Funny People

funnypeopleWhen I first saw that Apatow was doing another movie, I was a bit skeptical.  Usually his movies are over-the-top hilarious, but I heard Funny People was about a guy learning to appreciate life because he was dying.  It’s hard to mix the two.  It’d be like Weird Al parodying Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover” with “I Have Cancer in My Liver”.

I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised.  Funny People isn’t over-the-top funny (although at certain points you can almost see the script saying, “Jonah Hill walks in and is funny for two minutes”), but it is surprisingly insightful about comedy and comedians.  The entire movie isn’t really about a guy’s second lease on life and it’s not really about an unknown taking the chance of a lifetime writing for an established stand-up.  It’s about how comedy functions and how it affects peoples’ lives.

I consider myself a pretty funny guy.  I’ve studied comedy a long time because that’s all I really had growing up: I may not be the most attractive guy in the room, but dammit I can make you laugh more than him (and I suck at grammar too).  After you really start to look at why something is funny (using the words “a dog walks into a bar” isn’t as funny as “a pinecones walks into a bar”) and how timing works and all that stuff, you start to see what’s funny in certain situations (while in the presence of someone who has just lost their wife, you don’t read the paper and say, “you ever notice how people die in alphabetical order?”) and what’s funny in certain genres.  To me, that’s one of the major themes of Funny People.

They have parts of a sit-com and why that can and can’t be funny; they have parts of a movie and why that can and can’t be funny; they have parts of stand-up and why that can and can’t be funny; they have parts of life and why that can and can’t be funny.  I think if there was time they could’ve gone into what’s funny on a page vs. out loud and the infinitely complex, “What’s funny in a comic.”  The other major theme is how comedy connects and separates people.

I wonder if Murphy actually thought, "Since everyone thought 'Raw' was so funny and I was wearing a leather jumpsuit in that, imagine how funny 'Pluto Nash' will be!"

I wonder if Murphy actually thought, "Raw = funny because of purple leather jumpsuit. Pluto Nash = hilarious because of orange leather jumpsuit."

Adam Sandler plays a famous Eddie Murphy-style comedian: he used to be hilarious to adults, but as he got older he started making awful kids movies and these kids movies made him rich.  Unlike Murphy, Sandler’s character is funny to a fault; that is, he doesn’t really shut off his humor and because of that is alone in his mansion.  When he gets sick, he starts to realize that maybe he should’ve been a real person sometimes.  Maybe he should’ve treated other people like people instead of punchline fodder.

Then there’s Rogen’s character, who, like Apatow, isn’t the best stand-up, but he writes some pretty funny stuff.  Because of his humor – which is carefully thought through and written out (the opposite of Sandler’s off-the-cuff-and-directedly-nasty stuff) – he has some pretty close friends.  However, even they are dependent on humor.  These friends can screw each other over, lie, cheat, and steal jobs from one another.  But as long as they continue to be funny, all is forgiven.  I think this idea defines my friendships as well.

Every one of my friends is hilarious.  Some of them are the biggest dicks in the world, some of them are tremendously selfish, but they are all funny, and because of that, I still hang out with them.  That’s how high I respect humor.  Apparently, that’s how Apatow feels as well.

I wonder, then, why Tiny Life isn’t that funny?


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