The 10 best “Snobs vs Slobs” comedies


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By Andy Hunsaker

It’s the great comedy dynamic – groups of uptight, hoity-toity, nose-in-the-air snobs against groups of down-to-earth, slovenly fun-seeking slobs. The haughty vs. the naughty is a genre unto itself. It had its heyday in the late 70s and throughout the 80s, but it’s hardly a dead notion, since all the kids who grew up on those movies are out there making movies today. We’re not quite talking about “The Odd Couple”, with one neat guy living with one messy guy, but rather marauding hordes, or at least trios and quartets of rabble-rousing malcontents making life difficult for prim and proper types and good-looking bullies – although we’ll leave “Major League” and “The Bad News Bears” to sports movie lists. So let’s take a look at 10 of them, in chronological order, so you can then start angrily commenting about which ones I should’ve included instead.

“A Night at the Opera” (1935)

The Marx Brothers made a career out of being crazy weirdos who spent their time infiltrating high society in order to make a mockery of it, and that’s well on display in this 1935 film as they finagle their way into the opera world. Their contemporaries The Three Stooges also made a lot of hay out of this dynamic (see their short Hoi Polloi) and, if you want to get completely meta about it, The Marx Brothers vs. The Three Stooges will get you a lot of snobs vs. slobs arguments – at least among the film critic set.

“M*A*S*H*” (1970)

Robert Altman’s 1970 film about a group of pathologically insubordinate army surgeons – Hawkeye Pierce (Donald Sutherland), Trapper John (Elliot Gould) and Duke Forrest (Tom Skerritt) – constantly aggravating the proper sensibilities of Majors Frank Burns (Robert Duvall) and Major “Hot Lips” Houlihan (Sally Kellerman) during the Korean (read: Vietnam) War is a quintessential piece of work which spawned 11 years of television hijinks of the same nature from Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers and Mike Farrell.

3. “Animal House”

Let’s be honest: John Landis’ 1978 college comedy is the first thing that pops to everyone’s mind when the idea of snobs vs. slobs comes up, since it had hordes of copycats. Dean Wormer (John Vernon) and his “double secret probation” against the men of Delta Tau Chi house and his recruitment of the nefarious Omegas to help his crusade to expel them all prompts a battle of wills between the academic establishment of “College” and Bluto (John Belushi), Otter (Tim Matheson), Flounder (Stephen Furst), Pinto (Tom Hulce) and the rest of the gang. Food fights, vomit and parade vandalism ensue and legends are born.

“Meatballs” (1979)

If you’ve got snobs giving you trouble, you want Bill Murray on your side, and that’s the fact, jack. In this 1979 Ivan Reitman flick, he’s Tripper Harrison, head counselor at slapdash Camp North Star, and their rivalry with the rich folk over at Camp Mohawk – who constantly beat them in every athletic competition – leads to one of the most inspiring comedy speeches of all time and a nutty amount of cheating to get one over on them.

“Caddyshack” (1980)

There’s no better target for snob-mockery than the world of country club golf, and there’s no better slob for taking the piss out of uptight upper-crusters like Judge Smails (Ted Knight) than Rodney Dangerfield. Bill Murray gets a lot of attention for what he’s got goin’ for him in this 1980 Harold Ramis comedy, but when Dangerfield’s Al Czervik comes to the Bushwood Club as nouveau riche without a care or a manner in the world and planning to buy the whole place, the resulting showdown on the links eventually degenerates to glorious Kenny Loggins madness.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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