Seriousness and Absurdist Comedy

(Marx Brothers image)
Marx Brothers, 1931: Chico, Harpo, Groucho and Zeppo

Seriously?  No.  Intentionally Bad.  The Yin/Yang of serious and absurd.

Plainly put, humor is the recognition of the absurd.  There needs to be a working contrast between what isn’t absurd and what is absurd for the humor to even exist.  And to say the least, loading a movie with nothing but super-low-brow comedy…doesn’t work.

The Element of Seriousness

As mentioned in The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, the Marx Brothers were serious men that understood the craft of absurdist comedy.  Their Duck Soup (1933), a deliberate comedy, and good enough to make #85 in the American Film Institute’s Top 100 movies of all time, inoffensively made light of tragedy in life.

One of those challenges: the subject of war.  Duck Soup would basically say that the only thing that has really changed or improved in the “art” of war is style.  For each generation, a new hat.  The “artists” of war would have better versions of the same weapons used to take human lives.

The audiences in the first half of the twentieth century were a bit up-tight, and wouldn’t understand a lot of the comedy we see today.  They did, however, enjoy cartoons—the universal treat when it comes to humor.  Warner Bros. (Looney Tunes/Merry Melodies) and MGM (Tom & Jerry) mastered that area of humor “over-the-top”—and “adult” for the time, given the violence.

Unintentionally Funny

Plan 9 From Outer Space is one of the funniest bad movies to date because of how unintentionally bad it is.  “Ed Wood” had such a reputation for making Box Office movie bombs that became successful in recent decades.  Another one of his movies featured a very unrealistic scene where a man wrestles a giant, lifeless squid.

I remember laughing maybe the hardest in my life watching the scene in Plan 9 where the undead bodyguard somehow kills one of the other characters by simply throwing both arms down onto the guy’s collar/neck area, knocking him down.  (Undeadly, I tell ya’.)

The ‘cult classic’ The Room, a more recent film loaded with underacting and overacting, also made it onto the list of “awesomely bad movies.”  One that I put on my own list stars Kevin Sorbo: Tales of an Ancient Empire.

Intentionally Bad

Spoofs and parodies come in all shapes and sizes.  Airplane! (parodying Airport, 1970) and Scary Movie (off the likes of Scream, a twist in itself) were incredibly successful.  (And guess which one contained nudity?  The PG former.)

The only problem is, once you go into production of a sequel, just what exactly are you parodying?  The parody?  There are plenty of horrible “comedies” out there that are difficult to watch because the material is stretched so thin.

But there are also the underrated “un-movies” that have a knack for honestly disliking the genre they’re spoofing.  Not Another Teen Movie, for example, is good enough to make frequent appearances on television—albeit the TV-edit version (the line ‘I jacked off on your french toast,’ sung by the chef, was redubbed).

Unfitting Unmovie

Making Casa de mi Padre look like a masterpiece, Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (2012) is as unserious as you can get.  I had to sit through three hours reviewing the whole DVD.  It was a long three hours.  The writing quality and timing—crucial in comedy—are bad here.  The review is the next post.

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