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The funny bubble?
August 14, 2011 2:57 PM   Subscribe

A record crowd of nearly 2 million people attend the 2011 Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal. A brand new 300-400 seat comedy club opens in Washington, DC. Nine R-rated comedies released this summer. Bridesmaids becomes Judd Apatow's highest-grossing movie. The Hangover and The Hangover Part 2 now rank third and fourth, domestically, as the top-grossing R-rated movies of all-time. Marc Maron's WTF podcast repackaged for public radio distribution. Showtime orders another Green Room/WTF type show for 2011. The CW is shopping for sitcoms. Whitney Cummings signs development deals with CBS and NBC. Peak comedy or sign that we're laughing more than ever as we face end times?
posted by wensink (40 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
End times.
posted by seventyfour at 3:11 PM on August 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Comedy always has peaks and troughs. There was a comedy boom in the late 70s that translated into a lot of boarded up storefronts in the 90s. Whitney Cummings is ok funny, but I'd rather see Maria Bamford get the tv deals. She is hilarious.
posted by Renoroc at 3:12 PM on August 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


I think a lot of it has to do with comedy movies no longer being treated as though they need to appeal to the lowest common denominator or be family-friendly. For quite a few years we were largely stuck with Wayans brothers-style "spoofs," Adam Sandler and Jim Carey gross-outs, and horrible SNL comedies.

I mean, come on. Scary Movie didn't even have to be made; the movies it was parodying (Scream) were themselves parodying horror movies. And this movie justified multiple sequels?
posted by Hoopo at 3:14 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd rather see Maria Bamford get the tv deals.

My crush on the Bammer is positively schoolboy. She makes me LOL. (Sorry, LD.)
posted by wensink at 3:18 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Me and Maria at MaxFunCon. She's AWESOMEness.
posted by ColdChef at 3:21 PM on August 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


The End Times will be preceded by the second coming of Chappelle.
posted by mannequito at 3:23 PM on August 14, 2011


And just the existence of Louis C.K. and his show "Louie" are proof that we live in a golden age of comedy, equal to no other in recorded history.
posted by ColdChef at 3:23 PM on August 14, 2011 [36 favorites]


Not to make this to serious but it really interesting--I wonder if there is statistical validity to the increase in comedies as a percentage of major media--there does seem to be--as there are reports of an increase in comedies (movie/radio/stage) during the middle/late depression. Who knows--diversion, changing demographics of audience/creators, dumbing down, smartening up, coincidental or perhaps prescient of better times coming.
posted by rmhsinc at 3:23 PM on August 14, 2011


Peak comedy or sign that we're laughing more than ever as we face end times?

Well, since most of the R rating in the new batch of comedy films seems to be coming from ever-raunchier toilet humor and extreme "I can't believe they just did that" situations, I'd say it's actually the product of a generation or three who grew up on Mad Magazine and its descendants which are finally in positions of power and influence getting to make movies based on the humor they find to be the most funny.

This naturally is going to be more extreme versions of the stuff they found funny when they were younger. Because a joke told twice is never as laugh-inducing the second time (unless you're the Marx Brothers), and so they always have to try to top themselves with each new iteration.

The thing is, truly funny movies are based on characters and situations, not jokes. Sadly, the American audience doesn't have the patience for development of either of these, so it's all parody-cliché-based humor or else the sudden move to the extreme which is used to make people laugh. Why bother spending a half-hour in character development or situation establishing when you can dive in with gross-out moments and pop culture references?

Case in point -- the two versions of Death At A Funeral. One is brilliant, the other is awkward.
posted by hippybear at 3:26 PM on August 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


And just the existence of Louis C.K. and his show "Louie" are proof that we live in a golden age of comedy, equal to no other in recorded history.

He's playing nearby soon, but I haven't started to listen to him. I'm pretty sure I lost my sense of humor a few years ago. Only thing that reliably cracks me up is Peep Show.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:32 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think a lot of it has to do with comedy movies no longer being treated as though they need to appeal to the lowest common denominator or be family-friendly.

This year we have had the release of the following:

Your Highness
Arthur (the original was so good. The remake...)
Zookeeper
Yogi Bear (came out in December, but never forgive, never forget!)

Just to name a few. I don't think it was ever expected of all comedy's to appeal to the lowest common denominator, but the crap comedies that do have been coming out for decades.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:34 PM on August 14, 2011


hippybear, I'm curious: have you seen Bridesmaids? Or caught any episodes of Louie? Or heard the WTF podcast? Maybe I'm misreading you, but you seem to be describing the Farrelly-brothers mainstream comedy scene of the 90's, not the current one. Which is not to say that current comedy has no raunchiness, but to describe it as essentially devoid of character development or human insight seems far-fetched.
posted by saladin at 3:36 PM on August 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


I haven't seen Bridesmaids, but I have seen The Hangover. The high point of that movie for me is Zach's character and the way it is developed. But that's hardly the thing which has most of the people in the audience laughing.

