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The secret of movie comedy

Monday 26 April 2010, 13:52

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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Are there such things as successful movie comedies that are not funny? You tell me there are.

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    Comment number 1.

    argument absolutely solved.

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    Comment number 2.

    The synopsis above is a bit misleading: Dr K and the Commenters effectively answer the questions "Are there such things as good comedies that are not funny?" and "Can a comedy be a comedy without being funny?"

    However, the question above is "Are there such things as SUCCESSFUL movie comedies that are not funny?" The answer to this question is - of course - YES, with reference to the oeuvres of Jennifer Aniston, Vince Vaughn, and a selection of the work of Sandra Bullock.

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    Comment number 3.

    I nearly peed my trousers when I saw Happiness, it's just laugh a second in my humble opinion.

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    Comment number 4.

    I especially liked 'welcome to the dollhouse'. My how I laughed at the school bully threatening to rape the girl after school.

    About Schmidt too, wasn't that supposed to be a comedy?

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    Comment number 5.

    Comedy is best done on television, where you get more time on character development.
    Would a "Frasier" movie been as funny? I very much doubt it.
    Anyway, cinema-going's too bleedin' expensive to waste on 'comedies'.

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    Comment number 6.

    I completely disagree about Dr.Strangelove. I was recently lucky enough to see it at a Kubrick month in a local cinema and despite having seen it numerous times, I (and the audience around me) were in fits of laughter throughout, particularly during Sellers's final speech. Tears were streaming down my face when the explosions filled the screen. Not tears of sadness.

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    Comment number 7.

    I agree with Diarmaid Hanly re. Dr Strangelove. Surely one of the funniest films ever, with many jokes and laugh out loud moments. The genius of it is that the comedy forces us to question our own judgement of the issues of nuclear armourment, as the story unfolding on screen is quite horrific.

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    Comment number 8.

    I have to agree with those who have said Dr Strangelove is funny, every time I watch it I laugh well over the five times required... even the character names were hilarious.

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    Comment number 9.

    Now that I'm an "old friend" can have a slot on the Culture Show? Maybe co-presenter or something?

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    Comment number 10.

    *rolls eyes* The sycophancy...

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    Comment number 11.

    Hey...I do belive I was the first person to mention Dr Strangelove...no mention again!

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    Comment number 12.

    I've had the great good fortune to see Dr Strangelove on the big screen twice (thanks to The Broadway in Nottingham and the Hyde Park Picture House). I laughed like a drain the second time around.

    I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

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    Comment number 13.

    I am a really big fan of Todd Solondz and Happiness and Welcome to the Dollhouse are two of my favorite comedies of all time. Happiness I find absolutely laugh-out-loud hysterical, but Welcome to the Dollhouse is another matter. I tend to watch about once a year and spend most of that time wincing.

    I've spent ages trying to work out why this is and part of it I think is just a matter of sympathy. For all of the accusations of misanthropy, Solondz does give the characters in Happiness their lighter moments and it helps clear the air a little. Dollhouse, on the other hand, is so aggressively nihilistic and mean-spirited that it makes me almost physically squirm. Nothing nice happens throughout the entire movie and there isn't a single nice character in the entire film, it's just a continuous thread of ugly people doing ugly things to one another and for every half inch it climbs up, it slips another five. But, I do think it's a great comedy that subverts the Hollywood-style coming of age story and paints a really honest - albeit cynical - portrait of the public school food chain where cruelty begets cruelty. When I'm not watching the movie, there ARE times when I can think back to certain moments in it and laugh, but I don't think I've ever laughed while watching it (whereas Happiness is, in my opinion, a laugh riot and I'm eagerly awaiting a chance to see Life During Wartime).

    The King of Comedy I'll agree is more disturbing than outright funny, but everything about Dr. Strangelove is hilarious from the opening credits onward. Just the tone of it in itself is funny.

    I've never gone through the effort of signing up and responding to a blog before, but I just spent the last couple of days reading through yours and it's just too fantastic. Love what you've done with the place.

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    Comment number 14.

    I think Kubrick does have a sence of comedy in quite a few of his films, weather or not some scenes are supposed to be funny or not i don't know but i laughed at them. The malfuntioning sound of the HAL voice being shut down in 2001 gave me a chuckle, the picture test near the end of clockwork orange was very funny "cabbages, knickeres, he hasent got a beak". and even the drill sargent stuff within the first 45 mins of full metal jacket are funny in a way.

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    Comment number 15.

    I really wish I could be as sophisticated about comedy as most people here. Fact is I laugh mostly at people embarassing themselves, spoofing other people or acting silly.I CAN and have laughed at "sopisticated" comedy, but it never makes me cry with laughter. Being clever is all well and good but being TOO clever I can appreciate but not laugh at.I didn't think Brazil was funny. I thought it was horrifying. I didn't laugh at dr.strangelove...
    You wanna know what makes me laugh? Dramatic chipmunk...

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    Comment number 16.

    And what of movies that one person (i.e., me) thinks is funny and no one else (i.e., everybody I know who has seen them) does? For example, a very dark, very dry film called "Slither" starring James Caan and Peter Boyle. Cracked me up, but made my friends look at me cross-eyed.

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    Comment number 17.



    Dr K,
    Are there such things as successful movie comedies that are not funny?.....In one word ....Plenty ! For instance anything that says comedy and has Jim Carrey or Eddie Murphy in it for kick off and that covers a lot of ground. The list between these two alone would be like writing the Gettysburgh address all over again.If you look at the last 25 years or so Messrs Carrey and Murphy who are in my opinion over rated in so many of the big screen comedy offerings, have racked up a whole lot of box office. But ye gods save me from the likes of Bruce Almighty and The Nutty Professor dreadful dross for the masses. Stick to stand up guys please!

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    Comment number 18.

    Kind Hearts & Coronets. I did not really laugh but i really love this movie!

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    Comment number 19.

    agreed about 'happiness' and 'no country for old men' funny films as too jim jarmusch's 'broken flowers'-i was the only one laughing in the cinema

    if you have the dvd of 'dr strangelove', there's an extras scene with peter sellers doing impressions over the telephone which are hilarious and spot on

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    Comment number 20.

    I missed last weeks debate but was surprised no one mentioned 'Man Bites Dog' - a film that is absolutely hilarious whilst simultaneously being one of the most disturbing pieces of cinema you'll ever see.

 

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Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

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