To me, comedies are rarely funny. Most of the time they’re about as funny as a sack of drowned kittens, yet the masses still continue to flock to theaters in droves to lap up such laughless swill. I remember a few years ago when “The Hangover” was receiving all this praise and attention for how “hilarious” it was. Then I watched it over a friends house with a room full of people. About fifteen minutes in I thought to myself, “This generic pile of brainless manure is what everyone’s raving about?” as a gaggle of morons cackled around me.
Well, no matter. Such guffaws brought on Hangovers deuce and tres, so the fans of the first film have already been adequately punished. Even worse though is the assembly line of vile dreck that anti-comedian Adam Sandler and his sidekick, The Fat Nigga From The King of Queens (his birth name), have been churning out the last five years. Never in history has one man had such a DiMaggio-like streak of terrible and unfunny films, so for that Sandler can be proud. As for the bottomless pit of humor displayed from The Fat Nigga From The King Of Queens, are we sure Rob Schneider didn’t just put on a few pounds?
Since it seems to be a lost art lately, allow me to re-introduce you to the Top Five Greatest Comedies Ever Made:
1. MIdnight Run – Ah, yes. Back when Robert DeNiro was a respected actor. DeNiro plays a former cop turned down-on-his-luck bounty hunter, and mafia embezzler Charles Grodin is his ticket out of his deplorable new line of work. Unfortunately for DeNiro, both the mob and the FBI want Grodin too, and spend the movie chasing the duo while Grodin repeatedly tries to give DeNiro the slip. The real beauty of this film isn’t just the sidesplitting banter between DeNiro and Grodin, the stellar and authentic ensemble cast, or the myriad of plot twists, but that the film takes place in the real world, with real violence and real consequences, yet never loses it’s comedic edge. There’s even a truly touching and borderline heartbreaking scene between DeNiro and his estranged daughter. It’s almost impossible to successfully pull off that dichotomy, but this film does it better than any comedy I’ve ever seen.
2. Raising Arizona – Similar tone to Midnight Run, albeit a lot more cartoonish and slapsticky, this is one of the Cohen brothers best films in a long, illustrious list. “Reformed” criminal Nicholas Cage and prison guard Holly Hunter play a barren couple who kidnap one of a local celebrity’s quintuplets to raise as their own. While the pair awkwardly attempt to adjust to family life, a pair of Cage’s old prison buddies break out and need a place to stay, with predictably negative results. Not to mention that unbeknownst to Cage, there’s a merciless bounty hunter on the baby’s trail. Despite the dark undertones, the movie remains funny throughout and even gets heartwarming by the end. It also contains one of the funniest and most unpredictable chase scenes imaginable.
3. Monty Python and The Holy Grail – My favorite Monty Python film is by far the silliest on the list, but fuck it. Sometimes comedy doesn’t have to make sense. And boy does this movie not make a whole lot of sense. Only a bunch of Oxford and Cambridge graduates could come up with something this ludicrously stupid. Ostensibly a classic tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Holy Grail contains everything from the most bizarre opening credits ever conceived, substituting coconuts for horses, “rescuing” Sir Galahad from a castle full of virgins, fighting a limbless adversary, and doing battle with a vicious and deadly rabbit. Not to mention the Knights who say, “Nee!” Every scene is borderline ridiculous, yet strings along together surprisingly coherently, until of course the ending completely blows the whole thing and leaves you wondering, “What the fuck did I just watch?” Yet you’ll be watching it and laughing again in no time.
4. Annie Hall – Pedophile nebbish/great director Woody Allen is in top form in this extremely innovative and groundbreaking film about love and relationships. The movie is semi-autobiographical, with Allen and co-star Diane Keaton having dated prior to its inception. When Allen wrote the screenplay, he specifically wrote the part for Keaton, as the character Annie Hall shares many of Keaton’s real-life quirks. The two play a couple who meet, then fall in and out of love in 1970s New York—though the couple does venture to L.A. near the end of the film. Filled with Allen’s trademark brilliant one-liners (“I haven’t been inside a woman since I visited the Statue of Liberty”), insight on relationship difficulties, and containing superb performances all-around, Annie Hall represents Allen’s most ambitious and original work as a director. From the sudden cinema line appearance of Marshall McLuhan, to Allen’s random inquisitions of strangers he passes on the street (including a police horse), to an animation interlude, Annie Hall is as creative, influential, and thoughtful as it is laugh-out-loud funny.
5. Team America: World Police – This was the toughest one because probably ten movies can conceivably be tied for the last spot, but I went with the best puppet movie this side of “Puppet Master II.” When it came out in 2004 (Jesus Christ, was it that long ago?) I initially thought the film would mainly be Bush-bashing—especially with the “We have no intelligence,” line in the trailer—but it wasn’t. It was way better and more imaginative than that. Right from the opening scene, writers/directors Trey Parker and Matt Stone alleviate everyone’s justifiable uneasiness about puppetry by visually astounding the audience. The puppet world they created is absolutely astonishing. Then of course you get the obligatory South Park brand of humor, complete with copious celebrity-bashing and hysterical songs. In fact, the music was one of the best and funniest parts of the film. The story is the usual cookie-cutter fare Parker and Stone like to satirize, so there’s a lot of familiar territory for South Park fans, including a re-make of the original “Montage” song.
*Honorable Mention – Borat, Bad Santa, This is Spinal Tap, Airplane, Naked Gun, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, Don’t Be A Menace…, Crimes and MIsdemeanors, The Big Lebowski, South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, Four Lions, Life is Beautiful, Freddy Got FIngered