When Comedy Fails, it’s the Genre that Fails Hardest

I’m no stranger to shitting on bad comedies and I think I’m starting to understand why. As I move closer to the sweet release of my own death (just kidding. It’ll be SUPER sweet) I find myself increasingly discouraged by films and shows with comedy painted on them, but lack any framework to hang actual, crafted jokes on. Comedy is goddamn hard! It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not for most people. Most people don’t know how to make fun of themselves. Most people aren’t daring and capable enough to cleverly push buttons. Most people don’t believe that any topic can be made fun of and satirized so long as its intent is not malicious, its execution has a blueprint, and its delivery can not be predicted by the audience before it happens. It’s not inherently more difficult to create a great comedy over a great drama, horror, action, sci-fi, psychological thriller, but by and large, it is the genre that fails hardest for me when it’s unable to convincingly operate as an edition to its genre.


I want to fucking laugh when I watch a comedy, just like I want to be unnerved while watching a horror, tense when watching noir, moved when I watch a drama, and nauseated when watching musicals. Musicals are supposed to make you nauseous right? Ugh, musicals. Anyway, this is a subjective stance (no, I’m right) but I can usually deal with mediocre, non-comedy cinema and be passively bored by its lack of character development/motivation, or its structure, or its whatever. If a drama just doesn’t move me but is otherwise non-offensive, I usually don’t care. There are many exceptions in which a shitty drama extends beyond indifference, but with a bad comedy I’m never indifferent. I’m always upset when I endure something that isn’t funny. It’s that moment when after the “funny” thing happens you don’t laugh and you say aloud, “Oh. That’s the joke. The joke is that the character is _________” There are many examples of this surface level humor. Here are some examples:

Oh. That’s the joke. The joke is that Paul Blart is fat and he’s in over his head and there’s an angry bird and a guy playing piano who doesn’t help and at the end Paul Blart says, “Thanks for your help!” That’s the joke. It’s funny because he’s fat and moves around and the punchline wasn’t something I could have predicted at any point. *Dan opens box of bullets*

Oh. That’s the joke. The joke is that Jack Black has strategically disheveled hair and is a charming oddball who will woo the likes of Kate Winslet because things like that happen in real life and he remembers the scores to various films and sings them out loud to her in a Blockbuster. That’s the joke. It’s funny because he’s a quirky guy and she’s an executive type or something and isn’t THAT funny that the two of them could be a couple? *Dan puts a single bullet in the chamber and spins the cylinder*

Oh. That’s the joke. The joke is that the nerd guy who’s just so nerdy and that’s part of what makes this funny uses his nerd talk to justify buying tampons in bulk because it’s cost effective and it’s outrageous how invasive his questions are like asking when her mother first experienced menopause. That’s the joke. It’s funny because he’s a nerdy guy and she’s an objectively attractive woman who is not a nerd. *Dan locks cylinder, cocks gun, and thinks about his life*

Oh. That’s the joke. The joke is that Adam Sandler is a headstrong dad who refuses to believe his son’s leg is broken and challenges the doctor with super funny comebacks and tries to cut corners in the healing process of his son’s broken leg because dads just always find a way to get things done. That’s the joke. It’s funny because he’s stupid and his wife who is Salma Hayek because things in movies need to make sense starts yelling at him in Spanish. *Dan is Christopher Walken*

I survived for now. So the joke’s on the rest of you.

Why are any of the above referenced clips funny? What’s clever about them? Where are the jokes? Why is this entertaining? Why are these all successful? Jokes, no matter the content, NEED to be witty and have some element of unpredictability. They don’t all need to exist solely in complexity and absurdity a la the Cohen Brothers (although they got some good ass jokes in their flicks). One of the greatest jokes ever told comes from a fucking low-brow Police Squad! episode.

That’s funny! That’s goddamn hilarious! You know why? Because it uses a reference as a set up for a good punchline! It doesn’t rely exclusively on surface level bullshit like characters screaming because they’re just SO wacky and isn’t that funny? You know, BECAUSE they’re screaming like wacky people? No. It’s not. It’s a simple, smart comeback and if it were in the hands of the fucking Farrelly Brothers or Adam Sandler or Seth MacFarlane the joke would have instead been something like, “How’d you get in here?” and then Leslie Nielsen would have been high because he recently ate some shrooms (accidentally of course because that makes it funnier!) and would have been all like, “That cat of yours…that’s one fine looking PUSSY!” And he’d wink and then throw up and then fart and then trip and then say something about his balls hurting. And it would have grossed $200 million.

Sigh. Back to the Dodgingbarrels board room


– Dan

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