Tuesday, December 28, 2010

COMEDY TODAY


It used to be that comedy was based on funny bits (Mel Brooks), funny lines (Woody Allen) or an ability to take a pie in the face or fall down the steps (the early slapstick comics)

But now it seems to me that a lot of comedy is attitudinal. If you look at the comedies being made by folks like Judd Apatow and other younger directors, they seem to do little more than create characters that their audiences want to spend time with because they exude a certain attitude.

Not exactly coolness. More like familiarity. These are the guys you threw up with in college. These are the guys that don't want to grow up. And the audience for these movies relate to that sentiment. Not wanting to grow up seems to run through most movies and TV shows that are categorized as comedy. I've got news for you though. You still grow old even if you don't grow up. And you might want people to notice if you've fallen into dementia--not see it as the same old frat guy stuff.

What do you think? Now I occasionally go along for the ride with these movies if the writing is sharp. But some of these films, like GROWNUPS, just elude me completely. And why is always about men?

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Patti - Comedy has changed, hasn't it? There are a few of those modern comedies that I've thought were funny, but a lot of them elude me, too. Or maybe I just don't get the joke. I think that comedy is such as subjective thing that something might be truly funny to millions of people, but others wouldn't find it funny at all.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think it is not only subjective but age-based to some extent. And gender based as well.

Deb said...

I freely admit I have no interest what-so-ever in seeing GROWN-UPS. It just seemed so lazy--Adam Sandler got a group of his friends together and they made a movie essentially of them getting together. Ho-hum.

Also, I notice a distinct low-key mysogyny in all of the Adam Sandler-Judd Apatow-Paul Rudd ouvre where women are either harpies, mother figures, goddesses, or b*tches. There don't seem to be any "real" women there--but perhaps that is how Sandler and his co-horts (and, sadly, his audience) see women.

David Cranmer said...

I would be hard-pressed to tell you the last comedy I enjoyed. But it would probably be a British offering on the small screen like EXTRAS.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Patti. You nailed it exactly. I think (if I may generalize, which is a geezer's privilege) that too many "kids" in this generation absolutely refuse to grow up. Talk about Boomers all you want, but most of us went to college, got married and went to work, even if we kept many of our likes and attitudes.

Perhaps it is partly the economy, perhaps it is parental overindulgence (let's face it, this is the most child-centric society ever), but how many 25-30 year olds are still (or again) living with their parents, hanging out with their friends from college (or high school), getting drunk and/or stoned every night?

And yet, as a friend pointed out yesterday, they all have Crackberrys and iPods and all the best toys mommy and daddy can buy.

As to the direct point, as far back as Saturday Night Live days Adam Sandler was (with few exceptions, like the Hanukah song) Just.Not.Funny. And don't even get me started on David Spade or Rob Scneider or Jimmy Fallon.

All you need to know is this: Seth Rogen is playing romantic leading man roles. (Then there's Michael Cera and Jonah Hill.) Picture a female equivalent and try to imagine Hollywood starring her in a rom com. Impossible, right?

That said, I think there has always been a large streak of misogyny in a lot of comedy - Bill Murray certainly has it and go back to Groucho - but yes, it's worse now. These man-boys seem to want women but fear them more.

Sorry to go on so long but it's your fault: your questions are too interesting!

Jeff M.

PS - And stay off my lawn!

Deb said...

Jeff--I call it the "Beer Commercial dynamic," because only in beer commercials or the most recent crop of rom-com-bro-mance movies would you ever find a man who looks like Seth Rogen hooked up with a woman who looks like, say, Katherine Heigl.

The sad part is an entire generation of men are growing up believing that no matter how schlubby they look and no matter how immature their outlook, they deserve (and will eventually get) a trophy girlfriend/wife and so they ignore, overlook, or denigrate "average"-looking women. By the same token, we have a generation of super-achieving women who do everything they can (including plastic surgery) to look like the kind of woman the "average" man wants to date/marry.

/Glad I'm not a member of that generation.

//Worried about the future for my daughters.

///Going to yell at kids on my lawn.

Anonymous said...

Good point, Deb. I wish I had $1 for every time I've seen a guy with a Rogenesque body getting out of a car with a "No Fat Chicks" bumper sticker....

And now he's playing The Green Hornet? WTF?

Jeff M.

Steve Oerkfitz said...

Jeff-Actually Hollywood on occasion have pushed unattractive female leads in rom-comedies. Barbra Streisand, Liza Minneli and even Ellen(Mr. Wrong).
I still find a few comedies each year worthwhile Curb Your Enthusiasm, Extras, The Office. And in theaters I enjoyed Scott Pilgrim Vs the World even tho I am not a member of it's target audience.

Charles Gramlich said...

I think sophomoric comedies like grown ups are directed at men because of the crudity associated with men. Personally I don't get them or find them funny. I've never been a huge fan of comedies, but I do like the olders ones better, the non Animal House type works.

Todd Mason said...

Man-boys sell tickets to boys, pretty much the way explosion movies do. Boys of all ages, of course, but actual boys actually buy more tickets than men and women and a few more than girls do (but girls, do, too, so princess movies and childish rom-coms).

