EPISODE 391: THE TOP 50 COMEDIES

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17 Responses

  1. Aaron says:

    David had a reasonable reason to bring up THE HANGOVER and he didn’t take it.

  2. Kevin Smart says:

    It was only recently that I realized that, for the most part, I just don’t respond to comedy films. I did, however, enjoy this list.

    As for the appeal to listeners to express their opinion as to why the films on the list where overwhelmingly English-language productions, I agree that it must have quite a bit to do with the language barrier. I also think that the cultural conventions and whatnot probably play a part.

    Also, not for nothing, but out of my personal 10 submissions to the list, 7 of them made the list, and out of the 3 that didn’t, 2 were foreign films. They were “The Rules of the Game”, and “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”, which, come to think of it, is interesting. Both are French, as was the sole foreign entry to make the list.

    Overall, I really enjoyed the episode, and I am glad that my personal #1 was also the top of this listener poll.

    • Ray (@RaySquirrel) says:

      I too included a Bunuel film on my list, one that I was certain no one else would include. That was “The Phantom of Liberty”, a plotless collection of vignettes which explore the concept of Liberty and society in conflict. Bunuel explores this concept by “liberating” the movie and characters from morality, logic, and narrative. There are too many great funny moments to list but the one everybody points out is the one where people poop where they eat and eat where they poop.

      A lot of people consider Bunuel a surrealist first but he is really one of the best comedic directors of the 20th century. The Exterminating Angel, Belle du Jour, The Milky Way, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Viridiana, The Nazarene, Simon of the Desert, That Obscure Object of Desire all really funny movies.

      • Kevin Smart says:

        Funny that you mention that, because when I was trying to decide what to submit as my nominations, I actually had a bit of a back and forth with myself as to which Bunuel film I would choose, between “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeois”, or “Phantom of Liberty”. I am actually quite pleased to know that you submitted it yourself, so it at least got a bit of consideration.

  3. Roy says:

    I don’t really think the language/culture barrier thing holds up. It seems like an easy excuse to claim that foreign-language comedies don’t work, but really I think they just aren’t distributed in the same way that other genres are. Them not being distributed internationally leads to them not getting seen at all.
    I mean, let’s say every even somewhat film producing country in the world has one or two big comedies that those people love – how many have you seen and how many are you even able to see with subtitles?
    I feel like horror movies make it in, because horror fans are more an enterprising community that will import DVD’s and talk on forums about what’s supposed to be good. Comedy-movie fans? Is that even a community? The comedy film doesn’t have that same world, but I don’t know if we can really blame it on the quality of the films or the way they translate. I don’t know, because I haven’t seen them.

    I thought about including Big Deal on Madonna Street, but it sort of felt like I was including it so that I would have a foreign comedy on my list. I didn’t like that as a reason for choosing it though. It felt token-ish.

  4. Ray (@RaySquirrel) says:

    To me television seems like the better medium for comedy than do movies. You can always expect the two least funniest episodes of a TV comedy to be the pilot and the finale, because you have to go through the work of establishing the characters and resolving their stories. But because a television series deals with archetypes there is little expectation for characters to go through an emotional transition in the middle of a season. You can enter and leave at any point and you will have enough context to understand the dynamics of the situation.

    The mention of how there are practically no non-English language comedies on the list of feature filmed comedies. I had one on my list. While on my Hulu account there are several Japanese animated comedy series mixed in with the shows I regularly watch. Ramna 1/2, Space Dandy, FLCL, The Devil is a Part-Timer, Kill la Kill while some of these shows may require some knowledge of Japanese culture (most anime DVDs come packed with several pages of translator’s notes to elaborate on some of the more esoteric cultural aspects) I could imagine any westerner could watch these and get an easy grasp on the comedy.

  5. Juhani Kenttä says:

    I think only four from my list made it. The Apartment, Life of Brian, The Big Lebowski and of course How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The Apartment was actually the oldest film on my list. It’s not that I don’t like Chaplin and everything but judging movies on how much they make me laugh and how much they also resonate with me I just respond to more modern comedy, I guess. I was kind of surprised that Life of Brian wasn’t higher but then I realized it must have been the same deal than the one with 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. I also had a dream about Pineapple Express being included on the list but that didn’t seem to happen… But that certainly was on my list as was Observe and Report. They’re not probably nearly as important or influential as Wet Hot American Summer but I feel they’re absolutely some of the best comedy film making of the 21st century. The one that I really hoped to make it on the list though was The Full Monty, I hope some people besides me did remember to submit that wonderful movie.

