Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Series of Genres: Comedy Part One

Comedy may very well be the oldest genre, dating back to Ancient Greece. The Greeks called any theatrical performance that ended in a happy ending a “comedy,” but comedy isn’t that simple. Defining the comedy genre is actually fairly difficult, even the Greeks had many iterations of the concept of comedy. Aristophanes, one of the first comic playwrights, typically wrote political satires caulk full of poop jokes and sexual innuendos. The philosopher Aristotle also gave his thoughts on comedy in his work Poetics. Aristotle defined comedy as “a story of the rise in fortune of a sympathetic central character” but he also agreed that the basic requirement of a comedy is a happy ending. Aristotle also purposed that comedy could be divided into three sub-genres: farce, romantic comedy and satire. The Greek’s had a different idea of comedy than what we do today. 

Today comedy is more or less defined as something amusing with the attentions of laughter. The modern definition may have changed the tone of comedy, but the themes are relatively the same. Modern comedies still have their fair share of poop jokes and sexual innuendos. Modern comedies also layer in other types of humor, including racial humor and schadenfreude (pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune) in the form of slapstick. Even Aristotle’s three sub-genres (farce, romantic comedy and satire) have been expanded upon in the modern age. Some of these “new” sub-genres are: black comedy (dark comedy), parody, screwball, and stoner comedy. Black comedies presents the serious subject matter, like death, in a humorous way. Parodies are satirical imitation of other people’s work. Screwball comedies are romantic comedies with more slapstick that features a “battle of the sexes” theme. Lastly, Stoner comedies tend to have plots involving cannabis and its sub-culture, these types of film have been relabeled in the common jargon as, “Bromance” films. 

Now that we have explored comedy history, let’s press forward and explore comedy films. This week I’m going to mix it up and compile multiple top five lists. I will deliver my normal top five comedy film franchises. I also want to share my favorite comedy directors and comedy groups in film. Let us start with the men who have written and directed our favorite comedy films.
  • Kevin Smith and his View Askewniverse: Kevin Smith is a normal Jersey nerd / geek guy who happens to make films and write comic books. Kevin Smith attributes the film, Slacker as his inspiration to take up filmmaking. He took that motivation and created his first film, Clerks, which will later become the first film in the View Askewniverse. View Askewniverse was named after Kevin Smith’s production company View Askew Productions. The films in this universe focus primarily on two character’s Jay and Silent Bob roles performed by Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith. The films feature recurring characters, themes, motifs, and location. The films in the View Askewniverse are: Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Clerks II.
  • Edgar Wright and his Cornetto Trilogy: A series of three comedic genre films starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Each film in the series is a parody of a genre film. The first film is a parody of a zombie film title, Shaun of the Dead. The second is a parody of a buddy cop film titled, Hot Fuzz. The third is a parody of a Sci-Fi Apocalypse film titled, The World’s End. Edgar Wright does a great job at making a good comic version of those various film genre. I also like another film of his not in the “trilogy” that is worth a mention and that is, Scott Pilgrim vs the World.
  • Mel Brooks: Is what I call the “King of Parody.” Mel Brooks’s whole film career center on making fun of classic genre films. Some of his most popular films include: Blazing Saddles (A western parody), Spaceballs (A Star Wars parody), and Robin Hood: Men in Tights. (A Robin Hood parody). Most of his films spawn quotable lines that are still funny today.
  • Judd Apatow: Judd Apatow is known for producing a good number of stoner comedies staring primarily Seth Rogen and Friends (Jay Baruchel, James Franco, and Jonah Hill ect.) Some of his most notable films include: The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad, Step Brothers, and Pineapple Express. Paul Rudd and Jason Segel are two actors who make frequent appearance in Judd Apatow’s film. These two star in a John Hamburg film titled I Love You, Man. In the film the two are good friends that end up in a “Bromance” a term coined by them. The Internet adopted the term to basically describe a “date” you would have with your “bro.” I would say most of Judd Apatow’s films would be the type of movies a “Bromance” would occur.
  • The Farrelly Brother Farce: Peter and Bobby Farrelly are known for their farces. Some of their films include: Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, There's Something About Mary, Me, Myself & Irene, and Shallow Hal. These two have brought some pretty funny film to the big screen. Most of their material is over-the top and a bit silly but that’s what I like about their films.
I don’t want my audience to fall victim of me talking their ears off all in one post. I have decided to extend this conversation over the next couple posts. In part two I will discuss my favorite comedy groups. In part three I will reveal my top five comedy franchise. You should see these post roll out in the next couple days, but in the meantime, tell me about your favorite comedies in the comment section.

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