Jack Nicholson in THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK. Seth Rogan has nothing on that for a mismatch. And a comparison to Streisand and Minellis is particularly apt...the "relatably" average-looking person getting together with the babe (say, Streisand with Redford). Of course, Apatow likes to note that he's undecorative and gets together with Leslie Mann...but a lot of that kind of match is driven by the Apatow equivalent already being wealthy (in the entertainment industry, particularly, where pretty folks are already common)...and some just by being lucky. Certainly I consider all the women I've shared considerable time with better looking than I am, some vastly moreso.

Dan Fleming said...

Sadly, this lack of funny is not just limited to the big screen. Most of the highly rated sit-coms (ahem Two and a Half Men) just escape me completely. Others around me will be left wetting their pants and I'm wondering what the hell is going on. Even shows that are right up my particular nerd alley, like Big Bang Theory, try to force the humor 50% of the time.

Meanwhile, shows like Arrested Development get completely ignored.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Generally I am finding tv superior to most movies in many areas, and comedies is one of them. Modern Family, The Office, Parks and Recreation, Nurse Jackie, Curb, Community, Big Bang--all are funnier than most movies IMHO. If they would just lose the laugh tracks on some of them.

George said...

Hollywood thinks men are dumber (and thus funnier) than women. Wit and cleverness are largely absent from contemporary comedies. The formula seems to be: just pile more stupid stunts on top of one another. Like in JACKASS and JACKASS 3D.

Todd Mason said...

Part of the reason sitcoms run better than films in terms of actually being funny is that tv is still largely in the hands of the writers...while directors are still allowed to interfere too much in the production of films. One of the pernicious fantasies that needs to be discarded is that of the Director as Author of the Movie.

JACKASS is, of course, the most crass example of "reality" comedy, the professional version of AMERICA'S FUNNIEST HOME GROIN INJURIES.

Happily, the laugh tracks are, painfully slowly, being phased out. TV even does the manboys a bit better...UNDECLARED was better than any of the Apatow films, with the possible exception of THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN (it helped that it was about college kids, much as FREAKS AND GEEKS was about their slightly younger selves before it), and BORED TO DEATH is wittier, if no more mature, than the usual run of Apatow and imitators.

And, George, the ones with the power are the ones who are mocked. In good comedy and sometimes in bad. Mocking the powerless is just bullying.

Todd Mason said...

Hm. Patti, an extensive answer to your query about tv series was just eaten by the fact that you posted then retracted that entry...

Paul D. Brazill said...

Doesn't exactly look like His Girl Friday, does it? Mind you, I grew up on, and still enjoy, Carry On Films.

Anonymous said...

Todd, the whole laugh track thing always makes me think of Tony Roberts in ANNIE HALL "sweetening" the laugh track to make people think the unfunny isn't funny.

And things have gone way downhill since 1975.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I forgot to put 2011 so first it posted it last January, then now and finally I just removed it. I will repost.

Todd Mason said...

Um, Jeff? The sitcoms in 1975 were, if anything, trending far worse than those of today, even with such shining exceptions as THE BOB NEWHART SHOW and M*A*S*H (and such discredits today as TWO AND A HALF MEN and SHIT MY DAD SAYS). And there was no dearth of terrible "comedies" in theaters in 1975.

I was just a bit annoyed that my response, with a scrap of research

Todd Mason said...

was wiped out w/o a trace...

pattinase (abbott) said...

Coming back up.

Ron Scheer said...

Here's my off-the-wall opinion. The whole sex-obsessed, shlubby dumb guy thing has one main subtext: I'm Not Gay. It's Hollywood's appeal to the homophobic.

Anonymous said...

Todd, I was referring to the line in ANNIE HALL, not the sitcoms running then, though there were quite a few in the 1970s that were actually funny IMHO, the original BOB NEWHART SHOW being one shining example.

To me the success of TWO AND A HALF MEN is a perfect example of what's wrong with our "culture" today.

Jeff M.

Ita Maulani said...

Creator rumors are people with less work. Or maybe there was something wrong with him or any social distortion?

Todd Mason said...

I'm not sure I understand your last reply, Jeff...though you are far clearer than the spambot "Maulani"...I know you were referring to ANNIE HALL, but "things have gone way downhill since 1975" is a line in ANNIE HALL? I took a look at the '75-'76 season, and even 2.5 MEN is not worse than BIG EDDIE, THE MONTEFUSCOS, ON THE ROCKS, the utterly disappointing Mel Brooks WHEN THINGS WERE ROTTEN (after a decent pilot) or even such more durable bad series as WELCOME BACK, KOTTER and THAT'S MY MAMA...or LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY, despite talented people involved there. HAPPY DAYS had already jumped its shark, even if Fonzarelli hadn't actually done so on the series. There were plenty of good sitcoms in the '70s, and vastly more awful ones...and I haven't even mentioned the plethora of what SATURDAY NIGHT would have Chevy Chase refer to as "tragedy-variety shows," with THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW and NBC'S SN (not quite yet SNL, since that title was on the Howard Cosell ABC primetime botch) the only good ones scheduled at the beginning of that season.

Todd Mason said...

Nope, sorry, eyeslip...L&S began, and HAPPY DAYS fell apart artistically, in the '76-'77 season. But among the grating mediocrities of '75-'76 was DOC.

Todd Mason said...

Ron Scheer--maybe so, but I'm not sure...Hollywood is as likely to offer the likes of GLEE, though in its inanity more than its vaguely pro-gay sensibility is perhaps the most homophobia-stroking series currently on...aside from so many of the game/talent unreality shows.