This Has Been The Worst Year Ever For Comedy Movies
The other day, while reading the millionth piece about the current “golden age of horror films,” I thought, there’s no way anyone could ever say that about comedy movies right now. Some of the best horror, like certain episodes of Black Mirror or Get Out, contain elements of comedy. But today’s comedies are just plain horrible.
This year’s comedy movies are also a nightmare rogue gallery of the year’s worst movies: The Spy Who Dumped Me, Night School, TAG, I Feel Pretty. Did anyone like these? The further back you go, the worse it gets. You had the Overboard sequel, the Super Troopers sequel, The Happytime Murders, Book Club,
Life Of The Party, Action Point, Nobody’s Fool, and Christopher Robin. These movies actually went to theaters to hold up the comedy banner once held by Blazing Saddles, Duck Soup, Annie Hall, Trading Places, and Anchorman.
The sad lists of the “best” comedy movies, which I’ve seen around, mostly don’t contain actual comedies. You have funny superhero movies like Ant-Man And The Wasp and Deadpool 2, dramas with a few laugh lines like Eighth Grade and Can You Ever Forgive Me?, and cartoons like The Incredibles 2 and Teen Titans Go! To The Movies. The lists are so desperate that they even include BlacKkKlansman, which was not a comedy, and A Star Is Born. The field has grown weak enough that a movie gets classified as a comedy when one character says one funny thing. Crazy Rich Asians, definitely not written by Nora Ephron, was basically a soap opera with Awkwafina and Ken Jeong routines stuck into the middle.
So what happened to the Hollywood comedy? Why aren’t they making them like Vacation, or Caddyshack, or The Big Leibowski anymore? The first answer that comes to mind, “the culture has gotten too PC,” doesn’t really hold water. The only two movies this year to make me laugh more than once were Blockers and Sorry To Bother You. Blockers had a sweet, subversive, and lightly feminist message about teen girls seizing control of their own sexuality. But it also featured an extended butt-chugging scene and several closeups of Gary Cole’s penis. Sorry to Bother You is Communist agitprop straight out of Oakland that contains the funniest rap parody since Fear Of A Black Hat.
But as good as that scene was, it still wasn’t as funny as most of Black Hat or any of I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. Blockers had more than its share of moments, but it still pales in comparison with Bridesmaids. Is anyone quoting those movies or watching them over and over again like they do Airplane!, Monty Python And The Holy Grail, Step Brothers, or the South Park musical? Probably not. And those were the best this year had to offer.
If you really want to understand where the hell comedy has gone wrong, you have to look at the inexplicably well-received Game Night, one of the worst, most cynical movies I’ve seen in a long time. Game Night is a needlessly violent, totally generic fantasy about yuppie jerks who don’t get what’s coming to them. All its characters are smug, entitled, and cartoonish. Anyone who’s an actual underdog ends up being psychotic.
Comedy used to be about the snobs versus the slobs. People who wrote comedy were losers, and the comedies they created were about losers triumphing over adversity. Game Night, on the other hand, represents the output of a group of people who’ve never had to struggle for anything, whose idea of humor is someone getting stabbed in the leg, or an airplane exploding.
The privileged class that creates Hollywood comedies is too gaslit by Donald Trump to think anything’s funny. Judd Apatow spends a lot of creative time and energy tweeting against the President. When all we’re doing is watching the skies for signs of impending fascism, no one’s going to create a set piece like the pre-credits sequence of The Naked Gun anytime soon. America, as it stands now, is “not funny.”
On the other hand, the current underdogs, at least in our cultural formulation, are the “Deplorables.” The people who make comedy have long enjoyed thinking of themselves like Chevy Chase at the country club, or, since he’s currently out of fashion, at least Rodney Dangerfield. But it actually turns out that they’re more like Ted Knight, shocked at the sensibility of the riffraff, bleating loudly while trying to protect their investments. Comedy people are the snobs.
Lest you think this is an outlier distribution phenomenon, look at the comedy list from 2017. Outside of genre masterworks like Get Out and Thor: Ragnarok, The Big Sick (again, which wasn’t really a comedy), or a actual outlier like The Death Of Stalin, look at this horror show. Does anyone want to re-watch Fist Fight, Rough Night, The House, A Bad Mom’s Christmas, or Snatched again? I think not. The fact that Girls Trip exists doesn’t bust my argument. A movie like that should be easy to make, not a rare diamond.
So what’s the answer? I don’t know. If I did, I’d be sitting on a pile of filthy lucre somewhere in Los Feliz, not here ranting at my monitor. All I know is that I am not amused. Let’s stop scaring people and start making them laugh again.
Here endeth your comedy lecture.
And don’t ever let me catch you guys in America!