Sketch Artists

The Best Bits From Sketch Comedy Anthology Movies

MONTY PYTHON’S THE MEANING OF LIFE, Terry Jones, 1983, (c) Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

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Anthology comedy movies are hit-and-miss. Some jokes were edgy when they first played, but even the funniest ideas don’t always age well. To get you ready for Documentary Now!, IFC’s research team has plunged into the history of anthology comedy movies in search of the most memorable sketches committed to film. And since many of these films are raunchy, you should note that some sketches are NSFW.

1. Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983) – “Mr. Creosote”

It might seem obvious to include this movie and this scene, but can anyone not think of this scene when you hear the words “wafer thin mint”? If you’re a comedy nerd, you might’ve memorized the Python movies and have forgotten how disgusting and delightful this sketch was the first time you saw it. So do yourself a favor and show it to someone who’s never seen it. Go ahead, we’ll be here when you get back. (Also, we’re not counting And Now For Something Completely Different since those sketches started on TV.)

2. Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video (1979) – “Laser Bra 2000”

The Saturday Night Live movie never got made. But we did get this bizarre short-form feature from SNL first head writer Michael O’Donoghue. O’Donoghue had left the show with Chevy Chase, to write feature films. In 1979 he reunited with Lorne Michaels to write and direct a comedy special to replace SNL during the summer. NBC deemed the series too raunchy for television (as well as being poorly lit). Mondo Video was released in theaters and became an overnight bomb. This parody of the “Mondo” documentaries featured cameo appearances by Bill Murray, Carrie Fisher, Sid Vicious and Debbie Harry. Years later, the highlight is “Laser Bra 2000,” wherein Mr. Mike shares rare footage of an experimental military weapon.

3. The Ten (2007) – “Lying Rhino”

David Wain’s sketch movie based on the Ten Commandments has an excellent ensemble cast (Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux, Jon Hamm, Winona Ryder and members of The State). But the standout sequence is “Lying Rhino.” For one thing, in the live-action movie, this is the cartoon segment — animated by Augenblick Studios (makers of cult favorites like the Wonder Showzen cartoons and Ugly Americans). For another thing, it stars Jon Benjamin of Archer and Bob Burger’s fame. Lastly, there’s a deadly wiener-dog sex orgy.

4. A Guide to the Married Man (1967) – “Deny Everything”

Gene Kelly directed this very ’60s comedy where Walter Matthau learns how to cheat on his wife. (The infidelity-comedy subgenre doesn’t get made much anymore. The last of its kind might be Warren Beatty’s 2001 film Town & Country). The episodic lessons-in-cheating include examples of infidelity from Carl Reiner, Phil Silvers, Jayne Mansfield, Lucille Ball and Sid Caesar. One of the most memorable bits features Joey Bishop as a man who refuses to admit he’s having an affair. Comedy nerds might view this as a precursor to the Monty Python dead parrot sketch, but YouTube commenters associate it with Obama and/or Bush.

5. Dynamite Chicken (1971) – Richard Pryor walk and talk

Dynamite Chicken is just as much a time capsule as it is a feature film. The free-form parade of sketches and musical interludes includes appearances by Fred Willard, John Lennon, Al Goldstein, Joan Baez and Paul Krassner. (Feel free to Google the names you don’t recognize.) There’s even a dramatization of a Lenny Bruce routine starring a Lyndon Johnson impersonator. But the film is best remembered for Richard Pryor’s participation, probably because Pryor was on the poster –- despite the fact that he only has 10 minutes of screen time. In 1982, the comic sued to stop the film from being re-released. None of Pryor’s Dynamite Chicken scenes are online, so here’s a video that typifies the film’s spirit – a pair of poems by Allen Ginsberg and Leonard Cohen, with music by Jimi Hendrix.

6. Tunnel Vision (1976) – “Get Head”

1970s sketch comedy movies loved to lampoon lame network television by adding nudity, drug use and coarse language. (The kind of stuff those squares would never show on the idiot box, man!) Tunnel Vision showcases predictably “far-out” game shows and grotesque commercial parodies, but this one was directed by Neal Israel, who spent the ’80s writing decade-defining comedies like Police Academy, Bachelor Party and Real Genius. One notable sketch sees policeman John Candy partnered with a severed head. Was this the inspiration for In Living Color’s “Head Detective“? We’ll let the comedy nerds argue it out in the comments section. Note: The Tunnel Vision trailer was narrated by Paul Thomas Anderson’s dad, Ernie Anderson – who was the announcer for ABC television.

