Seriously. I’m genuinely scratching my head over this. I sat for 90 minutes in a reasonably crowded cinema full of moviegoers howling like hyenas from start to finish while I was only able to muster up a single, audible laugh. The film has a 78% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and several of my friends — intelligent people whose judgment I respect very much — have been raving about it since its release. Question: Is it just me?

Firstly, the film features some of the most uninteresting characters I have ever encountered. The groom-to-be has the personality of a swimming pool in a retirement home and his bride-to-be isn’t much better. Meanwhile, his friends consist of an uptight nerd who is afraid of his domineering wife, a fat guy who for some reason has the mental capacity of a peanut, and an unlikable alpha male who puts everyone and everything down for the sake of it. Nothing about them is endearing, nothing about them is unique, and therefore the odds of me giving half a damn about their plight are quite simply non-existent.

All the best gags are in the trailer, and really, that’s not saying very much. There’s a tiger in the bathroom. Uh-oh! There’s a strange baby in the room. Uh-oh! The fat guy bumped the baby’s head on the car door. Uh-oh! The biggest selling point in the marketing is the fact that Mike Tyson has a cameo and demonstrates that he is a terrible singer. I can see that for free on YouTube and it won’t take up 90 minutes of my life:

Ultimately, The Hangover is just a bunch of crude gags strung together in place of an actual story. It’s yet another film in which grown-ups act like teenage nitwits while Todd Phillips struggles to execute even the simplest of punch-lines effectively. To be fair, it doesn’t help when the screenplay resorts to tasteless jokes about an Asian gangster who is also a screaming queen. I wonder if the critics would give the film a pass if he were black.

Throughout the film, three other pictures kept running through my head: Mike Figgis’ Leaving Las Vegas, Martin Scorsese’s Casino, and Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. All three are quoted at least once in The Hangover, and all three have one other thing in common: They all hate Vegas. Yet Todd Phillips is still holding onto that infantile, adolescent belief that Las Vegas is Disneyland for adults as opposed to the leading candidate for the 10th Circle of Hell. In the end, that’s what bothered me so much about The Hangover.  Only in a film this stupid would the nerdy character meet up with Heather Graham playing the hooker with a heart of gold with a happily-ever-after conclusion looming over the subplot like a dark cloud. What’s next? A Judd Apatow romantic-comedy about New York in the 1970s and how much fun all that social unrest and depravity was?

Finally, Zach Gafilianakis is not that funny. At best, he’s a mildly amusing bur rather forgettable fat guy, and at worst, he is the kind of comedian who injects every line reading with that, “Look at me I’m supposed to be funny!” sort of obnoxiousness. He just happens to be subtle about it, which is why everyone has fallen in love with him. But the Asian gay stereotype basically sums him, and the rest of the movie up: “It’s funny because it’s fat.”

Yawn.

One week after I blogged about my second most anticipated film of 2009, Armando Iannucci’s directorial debut In the Loop, I am happy to report that the film was a smash at the Sundance Film Festival last night and it has been picked up by IFC Films to be distributed in the United States. So finally this country will be properly exposed to the comedy genius that is Armando Iannucci.

This clip from The Thick of It should wet your appetite:

If that doesn’t excite you then I don’t know what will.

Who looks stupid now?

11 January, 2009

I was going to post the following video and comment on how this conversation is so absurd, you’d think it was lifted from an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus:

But then I found out that it actually is a comedy sketch. The politician is played by the New Zealand satirist John Clarke. The video is called “Explanation Fail” but I guess the “fail” is on all of us, eh?

Now I’m just in awe of how brilliant this piece of satire is. I must check out more of Mr. Clarke’s work.

Couldn’t think up a better title. Plus this new trailer doesn’t deserve much:

The traces of the man who once wrote for Not the Nine O’Clock News and co-created Blackadder are becoming thinner and thinner each year. I confess that Love Actually is a guilty pleasure of mine but why is it that everything he attaches his name to is so…bland?

This trailer has plenty of zaniness but is noticably short on humor, and if there’s one thing I’m getting sick of, it’s a humorist who mistakes cuteness for jokes (Mike Meyers, anyone?) We’ve got loads of dancing, loads of shrieking fangirls, a prat fall, an idiot in nothing but his underwear, and not one but two clips of what is clearly the funniest scene in the movie, Nick Frost in bed with Gemma Arterton. Get it? You see, it’s funny because he’s fat.

Now perhaps I am being unfair; you can never fully judge a film based on its trailer. Still my favorite film of the year, In Bruges, was destroyed by its vacuous trailer (Thank God people are finally discovering it on DVD.) But even that trailer looked more promising than this. I mean, how hard is it to advertise a good comedy? Just throw in some of the funnier moments without giving away the sweetest bits. Easy. So either this is one of the weakest trailers ever made or Richard Curtis has completely run out of ideas.

