Tag Archives: Movies

Why Is That Funny?

Disclaimer: This post is undoubtedly condescending. I apologize for that.

I continue to find myself completely out of touch with pop culture.  It’s not something I really feel bad about, but in my own judgmental way, I wonder what is wrong with people.  Nowhere does this happen more than with movies.

I recently went to see The Hangover, and while I expected not to love it, I thought it would be good for a couple laughs.  After all, the populace in general seems to love it, and it was done by the same director who did Old School, which I found to be quite funny (well, the first and last acts, at least. The second act drags).  More importantly, though, is that the critics tended to like it, as it scores a 73 on metacritic.com.

However, watching this movie baffled me.  I wasn’t exactly baffled that people found it funny, what I found baffling is why people found it funny.  The movie was made up of old jokes from a bunch of other movies of the same genre.  If you’ve seen the joke before, especially if you’ve seen it hundreds of times before, how is it still funny?  But there are other things that I just don’t understand why people think is funny:

  • A man wears a jock strap instead of underwear.  Why is that funny?
  • A wedding band sings inappropriate things, a joke done in a bunch of other films, but also in Old School!  Why is that funny?
  • An old man gets a check up.  We see his ass.  Why is that funny?
  • People get hit, kicked, slapped, punched, and tasered over and over again.  Nothing more to the “joke” than that.  Why is that funny?
  • While transporting a drugged tiger, the tiger wakes up behind them and destroys classic car.  In Tommy Boy, same thing except it was a supposedly dead dear.  It wakes up and destroys a classic car.  So they repeated the same joke.  Why is that funny?
  • Mike Tyson shows up to recover his tiger, and… and… well, there wasn’t any joke there other than Mike Tyson showed up.  Why is that funny?

Of course, to some extent, I do understand why people find some of these things funny.  Male nudity is apparently this generation’s man-in-a-dress.  So whatever the context, people will for whatever reason find it funny.  But why?  That’s where they lose me.

People also like to watch things that they’re familiar with.  So watching a joke play out that they’ve seen before makes it fairly easy for people to comprehend and find amusing.  After all, there was an audience for Wild Hogs.

And always, from well before vaudeville, people find it amusing when characters are physically hurt.

Put all these together and you have the explanation for why people find these things funny, and why people love The Hangover.  The unfortunate problem is that every one of these explanations begs the question.  Why are these things funny?


The Netflix Recommendation: Bill Cosby is a God

For a while there, I was thinking that I wouldn’t be able to continue this series as Netflix had apparently given up on me.  In fact, I can still say that, as Netflix only recommends to me around 30 titles (most of which I have no interest in), but that’s still better than when it was at about 6 titles a few months ago.  However, while I have more recommendations, they’ve veered-off from weird to the totally absurd.  And so, we have today’s recommendation.

The Recommendation: Jesus of Nazareth

Because I enjoyed: Bill Cosby: Himself


See, simply recommending a documentary on Jesus to me is silly to begin with.  I’m a proud atheist-leaning agnostic, and am allergic to almost all things Jesus.  But what makes this recommendation legendary, is that it was recommended to me because I liked a film of Bill Cosby stand-up.  Did I miss something?  Did Cosby recently declare himself the new Messiah?  Does Netflix know something I don’t?  Should I be worshipping at the altar of Huxtable?

I guess it’s time to start a new religion.  I’ll have to quit my job and start writing the Gospel of Cosby.  I wonder if I can become one of Cosby’s apostle.  From now on, call me Theo.


The Netflix Recommendation: Netflix Has Given Up

The Recommendation:  Victor Borge’s Funniest Moments

Because I Enjoyed:  Mister Roberts, Much Ado About Nothing, The Odd Couple

Well, this is a bit that died almost before it started.  When I said Netflix didn’t know what to do with me, I thought I was exaggerating.  It turns out, Netflix truly has no clue.  Under the “Movies You’ll Love” tab (actually, it doesn’t say “Love,” instead there’s a heart.  Seriously Netflix, what the hell?) it only recommends ten movies.  Ten movies.  Netflix advertises that it has over 90,000 titles, and out of that, it can only recommend ten.  It turns out, apparently, that after rating over 800 movies, the Netflix rating system has thrown up its hands and has given up.  If you ignore the stand-up comedy DVDs, there are only six actual movie recommendations left.

Netflix seems to have the same problem with stand-up as it did with TV: if I like any particular stand-up videos, it recommends almost all of them.  Unfortunately, like TV, I don’t rent, and therefore rate, videos from comedians I know I hate.  As such, in Netflix’s eyes, I like all stand-up.

As for the movies, honestly, the ones that are left just don’t like they’re anything I would ever be interested in.  Hang ‘Em High?  I really dislike Westerns, and I’ve learned that I dislike anything Eastwood touches.

