Shock and Ugh
I recently had a movie marathon with my friends where we watched a slew of movies, mostly classic 80’s comedies (Stripes, Bachelor Party, Dragnet, and Spies Like Us). Since then, I have come to the realization that comedies have changed a lot in the last 20-30 years.
Comedies today are all centered around shock and awe, and pushing the envelope. “The Hangover 2” is a prime example of what I am talking about. While I loved the first movie, the sequel is the exact same thing with a fresh coat of paint. Replace a tiger with a Korean man and a baby with a monkey and you have “The Hangover 2.” What this movie does do is try to give you a bunch of shock and awe moments like the spider nest and the stripper scenes. While these scenes are hilarious in the moment, you see them once, forget them, and find them unfunny and disgusting the second time around.
To be fair, I am not saying I hate all comedies that come out today. What I am saying is that the older comedies use comedy from masters of their craft like Chevy Chase, Tom Hanks, Bill Murray and many, many others. They do not need shock and awe to reduce a theater to crying with laughter. In “Spies Like Us,” the scene with Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase trying to perform an appendectomy is a perfect example of side splitting comedy without the need for penises and it’s still just as funny every time I see it.
It seems to me that comedians today need to have something extra to make a successful movie like kinky sex scenes, nudity, and excessive drug use. I hope that we begin to see a new breed of comedians who don’t need the big time shock moments to succeed but can stand alone with just their comedy like Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder, Martin Short, and even the late Chris Farley. I don’t think this is a lost art; more of an evolution. I think at some point, modern films will make their way back to the comedy which stands the test of time, comedy which we all know and love.