Saturday, June 09, 2007

Comedy for Comedy's Sake

I saw the movie "Knocked Up" this week. It was pretty funny. Not an instant classic like "The 40 year old Virgin," but a really goofy, juvenile, entertaining, funny movie.

That's why I was surprised that some bloggers felt it necessary to insert politics into the movie. Andrew Sullivan referenced an anti-gay bias here. Ross Douthat talks about the politics of abortion in the movie here. Seriously? You guys realize its a comedy, right?

Maybe because the internet, no piece of modern culture will remain untainted by political views. If that's true, that's too bad. Because sometimes, a comedy's just a comedy, and jokes are just funny. Unless they're written for that bad Fox knock-off of the Daily Show. Then they're just stupid.


At 3:22 PM, Blogger GottaLaff said...

I teach a comedy workshop in the L.A. know, that haven for the liberal elite?

Part of what we do is put on a SNL style show once a year. Despite how very careful we are to keep everything G rated (well, kind of) and P.C. (we play to children, teens and adults, very often in a school setting, but even when we perform in a large public theatre, this still goes on), we get the same kind of comments.

It's become nearly impossible to produce comedy shows without somebody either being offended or reading something into material where nothing political, offensive, sexist, racist, etc. exists.

When I iterated something similar to your "you guys realize it's a comedy, right?", I got back, "Not everything is funny."

Hence the name GottaLaff.

At 3:44 PM, Blogger Joe Sez said...

"Sometimes a banana is just a banana."
SNL skit circa 1976 skit.

At 3:57 PM, Blogger BC said...

As Cliff can attest, I truly think I'm funny. That's why this dehumorizing of America is so dispiriting. Just shut up and laugh

At 4:14 PM, Blogger Isaac said...

I haven't seen Knocked Up because I didn't care for "40 Year-Old Virgin" and the previews for the new movie just don't look that good to me.

That said, I'm not sure I agree with your suggestion that we shouldn't ever consider or discuss the politics of a comedy.

If comedy is off-limits for analysis, which genres are okay to consider in political terms? Action movies? Horror? Drama?

Should we say "You guys realize it's just an action movie, right?" to a discussion of the politics of "Dirty Harry" or "The Wild Bunch"? Or "It's just a horror movie" to a discussion of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", "Dawn of the Dead", or even "Hostel"? Are "Shaun of the Dead" and "Team America: World Police" exempt from analysis because they're comedies too?

Knocked Up is meeting rave reviews and a lot of people are discussing it in zeitgeist-type terms, suggesting that Apatow's movies are a watershed moment in comedy and ushering in a new style of comedy, etc etc. If that's even partially the case, wouldn't it be worthwhile to consider the subtexts, social and political that he puts into his work?

Besides, even if they don't particularly excite me personally, it's clear that Apatow's making a more personal and sincere type of comedy than, for example, another "Naked Gun" or "Scary Movie" film. Why not honor that sincerity and consider the movie as an important work, worthy of analysis and discussion?

Also note that I'm not denying that specific instances of political analysis can be wrong-headed or seem too picky. But you seem to be suggesting that comedy as a genre shouldn't ever be analyzed or discussed, and I'm not sure I agree with that.


At 5:06 PM, Blogger BC said...

Jeff, if you take a look at the criticisms, they aren't looking at the movie as a whole, but just criticizing or politicizing certain aspects.

For instance, Andrew Sullivan's post (cribbed from another blog) looks at the number of gay jokes/references made in the movie, and suggests that Apatow is homphobic.

The movie does have some jokes at the expense of gays, but also has several at the expense of women, Jews and even one snide comment about black midgets. No one is spared from the humor. So for someone to be offended, it shows an extra sensitivity, and fails to view it as comedy for comedy's sake.

To me, it's a lot like South Park. The Scientologists took offense at one episode, the Christians another. But the fact is, South Park lampoons everyone. So either South Park is racist, homphobic, anti-semitic, anti-feminist, anti-theist, etc. etc. etc., or their just comics poking fun at everyone

At 11:19 PM, Blogger Mauro said...

I'll have to say that, also not having seen the movie or the criticisms you reference, the gay joke content is something to be concerned about, since being gay is still considered by many to be worthy of derision, even if many of those many are children.

I think it's OK to make fun of cultural stereotypes, and you'll often find humorous caricatures of homosexuals (several in South Park, for instance) that, while offensive in earnest, are OK in comedy. Big Gay Al is thuper, thanth for athking, and that's OK. Satan is gay, and Saddam Hussein is his gay lover (I just rewatched the South Park movie a few days ago), and that's OK. But it's not OK to make fun of people for being gay, to call them "fags", and so on. This would be offensive in a movie, and it would be indicative of homophobia.

Not that this happens in Knocked Up; again, I haven't seen it. But I think it's fair to criticize what the movie claims it's OK to mock, especially at a time when we should be sensitive of the needs of a marginalized community.


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