense moments, the humor had me rolling. The comedic elements are simple but effective without stooping to crassness. I highly recommend this movie!

  18. Mac Says:

    Another vote here for The Russians…. There is a phrase in it which tends to become part of one’s vocabulary.

    I need to check out some of those old Cary Grant movies. I always liked his screen presence–suave, handsome, a magnet for the ladies, but not swaggering or taking himself too seriously.


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