Humor in the movies
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HUMOR IN THE MOVIES. by Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen. Rocky Horror Picture Show. MEL BROOKS. In Blazing Saddles , all of the townspeople have the same name, “Johnson.” And after a bunch of cowboys have beans for dinner they have a farting contest.

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by Don L. F. Nilsen

and Alleen Pace Nilsen

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  • In Blazing Saddles, all of the townspeople have the same name, “Johnson.” And after a bunch of cowboys have beans for dinner they have a farting contest.

  • Young Frankenstein is about the grandson of the infamous scientist. He tries to get back his good name by pronouncing his name “Frahnkensteen” and by teaching his monstor to dance in top hat and tails.

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  • The plot line of Mel Brooks’ The Producers is that two producers buy a lot of insurance in a play, and then try to produce a play that is so lousy that they can collect the insurance money.

  • But the play is so lousy as a tragedy that it is a success as a comedy.

  • Springtime for Hitler is a play within the play of The Producers. It is so exaggerated that it succeeds as a comedy.

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  • Mel Brooks’ High Anxiety spoofs Alfred Hitchcock-type thrillers.

  • His Spaceballs spoofs such space epics as Star Wars.

  • In his History of the World, Part I, Brooks plays the roles of Moses, Louis XVI, and Comicus, a “stand-up philosopher” who can’t get a job and so has to work as a waiter, asking at the Last Supper, “Are you all together, or is it separate checks?”

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  • When Marlee Matlin, the deaf protagonist, in this 1986 movie wanted to sign her disagreement, she signed two fingers representing the word “bull.”

  • But then she laid her right arm over her left and signed the bull’s horns lifting up from the inside of her elbow while the fingers of her left hand wagged back and forth as if the bull were relieving itself.

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  • Wish fulfillment for children can be seen in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

  • Wish fulfillment for young adults can be seen in National Lampoon’s Animal House.

  • And for adults we can see the post-divorce hostilities in War of the Roses.

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  • Movie producers are always looking for gimmicks that will allow their stars to shine.

  • The stage play Harvey was a perfect movie vehicle for tall and lanky Jimmy Stewart, who looked up to an even taller, imaginary white rabbit.

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  • Whoopie Goldberg’s singing ability was highlighted in Sister Act where Whoopie is a singer on the run from the Mafia who hides in a convent and transforms the nuns into singing performers.

  • The large, muscular and blond Arnold Schwarzenegger is contrasted with the short, plump dark-haired twin Danny DeVito in Twins.

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PARODIES ironically in

  • Monty Python’s The Life of Brian is an irreverent parody of the story of Jesus Christ.

  • Brian denies that he is the Christ. His followers declare that only the true Christ would deny his divinity.

  • The movie ends with Brian being crucified with many other people. And they are all singing, “Always look on the bright side of life.”

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  • Roxanne ironically in is a parody of Cyrano de Bergerac.

  • Men in Black parodies the whole genre of movies about secret government agencies and aliens from outer space.

  • Airplane parodies the disaster movies that were produced in the 1970s. When Leslie Nielsen asks Robert Hays if he can fly the plane, Hays responds, “Surely you can’t be serious?”

  • Nielson responds, “Don’t call me Shirley.”

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  • Caddyshack ironically in is a parody not so much of other movies as of the game of golf itself.

  • In the same way, Stir Crazy contains much prison humor.

  • Bull Durham is filled with baseball humor.

  • And Analyze This has humor about psychiatric counseling.

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  • Woody Allen’s ironically in Bullets over Broadway Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys and Some Like it Hot are filled with inside jokes about show business.

  • The Pink PantherThe Naked Gun, Fargo, and Pulp Fiction are detective spoofs.

  • The Police Academy films are police spoofs.

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PERIPHERALS ironically in

  • Producers and theatre managers are now putting more and more humor into the peripherals that surround movie goers.

  • Charlie Chaplin or Harold Lloyd come onto the screen with the message: “Watch movies in the old fashioned way—in Silence.”

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  • The advertisement for the theater’s THX sound system is done as a sophisticated cartoon.

  • At the end of movies now there are often funny outtakes or original messages.

  • At the end of Spice World the five Spice Girls stare out at the audience and Sporty says, “Why do people sit there at the end of the film and watch the credits go up?”

  • Ginger answers, “It’s probably the sad anticlimax. It’s all over. Back to reality.”

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QUEST STORIES done as a sophisticated cartoon.

  • Humorous quest stories can be as realistic as Biloxi Blues, the autobiographical story of Neil Simon’s 1945 conscription into the army, or as ridiculous as Pee-wee’s Big Adventure in which Pee-wee Herman goes searching for his lost bicycle.

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SILENT MOVIES done as a sophisticated cartoon.

  • Because they are not language-dependent, silent movies have a universal appeal that the talkies don’t have.

  • For example, every year in Gabrovo, Bulgaria, there is a humor festival in which a large percentage of the town members put on their derby hats and oversized pants and shoes, pick up their canes, and go about the city turning square corners like Charlie Chaplin did.

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  • Other icons of the silent films include Buster Keaton, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., the Keystone Kops, and Fatty Arbuckle.

  • In vaudeville, Buster Keaton was the human mop who never smiled. He also never smiled in movies, even when a side of a house came falling down around his ears.

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SCREWBALL COMEDIES Douglas Fairbanks Sr., the Keystone Kops, and Fatty Arbuckle.

  • Screwball comedies are the zany but romantic movies that were produced during the Depression and on into the early 1940s.

  • Virtually all screwball comedies included a male-female conflict, with one or both of them being rich.

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MODERN SCREWBALL COMEDIES surroundings of the idle rich, with occasional visits to the poorer sides of life.

  • Modern screwball comedies, like the earlier screwball comedies, are based on the slapstick relationships that can occur in the battle of the sexes.

  • They include Some Like It Hot, Tootsie, Mrs. Doubtfire, War of the Roses, and Arthur.

  • The rich theme can be seen in Trading Places.

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We’re the Millers surroundings of the idle rich, with occasional visits to the poorer sides of life.

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TRAGICOMEDY surroundings of the idle rich, with occasional visits to the poorer sides of life.

  • Another recent trend in movies is tragicomedy.

  • The Italian film, Life Is Beautiful is set in a Nazi death camp.

  • The humor and irony in the film serves as a foil to make the horror all the more terrible.

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HUMOROUS MOVIE WEB SITES surroundings of the idle rich, with occasional visits to the poorer sides of life.






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CARRIE: surroundings of the idle rich, with occasional visits to the poorer sides of life.






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THE PRODUCERS (MEL BROOKS): surroundings of the idle rich, with occasional visits to the poorer sides of life.