Hollywood Comedy Movies – From Charlie Chaplin To Jim Carrey

Comedy movie started long back in the 1900. The first movie to be produced was by Thomas Edison’s kinetoscope of his assistant Fred Ott in Record of a Sneeze. This could also be considered the first to show comedy aspect of the movie.

Comedy films began to appear more during the era of silent films, prior to the 1930s. These comedy movies were originally based on visual humor. The prominent figure that we all know as Charlie Chaplin was one of the famous clown-style actors of the silent era. It was through Charlie Chaplin that the Hollywood comedy movies became famous and soon came the Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd.

Then in the 1920s came another trend of animated cartoons. They were the most popular Hollywood comedy movies of the time. The several popular characters of that era were Felix the cat, Krazy Kat and Betty Boop. However, the popularity of these movies was hindered due to lack of sound and color.

The end of 1920s, the Hollywood comedy industry marked a change brought about by the introduction of sound into the movies. This has allowed the industry to create dramatic new film styles and use verbal humor. These films were soon replacing silent movies. These films used dialogue of comedians such as the W.C Fields and the Marx Brothers. Charlie Chaplin was the last comedian to have acted in the silent films, and his films during 1930s were devoid of dialogue, although they did employ sound effects.

When the United States entered into World War II, Hollywood movies changed its course to themes related to the conflicts and Hollywood comedy movies portrayed more on military themes. The war era experienced a boom, where restrictions on the traveling made nearly a quarter of the money spent was on attending movies.

In the 1950s, the interest shifted where the TV became the focus of adult social situations on family oriented comedies. During this time the release of Hollywood comedy films declined. The 1960s saw an increasing number of broad, star-packed comedies. In 1970 Hollywood comedy movies reflected the anti-war sentiment, which was prevailing then. Amongst the leading figure of this time were Woody Allen and Mel Brooks. They wrote, directed and appeared in their hilariously funny and witty movies.

In the 1980s the gag based comedy Airplane, a spoof of the previous decade disaster film series was released and Hollywood comedy movies paved its way for more of the same including Top Secret and the Naked Gun film. The popular comedian of this time included Dudley Moore, Tom Hanks, Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd. Jim Carrey, the Canadian actor and a comedian came into Hollywood comedy movies in the late 1980s where he won the role in Damian Lee Canadian skiing comedy, Copper Mountain.

The most popular Hollywood comedy movies were of John Hughes, which includes Ferris Buellers Day Off and Home Alone series of 1990s. The later films focused more to family audience, this was a revival in comedy movies. The spoof comedy movies remain popular till date.

Another development in the Hollywood comedy movies was the use of gross-out humor, which is usually, aimed at younger audience in films like, There is Something about Mary, American Pie and many more. This trend of gross-out movies continued with adult oriented comedies picking up the box office till date.

My Top Five Favorite Ben Stiller Movies

One of the kings of the modern day movie comedy is Ben Stiller. For over ten years, Stiller’s face has become synonymous with hit comedies, and everything points to this trend continuing on into the next decade. Stiller is a very likable guy who clearly does not take himself too seriously, in movies at least.

Let’s go through and take a look at some of Ben Stiller’s best movies so far.

The first movie that I will mention on this list is Meet The Parents. From a likability standpoint, this might be his best movie of all. No other movie of his has been able to have two spinoffs. The sequel is Meet The Fockers, and the third installment, “Little Fockers” hits theaters this winter.

Another great movie that Stiller starred in was There’s Something About Mary. I remember going into this movie having no idea what to expect, and wow was I surprised. This was easily one of my favorite comedies of the 1990s.

This list would not be complete without giving praise to Tropic Thunder. In my opinion, this is an incredible movie. The plot is absolutely brilliant, and it manages to balance action and comedy very well. One of the better comedies in recent years.

While I am not the biggest fan of these movies, it is hard to deny the popularity of the Night At The Museum franchise. These two films have made some serious money at the box office, and all signs point to another installment.

One other movie that definitely makes the cut for me is Heavyweights. This might be my favorite Ben Stiller role of all, playing the part of the psychotic Tony Perkis, a fitness guru who takes over a camp for fat kids.

As it stands, these are my favorite Ben Stiller movies. I have no doubt that he will continue to put out some great films.

Date Night – A So So Comedy Thriller

Date Night is a so-so comedy thriller. For those wishing to master the screenwriting craft that’s a good thing, because you can often learn the most from a movie that isn’t too good or too bad. Its strengths and its flaws are easier to see.

With stars Steve Carrel and Tina Fey it’s hard to avoid comparing the film to The Office and 30 Rock. That just gives us another instance of the truism that the best writing in comedy is in television, not film. But the brilliance of those shows is actually more difficult to explain. With Date Night, techniques and choices, successes and failures, are clear.