Anyway, I didn't say that it's devoid of character development or human insight. What I said was that it bases its comedy beats on simple comedy moments rather than more complex things which take longer to develop. That it would rather use up the audience's good will and attention with 5 bathroom humor moments in the first half-hour rather than allowing that half-hour to be relatively tension/release free (which is what comedy is), and then letting that slow wind-up build to larger releases toward the end of the 90 or 100 minutes of the run of the piece.

I do know one thing about Bridesmaids -- that the sequence involving food poisoning and vomiting was what got the largest reported in-theater audience reactions during its run. But that's neither character development nor human insight. It's toilet/gross-out humor, and that seems to be what US audiences respond to these days.
posted by hippybear at 3:42 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Louie" is my favorite drama about comedy.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:49 PM on August 14, 2011 [13 favorites]


All this comedy is meant to fill the vacuum left when GWB stopped making speeches.
posted by tomswift at 3:51 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The End Times will be preceded by the second coming of Chappelle.

totally worth it.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 3:52 PM on August 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I do know one thing about Bridesmaids -- that the sequence involving food poisoning and vomiting was what got the largest reported in-theater audience reactions during its run. But that's neither character development nor human insight. It's toilet/gross-out humor, and that seems to be what US audiences respond to these days.

That may be, but the movie also has some very affecting moments that actually almost moved me to tears due to its honesty and winning performances. It's sad that people focused more on that scene and the fact it was "raunchy" for a chick flick. I walked in expecting a female hangover, and what I got was much more dramedy and thank God for that. It really stands out as one of the best mainstream films this year.
posted by tittergrrl at 3:54 PM on August 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'd hesitate to call Louie a comedy, I think. The first season was genuinely funny but this second round has been...strange. Sort of Life Lessons With Louie, sitting around talking to one person for the whole of a ten minute episode. It's his show, and god bless the man, but using airtime as a vehicle for your cleverness and your ideas, and using airtime as a way to be funny and entertain people, well, they certainly aren't mutually exclusive things, as the first season (and, hell, even Lucky Louie) showed us, but this second season has forgotten the second part of what made the show so clever in the first place. I haven't laughed once. That doesn't make it bad, it just makes it something other than what it was.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:59 PM on August 14, 2011


*so good in the first place, rather
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:00 PM on August 14, 2011


Well, I do look forward to seeing Bridesmaids once it hits one of the myriad premium channels we spend money on monthly with our satellite service rather than going to movie theaters more than a few times a year... It's not like I don't WANT to see it.... it's more that it didn't score high enough on my "you have to see this early and soon and on a big screen and pay for the privilege" -ometer to get me to drive the 20 miles one-way and spend money on parking and movie tickets to see it.

I'm sure it will be fun once it gets here. If it's more fun than I anticipated via previews and reviews and general zeitgeist knowledge I'll happily find a public place to post my chagrin at not having supported it at the box office.

The only movie I've wanted to do that with in the past year or two has been Scott Pilgrim. That was an awesome, imaginative, delightful movie which should have made huge bank and was largely ignored. And I here and now announce my shame at not having supported it when I could have.\

(It also wasn't a "comedy" according to what this FPP is about, so this is a bit of an aside.)
posted by hippybear at 4:00 PM on August 14, 2011


Peak comedy or sign that we're laughing more than ever as we face end times?

Maybe. Ask Mort Sahl. The Smothers Brothers, maybe? I wonder what Lenny Bruce would say.
posted by hal9k at 4:00 PM on August 14, 2011


With the possible exception of Bridesmaids, I don't see much in the way of quality comedy among that dreck, just quantity.
posted by Ardiril at 4:07 PM on August 14, 2011


I haven't laughed once. That doesn't make it bad, it just makes it something other than what it was.

If you didn't laugh at that last fart...you and I have a very different understanding of comedy.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:11 PM on August 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


but this second season has forgotten the second part of what made the show so clever in the first place. I haven't laughed once.

People laugh at different things. I roared so loud at the "animal guessing game" in the car that it took me a while to catch my breath. And the awkward scene with Joan Rivers? Bust a gut.
posted by ColdChef at 4:23 PM on August 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure Jack and Jill proves that it's end times. I think it might actually be what the whole Mayan 2012 thing was about, to be honest.
posted by neuromodulator at 4:26 PM on August 14, 2011


I wonder what Lenny Bruce would say.

Probably something overlong and underfunny.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:33 PM on August 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think this is "peak comedy" in the sense that this is the best it will ever be and the supply is diminishing from here on out, but I do think we've hit or are approaching the peak of this comedy wave. Depending on the events of the world, we'll probably see another 6 months-2 years of inflated box office figures, ticket sales, sitcom deals, etc.
Soon the sheen will be off the podcasting and standup rose and the numbers will level out, but not before affecting some lasting changes in entertainment and influencing many, many people who might be part of the next wave.
posted by FeralHat at 4:46 PM on August 14, 2011


Just a few days ago on the Nerdist podcast--I'll say it again and again: much more essential to comedy hobbyists than WTF--Chris Hardwick and Mike Birbiglia were musing on the recent resaturation of the standup/podcast/funnystuff market. While acknowledging that "peak comedy" happens now and then and is great for overall visibility, they pointed out that anyone who's actually invested in the art has to wait until the bandwagoners dissipate into other things before the die-hard comics can really shine as individuals.

