Comedy is a divisive subject. Take the recent Golden Globes for a timely example. Ricky Gervais was almost universally criticised for his third consecutive hosting performance for not being ‘funny enough’. The previous year however, he was too cutting, too offensive and too rude. On the whole, I personally enjoyed both years. Divisive.
That’s not to say that I’m an unconditional fan of Gervais’ work. Of his three collaborative shows with Stephen Merchant, a loose thematic trilogy on the pursuit of, achievement of, and desperation to hang on to, fame, my reaction to each has grown gradually cooler. The Office is an all-time classic, and for me, the best comedy show ever made. Extras too, is very, very good. Yet I found their latest effort Life’s Too Short to be a real let down, and indeed I gave up after episode four. The laughs from Gervais’ stand ups have also been on the wane, with his debut tour Animals still remaining the best of his four to date.
I wouldn’t consider myself a particularly difficult person to make laugh. Dogs regularly achieve it, as does the occasional cat. Yet I am finding that films rarely do. Of the roughly 600 DVDs that I own, only nine are what I would consider ‘comedies’. NINE (and yes, that was a shameful ploy just to publish the size of my DVD collection. Apologies.). Big hits such as The Hangover and Tropic Thunder did very little for me in the way of laughs, whilst the same can be said for the Coen brothers’ comedies (The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Burn After Reading). Knocked Up and Superbad certainly had their moments, and I have yet to see Bridesmaids, of which I have heard only good things. The Royal Tenenbaums is another that brought steady chuckles, but perhaps positive memories of these were only enhanced by the boredom felt at Anderson’s other works such as The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited. (Just a side note regarding my DVD collection… that 600 is films only. If we’re talking TV shows too, then you’re going to want to bump that number up at least another 50.)
For me then (I stress the me part because as well as divisive, comedy is arguably also the most subjective of genres), the most laughs tend to come from so-called ‘indie comedy/drama’ hybrids such as 500 Days of Summer, Dan in Real Life, Easy A, Garden State, In Bruges, Juno, The Kids Are All Right, Little Miss Sunshine, Napoleon Dynamite or Office Space. On the whole, films where the comedy tends to come as a result of the drama in the plot, instead of perhaps being the driving force as in something like Anchorman (which, incidentally, I did like). Maybe it’s just me. Perhaps I’m weird. What are the comedy films that I’m missing? Anything that should be immediately added to my 600 DVDs (got it in there again)? Because in a country where cinematic creativity is being forever threatened, I could certainly do with a few laughs.