Comedies Change Lives

Comedy is one of my favorite forms of media, whether it be in books, movies, television shows or stand up specials on Netflix, I will always look forward to watching a comedy far more than a drama. However, I have to admit, I have still always seen comedies as less important and profound than tragedies because of the grand reputation that dramas have for speaking on tough issues. Dramas are often moving, and really make the audience think, whereas I have always thought of comedies as an escape from reality rather than something of a magnifying glass. However, this unit on comedy has made me reconsider my ideas about the purpose of comedy.

According to Aristotle, a comedy is a story of the rise in fortune of a sympathetic central character. One of my favorite television shows, Brooklyn Nine-Nine follows this formula, but also adds to it. Brooklyn Nine-Nine stars Andy Samberg as the childish New York City cop, Jake Peralta. The entire series does not necessarily focus on Jake’s rise monetarily, or status wise, but focuses on his character, and its development. From the start of the show, Jake is established as a loveable, but immature character with daddy issues. Throughout the show, with the help of the other characters in the show, he is able to mature as a person and become a better cop. His rise in fortune occurs when the 99th precinct in which Jake is working gets a new captain, Captain Holt, who is very uptight and strict to contrast with Jake. Throughout the show, Holt’s strictness helps Jake mature and become a better cop. Jake’s rise in fortune is the introduction of Holt, which helps him gain what he wants, which is to be a better cop.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine perfectly represents comedy’s importance to literature and media, hence it’s importance in helping us understand our world. Where someone may be turned off by a movie exploring the trials and tribulations of being gay, they may be more inclined to watch a comedic tv series. Brooklyn Nine-Nine stars two openly LGBT characters. Not only is the comedic aspect of their lives as LGBT people explored, the more serious and tough parts of their lives as LGBT people are also explored. Because most people like to laugh, it is one thing that attracts most everyone to comedies, it really expands the bounds of exploration within comedies, and how it can explore issues such as that Brooklyn Nine-Nine explores. Whether it’s through satire or plain old slapstick comedy, it is much easier to sneak in representation and conversations about real issues into a piece of comedic media because those serious discussions are offset by the comedy, which is what makes these shows so attractive in the first place. Thus, because of its wider appeal, comedy might just have even more impact on people’s ideas about the world because of its more subtle ways of unpacking such issues. With these conversations that shows such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine are having about race issues and LGBT issues, it could truly change someone’s perspective on these issues, and quite possibly change lives.


Be kind!

As defined by Aristotle, a comedy is the story of the rise in fortune of a sympathetic central character. 

Cady Heron, the “central character”, or protagonist, is a classic example of a comic hero. She isn’t necessarily the most liked person by other characters in the movie or by viewers, but she does display a “minimal level of personal charm” and sometimes sparks sympathy from the viewer. Cady moved to the Illinois suburbs after living and being educated in Africa for many years. She starts to attend high school and faces all the typical stereotypes of high schoolers, including facing some very mean girls. The characters that embody the basic high schooler stereotypes (jocks, nerds, popular kids, etc.) are “ordinary people ” at heart, or at least that’s what the director aimed for them to be. Although these characters might have some relatable qualities, I have never met anyone who is outrageous and obnoxious as most of the characters in this movie.  These ordinary people allow the viewer to compare and contrast the actions/words of the main characters and see them in a different light.

In my opinion, Mean Girls touches on multiple different types of comedy, including farce, romantic comedy, and satirical comedy. I think that, in some sense, this movie is making fun of the ridiculous stereotypes that high schoolers feed into and how popularity is shown to be so much better than it actually is. The movie also has a romantic aspect of it, as Cady has a big crush on Aaron Samuels, one of the most handsome, popular guys at the school. Even though I have watched this movie hundreds of times (probably) and can recite all of the lines, I never truly understood that Mark Waters (the director) was trying to prove a point about human nature. Waters is using exaggerated versions of normal teenagers to show that being mean and feeding into stereotypes and materialism gets you NOWHERE, and kindness can go such a long way.

When I took a deeper look into analyzing this film, everything became clear. This movie, although funny and entertaining, wasn’t only made for pure enjoyment or humor, it was made to show that our generation is getting quite ridiculous in terms of social expectations and actions. If everyone chose kindness instead of cruelty and backstabbing in the movie then all of the characters would have gone a lot farther and achieved a lot more (yes, I know it’s necessary for the plot).

