Film And Television: Are We Done With Comedy?

Film And Television: Are We Done With Comedy?

August 3, 2014 |  by  |  Arts & Culture


The type of movies I most associate with my younger years, in the mid ‘90s and early ‘00s, are comedies. Not just movies that were funny, but movies whose sole purpose was telling jokes and performing skits while the overarching plot sort of slipped by.

The actors would cop some ridiculously cartoonish persona and we would all laugh at their antics for ninety minutes or so (Pauly Shore basically made a short-lived career out of this). I can clearly remember many scenes from John Leguizamo’s The Pest (1997), but I have trouble remembering just how exactly they came about. The movie pretended to be based on The Most Dangerous Game, but seemed to focus more on Leguizamo prancing around like a Latino Bugs Bunny. Out of the top ten highest-grossing films of 1994, two of them (The Mask and Dumb and Dumber) starred Jim Carrey and his spastic facial expressions getting up to hilarious shenanigans while, for reasons the audience never cared about, evading mobsters.   

Now, in 2014, our top-grossing movies are gritty reboots about Disney villains and sentient apes going on murder sprees (and they’re the good guys in that one). The year before, the biggest smash at the box office was about Tony Stark dealing with his severe PTSD. Hollywood seems to have begun to embrace the dark side as movies and TV shows both get darker and grittier. Meanwhile, the last straight-up comedy to hold the box office’s attention was We’re the Millers, which is about as funny as kitten murder according to the authorities on the matter. Audiences and filmmakers alike seem to have turned away from the wacky, character-driven comedy movie that I grew up with in favor of dark, edgy action.

If this sounds like some kind of grouchy old man talk about how movies used to be wholesome and pleasant back in my day, I would like to take a moment to say this is absolutely not the case. I loved watching Heath Ledger’s joker blow up a hospital while in drag. I still get chills thinking about Django tearing a bloody swath through Candyland. And I would rather attempt intercourse with a rock than watch I Love You, Man (how this rating happened is beyond me). If anything I would call this development something of an improvement. After all, we still fit comedic moments into our movies and they don’t have to involve Pauly Shore any more.

Even TV seems to be going this way. People get more excited about the latest beloved character deaths in Game of Thrones than they do about what Peter Griffin has been up to (for good reason). Even successful comedies (Parks and Recreation, Modern Family, etc.) seem to revolve around characters who are objectively awful people or seem to loathe one another with intense passion. Another example is Adventure Time, a delightful cartoon about a boy named Finn who goes on adventures with his magical dog Jake (seriously, go watch it if you haven’t yet). Despite its simple premise and goofy art style, there are times when the show is so utterly bleak you have sit in the dark and think about your life choices afterwards.

I’m not sure what this says about us culturally. Maybe we’re more mature and want our art to reflect this? Perhaps the relative prosperity and convenience we enjoy today leaves us wanting that sense of dread that struggling to live used to supply? Or maybe we just realized that watching Iron Man explode his way back to relative mental health is far more entertaining than Jim Carrey talking with his butt? I honestly have no idea, but for now I’m going to mull it over while binge-watching Hypermurder: Blood of the Brain-outener. I think I’ll start with the episode where (spoiler alert) Lord Sternface takes an acid-soaked machete to his nemesis Ivan Badman.


1 Comment


  1. truuuuuuuuuu!!!

Leave a Reply

Recent Posts
Leaving Your Blanket Cave: Battling Seasonal Affective Disorder

Leaving Your Blanket Cave: Battling Seasonal Affective Disorder

02/07/2016  |  No Comments

To give you an accurate picture of my life this winter, I signed up for a half marathon training session... Read More...

Valentine's Day Antics: Celebrating Single In Style

Valentine’s Day Antics: Celebrating Single In Style

02/07/2016  |  No Comments

The hopeless romantic in me never cared much for Valentine’s Day. Granted, I haven’t spent Valentine’s Day alone in years,... Read More...

Formation: Beyoncé Drops Surprise New Single

Formation: Beyoncé Drops Surprise New Single

02/06/2016  |  No Comments

Beyoncé hadn't dropped a new single in over a year, which had many wondering why she was chosen to perform... Read More...

UR Men: Nate Parker And A New

UR Men: Nate Parker And A New “Birth Of A Nation”

02/01/2016  |  No Comments

I learned of a film called The Birth of a Nation while taking a course in college on the history... Read More...