Funny on film

Is there such a thing as an obscure, laugh-out-loud comedy?

May 26, 2010
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The other day, a friend on Facebook asked for suggestions for laugh-out-loud movies.

And I had trouble coming up with any--at least, none that weren't overtly familiar. I can still recall the pleasures of my first sightings of "Airplane," "Young Frankenstein" and "This is Spinal Tap," but subsequent viewings are more about remembering those pleasures rather than actually experiencing them new. 

If seen after a gap of a few years, the Marx Brothers still make me laugh. And thanks to programs by the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, I've been reminded of just how laugh-out-loud funny Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd are. It's tough, however, to recommend them for my friend's small screen now that I've seen them in their full, musically-accompanied glory. (FYI: The ICO will be doing a Charlie Chaplin program as part of its upcoming season. Be there.)

Consulting the in theory-experts brought up lots of usual suspects. Bravo created a list a few years back, putting "Animal House," "Caddyshack," "Shrek" (huh?) and "There's Something About Mary" as numbers one through four. The American Film Institute, with a little more historical perspective, named "Some Like It Hot," "Tootsie," "Dr. Strangelove" and "Annie Hall." In 2008, Entertainment Weekly narrowed its field to just the previous 25 years and came up with "Ghostbusters," "National Lampoon's Vacation," "Beverly Hills Cop," and "This is Spinal Tap."

It seems that, while every film fan has a few lesser-known favorites in other genres, comedies are fairly universal. It's tough to keep a good one hidden.

I find myself going back to the black and whites--Preston Sturges'  "Miracle at Morgan's Creek" and Cary Grant comedies ("My Favorite Wife" and "Holiday" over the better-known "Philadelphia Story" and "Bringing Up Baby," plus, of course, "His Girl Friday).

Then there's Albert Brooks, whose "Modern Romance" isn't on many people's comedy radars, but I think holds up better than much fo the Woody Allen stuff from the same period.

More recently, "Shaun of the Dead" has a large enough following that I don't think it qualifies as a find.

So what's going on? Is the best comedy these days being written for TV? When it comes to laughs, is it better to go to "30 Rock," "How I Met Your Mother" and "Family Guy" rather than feature films?

More importantly: What's funny on film that my friend (and I) might now have already seen five times?

  • Raising Arizona
    A true litmus test for testing whether or not you should hang out with a person:

    If said person does not find any humor in the first 5-minutes, pre-credits sequence of "Raising Arizona," you should end your friendship on the spot.
  • Jose is absolutely correct
    Long live Jose!!

    I think if there is some great comedy that is "little known," it must not be so great of a comedy if it didn't find an audience.

    The final "reveal" in "Tootsie" makes me laugh every time. "The Lady Eve" makes me laugh every time. So does "Young Frankenstein." I love "Dick." And very recently, "City Island" and "Zombieland" had the audience laughing.
  • Movies
    Better Off Dead starring John Cusack (early/mid 80s)

    Almost Heroes starring Matthew Perry and Chris Farley (Farley's last film and directed by Christopher Guest)

    Death at a Funeral (the original British version) direct by Frank Oz

    The Muppet Movie (cuz who doesn't like Muppets?)

    Foul Play...a Chevy Chase/Goldie Hawn flick from the late 70s

    Intolerable Cruetly--Clooney and Zeta Jones directed by the Coen Bro's...say no more...wonderful verbal banter.
  • Typos?
    Are these typos?

    More recently, "Shaun of the Dead" has a large enough following that I don't think it qualifies as a FIND. > do you mean "fad" ?

    More importantly: What's funny on film that my friend (and I) might NOW have already seen five times? > do you mean "not" ?

  • Subjective
    Obviously what is funny to one is not funny to another. Even then, there are different types of comedy (smart vs dumb fun, etc). Personally, I didn't find Raising Arizona that funny on first viewing, but I really enjoy Coen Bros films generally (obsolutely love The Big Lebowski). The ones I think hold up best over the past 20 - 30 years:
    Animal House, Vacation, Christmas Vacation, Young Frankenstein, and Airplane. In the past 10 - 15 years, I really like Tommy Boy, Austin Powers 1, and Big Lebowski, Clerks, and Swingers. In the past decade, I'm a fan of Wedding Crashers, Old School, Dodgeball, American Pie. And then the least of the time-tested (past year or two): Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Zombieland.
  • Return of the Pink Panther
    My "go to" movie when in need of a laugh. I can't stop laughing when Inspector Clouseau's assistant Cato, leaps from the refrigerator with frost staying on his body as they fight through the apartment.
  • in the eye of the beholder.
    My boys and I can't sit through The Stooges without busting a gut, but my wife and daughter don't get it.

