Genre Blast: Make ‘em Laugh
Comedy comes in all colours, but what I’m considering here is not dry humor, tongue-in-cheek, or satire. I’m talking gut-busting, wet-your-pants, guffaw-inducing comedies. These are the type of movies that shock and embarrass as they gleefully ricochet around the recognizable foolishness of everyday life.
To qualify, the film must be laugh-out-loud funny. That’s it. Social commentary is allowed, but not required.
In no particular order, these films crack me up.
Trainspotting (Danny Boyle), 1996
There’s nothing funny about heroin addiction, right? Wrong – Boyle’s kinetic jolt of a movie provides an abundance of hoots even as it forces us to turn away in horror. This Scottish delight is chockablock with scenes that stay with you forever, for better or worse. Can’t wait to revisit Renton and gang in T2. “Choose Life!”
Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks), 1974
This movie would not get made today, no question, but it’s irreverent humor, racist and sexist bombs, and absurdist look at the Western is hysterically funny. Whether it’s Lily von Schtupp (Madeleine Kahn) confirming a racial stereotype while channeling Marlene Dietrich (It’s twoo!) to the bean feast around the campfire, Brooks successfully takes the low road at every opportunity.
You Can’t Take it with You (Frank Capra), 1938
The Sycamores and the Kirbys might not be as disparate as the Hatfields and the McCoys, but when these two families collide due to the planned engagement of Alice and Tony, well, let’s just say that the police become involved. This is Capra’s gentlest polemic may have somehow slipped behind his more preachy efforts in popularity today, but it’s a comedic gemstone.
A Fish Called Wanda (Charles Crichton/John Cleese), 1988
In this madcap heist film, Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis) claims that Otto (Kevin Kline) is so stupid that he thinks the Gettysburg Address is where Lincoln lives. Judging from Kline’s insanely funny performance for which he won a well-deserved Oscar, his intelligence should be the least of her worries. A superb script and zesty performances leave few stones unturned.
Airplane! (Jim Abrahams/David Zucker/Jerry Zucker), 1980
The gags come scattershot from start to finish in this landmark comedy, leaving the audience exhausted. Not all of the jokes, sight gags and asides hit their mark, but someone actually researched the film and found the laughs coming at three per minute, or almost 290 laughs. And don’t call me Shirley!
What films give you that pure, unashamed release called laughter?