Favorite Comedies

This is a hard one answer–especially films that made me really laugh throughout. I haven’t formed a list yet, but I just thought I’d start this threat. Talk about your favorite comedies–make your top list–and talk about the reasons these are some of the funniest films; to be more precise, it might help to talk about what makes you laugh. Here’s my response to that question.

Without giving this much thought, comedy that’s intentionally funny usually doesn’t make me laugh very much. In other words, situations or lines of dialogue that are meant as jokes–where you know the filmmakers are trying to make you laugh. I might find this type of comedy amusing, it may put a smile on my face and at best make me chuckle, but it won’t make me laugh really hard. The type of comedy that gets a heartfelt laugh from me are usually scenes that played straight–and even scenes that’s not supposed to be funny.

One of my favorite scenes that comes to mind is the one in Tootsie where Dustin Hoffman barges into his agent’s office (Sydney Pollack, who is an underrated comedic actor to me), and they get into an argument. In a way, the filmmakers the scene is going to be funny, but there aren’t any jokes per se. It’s the type of argument that could actually happen versus being written by comedy writers. The other part that I enjoy is an exasperation expressed by Pollack’s character. I find watching frustrated characters on the brink of losing it really funny for some reason. Nicholas Cage’s character in Honeymoon in Vegas like this, too.

I’m not much into slapstick.

As for jokes, if they’re really clever or witty, that’s always enjoyable. Sarcasm can be hilarious–especially combined with genuine exasperation. Generally, I like comedy that comes from real life, natural situations versus something that feels staged. The delivery of the lines–the body language and vocal quality and timing-are often more crucial than the actual lines themselves.

As for actual films, Tootsie would be on there, I think, although there’s a lot of the film that’s not super funny (although I haven’t seen this in a long time). Woody Allen’s Manhattan has some great lines–but again I don’t find myself cracking up as much. Then again, I saw that film a bunch of times so the lines may not have as much of an impact. I enjoy the humor of Billy Crystal (When Harry Met Sally and City Slickers), but again, I don’t know if I was cracking up with laughter in those films. That type of laughter is pretty rare. I wish more films could make me laugh like that.

4 Responses to “Favorite Comedies”

  1. Mitchell

    For me it is almost always about language. Do something clever with the language and you’ve got me. Do something funny and clever, and I’ll love you forever. I love it when a writer captures the funny way we use language, and I love it when actors capture the funny ways we deliver it, and I love it when a director captures the kind of rhythm and timing that make the language interesting and real.

    Combine that with situational humor, and you really have something. This scene from Superbad always cracks me up because it combines the urgency and desperation these boys feel (they have to get some booze for a party that night) with their geeky expressive natures in dealing with this weird situation. Michael Cera especially kills me, but all three actors really nail this scene.

    Then, of course, there’s the unexpected. When someone catches you off-guard with something funnier and better than what you thought was going to happen, that can be super funny. I’ve mentioned this scene from When Harry Met Sally and it’s my favorite because you have the awkwardness of Harry’s recent encounter with his ex-wife combined with his well-spoken tirade about the dish and coffee table all tied up with Carrie Fischer’s great line: “I will never want that wagon wheel coffee table.” It’s not what we expect her to say, but it’s just right, and it’s very funny.

    I am not a fan of slapstick either, but when it happens a certain way, it can make me howl. There’s a scene in an episode of MASH where the officers are having a tug-o-war with the enlisted, and Radar is tugged right into a mud puddle. Because it’s Radar and because of the way the plunge is executed, I find myself laughing even though I know it’s not that funny. I was once walking, kind of in a hurry, through the Waikiki Plaza and because I was focused on something nearby, I didn’t see this bench right in the middle of the mall. I flopped right over that thing, almost as if God had just flicked me in the back of the head and sent me flying. That was pretty funny, but what made it hilarious (I’m laughing even as I recall it now) was that there were these two young Japanese women walking nearby, and they saw the whole thing. When I stood up and stared in disbelief at the bench, looking around me to see if anyone had witnessed it, the two women were obviously struggling not to laugh. They had their little hands over their mouths to cover small smiles that threatened to burst into laughter; you could see in their eyes that as soon as they got out of range they were going to have quite a howl. THEY made the slapsticky moment hilarious for me.

    With these things in mind, I will compile my list later. I am quite sure, though, that these films have a great shot of making the top ten.

    The Princess Bride
    This is Spinal Tap
    When Harry Met Sally
    City Slickers
    Wayne’s World
    My Cousin Vinny
    Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were Rabbit

    More later.

    ps: thanks for starting this threat, even though it’s a hard one answer. 🙂

  2. Reid

    I never saw Wayne’s World. Somehow I don’t think I would like this.

    As you know, I never thought Sideways was that funny. I know you liked Sideways, but was it really that funny to you? I can understand you liking it for Paul Giamatti’s character, but I’m a little surprised that the film is a candidate for all-time funny movies.

    I know I mentioned that I’m not a big fan of slapstick, but one possible exception is the Marx Brothers. The joy and zaniness gets to me at times. Groucho’s one-liners are pretty great, too.
    But again, I don’t think this is comedy that gets me rolling.

    I’m still trying to think of those….

    Btw, one of the most overrated comedies–overrated movies, period–is Some Like it Hot. OK, there are some great lines in the film, but the film is just not funny. Maybe it was hilarious back in the day, but I’d be surprised if modern audiences thought it was funny.

  3. mitchell

    Wayne’s World is extremely clever, but yeah. I wouldn’t expect you to like it much. I mean, if you didn’t like the SNL sketches, you won’t like the film. There’s a lot of rock and roll in it, so that by itself is a good reason for me, but it was also my favorite (of all time) of the recurring sketches on SNL.

    Agree about Some Like it Hot. It was huge at a time when the simple act of a man’s putting on a dress was risky and hilarious. I have to say, though, that I never understood the appeal of Marilyn Monroe until I saw this movie. Did someone say hot? Hot, indeed.

  4. Reid

    Monroe: hot, yes; funny, no.

    Btw, City Slickers and My Cousin Vinny are films that I consider improbably successful–at least in terms of me enjoying them. I remember Caroline Leasure strongly recommending CS, and I was sure I wouldn’t like it. MCV is the type of film whose trailer would indicate the film would suck. But no, it was good. Pesci is just great to watch, especially with Marisa Tomei and Fred Gwynne. (I wonder how the pairing of Pesci and Tomei came about because that just doesn’t seem like a couple that would match…father and daughter, yes; lovers, no.)


    Where do you stand on spoofs like Mel Brooks’ films and the Zucker brothers’ movies (e.g. Airplane!). I totally hate them.

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