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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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Inauguration Alternative

Bill Murray On Repeat

It's a movie "Murray-thon" all-day Friday on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs courtesy of GIPHY

Democrats, Republicans and Millennials agree: 2017 is shaping up to be a spectacle — a spectacle that really kicks into high gear this Friday with the presidential inauguration. Not only will the new POTUS swear in, but all the Country’s highest offices will be filled. It’s a daunting prospect, and to feel a little anxious about it is only normal. But if your anxiety is snowballing into panic, we have a solution:
Bill Murray.

He’s the human embodiment of a mental “Happy Place”, and there’s really no problem he can’t solve. So, with that in mind, how about we all set aside reality for a moment and let Bill take the pain away by imagining a top-shelf White House cabinet filled exclusively by his signature characters. Here are a few hypothetical appointments for your consideration…

Secretary of Defense:
Bill Murray from Stripes

His incompetence is balanced by charm, and dumb luck is inexplicably on his side. America could do worse.

Secretary of State:
Bill Murray from Lost In Translation

A seasoned globetrotter steeped in regional traditions who has the respect of the whole wide world. And he kills Costello in karaoke, which is very important.

Press Secretary:
Bill Murray from Ghostbusters

“Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria.” Dude knows how to brief a room.

Secretary of Health and Human Services:
Bill Murray from What About Bob.

A doctor-approved people person who knows that progress is measured in baby steps.

Secretary of Energy:
Bill Murray from Groundhog Day

Let’s be honest, this world is going to need a lot of do-overs.

Feeling better? Hold on to that bliss. And enjoy a healthy alternative to the inauguration brouhaha with multiple Murrays all Friday long in an IFC movie marathon including Kingpin, Zombieland, Ghostbusters, and Ghostbusters II.

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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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