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Comedy: getting the lite write

19 Jul

Among the various forms of public entertainment, comedy stands out as most likely to be discussed among friends and coworkers long after the initial presentation.

Inspector Clouseau - A Shot in the Dark

Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau – A Shot in the Dark

Comedy is like a high wire act, exhilarating when being performed but one wrong move and the whole thing comes to an abrupt end. Perhaps nothing more so than doing stand up comedy. Even after the first successful night the next one may be a total bomb. Movie comedies are particularly difficult because usually what works in one culture, may not work at all in another. This is perhaps why so many comedies are a collection of visual stunts and less about the words. It’s generally accepted that an embarrassing fall or clumsy move in unusual circumstances universally translates well.

A line from Tommy Boy; ” .. I can actually hear you getting fatter.”

Television comedies are often creative in the beginning but after a while drone on in an endless stream of background synchronized laughter. One very creative TV comedy started out as a drama. Initially The Practice was about a legal firm struggling to find traction in Boston. Boston Legal followed that series and wooed audience through clever comic writing, even better acting and topical court room drama. No laugh tracks or other recorded sounds were dubbed in to cue the audience of something clever just happened. Perhaps this was a niche comedy, brilliant satire with edginess to it that reminded us of some of the day time TV judge shows. I’ve yet to view a comedy or dramedy written or acted as well.  The closest thing in cleverness, is the current series, Castle.  Boston Legal worked well and for others it was nails scratched on a chalk board.

That’s the problem in doing any comedy which may require higher budgets for well paid actors, experienced but hip writers and finding a continuity with current popular themes. Once in a while there are comedies which become classics. Typically they find their way through the passages of time without using era stylized humor or references to other people of that time. This is often appreciated by a loyal audience sometimes carrying specific meaning to a culture or country.

Jerry Lewis is one of those comedians who I think occasionally crossed the line into total slapstick nonsense. Many people seem to think otherwise and he has received, The French Legion of Honor, lifetime achievement awards from The American Comedy Awards, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and Venice Film Festival. He also has a Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award plus two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

ImageThe comedy team of Martin & Lewis were so popular, DC Comics published The Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comic books from 1952 to 1957, after which DC featured only Lewis in The Adventures of Jerry Lewis until 1971. Jerry Lewis has opened his mouth and made enemies as well over the years. He fell out with his partnership breakup of Martin & Lewis which took both of them over 3 decades to patch up their friendship. He’s gotten into trouble recently when he disparaged female comedians recent at Cannes.

Some comedies are written so clever it takes several viewings to pick up on all of the material. Here are a list of 20 without ranking them. You may enter your own 20 in the comments below.

Martin and Lewis in DC comics

Martin and Lewis in DC comics

✧ Duck Soup
✧ A Night at the Opera
✧ Monty Python and the Holy Grail
✧ Life of Brian
✧ Blazing Saddles
✧ Young Frankenstein
✧ Four Weddings and a Funeral
✧ The Philadelphia Story
✧ Bringing Up Baby
✧ The Longest Yard (1974)
✧ Harvey
✧ Nine to Five
✧ My Man Godfrey
✧ A Fish Called Wanda
✧ Caddyshack
✧ The Big Lebowski
✧ Some Like It Hot (1959)
✧ A Shot in the Dark
✧ My Cousin Vinny
✧ M*A*S*H (1970)

Who do you choose to invite into your family room or pay to watch on the ‘silver screen’?

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One response to “Comedy: getting the lite write

  1. Chris Barfoot

    21/07/2013 at 12:44

    I find comedy easy to do… but very difficult to write… perhaps I need someone to take notes… when I’m being funny… but then- is that person not now the writer? Perhaps I’ll just get a dictaphone… but phone who? 😉 (see what I mean?)…

     
 
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