Various Types of Comedy Films

Humour plays an important role in a comedy films which usually has a happy ending with the exception of black comedy. Comedy is one of the oldest genres in film with the first silent movie being a comedy. Comedy lays emphasis on individual performers, with a number of stand-up comedians turning to films due to their popularity.

Comedy films have a very lighthearted script with the sole purpose of entertaining. However other comedy films carry a social or political message like wag the dog and man of the year.

William Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing is considered to be the first comedy of manners, however the genre actually became prominent during the Restoration period. The plot of the comedy consists of an illicit affair or some other controversy or gossip. The witty dialogues of the comedy is more important than the story.

In a particular kind of comedy the main character or characters find themselves confronting an unusual situation which causes humour. Such situations may arise for example with the exchange of gender roles as in Tootsie (1982); changing age role, as in Big (1988); an individual enjoying freedom placed in a structured atmosphere as in Police Academy (1984).

A parody or spoof is a comedy film that uses sarcasm, stereotype and jeering of scenes from other films. Blazing Saddles (1974), Airplane! (1980) and Young Frankenstein (1974) are examples in this genre.

The anarchic comedy film employs meaningless and ridiculous, stream-of-consciousness humor which often satirises some kind of authority. These types of films have originated from a theatrical history of anarchic staged comedy. Prominent films in this category includes Duck Soup (1933), National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975).

Black comedy films satirises death, murder, suicide and war which are usually considered to be the prohibited subjects. Examples include Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Monsieur Verdoux (1947), Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), The Ladykillers (1955).

Gross-out films are of recent origin and deals with sex and toilet humour. There’s Something About Mary (1998), and American Pie (1999) are examples in this genre.

The romantic comedy revolves around the relationship between man and woman. The light-hearted romantic comedies usually shows social interactions and sexual tensions between the couple. Examples of this kind of film include It’s a Wonderful World (1939), The Shop Around the Corner (1940), Sabrina (1954), When Harry Met Sally… (1989), Pretty Woman (1990).

The Gold Rush – A Hollywood Comedy Classic

The Gold Rush, the 1925 silent screen comedy, is generally thought to be Charlie Chaplin’s most well known film. Throughout the history of motion pictures, both film critics and viewers have always considered this Chaplin film to be a true Hollywood comedy classic from the silent era.

It tells the story of the equally famous and loved Chaplin character ‘The Little Tramp’ (called The Lone Prospector in this film) as he travels to Alaska hoping to take part in the Great Alaska Gold Rush. Instead, as luck and bad weather would have it, he finds himself stranded in a remote backwoods cabin with another gold prospector and an escaped fugitive for company.

Eventually, when the weather subsides, ‘The Lone Prospector’ again sets out for a nearby gold-rush community. While there he takes the job of tending another prospectors cabin, and finds himself falling in love with Georgia, a saloon girl, whom he mistakenly assumes loves him as well.

While known as a great comedy, this film is also rich in social satire, drama, and emotional tenderness.

The film features a number of famous scenes that include the Chaplin character preparing Thanksgiving dinner for himself and another stranded and starving prospector by boiling and eating a leather shoe (provided by the American Licorice Company), and its laces as if they were noodles. In another, the cabins occupants scramble to exit as the cabin itself balances dangerously on the edge of a cliff before falling into the valley below.

A famous sequence, considered by many to be one of the most memorable in Chaplin’s career, shows The Lone Prospector entertaining his imaginary New Year’s Eve guests at dinner by piercing two bread rolls with forks and having them dance as though they were the legs of a real dancer. This scene was recreated in a 1994 episode of ‘The Simpsons,’ titled ‘Lady Bouvier’s Lover’.

The comedy classic is still being enjoyed by audiences today and ranks as the fifth highest grossing silent film, and the highest grossing silent film comedy of all-time.

The movie was again released by Chaplin in 1942 with sound narration and a musical score that were spoken and arranged by Chaplin. He also tightened the editing to reduce the films running time, changed some minor plot points, and removed the kissing scene at the end eliminating a subplot where the character is tricked into believing the Georgia loved him. This re-release was a huge hit world wide.

In 1992, The Gold Rush was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress. This motion picture is a must see for anyone interested in a Hollywood comedy classic from the silent era.

Do Romantic Comedies Really Do Well at the Box Office?

Every year around the holidays, we are faced with a new slew of romantic comedies addressing holiday themes. But do these films really do as well in the box office as other genres of film? If not, why do they keep getting produced as steadily as films of other genres?

I recently looked at the list of the top 100 highest grossing movies of all time. On the list only a meager two films on the list were romantic comedies. Namely, Meet the Fockers, and Pretty Woman. So only 2% of the top grossing films of all time were romantic? Seems rather dismal. I suppose, two other films loosely could be called romantic comedies: Ghost and Mamma Mia. However in my opinion Ghost qualifies more as a supernatural romantic film than a romantic comedy. Mamma Mia qualifies more as a musical.

So why does the box office year after year turn over whole new slate of romantic comedies when only two romantic comedies have been considered massive box office successes? How does any filmmaker get funding for a film, if its pretty much guaranteed to make less money than other films of other genres. In my opinion, the main reason that romantic comedies keep getting made is that romantic comedies are cheaper to produce than other genres. Therefore, it is easier and perhaps quicker to turn a profit on these films.

The genres that are the hugest box offices successes are also, no surprise, much more expensive. We have our massive budget blockbuster, record-breaking successes like Titanic and Lord of the Rings (loaded to the gills with special and visual fx, action, stars, and elaborate sets and costumes. Then we have our intensive animation category ie Lion King, Shrek and Cars, also very expensive to create(sometimes taking massive animation teams years and years to produce.)

Additionally, the Hollywood industry wants to make sure seats are filled once the film is released to theatres. Producing romantic comedies, or yes let’s just go ahead and say it, why don’t we, “Chick Flicks,” are a very safe bet. Women, year after year, are guaranteed to drag men into the theatres to watch romantic comedies.

Before you go ahead and view me as being sexist in this viewpoint, I just want to point out that I am a woman. And I am a woman who doesn’t really enjoy romantic comedies very much. Yet I too have to profess I have, on quite a few occasions, dragged a man, kicking and screaming even, to see a “Chick Flick.” Sometimes the occasion is just perfect for a romantic comedy and no other film will suffice. For example, romantic comedies are an enticing pick for dates and romantic occasions such as valentines’ day. You can bet (and Hollywood can bet too) that every single weekend there are countless couples on dates. Countless couples settle on the relatively safe bet of seeing a romantic comedy.

Romantic comedies do not fare so well at the box office when you look at the top grossing films of all time; however, it is easy to understand why they are churned out year after year. When adjusted for how much romantic comedies cost to make vs. how much they gross, I am certain the statistics would be much different. These films cost nowhere near as much to make as action films, animated films or fx-driven films and they have a steady and reliable built-in audience. Hollywood always enjoys a safe bet, and “chick flicks” are no doubt safe. There is always some newly dating couple out to see a movie, looking to choose something innocuous, yet romantic.