The biggest challenge when you write a comedy screenplay is setting up the comic structure, what I call the “clothesline,” on which you will hang the jokes. This clothesline is essential in sitcoms too, but it is much harder to create in a movie because it has to stretch for at least 90 minutes, not 22.

You create the clothesline using two major structural elements, the comedy sub-genre and your hero’s desire line. This is where most comedy writers go wrong. They don’t realize that there are seven major comedy sub-genres, including romantic comedy and farce, and each has a completely different set of story beats you have to hit to tell the story well (see the Comedy Class for the beats in all 7 sub-genres).

In Date Night, writer Josh Klausner uses the comedy thriller form (a kind of action comedy), which goes back at least to the early Hitchcock films. Here we have the innocent couple on the run, forced to battle criminals or spies. This form is not used much nowadays because combining comedy with thriller creates real problems of tone. If the opponent is too deadly the jokes aren’t funny. There’s also a number of contrivances you have to explain away, most notably how two average shmos could possibly compete with, much less defeat, hardened criminals, and why don’t they just go to the police.

The Date Night script gets barely passing grades in these basic areas of storytelling. The unbelievability of Steve and Tina going up against professional killers is always present. But this isn’t a fatal problem because the audience just falls back on the fact that this is a comedy.

The advantage of using the comedy thriller sub-genre is that it gives the script a strong desire line that extends to the end of the story. Much like the detective line in The Hangover, this couple’s desire to escape attack and find the incriminating flash drive creates a strong narrative drive on which the writer can hang any number of funny but episodic scenes. It also allows him to save the funniest scene for last, which is one of the gold standards in a comedy movie and almost never happens.

As a comedy writer, your goal is always to make the comedy build. The laughs should stand on the waves of the laughs that come before until the audience is gasping for breath. That rarely happens in a movie comedy because you have to extend the story for 90+ minutes and because you have to tie up all the story business as you get to the end of the line.

Klausner solves this problem in Date Night, first by setting up the thriller line and second by keeping the final battle simple. Without a last omplex action scene to divert the audience from the jokes, Klausner can keep the focus on two top comic performers doing an incompetent pole dancing routine that brings the house down.

With the strong if hokey clothesline, the strength of the movie can come through, which are the funny bits that pop up throughout the story. Lines like “He turned the gun sideways; it’s a kill shot,” gags like the painfully slow motor boat and scenes like the marital spat between the Tripplehorns are laugh-out-loud funny. In Hollywood, the rule is if you have three laugh-out-loud moments in the film you have a hit. That’s a low bar for movies as opposed to television, but the important thing for writers to focus on is how you get those laughs. And that comes from the comic structure that supports the gags.

If setting up the clothesline is one of the big strengths of Date Night, the attempt to make the comedy come from character is one of the big weaknesses. Most writers have heard how valuable it is for the comedy to come from character, but few really know what it means, or how to do it. I discuss this a lot in the Comedy Class, because if you can master this set of techniques you immediately become one of the top comedy writers in the business. Let me focus on one technique in this area.

You must begin the story by establishing a deep weakness/need in the main character – in this case a couple – which then will be solved by the story line. In other words, the hero’s weakness must be embedded and solved all the way back at the premise line. The premise is your story stated in a single sentence. The Date Night premise might be described like this: a couple whose marriage has become predictable defeats criminals and renews their love.

The premise is like the hypothesis in a science experiment. It’s the fundamental truth about the world you are trying to establish. In an experiment you may determine that your hypothesis is wrong. But in a story you have to prove the premise. The sequence of story events must display in detail the truth about life you describe in one line. This is also called fulfilling the “promise of the premise,” the promise you make to the audience when they agree to come to the theater to see this story.

Klausner clearly wants to tell a story that proves the premise because he spends a great deal of time at the beginning showing that this couple’s marriage has grown stale from the demands of work and children. Even their date night hits the same old routine. The thriller structure is supposed to be the vehicle of renewal. It’s the same technique used, correctly, in Rear Window, where the Jimmy Stewart character learns to respect and commit to the Grace Kelly character by solving a crime with her.

But while this process is given lip service here, it never actually happens. Sure, escaping killers and bringing them to justice makes for an exciting night and a fun makeout session on the lawn the next morning. But it has nothing to do with changing what’s wrong between these two and how they will act differently toward one another for a 1001 nights in the future.

Klausner is definitely doing some things right here that most comedy screenwriters, even those with films under their belts, are not doing. He’s not reaching the level of the sitcoms in which these stars normally appear, but those sitcoms don’t have to tell a funny story over 90 minutes. Still, I can’t help feeling disappointed with this film. When a writer knows how to create comedy from character, you get great thematic comedies like Groundhog Day that express recognizable truths at the same time they make you laugh. Date Night is simply not in that league.