The Brotherhood of the Eternal Comedy

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Cult Cinema: Volume 7

Good comedy is a mix of the familiar, the unexpected, and the shocking. Which is an elaborate way of saying that ending a knock-knock joke with a line about killing a baby is a sure way to get a laugh. Try it some time. At work.

So, it’s no surprise that censorship can stifle humour, imposing archaic, restricting values on a form of entertainment that feeds of the marrow in the broken bones of taboos.

And to a certain degree, this is true. The world would be a duller place without George Carlin’s Seven Dirty Words routine, or the drug addled mumbling of Lenny Bruce, which often sounded like a homeless man pretending to have phone sex. And where would comedy be without the racial humour of Chris Rock or Lisa Lampanelli? I know all the guys down at the bunker really appreciate their style.

But when it comes to comedy film, a distinction needs to be made between ‘censorship’ and ‘editing of self-indulgent blathering.’ A confusion between the two is what’s leading to a seemingly endless string of comedy DVD releases with ‘Unrated’ or ‘Uncut’ plastered across the cover.

For some reason, if a comedy doesn’t do well, filmmakers assume that audiences automatically want more of the same, and extend their film by at least an extra 20 minutes.

If a film does poorly, the director leaps to the conclusion that it would have done better if only the studio execs had kept their hands off the final cut, and the DVD is an extra 60 minutes long.

Somehow, this leads to DVDs of The 40 Year Old Virgin and Superbad that run over two hours. Listen, the people who like these types of films have neither the attention span nor the time to spend two hours watching unending gay jokes. Plus, years of soft-drug abuse have ensure they don’t have the lung capacity to laugh for that long without coughing up a ball of hash resin. It’s supposed to be a punchline, not a punch¬waste-a-fucking-week-of-my-time-don’t-you-know-Battlestar-Galactica-is-on-soon.

The most recent offender, and one of the worst, is Judd Apatow’s unrated Knocked Up DVD.

Cult:  The Brotherhood of the Eternal Comedy
Key Tenets: Endless Repetition, Awkward Silences, Similes, Some Sort of Bizarre Mathematical Proof That Declares the Word ‘Balls’ Exponentially More Funny The 800th Time It’s Said
Adherents: People who laugh at their own jokes, Seth Rogan, editors who are paid by the hour.
Example: Knocked Up (2007), written and directed by Judd Apatow

The main problem with this comedy, about a stoned layabout who impregnates a career-minded woman after a one night stand, is that it’s too long to begin with. Already delicately balanced on the tipping point between unhurried storytelling and rambling diatribe, the extra 4 minutes added to the DVD absolutely sinks the film.

I know four minutes doesn’t seem that much, but the movie is padded enough as it is. The film found success with both audiences and critics for its sensitive portrayal of the relationship between Ben Stone, played by Seth Rogan, and Katherine Heigl’s Alison Scott. Believing Ben to be irresponsible and lazy, Alison finds herself unable to commit to him, and their struggle to find their place in each other’s lives is warm, moving, and deeply amusing.

Then there’s a bunch of jokes about cocks, courtesy of Ben’s roommates. And, of course, the never-ending litany of similes, which is a sure sign of a missed editing opportunity. Beards are described as smelling like an old man’s genitals, marriages compared to Everybody Loves Raymond, and defecate described as ‘like a stuffed animal.’ Stop. Just fucking stop. When did comedy become two hours of dirty limericks masquerading as an English lesson example, using ‘like’ or ‘as’? Has no one heard of a metaphor? Why am I watching a movie set up like a stand-up routine composed of jot-notes?

As with many DVD releases of comedies, a decision must be made as to what is essential to the story, and what belongs in the deleted scenes sections. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would like to see the alternate tit jokes that was subbed out in favour of a man doing an impression of a talking vagina. But it has no place in the final cut, unrated or otherwise. Unless it’s a really solid dead baby joke.

Al Kratina

Visit Al at www.alkratina.com , or follow him on Twitter.

2 Comments
  1. […] an overbearing mother and there’s certainly potential here for conflict. Sound on Sight’s Al Kratina writes that “good comedy is a mix of the familiar, the unexpected, and the shocking”. My problem with […]

  2. […] certainly potential here for conflict. Elsewhere on this site, Al Kratina writes that “good comedy is a mix of the familiar, the unexpected, and the shocking“. My problem with James Schamus’ script is that there’s very little of the second […]

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