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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]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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