Something like that, at least; on reflection it's kind of counterintuitive.
posted by psoas at 4:51 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


While I love the concept of the Just for Laughs festival, the reality is, I think, not so hot.

The tickets are too expensive. The venues are too big. The tickets are too expensive. The tickets are too expensive. The tickets are too expensive. Couldn't they book the comics for a week solid at slightly smaller venues, and maybe charge a little less on admission?

It's one thing to set the price high enough to price out the hecklers and just get the real fans who know what they're coming to see, but JFL ticket prices push dangerously close to I paid that much for this shit? territory. Then again, putting it in Montreal, where a lot of the audience is going to be affluent enough to fly in from someplace less French, is probably enough to make that a non-issue.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:20 PM on August 14, 2011


We've reached Peak Peak. We're in a Bubble Bubble.
posted by grobstein at 5:35 PM on August 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


In no particular order:

-not only was Bridesmaids funnier than any other movie that's spun off the Apatow machine (and I say this as a fan) but I felt similarly to tittergrrl in that it was the first time I'd truly cared about what happened to his characters probably since Freaks and Geeks.

-the popularity of the Hangover and the Tad Friend profile of Steve Carell from last year are what make me most worried about American comedy.

-I'd like to listen to the Maron show but every time I try it's so....moist.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 5:48 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


@Ardrill @munchingzombie Don't think anyone here was suggesting that unfunny/LCD comedy is no longer being produced or isn't profitable. What's notable, however, is that due largely to the leveraging effects of technology (and fractured media space, blahblahblah) niche comedy is finding an audience in ways not seen before. In addition to its music channels, Pandora is now streaming comedy online and to mobile devices. Mark Maron's podcast, a platform that listeners had to opt-in and seek out in order to hear, is now being broadcast to millions of radio listeners across the country. A 16-year-old Bo Burnham can shoot videos in his bedroom, that find an audience of millions via YouTube, gets him an appearance at Edinburgh Fringe, where he's shortlisted for the festival's Best Comic award and lands a Judd Apatow film deal [now on hold]. Mike Birbiglia, a long-time comic, can perform a bit in his stand-up, that gets turned into a one man off-Broadway show, "Sleepwalk with Me," and is now being developed with Ira Glass for the big screen.
posted by wensink at 6:45 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's just more of everything being made, period. Whether you think that's a good thing is entirely up to you.
posted by hermitosis at 7:00 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Comedy is one of the only ways of getting some truth in through the back door these days. Comedy is vitally important in 2011.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 8:16 PM on August 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


We have the best and the worst of comedy these days. I echo the shout-out to Maria Bamford, who should have at least 9 shows across all media. Todd Glass should also be in more places. I've probably seen 98% of all episodes of the Daily Show, and there is still the occasional hit there, but the show is basically declining (it started with the hire of the much overrated John Oliver: there should be less of him, and more of Kristen and Sam and Jason).

The two poles are seen in one of the CC roasts, in which (the great) Patton Oswalt first praises Carrot Top's physique, and then says: "Oh, I guess while you were working out, I was eating delicious food and writing jokes."

In summary: the golden age of comedy won't be truly here until Carrot and Mencia are still performing.
posted by anothermug at 9:22 PM on August 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


In summary: the golden age of comedy won't be truly here until Carrot and Mencia are still performing.

Er, I meant no longer performing.
posted by anothermug at 9:23 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


It could be that in a divided America (and a world in general where people are more likely to live inside their own little bubble universes than take part in mass culture), comedy is one of the few genres that still appeals to everyone.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:21 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you didn't laugh at that last fart...you and I have a very different understanding of comedy.

My husband and I lost our minds for about 10 golden minutes. We lost it over and over in unpredictable fits and snorts all night over that perfect little hand wave at the end, or the idea of an actor forever being best recognized for erupting like a sunspot.

Like practically everyone else we know, we're completely fucked by the shiny new economy and have the appropriately depressed affects to match. Yet that fart blasted us straight to heaven, and lord love Louis CK for that. If we have any say it will live on forever, culturally enshrined like Nicholas in Chaucer or the ladies in de Sade (worked a little more blue than most comedians, loved mainly by the French).

Then there's the mansion episode, which no permanent renter should miss. Talk about laughing through tears!
posted by melissa may at 2:55 AM on August 15, 2011 [4 favorites]




Anyway, speaking of peak comedy or a golden age or whatever....

The final 5 minutes of the most recently episode of Weeds may be some of the best written and filmed character-driven comedy I've ever seen. Not a single joke, but a fantastic snowballing build up of humor and tension that was pitch perfect.

(Weeds, overall, has been really great for character-driven comedy, and I can't recommend it enough. Getting through Season 3 was difficult, but it's been consistently brilliant and dark and funny all along.)
posted by hippybear at 3:49 PM on August 16, 2011


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