But what signals the system’s frustration more than anything, on the main page it has actually stopped recommending things for me.  Instead of saying, “Because You Enjoyed X” it says “If You Enjoyed X.”  That’s right, even though I’m signing into my account, it has decided just to randomly recommend things.  To give you a for instance, it’s actually now saying that if I enjoyed Saw, I might enjoy Saw IV.  Now, I’ll spare Netflix the “duh” here, but with all my ratings, it thinks I’ll rater Saw a 2 1/2 (a fairly awful rating for Netflix).  So it knows that I won’t enjoy Saw, let alone Saw IV.

Anyway, all that’s to bring me to today’s recommendation.  At first blush, I was taken aback by it.  Because I liked Much Ado About Nothing, a Shakespeare comedy (and it’s actually comic at that, unlike most of his comedies), Mister Roberts, a classic Henry Fonda comedy (which I honestly don’t remember liking that much, but I apparently gave it four stars), and The Odd Couple, no description necessary, I’ll enjoy Victor Borge’s Funniest Moments

Now hold on a second, I thought, because of those classic comedies, Netflix thinks I’ll like the pianist comedian who makes up really dorky political songs full of puns?!  The one which Phil Hartman did a great parody of in one of the best episodes of the great series Newsradio?


Note: I would  have embedded, but it has been disabled by the host.

And for good measure, the funniest bit of the show (which immediately follows the preceding clip).


That guy?  And then I realized, it’s not Victor Borge who does the political songs, it’s Mark Russell!  Victor Borge can actually be rather amusing sometimes.  That’s too bad, I thought, since I no longer have an excuse to include Newsradio clips in this post…

But yeah, given the fact that I enjoyed those movies, it is plausible that I would enjoy a Victor Borge best of. 

Although, how a Shakespearean comedy relates to a piano comedian is beyond me.


The Netflix Recommendation: Dark British Drama Equals Light Irish Comedy

The Recommendation:  Cadfael: The Virgin in the Ice

Because I Enjoyed:  Waking Ned Devine

Netflix just doesn’t know what to do with me.  I don’t know how well the rating system works for most people, but for me it’s quite awful.  I’m a hard nut to crack when it comes to movies, as I frown on traditional Hollywood nonsense, but also get turned off by the more pretentious art films.  At the same time, I like movies like The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover and Happiness, but also like Airheads and Tremors.  As such, Netflix thinks I’ll give basically every movie ever made, not counting truly awful Hollywood fare, around 2 1/2 to 3 stars.  Every now and then it does give something more than 3 1/2, and on those occasions, it’s usually correct.  But otherwise, the system has no idea.

The one thing Netflix does seem to think I’ll love is anything at all on TV.  And why does this happen?  It appears that if you rate a few programs highly, Netflix believes you’ll like any TV program DVD.  The worst offense was when it recommended Laguna Beach to me.  Apparently, if I like Family Guy, I’ll like Laguna Beach.

If it the AI thinks like that, Netflix just can’t work for anyone.

And so we get to today’s recommendation.  Let’s compare, shall we?  Netflix summaries:

Waking Ned Devine:

How can dead Irishman Ned Devine collect his lottery winnings? Well, longtime cronies Jackie O’Shea (Ian Bannen) and Michael O’Sullivan (David Kelly) have the answer. After discovering that Ned croaked from the shock of hitting the jackpot, Jackie and Michael mastermind a scheme to impersonate the lucky stiff and collect his prize money. Now all they need to do is persuade the rest of Tulaigh Mohr’s denizens to go along…

Cadfael: The Virgin in the Ice

In this popular PBS mystery series, Derek Jacobi (Gladiator) stars as the sleuthing 12th century monk Cadfael. Once a sailor and adventurer, Cadfael has settled into a religious life at the Shrewsbury Abbey, where he flourishes as the resident gardener and amateur detective. In this episode, Cadfael is confronted by the haunting murder of a young nun and the shocking truth of his own past.

Because I like Waking Ned Devine, a light, very amusing comedy about a small Irish village and winning the lottery, I’ll like Cadfael: The Virgin in the Ice, a dark and moody British TV drama about a 12th century monk investigating a haunting murder.

As one reviewer said of Cadfael, “This episode is disturbing & dark, and as cold as the snowy winter setting of the story…”  As for Waking Ned Devine, another review wrote: “Seriously though, what isn’t great about watching old men ride naked on Motorcycles?”

Well, at least there’s one thing that’s similar between these two.  Old men riding naked on motorcycles can be quite dark and disturbing.  And, to be honest, it probably was cold for David Kelly to have ridden the motorcycle while naked.