7. Chillerama (2011) – “Wadzilla”

This anthology of goofy grindhouse films includes comic vignettes like “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein,” but the most vivid spoof is the raunchy “Wadzilla.” Director Adam Rifkin (Detroit Rock City) tells the story of a man whose semen grows to gargantuan proportions and becomes a kaiju monster.

8. Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) – “Scott Free”

Before making Airplane! and The Naked Gun movies, Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker performed live sketch comedy in Madison, Wisconsin as “Kentucky Fried Theater.” John Landis directed their first film, called Kentucky Fried Movie. (An early title for the film was Closed for Remodeling. Ha ha.) The film stands out because instead of populating the bits with go-to improv comics like Howard Hesseman and Gerrit Graham, they enlisted actors not necessarily known for comedy, including Bill Bixby, Donald Sutherland and Tony Dow (from TV’s Leave It To Beaver). One superb sketch is a commercial parody – but unlike most commercial parodies from ’70s sketch movies, this one is as edgy as the filmmakers think it is. “Scott Free,” a fake ad for a family board game about the JFK assassination, perfectly mimics the production style of TV ads of its time. And it’s exactly one minute, unlike sloppy commercial parodies that run three times longer than actual commercials. Bonus points for not calling out the subtle jokes. (They never hit you over the head with details like the flag-covered coffin game-piece.)

9. Amazon Women on the Moon (1987) – “Bullshit or Not?”

The semi-sequel to Kentucky Fried Movie contains another conspiracy-themed sketch. “Bullshit Or Not?” attempts to answer the question “what if the Loch Ness Monster was Jack the Ripper?” By 1987, a parody of the 1970s TV series In Search Of seems pretty dated –- so much so that you might wonder if this sketch was cut from Kentucky Fried Movie. But there’s so much love that went into this sketch, the dated parody hardly matters. Director Joe Dante gets a terrific comedic turn by character actor Henry Silva and there’s a delightful creature design that shaped the low-budget practical Nessie.

10. Movie 43 (2013) – “The Catch”

As soon as you saw this one listed here, you were like “Ugh,” right? But remember, we’re looking at the “most memorable” sketches, not necessarily the funniest. And once you stare into that full-on neck scrotum, you won’t soon forget it. This gross-out gag would be pretty haunting, but even more bizarre is that the sketch stars Hugh Jackman and six-time Academy Award nominee Kate Winslet. Kate was not nominated for an Academy Award here, but Movie 43 was nominated for six Razzie awards – and it won three.

11. The Groove Tube (1974) – “Safety Sam”

The dialogue in “Safety Sam” isn’t shocking, it’s good medical advice. What’s surprising is that the advice is coming from a penis puppet. In the wide angle, first-time viewers might not realize what they’re looking at. But as the camera gets closer, it becomes apparent; those are some real genitals on screen. Groove Tube writer Lane Sarasohn played the part instead of his collaborator Chevy Chase. Ironic, since by all accounts Chevy Chase is a dick!

12. The History of the World, Part 1 (1981) – “The Inquisition”

Mel Brooks makes it a point to include at least one musical number in each of his films (“Springtime for Hitler,” “I’m Tired,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz”). Here Brooks stages a Busby Berkeley production number during the darkest exploits of the 15th century. Comedy nerds might protest “Python did it first!” but it’s apples and oranges. Not only is the Grand Inquisitor played by one of the chosen people, but there’s narration by Orson Welles and a verse by Jackie Mason.

13. Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) – “Delirium”

Not every sketch comedy movie is anchored by commercial parodies and R-rated sitcom spoofs. Take Blue in the Face or Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes. The art-house comedy finds humor is relationships and mundane aspects of the human condition. Or in this winning scene, we get a conversation about alternative medicine with Bill Murray and RZA and GZA from the Wu Tang Clan.

14. Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972)  – “What Happens During Ejaculation?”

Another sketch about semen, this time featuring Woody Allen as a neurotic sperm afraid to go into “battle,” as it were.  It’s one of the definitive Woody scenes, and something to rewatch instead of his latest dreary rehashing of Crimes and Misdemeanors.

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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was written, produced, directed and narrated by Robert Evans. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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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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