I was listening to the radio yesterday and the guy was playing a song that was meant to be a joke. It was those two singers Steve and Edie (or Eydie or however the hell you spell her name) singing the song “Black Hole Sun” like a Frank Sinatra-style lounge song. It was kind of funny. I listened for a moment, trying to place the tune. I knew that I knew it but I couldn’t place it until they got to the chorus. I laughed at that point. For me, at that point, the joke was over. Sadly for the singers they went through and sang the rest of the song. It was funny at first and then, once I got the joke, it rapidly became annoying and not-so-funny especially as Edie warbled “Black hole sun! Black hole sun!” in the background.
That’s the problem with comedy sometimes. Sometimes the joke is really only funny the first time. A few years back I heard a guy who was from Ireland who also just happened to be one of the best Elvis impersonators in the world. When he spoke that thick Irish accent spilled out but as soon as be turned on the Elvis button, man, did he sound exactly like The King. In fact, he was going by the stage name “The King” and he even released an album. The joke to the album was not only that he was an Irishman who sounded and sang exactly like Elvis but that he then sang modern songs and songs by artists who were now deceased. So, you got to hear what it would have sounded like had Elvis covered Lynyrd Skynyrd, Nirvana and Hendrix. Again, it was funny when I first heard the Elvis version of “Sweet Home Alabama” but I had no desire to go out and spend $10 and have an entire album of that stuff to listen to. The joke was not good enough to stretch over and entire CD.
You see this a lot. My dad actually went out and bought a copy of that “Jingle Cats” Christmas album a while back. Once again, it’s cute to hear kitties mewing “Jingle Bells.” By the time you have synthesizer cats and dogs mewing and barking “Oh Holy Night” however you are ready to listen to just about anything else. Put on a Celine Dion album or something. Celine Dion, for crying out loud!
Comedy is like that. For years “Saturday Night Live” has been accused of letting skits go on too long. I once heard that the skits were actually longer when the show was funny back in the 70s and 80s but that the skits now are just to uncomfortably unfunny they feel longer. Lord knows that stupid “Falconer” bit that runs from time to time now falls into the painfully unfunny category. There is nothing worse than watching actors who can be very funny doing something and hearing nothing but uncomfortable giggling from the audience.
There are some pieces of comedy that, for whatever reason, I can’t get enough of. The movie “Airplane!” for example. I love that movie. I actually saw that movie at a drive-in when I was a kid. I have watched that movie so many times and yet it is so packed with jokes there are still new things I find when I look at the scenes. It is a movie I could slow down and watch frame-by-frame and conduct and entire class on why it’s funny and how many layers of funny are at work.
The movie “Raising Arizona” is probably the one and only movie my friend Scott and I can agree on. That is another thing about comedy that is unique to the genre. Comedy can mean much more when it is shared. I have watched that movie by myself and smiled, but when Scott and I watch it we laugh like it’s the funniest thing ever. I once watched a Monty Python movie with him and we laughed so hard at some scenes it made my stomach ache. I have gone back and watched that movie again and found the same scenes fairly funny but did not laugh quite as hard.
There are other movies that people have talked to me about and insist that they are funny. These movies seem to hold some deep personal emotions for these people. Again, comedy can be like that. “Napoleon Dynamite” is like that for me. Sure, I liked it, but I just expected it to be more from all of the people who kept encouraging me to see it. “Rushmore” is another one that some people talk so lovingly about and rave about how funny Bill Murray’s performance is. I have watched it twice and never let loose more than a slight chuckle.
Sometimes you just can’t deny comedy. The movie “Finding Nemo” is just flat out one of the funniest movies you are going to find and I think it appeals to everyone. It’s a movie adults should find funny and there is enough cuteness and humor to keep the kids occupied. But you give me those seagulls chanting “mine! Mine! Mine!” or those crabs waving their claws and going “hhheeeeyyyy! Heeyyyyyy!” and I am nearly horizontal with laughter.
Sometimes you get movies that are unintentionally hilarious. I am a fan of the good bade movie. I was, and still am, a huge fan of the “Mystery Science Theatre: 3000” television show. The movie “Battlefield Earth” is a movie that is so god-awful horrible that you can’t help but laugh at it. That so many decent actors went into this movie and took it so seriously only adds to the fact that this movie is so terrible. I really must say you should watch this movie on cable. Do not, under any circumstances, spend much money to see it. Sit back with a bunch of friends and have your own “MST3K” party. Throw things at the screen and shout out comments. This movie is all but begging for it. John Travolta’s shameless overacting deserves this kind of treatment. In many ways this movie is an unintentional comic masterpiece.
I do recommend watching that with others, however. Your sanity may not be able to handle the situation alone.
Sometimes campy humor can be done very well. If a show or movie knows it is bad and sets out being bad then it can be funny. I am thinking of the highest order of camp comedy, the TV show “Batman.” That show takes deliberate campiness to levels that have never been reached again. See the movie too. The scene where the dolphin saves Batman and Robin by throwing itself in front of a torpedo or where Batman is running around on a dock trying to dispose of a bomb but can’t are so funny. Adam West may be Hollywood’s greatest unsung comedic genius for pulling off that resolutely straight face while Bat-Dancing for so many years.