“Groundhog Day” — A Less Conventional Comedy

“Groundhog Day,” directed by Harold Ramis, is the story of a cynical newscaster, Phil Connors, who lives in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where Groundhog Day festivities occur every year. After reporting on the groundhog, Phil goes to bed and wakes up again to Groundhog Day. His repeated Groundhog Day helps him to have a different perspective on his life and gives him a chance to make a better impression on his co-host, Rita. The main plot of the movie follows Phil as he tries to have the perfect day with Rita.

While “Groundhog Day” could be dismissed as a light-hearted romantic comedy, I think that this would be a very shallow look at this movie. On the surface, it may just seem to be a movie about when the guy gets the girl. I believe that one of the most important parts of this movie is the character development of Phil. He transitions from an unlikeable character to a very sympathetic character by the end of the film. In this way, “Groundhog Day” strays a little from the traditional comedy path. Aristotle’s definition describes a comedy as the rise of a sympathetic central character. “Groundhog Day” adds a layer to this definition, and takes an unsympathetic central character and makes him extremely likeable to the audience. Although this does not strictly follow the formal definition, I think that this progression makes the movie even more of a comedy. Not only is there a happy ending, but the fact that a sour character was able to change makes the movie overall more meaningful for an audience.

In this same way, this less conventional comedy sheds light on human nature. While some may think that a person’s character cannot be changed, I think this movie illustrates that a person can change for the better. After being a man a haughty and egotistical man, Phil eventually begins to shed his egotistical exterior, and works toward improving his life and those around him. Only after he chooses to use his life to love himself and those around them is he set free from the endless loop. This shows that anyone can change for the better, but also has a deeper meaning. I think that his loop and cycle could also represent any type of struggle someone is going through, and the way he dug himself out of his hole was through kindness and selflessness. I think this that message is incredibly important, and the fact that it can be delivered through what seems to be a light-hearted comedy is even more impressive and powerful. Giving people this important and uplifting message while also making them laugh makes this comedy a meaningful art form.

The Blues Brothers: A Comedy

The Blues Brothers, starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, is a hilarious farce comedy that takes place in 1980 Chicago, Illinois. Belushi plays an ex-convict, Jake Blues, while Aykroyd plays his brother, Elwood Blues– the two of them are on a mission to save the old Catholic orphanage that they grew up in. However, in order to do so, they must get their old R&B band back together to raise the money.

Both Belushi and Aykroyd were popular comedians of their time and were both part of the SNL cast during the 1970s. The Blues Brothers uses a variety of satire, farce, and other comedic strategies to enhance the plot of the movie. The countless reckless car chases and the crude humor used. There’s a particular scene that I think is hilarious– when they go back to visit “The Penguin”, who is the nun that took care of them when they were younger. As they enter the orphanage, the doors open and close on their own as they walk towards The Penguin’s room. The Penguin tells them to sit down so they squeeze into these old desk-chairs that are made for kids as she tells them the bad news about how the orphanage is getting sold. They proceed to swear as she proceeds to smack them back and forth with a ruler while swearing. Aykroyd runs down the stairs and Belushi tumbles down still stuck in the desk. It’s a lot funnier when you watch it, trust me.

I think The Blues Brothers is hilariously well done and I recommend it to people who like older films as well as just anyone in general.

While it is really funny, I don’t really think that farce and similar types of comedy enhances our understanding of the world. I think that farce and more “goofy” comedy is created for people’s pleasure rather than enhancing our understanding of the world and how it works. In this sense, I think Aristotle would basically consider this meaningless. However, I do think that it’s still a great movie even if it didn’t make my understanding of people and the world better. Maybe it could make people know what not to do? Who knows. At least to my understanding, it didn’t really have any meaningful intellectual impact. But it is funny 🙂

A Bromance Rom Com

 Love You, Man is a 2009 American comedy film starring Paul Rudd, Rashida Jones, and Jason Segel.  Peter Klavern (Paul Rudd) proposes to Zooey Rice (Rashida Jones) and realizes he has no close guy friends that he can choose to be his best man. Peter then goes on a quest to get a best friend and enlists help from his fiancé and brother. Along the way he meets Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) and they become best friends. Of course there is drama that strains Peter’s relationship with Zooey and later with Sydney but in the end everything works out which is why this movie fits Aristotle’s definition of comedy.