    Regarding the debate on musical comedies: My view is that whatever you, in your gut, feel the movie is first and foremost.. well, that’s what it is then. Singing in the Rain can absolutely be a musical and a comedy at the same time but I think of it as a musical before anything else. If you’re selling it as a comedy first, you’re selling the movie short. That’s why I didn’t include things like Singing in the Rain, Back to the Future or Evil Dead II on my list.

  6. MJS says:

    I think my ballot got lost in the (e-)mail or something, I totally nominated Chaplin’s “The Gold Rush” and Tyler said that it didn’t get a single nomination. Oh well, eight of the movies I voted for made it on the list anyway, so there’s no reason to complain. Great job guys!

  7. Caleb says:

    I love that David and Mr. Federman explain what EDM is to Tyler. Mostly because I had no fucking clue what it was either. And I’m 24.

    I guess I’m out of the loop (if you will) on that.

  8. joe says:

    Really fun and interesting episode. I got excited (then deflated) when Wayne said he liked Night At The Roxbury, maybe my favorite SNL movie.

    Also, am I the only person who loves Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part 1???

  9. Jonathon says:

    A fairly well-rounded list, indeed. I’m surprised that Withnail & I didn’t make the top 50; I recently watched it for the first time, and found it hysterical. While there are several British films on the list, there are some obvious omissions, like Withnail & I and perhaps even Four Weddings and a Funeral. I don’t even think In the Loop can be solely called a British film, in the sense of adopting a culturally ‘British’ style of humour (the tone of In the Loop is somewhat disparate from that of the series on which it’s based, The Thick of It). There are no Australian films on the list, either (and Tyler said that you have a lot of listeners in Australia, myself included).

    The largely American nature of this list is perhaps a result of globalisation – an Americanisation and homogenisation of comedic styles and modes. Stand-up comedy in Australia at the moment is starkly different from the broad, laconic style characteristic of Australian comedy in the 1970s and 1980s, and most modern television comedies in Australia are based on British panel shows or American talk shows (in contrast to the unique formats of shows like Hey Hey It’s Saturday and Countdown from decades past).

    To reiterate the arguments posited above, the language barrier is obviously the major reason why foreign-language comedies are largely absent from this list. Predominantly silent comedies, like Tati’s, have the capacity to transcend the language barrier in a manner that Bunuel’s films cannot. The only foreign-language comedy I submitted was Man Bites Dog, but I think this film transcends the language-barrier through the universality of its themes. Foreign-language ‘dramas’ are more transcendent because they largely do not rely on the nuances of langue and parole specific to a certain culture (a number of French critics commented on how humorous they found Haneke’s Amour; a film that made me chuckle twice at an absolute maximum. Same with Holy Motors). This is probably why I found Polanski’s Venus in Fur laboriously unfunny, a film that I know David responded to significantly. This is not necessarily the film’s fault, but the subtitling of that film robbed it of its subtlety for non-French speaking responders – the shifts in italicised and non-italicised subtitles provided too obvious a demarcation between what is real and what is performed. In Venus in Fur, we don’t have to listen to the nuances of tone and diction because everything was spelled out for the audience in the subtitles. This is the unfortunate reality of foreign-language comedies.

    • Scott Nye says:

      To be fair to VENUS IN FUR, that’s purely the fault of the subtitlers or distributors, not an inherent problem with subtitling foreign-language comedy. They could have very well subtitled in precisely the same and simply not italicized anything.

      • Jonathon says:

        I agree that that’s not the fault of the filmmakers behind Venus in Fur; I was merely trying to use Venus in Fur as example of the difficulties of translating the subtitles of comedy to different languages, even if the film itself works in its native tongue.

        • Scott Nye says:

          But I’m saying it’s not at all inherent to the process of subtitling comedy, as such. It’s just the fault of these specific people who did these specific subtitles. It could very well have been subtitled in such a way to retain the ambiguity in the dialogue.

          • Jonathon says:

            I absolutely agree. However, I don’t believe Venus in Fur is a unique example of a foreign-language comedy being undermined by circumstances beyond its control (and that isn’t the reason why I didn’t like Venus in Fur by the way). The annual French and Italian Film Festivals in Sydney are always rife with comedies that, for some reason or another, do not translate despite being very well received in their home country (Little White Lies is an example that springs to mind, where the idiomatic paronomasias praised by (some) French critics and audiences were lost in the banality and austerity of its English translation. But again, there were more significant flaws in the film that can be put down to the filmmakers). Indeed, I was told by a bilingual colleague that Godard’s Goodbye to Language works infinitely better in French than the English translation allows. I feel like we can agree that, perhaps, more effective, consistent or thoughtful subtitles may expedite a wider appreciation of foreign-language comedies – if indeed it’s possible to find such a means of translation.

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