Comedy is harder to do than drama

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Jim Williams, Aug 19, 2003.

  1. Jim Williams

    Jim Williams Second Unit

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    I don't think that there is really a definitive answer to this but it has been my observation that it is much harder to make a good comedy film than it is to make a good drama. I can only think of a handful of really outstanding comedys. Big, Tootsie, Airplane, Play it again Sam, Mrs. Doubtfire, come to mind as outstanding. Beyond that I start to struggle to come up with what I would call a great comedy movie. On the other hand I can name dozens of great dramas off the top of my head.

    To me a great comedy is one that does not resort to bathroom humor or gratuitous sex and nudity just to get a laugh. Mind you, I am no prude, but I just don't think that bathroom humor or gratuitous sex and nudity make a film great.

    What are your thoughts. Do you agree that it is harder to make a great comedy than it is to make a great drama?
     
  2. SteveP

    SteveP Second Unit

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    The well-known story is of some famous old English actor on his death-bed being asked:

    "Is dying hard?"

    His reply:

    "Dying is easy--COMEDY IS HARD!"
     
  3. Chad R

    Chad R Cinematographer

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    It's true. Because comedy is far more subjective than drama. Not everyone finds the same material funny, and humor is often time cultural specific. However, many of the emotions that Dramas tap into are universal. As an example, everyone finds death to be sad, or breaking up with a lover hard. But, not everyone thinks that slipping on a banana peel is funny.

    For instance, I would never declare "Mrs. Doubtfire" a classic of comedy. I found it maudlin and over-long. But you find it hysterical. That's not to say you're wrong, only that your idea of comedy is different than mine.
     
  4. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    I certainly agree that comedy is harder to do than drama, and it gets less respect to boot. But I have to disagree with the idea that there are only a handful of great comedies. There are literally hundreds. I'd start listing them, but I wouldn't know where to stop. [​IMG]
     
  5. Morgan Jolley

    Morgan Jolley Lead Actor

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    I usually enjoy comedy films that aren't aimed at a wide audience or that are made to be very much in either a darker sense (like American Beauty or Donnie Darko at some parts) or are just pure crude stuff (not gross out like Jackass, but more like South Park). For these reasons, I don't like most mainstream comedy.

    I find Jack Black and SNL to be the two biggest enigmas of modern comedy. I don't find either funny at all (except SNL's political stuff), but they're both extremely popular.
     
  6. Mike Graham

    Mike Graham Supporting Actor

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    Roger Ebert noted the year Bowfinger came out that Eddie Murphy should've gotten an Oscar nod for his work in the film because he portrayed two completely different people within the same film; he went on to say that many, many actors find comedy harder then drama, but that the Academy rarely recognized this.
     
  7. Dick

    Dick Producer
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    I am in my fifties. I still love slapstick. Good slapstick. I still admire and can laugh at much of The Three Stooges, though many find them insufferable. I never laughed for as long a time as when I first saw IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD. But even well into adulthood, I found the Public Service Announcement at the end of THE GROOVE TUBE so hysterical that I slid out of my seat and spend five minutes laughing on the floor..lost the contents of an entire box of malted milk balls, too. Yet, I cherish well-written dialog that is fast and witty, such as that found in THE LION IN WINTER and NORTH BY NORTHWEST and HIS GIRL FRIDAY. What I find positively offensive are the types of humor Adam Sandler and Martin Lawrence try to force down our throats, although I realize a large portion of the modern audience goes ga-ga over these guys. So, yes, comedy is truly subjective, and it is therefore necessarily harder to make a funny movie which appeals to a mass (but discerning) audience than to do so with drama.
     
  8. Jim Williams

    Jim Williams Second Unit

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  9. ChuckSolo

    ChuckSolo Screenwriter

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    Another issue pertaining to comedies is that it is harder to find actors who are specifically trained in the medium. Most actors are dramatically trained NOT comically trained.
     
  10. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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  11. Gary->dee

    Gary->dee Screenwriter

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    For me there are 2 types of comedies: one that appeals to my mother and older brother, usually more slapstick and overt in comedic nature, such as Bananas and Top Secret/Airplane. Then there are more cerebral kind of comedies like Adaptation and Spinal Tap that my mother and older bro wouldn't really find that funny because the humor is either subtle or over their heads. I enjoy both kinds but if I ever do sell a script and it actually becomes a movie, I doubt my family would enjoy it because I don't write the slapstick variety.
     
  12. Ashley Seymour

    Ashley Seymour Supporting Actor

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  13. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    I agree with Lew's post 99% [​IMG] (I prefer Sullivan's Travels to Palm Beach Story but love both).

    Just a few more specifics of comedies I think are great:

    The Thin Man
    Mr. Hulot's Holiday
    The Court Jester
    It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
    How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
    Hopscotch
    Charade
    Caddyshack
    American Grafitti
    Adam's Rib
    Galaxy Quest
    Sleeper
    The Odd Couple
    It Happened One Night
    Dr. Strangelove
    A Hard Day's Night
    The Apartment

    ...ah hell, I told you I wouldn't be able to stop...

