The best screen comedies all have something in common.
Um, they’re funny, Tom.
Ok, yes, they are funny. Agreed. But when you think of your favorite screen comedies, I bet they share something else: the movies are nightmares. Things get bad then worse, then worse again. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, wow, here comes another disaster. One of my favorite movies of all time, Tootsie, does this beautifully. The last 30 minutes of Tootsie is a brilliant hail storm of abuse deservedly heaped on Dustin Hoffman’s character, Michael Dorsey. A recent comedy I find pretty amazing also follows this classic form: Bridesmaids. Early in the movie, Jill Clayburg, playing Kristin Wiig’s mother, tells Wiig’s character Annie she’s hit rock bottom. Oh my, no. Things go from bad to worse to.. well, you’ve probably seen the movie, one of the biggest hits of last year. Every time you think Annie’s hit rock bottom, the bottom drops from under her yet again. Bridesmaids is hilarious yes but it, too, is a nightmare. It’s also difficult to imagine Bridesmaids, or any of the recent spate of nightmare comedies, without having been preceded by one of the more brilliant screen comedies of all time, Blake Edward’s 10.
10 was released in 1979 and, like Bridesmaids, was an enormous hit, grossing the equivalent of 236 million dollars. The movie was controversial because it pushed the boundaries of what had been seen and discussed on film. One of the wonderful things about the movie is how envelope pushing and modern much of it remains. Even by today’s standards there are some wildly eye-opening aspects to the movie. And perhaps no movie has ever heaped such wonderful abuse on its main character.