Brewsters Millions John Candy Richard Pryor

Comedy Flashback

10 Underrated ’80s Comedies

Catch Footloose, The Breakfast Club and more during IFC's '80s Weekend.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

The 1980s gave us some of the biggest comedy blockbusters in the history of cinema. Even if you didn’t grow up in the Pac-Man and E.T. decade, chances are you can quote a line or two from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Ghostbusters. But there are plenty of great comedies from the ’80s that you may have missed on your video store trips. (Remember video stores?) Put on your vintage Vuarnet sunglasses, pop your collar and discover some underrated ’80s comedies. For more great comedy, be sure to catch IFC’s ’80s weekend starting July 29th with a Friday the 13th movie marathon.

10. Max Dugan Returns

Many a teenager in the ’80s most likely first saw Max Dugan Returns after a trip to the mall and a meal at Sizzler with their divorced dad. Marsha Mason reteamed with The Goodbye Girl director Herbert Ross and screenwriter Neil Simon to play a single mom struggling with financial issues, dating and raising her teenage son, played by a pre-Ferris Mathew Broderick. Jason Robards is her estranged but extremely likeable deadbeat dad who returns in hilarious fashion to make good for missing out on his daughter’s life. Broderick’s character, Michael, learns some valuable life lessons from his grandfather, who uses a few aliases, including Gus Lichtenstein. While Ross’ follow-up film, the Kevin Bacon dance classic Footloose, is better remembered, Max Dugan Returns has developed a cult following over the years thanks to its smart script and winning performances.


9. Brewster’s Millions

What better time than during this election year to watch Brewster’s Millions, a movie about a man who became a millionaire and then ran for public office and told people not to vote for him or anyone else? Richard Pryor shines as Monty Brewster, a washed-up pitcher for the Hackensack Bulls who gets the opportunity of a lifetime when he finds out he had a crotchety old tycoon for an uncle (Hume Cronyn in a hilarious cameo) who had nobody else to leave his money to. But, there’s a catch — he has to spend $30 million dollars in 30 days in order to inherit the $300 million dollar fortune. If he fails, all he’ll end up with is the Cubs shirt on his back. Along the way, Brewster becomes a celeb and confounds his friend (played by John Candy) and a possible love interest who thinks the money has driven him mad. Directed by Walter Hill (48 Hrs.), Brewster’s Millions is a still topical satire of the haves and have nots that would make for a great double feature with Trading Places.


8. Top Secret!

Top Secret! is a comedy from the guys who brought you Airplane!, the movie that redefined comedy films and spoof movies. This time spoofing World War II movies and the ridiculous Elvis rock music films of the ‘60s, the Zucker Brothers and Jim Abrahams fill Top Secret! with a plethora of jokes and funny sight gags. A then unknown Val Kilmer provides just the right amount of charm as the cocky, yet innocently dumb rock n’ roll star that gets mixed up with the French Resistance in order to defeat those pesky Nazis. You have to love a movie that has an underwater Old West-style bar fight scene and a scene filmed completely in reverse, just for the hell of it.


7. Midnight Madness

Midnight Madness is sort of like an ’80s remake of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World that also is quite possibly the inspiration for The Amazing Race. Featuring a young Michael J. Fox and a cameo from a pre-Pee-wee Paul Reubens, Midnight Madness taps into every kid’s dream of taking part in a massive scavenger hunt. Each team represents high school groups like the jocks, nerds, sorority girls and a motley team of cheating idiots led by Stephen Furst, aka Flounder in Animal House. A goofy, kid-friendly gem, Midnight Madness has stuck with anyone who saw it as a child.


