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Archive for the ‘comedy’ Tag
Comedy #4: Blazing Saddles! (1974)
Speaking of morons…
Mel Brooks didn’t just deconstruct the movie hero in “Blazing Saddles!” — he completely destroyed it. It’s amazing anyone was ever able to make another Western after Brooks and crew were done lovingly trashing every trope in the genre. His sendup of racism, sexism and every other -ism also means “Blazing Saddles” is the most quotable movie you can never actually quote in public.
Seriously, can you imagine this comedy getting made today?
In another case of curious timing, PBS is all over Mel Brooks this week with a new documentary on the comedian. He also popped up recently on Fresh Air for an extended interview
Album #40: “An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer” — Tom Lehrer (1959)
OK you kids, listen up — back in MY day if you wanted comedy you didn’t have YouTube or “Funny or Die” or Comedy Central. We didn’t have LOLcats or HBO or even SNL. Back then, if you wanted to hear something funny, you either had to stay up late to catch a comedian on Carson … or listen to a comedy album.
Unless you lived in LA or Chicago or New York, where they had comedy clubs, your only hope to hear your favorite stand-up was on vinyl. Comedy albums frequently became runaway best sellers on Billboard and catapulted guys like Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby and George Carlin to national prominence. I first learned of Monty Python thanks to their records, as we rolled around on the family room floor of my friend’s suburban split-level hysterical with laughter. I had many of Monty Python’s best skits memorized years before I ever saw “Flying Circus” on TV.
Long before Weird Al you had Allan Sherman and Spike Jones doing hit music parodies, but the biggest of these singing comedians — or at least the one with longest shelf life — was Tom Lehrer. Ironically Lehrer, a college professor and mathematician by trade, only toured for a few years in the late 1950s, but his pithy ditties about science, S&M, WWIII and wholly improper behavior continue hold up almost 60 years later.
Lehrer went on to write songs for the original TV news parody show, “That Was The Week That Was” before going back to teaching and permanently retiring from the entertainment biz. There are several collections of his darkly humorous tunes, but you can’t do better than his best known live album, “An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer.” This record is essentially his greatest hits, including one that is still popular today, thanks to the internet. Here is Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, singing “The Element Song” from memory. Because, science.
Comedy #18: “Booty Call” (1997)
A raunchy movie about safe sex? Sure, why not. Jamie Foxx nails it, with the help of scenes like this. So wrong it’s the right thing to do.
Comedy #19: “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” (1976)
Of “all the movies we love to quote,” this one is up there as the one of the quotiest. From how to order a room in German to what to say when you smash a priceless Steinway, “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” will prepare you for any situation where misunderstanding, insanity and massive amounts of property damage are expected.
The fourth in the Pink Panther series, the comedy raises slapstick to a lethal level — literally, in this case, as a hit is put out on Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau and dozens of assassins attempt to take out the bumbling detective. Cartoonish violence ensues. It shouldn’t work but it does. Of all the movies Sellers made with director Blake Edwards, this is the funniest. Come to think of it, they probably should have stopped after “Strikes Again.” After all, it’s tough to top scenes like this one, when Clouseau’s faithful manservant Cato ambushes his master in a daily attempt to keep the Inspector’s “combat skills” razor sharp:
Comedy #20: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (1966)
On the day after our biggest New Year’s Eve party ever, my wife and I awoke to a thoroughly trashed apartment, several unconscious friends, and a well-earned hangover. Not wanting to move further than the remote, I turned on the TV to discover that “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” had just begun. It was the perfect movie to watch as we lay about in the ruins of the night before.
Seriously, how can anyone hate a movie that rhymes “pantaloons & tunics” with “courtesans & eunuchs,” and has one character order a “sit-down orgy for 12”? For the next several years, we started every New Year’s Day with this film.
Stephen Sondeheim’s very first musical, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” was directed by Richard Lester (who will appear on this list more than once) coming off of back-to-back Beatles movies — so you know there will be lots of chase scenes, cross-dressing and broad jokes. “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” is a parody of the sex farce, as much anti-musical as it is true to the form. Songs are poorly sung — deliberately — dances are awkward, and whole thing is incredibly silly. (Ironically enough, until HBO’s Rome came along, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” also happened to be one of the most accurate visual depictions of what life looked like in a Roman city in a Hollywood production. Well, except for the mare sweat.)