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What makes a comedy film great?

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Our library film group is viewing comedies this year -- a different one each month.

Last month, we watched the critics' Number 1 comedy of all time-- Some Like it Hot, made in 1958 and starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe. The premise of the film is that two male musicians, trying to escape from dangerous Mafia gang leaders, assume the role of women and join an all -female band on a trip to Florida. The comedy comes from all the humorous situations men can find themselves in while they are pretending to be females, from having cozy 'girl' time with Marilyn Monroe, to being flirted with by other men.

The movie we are seeing this coming week is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, (1988) starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin. The setting is beautiful -- the south of France -- and both stars play con men who swindle wealthy tourists - usually gullible American widows -- out of money, with stories of struggling kingdoms or sick grandmothers. Then along comes one particular woman, and both men compete to win her money. While their behavior in real life would be quite immoral, the light-hearted touch of the movie keeps us smiling -- and even laughing out loud at times.

This week, before I introduce the movie, I will begin a discussion about what makes a great comedy film. Our reaction to humor is a very personal response -- not everyone reacts to a movie in the same way.

Googling this topic produced some interesting responses, and from them, I came up with a list of my own.

For me, the following elements are important in any comedy film:

-- The film must have a well-constructed story that makes you care about the characters

-- There are well-defined characters with great actors to portray them

-- Smart, witty, and funny dialogue

-- A touch of absurdity - absurdity that is believable, realistic

-- The characters should not be in on the joke
For the most part, I do not enjoy the zany films where it is just one joke after another presented by the characters - without any real investment in the story.

I will ask the members of our audience to think about what is important to them in a comedy.
It will be interesting to hear what they have to say.

I would also love to hear anything my SP friends have to say about this topic.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I like reading this. Comedy is so different for everyone.
    My DH and his family like "slapstick" or "insult" comedy which I abhor. Makes it tough for large family viewing. I find nothing funny about someone tripping.
    175 days ago
  • NANCY-
    Ah comedy.... haven't seen any "good" comedy lately. Perhaps I will remember one soon.
    175 days ago
    This is a fun blog with great topics which makes me want to search out more comedy on Netflix!!

    I do know that what my son and husband find hugely amusing -- roaring with laughter -- I often find somewhat vulgar (IRL they are both perfect gentlemen and yes I am a bit prissy, unfortunately). But in general I think there are some male/female differences!!
    175 days ago
    i have to admit i dont like much comedy for me it has to be believable,like everybody loves raymond. i have to be in the right mood to find comedy enjoyable , i also hate vulgar comedy and swearing every second is not funny, Jeff dunham is funny , so is jerry lewis but he can be annoying and funny,
    176 days ago
    Loved both those movies!
    176 days ago
    I think that what you find funny has a lot of to do with you own personal experiences. My friends often find movies funny that I don't. My favorite movies are comedies and I mostly watch them. I prefer a story with likable characters and I also have to like the actors who play the parts. I like the characterizations to be a little over the top and quirky. I don't find people punching each other or potentially getting hurt to be funny like a lot of people do. I'm not a prude but I don't find extreme vulgarity or nudity to be all that funny either. My favorite movies are usually well thought out. They have an often common, believable problem with an element of surprise.

    Three O'clock High is one of my favorite comedies. It focuses on a a common theme that many can relate to - being bullied. The teen being bullied is likable but not too perfect. The bully is ridiculously over the top - a touch freak. The teen spends the day at school anticipating having the stuffing beat out of him at 3 p.m. You can relate to him, feel his pain. Eventually everyone, including the teachers, administration, and most popular girl end up on his side. Even the bully does in a way too. So it raises tension and then releases it in a positive way. Reason prevails. The good guy wins. The bad guys isn't as evil as you feared. The message is clear - bullies really aren't that tough but you are tough and you can take it.
    176 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/27/2018 7:12:55 PM
  • no profile photo CANTSTAYAWAY
    I like your list! I am sure I must have seen Crazy Rotten Scoundrels, as I have always enjoyed Steve Martin, but I’m having difficulty remembering it. Not all comedy is created equal, and we all have our favourites, for so many reasons.
    I really enjoyed Three Men And A Baby....I think 1989?? My Mother was very ill at the time, we watched it together, and I have such strong memories of her laughter, and how much we both enjoyed this film.
    176 days ago
    I love romantic comedy. Sleepless in Seattle, Must Love Dogs and my favorite.. Sweet Home Alabama. All great!
    176 days ago
  • PHOENIX1949
    Yep, comedy is subjective. Several family members just don't get it that I'm not amused by The Three Stooges and I just don't get it that they are amused.

    Enjoyed this blog.
    176 days ago
    Ooh, fascinating topic, and I like your list, and agree with most of it. One of my favorites of all time is "What's Up Doc?" with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal. I liked "Bringing up Baby" with Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Both are what I would deem "screwball comedy" where the premise is absurd, but there is a plot involving a low-key, career involved guy, and an off-the-wall quirky gal, who gets away with a lot because of her station in life!

    Come to think of it, similar elements made me engaged with George Burns and Gracie Allen in their old TV show.

    176 days ago
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