    Some of the following probably are on a few people's lists but certainly not for all, Dumb and Dumber always cracks me up, as does Blazing Saddles, Caddy Shack, Grosse Pointe Blank and most of the Monty Python offerings.
  • Sunshine
    I think that "Little Miss Sunshine" or the original UK version of "Death at a Funeral" (not the recent African-American remake) were two of my favorite laugh-out-loud comedies.
  • An old fave
    I have to throw my two cents in - my favorite comedy is The Tall Guy, with Jeff Goldblum, Emma Thompson and Rowan Atkinson. I've seen it a dozen times and there are still parts that make me laugh out loud. I can't recommend it enough.
  • foreign?
    La Cage Aux Folles
    Cousin, Cousine
    Pardon Mon Affaire
    Noirs et Blancs Couleur

    There are many more from that time period equally compelling and laugh-out-loud every time I see them

    I also laugh every time I see Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
  • Comedy
    "Man's Favorite Sport" 1964 Rock Hudson and
    Paula Prentiss. Still makes me howl after all of these years.You Tube a couple of scenes, you will see what I mean.
  • Funny Films
    Defending Your Life, Albert Brooks comedy.
    High Fidelity, John Cusack
    Liar,Liar, Jim Carrey

    'pardon my spelling!
  • comedy for certain
    try Tin Men 1987 w/ Danny DeVito and Richard Dreyfuss - it is even better if you grew up in the 60's and knew people just like the characters in the film
  • Stress Release
    When you are really stressed out & need a break, there is no substitute for the original "Out-of-Towners" with Jack Lemmon & Sandy Dennis. [It is somehow a little less funny when you have been relaxed - a great way to kick off a movie weekend.]
  • How about these
    Nobody's mentioned "Fargo" a film some figure is the ultimate Coen Brothers picture.

    And for lesser known films, "Seducing Dr. Lewis" is very funny if you don't mind subtitles. Here's a short description "A much-needed boost, in the form of a new factory, is promised to the residents of the tiny fishing village St. Marie-La-Mauderne, provided they can lure a doctor to take up full-time residency on the island. Inspired, the villagers devise a scheme to make Dr. Christopher Lewis a local".
  • For your consideration
    How about The Full Monty?? I second Raising Arizona and Little Miss Sunshine as two other favorites.
  • Funny Films
    I second Kristen and add Albert Brooks at his finest in Lost In America
  • Hot Fuzz
    Please, go watch Hot Fuzz! It's from the same team that was responsible for Shaun of the Dead (AI don't care if it's too mainstream - it's almost perfect). Recently, The Hangover makes me laugh so hard that things come out of my nose.
  • Funny Film
    Izzy & Moe with Jackie Gleason and Art Carney.
  • Embarrassed . . .
    I am embarrassed to admit (even under relative anominity)to laugh until I wet myself watching "Pineapple Express" -- definitely not a film I would have sought out, but I find myself smiling just thinking of some of the stupid humor. I also love "What's Up, Doc" and for a double-feature, grap "What's Up, Tiger Lily?"
  • Good stuff
    Baby Mama, Tropic Thunder, and I Love You Man.
  • funny film
    My favorite film comedy still is The Money Pit with Tom Hanks. Even if you have never lived through a house renovation - and I personally have not - it is worth watching just for the enjoyment of Tom Hanks playing a comedy role.

    And I have to agree on The Hangover. I watched it with very low expectations because it isn't really my type of movie, but it proved to be very funny...although not one you would want to watch with the family.
  • unrated version
    You have to see Team America by Trey Parker, and it should be the unrated version if your mom or kids are not in the room! Funniest scenes I have ever witnessed.
  • Funny
    When Harry Met Sally, how can anyone foregt Sally's "orgasm." Blazing Saddles. Desk Set with Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Smokey and the Bandit, too.
  • Speaking of Westerns
    OMG, how could I've forgotten Cat Ballou or Support Your Local Sheriff.
  • The Tall Guy
    Right on, Megan!! I totally forgot about The Tall Guy, and the sex scene between Emma Thompson and Jeff Goldbum is among the funniest things I have ever seen.
  • More!
    Everybody here has some great additions. I could go on and on about some favorite performances (Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate in "The Great Race") or some great pratfalls-building-on-pratfalls scenes (Sellers and Lom in "The Pink Panther Strikes Again")

    But I'll add another one to favored list: "A Fish Called Wanda." Perfect cast, story, and tightly directed by a 78-year old director! Saw it in the theater 3 times, and upteen times on video. And don't call Otto "stupid"...
  • Two movies
    There are two movies that make me laugh out loud and can watch them over and over. First, Super Troopers and A Fish Called Wanda. Kevin Kline is great in that movie.
  • Obscure and hilarious
    Here's an obscure one: The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. It had a limited release about 6-7 years ago and can still be found on DVD. It's an intentionally awful send-up of Grade-Z '50s science fiction flicks, complete with clunky dialogue, cheap costumes, and a skeleton on wires. It actually gets funnier with repeat viewings.

    The same team has since produced a few more films, including Trail of the Screaming Forehead and The Lost Skeleton Returns Again. I still can't find either of those on DVD, but I'm desperately searching.

  • funny films
    A couple overlooked Rom/Coms that always make my family laugh include Notting Hill and Love Actually.
  • My Two Faves
    Doesn't matter how many times I've seen these movies, my machine-gun laugh goes into overtime with the first 30 minutes of "Forget Paris" with Billy Crystal and the entire sarcasm-style approach to "Mother" with Debbie Reynolds and Al Brooks.

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