The whole movie is about an ordinary person who is trying to find a guy best friend. I think that it is normal for people to try and find a new friend. There are also many societal norms associated with weddings like having a best man, so Peter was just trying to fit in which is something that ordinary people often experience. This fits Aristotle’s definition of comedy because at the end of the movie the audience is pleased with the outcome of Sydney and Peter becoming best friends. All of Peter’s family members do not believe that he will be able to get a guy bets friend because the closest people in his life are his parents, Zooey, and some female acquaintances. This resembles Peter’s stance as an underdog in the comedy.

This romantic comedy helps us understand societal norms and constructs. People expect that by the time that you are an adult you will have at least a few really good friends that you have probably known since college. It also demonstrates the expectation that at a wedding there will be a bridal party. Peter fell victim to this societal norm because the reason he had to find a best friend was because he needed to find a best man. Peter did not not choose to have no bridal party but instead did everything in his power to fit in. The movie does not teach us that it is fine to live a life that is different than this but rather that this is expected from young adults. However, since there is tension between Peter and Zooey and Peter and Sydeny the movie shows its audience that it is human nature to go through rough patches and those that love you will be there to lift you up. Friendship and family are important aspects to a human’s survival in society.

“Dumb and Dumber”: Laughter Without Meaning

Image result for dumb and dumber

The 1994 comedy directed by Peter Farrelly, “Dumb and Dumber,” still manages to impress audiences worldwide with its complete and utter stupidity to this day. You might want to check out the trailer and this list of 100 dumb things that happen in this comedy for context and a laugh.

Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) are the two main characters, and Lloyd, a taxi driver, falls in love with a rich woman which he drove to the airport, who leaves a suitcase full of money behind. Seeking to return the money to her and gain her love, the two begin their journey to Aspen, the woman’s destination, pissing off several people along the way. Little did they know, the money left behind was ransom for a kidnapping, leading to several complications. Of course, on their journey, Harry and Lloyd spend “a little bit” of the money, only enough to get them each a lamborghini and a full new wardrobe, and at the end, one of them gets the girl.

In an Aristotelian sense, “Dumb and Dumber” can be considered a classical comedy (ignoring the semi-cliffhanger ending of the film). But unless one considers learning how to be a nuisance as valuable, this film is as far from meaningful as a film can be. There are multiple hyperbolized references to societal prejudices against the poor and women, but the way they are portrayed in the movie, the audience is not given a chance to even notice while they are uncontrollably gagging. Stereotypes are also evident and exaggerated throughout the movie, but are not critiqued in any way, shape, or form.

These comments on “Dumb and Dumber” can be extended to almost all laugh-out-loud comedies in the contemporary film genre, where the goals of the film makers do not extend far beyond making people exhale through their nose for money. However, comedies that tend to be more literary and a bit less stupid and where seeds of meaning can be scattered throughout can enhance the audience’s understanding of the world around them There seems to be a tradeoff between the amount of enjoyment a comedy can bring about and the weight of the meaning it carries.

Anchorman 2 Is More Than a Raunchy Comedy

Image result for ron burgundy

The beloved story of Ron Burgundy delivers a deeper meaning than one would perceive. The sequel carries the story plot of Ron’s initial fame to a spiral of depression and then an ultimate rise in the end. Ron deals with a variety of moral dilemmas, the pressure of revenge, reigniting his life, and choosing work or family. Although some would view this movie as raunchy and dumb, the underlying issues that occur in life are taken head-on by one fascinating man.

As the movie begins, Ron recently lost his head position in anchoring a prestigious new network in New York City to his wife and ultimately leaves his family because of it. Following this tragedy, Ron is at his lowest point of life and finds himself in a state of depression. As the story continues, Ron gets his old news crew back together, battles with goofy issues, get back to the top of the news world and ultimately realizes that his family is worth more than his job. Through all the stupidity and comedic nature of the movie, the general story-line is utterly meaningful. This movie is meaningful in a way that shows how people are easily distracted by the luxuries of life and how they distract us from what matters. Ron is so caught up in fame and the itch success that it initially drives him away from his family. By the end of the movie, the audience is filled with enlightenment and a lesson.

Overall, many people are caught up in the temptations of life. The legend of Ron Burgundy lives as a story for people to think about. Ron once valued materialistic items and fame ahead of family. He changed his ways and was there for his family at in the end.