6. Lost In America

In the past few years with his work in films like Drive and Finding Dory, Albert Brooks has been riding a wave of success with a younger generation of moviegoers. But in the ’70s and ’80s, Brooks was also making a neurotic name for himself as a writer/actor/director in films like Real Life, Modern Romance and the classic comedy Lost in America. In Lost in America, Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty (of Airplane! fame) play a L.A. couple who decide to give up their yuppie life and travel the country in a Winnebago. They soon discover that it’s not easy to replace a six figure salary in the middle-of-nowhere Arizona. Brooks’ neurotic everyman hilariously goes from ad exec to school crossing guard and the couple hit rock bottom as they head towards a breakdown in this pitch perfect satire of the baby boomer decade.


5. Vampire’s Kiss

Need a reminder of the days when Nicolas Cage starred in great quirky comedies? Take a bite out of Vampire’s Kiss, which is as close to a quintessential Nic Cage role as you can get. Cage sinks his teeth (pun intended) into the role of an unstable man who is convinced he’s becoming a vampire. The scenes in which Cage’s character embraces his dark side as he puts his secretary (Maria Conchita Alonzo) through hell are as gleefully entertaining as they are psychotically disturbing. If you’ve ever wanted to see Nic Cage eat a cockroach, then this is the movie for you.


4. The ‘Burbs

A twisted comedy from director Joe Dante (Gremlins), The ‘Burbs shows us that life in the suburbs is not really filled with “shiny, happy, people.” Tom Hanks leads a cast of nosy neighbors, including ex-Vietman Vet Lt. Mark Rumsfield (Bruce Dern) and comedian Rick Ducommun (Groundhog Day) as Art Weingartner. When the creepy and reclusive neighbors The Klopeks move next door to Hanks’ Ray Peterson, Art, Ray and Rumsfield begin to let their suspicions about the new neighbors get the best of them. The trio come to think that the Klopeks have killed their neighbor Walter Seznick and begin digging themselves a deeper hole of paranoia that may or may not be totally in their heads. Look for Corey Feldman in one of his last teenage roles as Ricky Butler and Carrie Fisher as Ray’s doubting wife, in a movie that makes the city look pretty appealing.


3. Used Cars

Before Back to the Future, Robert Zemeckis directed this uproarious look at sleazy used car salesmen. When the owner of a used car lot is killed, Kurt Russell and his ethically challenged crew do whatever they can to keep the lot from being taken by their boss’ sleazy brother, played by legendary character comic actor Jack Warden at his crotchety best. From burying their boss’ body in the lot, to interrupting the President’s speech with a live commercial, the guys at the used car lot hilariously wheel and deal. What’s not to love about a movie that shoots the s*** out of high prices??


2. After Hours

Not only is After Hours one of the most underrated comedies of the ’80s, it’s also one of the most underrated Martin Scorsese films. The Goodfellas guru opts for dark comedy here, as Griffin Dunne’s corporate drone encounters a bevy of bizarre characters on his quest to get back home over the course of one crazy night in the Big Apple. A surreal vision of the days when downtown Manhattan was actually seedy, After Hours has developed a cult following over the years thanks to hilarious turns from everyone from Catherine O’Hara to Cheech and Chong.


1. The Man with Two Brains

While The Jerk might be the best known of Carl Reiner and Steve Martin’s comedy collaborations, The Man with Two Brains has some of the most spit-take inducing moments of hilarity in a film from the ’80s or any decade. Martin plays Dr. Hfuhruhurr, (which sounds exactly as it is spelled), a lovesick widower who hits a woman with his car but luckily is a world renowned brain surgeon who can save her life. It’s a tale not quite as old as time, as he falls for his beautiful patient (Kathleen Turner), who then takes pleasure in driving her new husband crazy while withholding sex in hilarious ways until the doctor makes a citizen’s divorce on their trip to Europe. This is where Hfuhruhurr meets the love of his life, a woman named Ann Uumellmahaye (also spelled like it sounds), who happens to be the voice of a disembodied brain in a jar. The Man with Two Brains has everything you could want in a great comedy — Steve Martin at his wacky best, a hilariously difficult drunk test (watch it above) and other absurd gags like a four-year old who thinks she can diagnose an epidural hematoma.

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SO EXCITED!!!

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.”

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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. 

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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.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.