Steve Martin made over-the-top, hilarious movies to begin his career, and I love them —The Jerk, The Man with Two Brains, Pennies from Heaven, The Lonely Guy and more. Before coming to rely on family fare as the years wore on, he pushed boundaries and proved to be one of the finest physical comedians since Chaplin or Keaton. Of all his movies, my favorite is the sly, keenly edited masterpiece Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. Check it out if you haven’t already.
The Coen Brothers (Joel & Ethan) make films that span the emotional spectrum. Whether shocking us with Blood Simple, stressing us out with the tension of No Country for Old Men, giving us a never-ending stream of repeatable dialogue with The Big Lebowski, or providing an unforgettable palate of white and red in Fargo, they have always delivered, and delivered big. The biggest laughs of their extensive library, in my book, come from the comedy masterpiece Raising Arizona.
Also —if you haven’t seen Miller’s Crossing, do yourself a favor and watch it. Soon.
Rob Reiner has directed some of the finest comedies in years, and is responsible for The Princess Bride, which should make him eligible for sainthood in and of itself. His best true comedy? This is Spinal Tap. His work with Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer is amazing, and led Guest to go on to create a string of tremendous ensemble comedies like Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind. As good as all of those films are, I’d take Spinal Tap any day I needed a good laugh. It never fails.
Monty Python is an institution, and for good reason. The members of the comedy troupe have had immense success both together and separately, and continue to prove well into their golden years that humor does not die. While the vast majority of the populace would select Monty Python and the Holy Grail as the holy grail of comedy, it is actually their second-best-known feature that I find to be their best work. If you haven’t seen The Life of Brian, please do. And do so with an open mind and a willingness to laugh.
Mel Brooks is considered a comedy genius for good reason. Because he completely personifies the description.
Blazing Saddles. History of the World Part 1. Spaceballs. High Anxiety. The Producers. Silent Movie. All classics. All deservedly so. Well, maybe not Spaceballs, but people do love it.
After all those films are listed, there’s one I’d put above it on any list - Young Frankenstein. An immaculate script full of wit and humor, an all-star cast of brilliant comedy minds, a director willing to go for it at all costs, and a genre perfectly ripe for satire. Young Frankenstein, to me, is the perfect comedy. Laughs come easy and often, and before the film is over, you realize you’ve fallen for Gene Wilder, Terri Garr, Madeline Kahn, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, or any of the other great characters who steal scenes in this movie.
So, that’s the list as I see it and type it - let me know what you think, and how yours would differ.
Thanks for watching.