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Have comedies become unfunny? Nah, they’re doing just fine.

Have comedies become unfunny? Nah, they’re doing just fine. (photo)

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In the type of piece that seems calculated to bait the entire internet into yelling “you’re wrong!” (thereby driving traffic), the Independent‘s Ben Walsh has issued a snarky denunciation of the current state of cinematic comedy: “Put simply, Hollywood comedies just aren’t funny anymore.”

“The art of sharp, snappy, witty dialogue has vanished,” he sighs. “Writers of the calibre of Woody Allen, Neil Simon, I A L Diamond and Mel Brooks just aren’t emerging.” Oh dear!

Somehow, Mr. Walsh has raised an degree of nationalist ire I didn’t even know I was capable of. (And why name-check I.A.L. Diamond instead of his more famous writing partner Billy Wilder?) Naming four of the most prominent writers of ’60s and ’70s comedy undermines the case being made. Those are exceptions, not rules, and I’m not real sure the solution to whatever problem being diagnosed here is lamenting that no one’s writing dialogue on the order of Brooks’ “Robin Hood: Men In Tights.”

06302010_jerk.jpgMinute for minute, few things are more consistently funny than studio comedies from the ’30s, when Hollywood had a gigantic pool of cynically disaffected funny people around to contribute spare bits of dialogue. Even the grimmest melodrama usually had some toss-offs to get started.

Once you hit the ’50s, every decade’s great comedies emerge sporadically, fighting against insurmountable odds (’50s coyness, ’60s disorientation, formal sloppiness from the ’70s on, like “The Jerk” and “Stripes,” hilarious movies despite their utter lack of control). Which brings us to the present.

And the present is fine.

Here are seven comedies released in the last five years that accomplish their goals and are infinitely quotable: “Idiocracy,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Gran Torino” (I swear, it’s a comedy, no matter what happens to Clint at the end), “Role Models,” “Superbad,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “In The Loop.”

06302010_thegoods1.jpgAll of those film look good (or at least decent), which is more than you can say for most movies Bill Murray was in in the first part of his career. None of them depend upon some kind of prior franchise to work (unless you’re counting the pull of Roald Dahl). Their hang-ups avoid the bromance tropes we’re allegedly mired in. Their timing is sharp. And beyond them, even disastrous movies like “The Goods: Live Hard Sell Hard” have their moments thanks to solid bit players like Ken Jeong.

So the whine won’t fly. Comedy’s as solid as it’s been these last 50 years. And for goodness’ sake don’t bring up “serial offender Katherine Heigl” — no reasonable person expects anything like comedic genius from her anyway.

[Photos: “Love and Death,” MGM/UA Home Entertainment, 1975; “The Jerk,” Universal, 1979, “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard,” Paramount Vantage, 2009]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.