Saturday, July 01, 2006

~:W I T:~

In this month's issue of Premiere, comedy is the theme. Several comics say really smart things here about the intelligence of being funny. The first things that struck me was what Monty Python's John Cleese said.

" There was a fellow called Harvey Orkin who was an American agent in London; he worked on the old Phil Silvers 'Sgt. Bilko' programs as a scriptwriter, and he was probably the funniest man in London in the 70's. He said to me, "John, comedy is about meanness and jealousy and anger and frustration. If you show me a comedy about Francis of Assisi, I'll show you a bummer." And that always stuck in my mind.

There's a lot of truth to that. I once taught a class on Wit in Design and boy was it tough to be funny on purpose. Once people got more risky and mean - it came a lot easier. Sarcasm is a wonderful tool.

My all time favorite comedy is Young Frankenstein. "Yes! Yes! Say it! HE VAS MY BOYFRIEND!!!!" Remember Steve Martin talking about how to fold soup in his book Cruel Shoes? Brilliant. I read that in Highschool in the 80's and remember falling to my knees on the kitchen floor laughing.
A few years ago I hear him on NPR. he talked about his very beginnings noting that when he looked around, all the big stand up comedians were bitter and angry. (George Carlin, etc) And he thought he'd try a different approach. "I'm gonna be silly." And oh, how brilliant he was as that very silly person. We just loved him. Still do.

Remember him in The Jerk? Here's a bit from the movie quoted in the Premier article: Navin Johnson (who's new money tude has managed to piss off everyone he loves, including his wife and all the money he ever wanted... he's at his depth of despair and decides to leave his home: Well, I'm gonna go then. And I don't need any of this. I don't need this stuff, and I don't need you. I don't need anything except this. (picks up an ashtray) And that's it and that's the only thing I need, is this. I don't need this or this. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game ans that's all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game ans the remote control, and that's all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control an the lamp and that's all I need. And that's all I need too. I don't need one other thing, not one -- I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control and the matches, for sure...And this. That's all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, and this magazine, and the chair. (walking outside) And I don't need one other thing, except my dog. (dog growls) I don't need my dog.

So what about you guys? What are your favorite comedies/scenes/actors?


minus five said...

navin r. johnson is one of my favorite characters ever. we quote him often in my family. and i like to tell people that i was born a poor, black child.

"what about bob?"
"dumb and dumber"

so those three movies, i would say are three of my all-time favorite comedies. they can always make me laugh.

Anne Elser said...

I never saw What About Bob, but I love Bill Murray.

Dumb and Dumber is a classic. My favorite scene is when Jim Carrey walks down the stairs with hose ridiculous leather-fringed gloves on and holds them out for everyone to see.

I also loved the pooping scene and frozen snot.

Tania Rochelle said...

That scene from the jerk is one I'll never forget and quote from often.

I also love it when he's just describing the rooms in his new house, which sound so awful and tacky, and then we get to see them and, hey, they don't look so bad...

maryk said...

Raising Arizona, Airplane, Caddyshack, Fletch, Christmas Vacation/Vacation.

minus five said...

anne, please go and rent "what about bob?." you won't be sorry. in fact, you'll wonder how you've lived without it all these years.

Anne Elser said...

How about the song he sang to Bernadette Peters in the bathtub: "I'm picking out a thermos for yyyyyyyou, not an ordinary thermos....."?

And when his circus biker friend named Patti showed him what a blow job was, to which he replied that he'd found his special purpose.

Anne Elser said...

Mary - "Hang on Jr., we're gonna go pick up Daddy."

"H.I. You get back in there and git me dat baby."

"Turn to yer RIIIIGHT!!"

Sarah - I'm putting What about Bob in my Netflix thingie.

Doug Elser said...

when i think about funny movies, i think about those that made me literally double over laughing. that's the qualification, and not an easy one to pass. for all my silliness, i don't laugh easily.

so, on my list? the life of brian, spinal tap, best in show ("he went after her like she was made out of ham"), airplane, schindler's list, a fish called wanda, something about mary.

i like steve martin, i think he's very talented, but he just doesn't make me laugh. except in dirty rotten scoundrels, that was a good one.

Jason said...

my favorite comedy scene of all time comes from one of my top 3 comedic films of all time...Spaceballs:

Get me a copy of Spaceballs: the movie!

"When does this happen in the movie?
You're looking at now, now. Everything that's happening now is happening now.
What happened to then?
We passed it.
Just now.
Go back to then.
We can't?
We missed it?
Just now.
When will then be now?
How soon?
.....and so on and so forth.....

Ultimately, the most inventive and hilarious gag in a film I've ever seen and heard. I swear I've seen Spaceballs one hundred and seventy six times.

Jason said...

Anne, I'll lend you What About Bob. Save yourself a spot in your Netflix queue.

Another great scene that's vastly underappreciated comes from "The Great Muppet Caper." They're all at the gate to the big place where they hope to catch the diamond thief. Kermit asks if anyone brought a chainsaw to saw through the gate, and muppet Lew Zealand (the guy with the moustache who throws fish) replies, "No, but I brought the paper towels."

Absolute genius! I'll lend you that one too...

Anne Elser said...

Ah Spaceballs -

"Ooo my, your helmet is sooo big!"

And I love the muppets. I always thought Bjorn looked a little like Gonzo.

Thanks, Jason. Can't wait to see 'em.

Anne Elser said...

Mary - almost forgot.
"John Cock-toast-en"

DougieFresh - Ruprect!!!! Shall I get the genital cuff?

Why is the cork on the fork?

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhklahoma, Oklahoma, Oklahoma, Oklahoma!!!!! (while banging pots and pans and prancing arond the room).

Nancy said...

my children are perfect......just different.

Mary Campbell said...

Best in Show...hands of the funniest. I am not a huge movie fan...What about Bob is great, too should definately see it. I love British Comedy...Absolutely Fabulous (a Brit series) or Fawlty Towers (another Brit series with John Cleese) is hilarious, too.