The Film Comment Podcast: Comedy Today
In a March/April 2017 feature titled “No Joke,” Film Comment Digital Producer Violet Lucca traces current trends in modern American comedies to the pressures of globalization and the rise of the internet. “The specificity of wordplay and sociological observation—two things that non-silent comedy thrives on—is therefore diminished or omitted to ensure its international portability,” Lucca explains. “Remakes and adaptations of successful, preexisting intellectual property are nothing new—they have been part and parcel of Hollywood since its inception. However, as the media scholar Mark Fisher suggested, ‘capitalist realism’ resigns us to this repetition by telling audiences that we are in crisis mode and there’s no time to think about anything outside of the current system: Hollywood really is out of ideas this time, so just get used to it. It is the seventh art acknowledging its marginalized state and throwing up its hands.” This episode of The Film Comment Podcast focuses on the past six to eight years of American film comedy but also puts it in dialogue with TV and the history of the genre. What actually makes us laugh, and what do comedies reflect about our culture? What’s the right balance to strike between comic digressions and plot motion? And what is a Harold? To talk about these topics—as well as the magical alchemy of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly—Lucca sat down with Michael Delaney, senior instructor at New York improv institution Upright Citizens Brigade and an actor whose credits include The Other Guys, Veep, and Curb Your Enthusiasm; and Robert Sweeney, producer at Kino Lorber and contributor to FC and FilmStruck.