I think it’s time he gave Ben Elton a call and revived Blackadder for one more go. On second thought, leave it. We’ll probably get a repeat of that dreadful TV movie.

I’ve been bogged down lately with finals as well as a pain-in-the-ass short silent film shot on a bloody Bolex so I haven’t had much energy for the Kingdom of Doom. I’m taking a short breather right now for a request. I’m currently working on a new comedy series for Hofstra’s Cabaret night about a bunch of cretins who work in a pet store, and I’m looking for episode ideas. What were some problems you often faced? What were the more colorful customers like? What sort of animals did the store specialize in? I want to spend most of the winter break (roughly one month) writing the damn thing so send me your suggestions and send some more. Thanks in advance.

And how about that drawing? So cute it makes me want to VOMIT.

It’s really a one-joke video but entirely worth it for the moment at 00:04. Just goes to show you how easily you can demystify someone as badass as Daniel Craig with the right tune.

You’d think that any candidate — Vice Presidential or otherwise — would stop being funny after losing. Not everybody’s favorite Naughty Librarian. Here she is fielding questions from reporters… while turkeys are being slaughtered in the background.

Also every time I see Naughty Librarian interviewed I can’t help but think about Marge Gunderson, Frances McDormand’s character in Fargo. The difference is that Margie never runs for public office, nor is she dishonest or dangerous. Still, she’s the comedy gift that keeps on giving. A phenomenal character that gives Dubya a run for his money.

See the package that was too much for Thursday Nite Live!

P.S. Watch the latest episode of TNL here.

I was rummaging around this site yesterday called Some of the Corpses Are Amusing. At first I dismissed them as the usual brand of self-serving pricks who hate every mainstream example of an art form for the sake of it, but the more I looked around, the more I appreciated their opinions and analyses, even if I disagreed with some of them. I definitely recommend checking them out if you are interested in comedy, even if they only focus on British comedy.

I digress. They drew attention a sketch on Not the Nine O’Clock News as one of the “Great Comedy Moments” of all-time. I was not disappointed. A little background: Oswald Mosley was a politician who wanted to turn Britain into a fascist nation in the 1930s. While not a Nazi per se, he was hugely influenced by another oppressive dictator, Mussolini. He died just a short time before this episode was broadcast, and as per usual with the more famous dregs of humanity (Jerry Falwell, anyone?), the press had nothing but nice things to say about him (The beginning of the sketch is sadly cut off in this video but you should still be able to enjoy it.)

You can read their full article yourself, I’d hate to steal their own ideas, but in two minutes they were able to cram all the insanity of Mosley, his supporters, and the reaction to his death. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what great comedy is all about.

I haven’t been following the Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross controversy that closely — partly because nobody is reporting it in America for obvious reasons — but I do think it provides a perfect example of what happens when a comedian crosses the line of discomfort.

A great deal of comedy is structured around targets: Politicians, ideologies, occupations, etc. My problem with Brand’s and Ross’ behavior is in their target specifically. Why are they picking on Andrew Sachs? What is funny about leaving obscene messages on the answering machine of the guy who played Manuel? I know very little about Mr. Sachs but I have seen the odd interview with him and he seems perfectly friendly and respectable. Hell, he accepted their apology in no time at all, and was extremely graceful about the matter. And that’s why their prank has backfired so severely. Imagine if they had left obscene messages on Michael Winner’s phone or some other self-absorbed, sleazy old British celebrity. Either nobody would give a damn or most people would celebrate prank.

Sadly, this kind of mean-spirited comedy is more and more prevalent today. I’m not singling out Brand or Ross — I actually quite enjoy the latter and I’m happy that they’ve apologized for their mistake. — but an overall trend in comedy (US and UK) that confuses satire with insult. It reminds me of that guy who singled out African-American Obama supporters in Harlem by disguising McCain policies with Obama’s name. Amusing, maybe, but what message were they trying to send? That all African-Americans are stupid? As though you couldn’t do the same to a handful of idiotic McCain supporters.

The days of Chris Morris duping vapid celebrities into supporting bogus causes like Fuck’d & Bomb’d or Nonce Sense are over. Now, any gotcha moments without context or meaning are considered funny. But people forget that Morris’ programmes were never fueled by a desire to bully. Anger, certainly, but he knew never to cross the line of discomfort. The idea that somebody thought leaving those messages on Mr. Sachs’ machine would be funny just shows you how little comedians care about that line today.

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On a semi-related note, John Cleese made an appearance on Countdown w/ Keith Olbermann last night. My patience for the left-wing Bill O’Reilly has waned in the last few months but ever so often I decide to tune in, and the Gods of television decide to smile upon my decision. Olbermann has referenced Monty Python as an influence many times; It’s glad to see he finally roped one on the show.