    Pillow Talk
    Support Your Local Sheriff
    Harvey
    Born Yesterday
    Zelig
    Murder By Death
    Monty Python & the Holy Grail
    The Princess Bride

    and tons more. [​IMG]
     
  14. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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  15. Jim Williams

    Jim Williams Second Unit

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    This is in reply to Lew:

     
  16. Brent Hutto

    Brent Hutto Supporting Actor

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    I don't know which is harder to make, comedy or drama, but when it's time to choose a DVD and settle in to watch a movie we always have several "serious" movies on the shelf when we're in the mood for them but never seem to have enough funny ones to go around. Partly that's because we've been avoiding the really heavy, intense stories lately because we're dealing with some rather depressing illnesses in the the family. But in general a DVD of a truly funny movie that we've never seen before is a treasure. Thank goodness for the Simpsons and especially Futurama season sets!

    From a viewer's perspective (and once again, I know nothing about the process of creating either drama or comedy) it seems to me that comedy is a less forgiving genre. I mean, if it's supposed to be funny and it's not...well then we have a real problem don't we? A dramatic movie would have to be awfully bad to be "not dramatic" and even if the story doesn't connect with you emotionally you can often appreciate one or more of the actors performances or the quality of the production design or camera work or lighting. I can often find something to enjoy in a dramatic movie that's really not successful as a whole. But when something's trying to be funny and fails it's time to go find something else to watch.

    Someone mentioned slapstick. I think some of movies and TV shows I find funniest fall into that category. For instance, there's a big slapstick component to most Jackie Chan movies that are a major basis for their appeal (along with Jackie's good-natured willingness to look stupid while performing amazing feats of physical ability). One of our favorite TV shows is Malcolm in the Middle. The guy who plays Hal (the father) seems willing to do anything for a laugh when it comes to ridiculous poses, costumes or antics. It may not actually be slapstick but it's the sort of physical comedy that is funny in a way even the most clever dialogue or stupidest plot twist can't attain.
     
  17. Dennis Castro

    Dennis Castro Second Unit

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    I happen to love comedy. I think people tend to take comedy a little too seriously. I think bathroom humor can be funny in the right context. I have a very wide-ranging sense of humor. I can enjoy everything from Jim Carey and the Farrelly Brothers to Woody Allen and Monty Python. I Also Love the genius of Abbott and Costello. I also in enjoy the comedy of Larry David such Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld (I know it's television and not films). I love the great stand up comedy films such as Richard Pryor Wanted Live in Concert. I also enjoy George Carlin as well. Here is a list of some my favorite comedies.

    Blazing Saddles
    History of the World Part I
    Young Frankenstein
    Monty Python and the Holy Grail
    The Life of Brian
    And Now for Something Completely Different
    The Meaning of Life
    This is Spinal Tap
    Animal House
    National Lampoon's Vacation
    Caddyshack
    Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask
    Annie Hall
    Bananas
    Play it Again Sam
    Clerks
    Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
    Dumb and Dumber
    The first two Austin Powers Films
    Meet the Parents
    Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man
    Abbott and Costello Go to Mars
    Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion
    Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
    Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein
    It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World
    Adaptation

    That's just a few off the top of my head. There are many more. That's pretty much my taste in comedy.
     
  18. chris rick

    chris rick Second Unit

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    Bowfinger contains some pretty brilliant humor, actually. It's a comedy in the sense that (and I'm not knocking them for this) the Farrely Brothers couldn't do--and yet most everyone I talk to doesn't like this film or for that matter Lebowski--both of which are great comedies in a completely different sense than what passes for comedy today. Gross out is the new wave, and while I too have enjoyed my share of these flicks, at some point it's nice to see a somewhat intelligent comedy like Bowfinger or Lebowski with some truly talented people in the films working at the top of their game--and not the likes of Sean William Scott or Jason Biggs for example.
     
  19. david stark

    david stark Second Unit

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    Comedy is certainly hard to do and I also find it harder to watch comedies multiple times. A lot of comedies I'll laugh at the first time, but not at the second viewing. Ones that buck this trend for me are all the monty python films, this is spinal tap, mallrats, animal house.

    Reading through this thread has made me realise that I have altogether neglected some of the greats of cinema (chaplin, Abbott and Costello, keaton) which I'll have to try and remedy.
     
  20. Scott Leopold

    Scott Leopold Supporting Actor

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    I think Steven Spielberg, with 1941, proved that comedy is much harder to do than drama. I picked this up cheap the other day, and while watching it I realized that the reason a lot of the stuff that could have been funny fell flat was that the directing of those scenes was just so bad. I'd liken the performances to those in the Star Wars prequels. The prequels have made it evident that George Lucas can't direct living, breathing humans--nearly everyone in the movie has the same disinterested tone, and why-am-I-here expression on their face. The same is true of 1941. There was some dialogue that could have been funny, but the delivery was so off, and so awful, that it didn't even elicit a grin. The whole time I was watching these scenes, I just kept thinking that Spielberg has absolutely no sense of comic timing. However, had I turned around and popped in Saving Private Ryan or Schindler's List, I wouldn't have been able to stop thinking about how masterful a dramatic directer Spielberg is.

    As for my taste in comedy, I like a wide range of stuff, including Adam Sandler if I'm in the mood. Some of my favorites are anything and everything by Harold Lloyd, all the great screwball comedies (It Happened One Night and His Girl Friday being my two favorite), Blazing Saddles, and anything by Christopher Guest.
     

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