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.

Best Comedy Movies of All Time

Here are the Best Comedy Movies of All Time! This is my own list I have built over the years, yours may differ, but I believe these are the best comedy movies of all time.

Airplane!
I’m going to start with a quote, “Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?”

Animal House
John Belushi’s exploding zit will go down in history.

Vacation
Too many things to mention for this one, how about “Honky Lips”.

Caddyshack
Chevy Chase and Bill Murray together create comedy movie magic.

Ghostbusters
Was just talking about this movie the other day with some friends, the Stay-Puft Marsh Mellow Man was one mean ghost.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
“Bueller, Bueller, Bueller”. I must have seen this movie 20 times on my beta max player.

Fast Times At Ridgemont High
The synergy between Spicoli and Mr. Hand, you can’t buy tension like that.

The Big Lebowski
Dude, of course this movie is on the list, Jeff Bridges is The Dude!

There’s Something About Mary
Possibly the Farrelly brothers greatest film, it is in contention with Dumb and Dumber.

Dumb and Dumber
Yep, you guessed it, in contention with There’s Something About Mary.

Christmas Vacation
I have to say that Eddie made this movie, Clark was great, but it was Eddie who made it a classic.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
I almost couldn’t believe someone could be so funny when I saw this, I had to see it over and over again.

The Jerk
The Jerk made Steve Martin a comedy icon, this movie will ALWAYS be on the list.

The Hangover
My most current favorite. This movie was being talked about by everyone I know before I saw it. So when I actually did see it I knew exactly what they were talking about, Vegas baby! Maybe the best part – the still pics at the end.

Comedy Screenwriting Number 2 – Comic Journey

Writing is a craft, and undoubtedly it’s the most complicated craft in the world. That’s why I put so much emphasis on specific, practical techniques. Big esoteric words and inspirational slogans may sound good, but they don’t get the story on the page.

Blockbusters Are Story

Summer is the time for big blockbuster movies. What most people don’t realize is that blockbusters don’t come from stars or special effects. They come from story. Smash hit movies use a number of unique story techniques that audiences love. Many of them have been around for hundreds, even thousands, of years. You just have to know what they are, and how to apply them in a screenplay.

A technique I teach in my 22 Step Story Structure Class has to do with writing comedy, one of the most popular of all genres, and the foundation of a number of summer blockbusters.

The Comedy Problem

Comedy poses a unique problem for anyone wanting to write a blockbuster. A true blockbuster is one with worldwide appeal. The studio has to be able to sell it outside the United States. Action stories and myth stories travel very well, because they are two genres based on a universal language. But comedy is notoriously stuck in its home of origin. What is funny in the US may not be funny in Germany, Italy and Japan.

Advantages of the Comic Journey

The solution is a technique known as the Comic Journey. Comic Journey gives you a number of advantages when trying to sell a comedy to the worldwide market. First, it lets you create the comedy out of the structure, not the dialogue. That’s because it’s using the storytelling strategy known as irony. Irony says that life is filled with failing to reach our goal or reaching a different goal than we intended. That goal is the spine of the story.

Why is this so valuable? Because dialogue is specific; structure is universal. Structure travels; dialogue stays at home.

A second advantage of the Comic Journey is that it gives you the benefits of the journey – such as story movement, heroic action, and character change – and adds the benefits of the comedy – such as irony and laughter. This is a very powerful and popular combination.

A third advantage of the Comic Journey is that it’s an excellent way to make social commentary, since your hero encounters many different people from many strata of society on the route. That tends to give your comedy a stronger theme, which is always a good idea, and lets you people your story with a wealth of fun, quirky characters.

Keys to the Comic Journey

So how do you set up a comic journey? Begin by focusing on your hero. You have probably heard how important it is for comedy to come from character. In the Comic Journey, one of the ways you do that is to create a pompous person who encounters a harsh reality or a normal person who encounters pompous or insane people. Notice either way you get a comic contrast that allows you to drop the characters, to deflate them, throughout the script. This is crucial. Many movie comedies die after the first twenty minutes because the essential comic contrast disappears.

Next, give the hero a goal that forces him/her to travel. This is the spine of the story and is the line on which you hang all your comic encounters. Because the Comic Journey is inherently episodic, it’s also a good idea to give this goal some urgency. The more intense the hero’s desire line, the more comic encounters you can hang on the line without the line collapsing.

Bring the Family

One of the best tricks for a great Comic Journey is to come up with a reason for the hero to take the family along for the ride. Again the episodic nature of the journey is your biggest problem. In the Comic Journey story, this quality comes from the succession of opponents your hero encounters along the way. Every time your hero meets and overcomes an opponent, that’s a mini-story. Hence the episodic feel.

But if you bring the family along for the ride, the hero has an ongoing opposition that never goes away. You get a through line to the journey as well as characters other than the hero that the audience can get to know and invest in.

The next trick is to figure out a logical sequence for the parade of people the hero encounters. This is another way you overcome the episodic feel of the story and it is the primary way you build your satirical theme. For example, the characters may become progressively more dangerous, more pompous, more high class, or more powerful.

Above all, when writing the Comic Journey, make sure the hero’s encounters create comedy, not just conflict. Laughs only happen when an inflated person is punctured. Structurally, there are only two ways for that to happen. A pompous person keeps running up against a harsh reality or a sane person keeps meeting and exposing a bunch of pompous or phony people. In every encounter, someone must be deflated or you are wasting the scene.

If you want some models to study before writing your Comic Journey, you have many to choose from. Some of the most famous are Don Quixote, Huck Finn, Gulliver’s Travels, Little Big Man, The Blues Brothers, Crocodile Dundee, Thelma and Louise (a buddy Comic Journey that ends tragically), the National Lampoon Vacation movies, Rain Man, Scent of A Woman, Babe, and Flirting With Disaster.

The Comic Journey is just one of hundreds of story techniques that you can use to be successful. The most important thing is to realize that success comes from mastering the craft. It takes a lot of work and a lot of study, but the rewards are tremendous.