Sequel Saturday: The Perils of the Sequel Comedy, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi
Next week, Ted 2 gets released to theaters. Directed, co-written, and voiced again by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, Ted 2 follows the titular teddy bear on the quest to conceive a human child + get married, or something along those lines. Really, the trailer’s all over the place.
It brings to mind how rare comedy sequels are. Often the most difficult kind of sequel to get right, the comedy sequel often rehashes familiar characters and scenarios from the original film. Things are often less funny the second time around.
One common mistake is for the comedy sequel to give the audience more of what worked in small bursts in the original. Think of the colossal gap in quality between Eddie Murphy’s The Nutty Professor and The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. The latter had an endless array of fat and fart jokes from the Klumps while the former had an effective blend of romance and slapstick humor. Just because the Klumps were funny in one or two scenes didn’t mean they worked for a whole film.
Another problem with comedy sequels is when main cast members don’t return. So much of comedy thrives on timing that when a new actor is introduced into the mix, it can throw the whole vibe of a film off. Part of the charm of Caddyshack was its all-star comedy cast running around a ritzy golf course. Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, and Bill Murray had plenty of hilarious scenes to work with. Caddyshack II features a completely different cast save for Chevy Chase in a brief cameo. Jackie Mason, Dan Aykroyd, and Randy Quaid are nothing to sneeze at, but they fail to capture the madcap energy from the original cast of characters.
I enjoyed the first Ted as a breezy comedy and hope Ted 2 is amusing in the same way. Comedies have to be fresh, and a sequel always removes the element of surprise.