These movies make me laugh out loud...

Jul 1, 2001

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The Bottom Line These movies will make you laugh, and heal your soul...just give in to it

Okay people, its time for something much lighter – and so I thought I would do a list of 20 of my favorite comedies. I tried to think of only movies that had or do make me laugh aloud, in the theater, on my couch, at a friends…. regardless of location – I laugh aloud. Some writers do it for me, and some actors – but mostly writing.

There is something about gibberish, unintended in the right comic scenario that just slays me right out of my chair. And maybe not gibberish so much as simply bazaar word usement. I remember how much the Grandmothers song made me laugh by Steve Martin when i first heard it. “Be obsequious, purple and clairvoyant, live in a swamp and be three dimensional.” Those words do not seem to fit, yet they do – and when surprised by such words, I am pretty much helpless in their power. Delirious has some very funny writing in that regard. Overall, some of these may not be the funniest movies in the history of comedy, but they just take me there repeatedly. I can watch most of these anytime at all.

So enjoy this list, and maybe you can get some comedy for the weekend…because after all “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine…” oft quoted thing, but you know what gang, comedy and laughter can heal you…so get some Steve Martin and get healed up over the weekend. Enjoy…peace

20 – Delirious – This movie is one that just always makes me laugh. John Candy is a writer for a soap opera (this came out at the same time as Soap Dish – Paramount’s lame attempt at the same film. Candy is being played for a fool by the star of the soap (whom he is fascinated with). He is hit on the head, and suddenly finds himself in the town about which he has been writing. But whatever he writes, still comes true. Well the part that kills me is when he gets drunk and starts writing crazy gibberish things, which are so very funny. This movie was not the highest ranked movie in the world, but the crazy writing things just made me laugh aloud, and that is the criteria here.

19 - Blazing Saddles – The one Mel Brooks entry and I think his funniest. There is such a range of the unexpected in this movie. Same cast of characters that he uses again and again. Gene Wilder is his normal manic self, Clevon Little is hilarious as the black sheriff. Alax Karras did a great job as Mongo, and should have done a lot more of that kind of stuff, he was really good at it. And of course, Harvey Kromann and Slim Pickens are their normal dry and tasty selves. Mel Brooks himself is doing his always-salty play, and Madeline Kahn is a German dancer girl, who just melts down the screen with her hilarious sexuality. This movie is an early parody of westerns, and has all the stereotypes, the town is being threatened, the law and mayor are spineless, but at least they are inefficient. So the town has to rise up, fight off the bad guys, and win the day themselves. And of course there are the strangers who help teach and lead them. Karras is a stand out, punching out horses, and breaking wind…very good comedy. The tagline for the movie was “never give a saga an even break”…which leads us to the legendary W.C. Fields….

18 - Never Give a Sucker an Even Break – W.C. Fields is a comedian sometimes lost on the current generation, but absolutely wonderful. Fields got his start on Vaudeville, doing burlesque and some very naughty comedy, at a time when Hollywood just was not really up for it. He was a raging alky and a surly bastard, but the humor always shined through. He loved word games…strange names, and funny sounding phrases…the film itself is just manic fields. He jumps out of an airplane at one point chasing a bottle (yeah he did) and lands on a mountaintop. This fall is amazing stuff, but fields himself is crazy throughout. The plot is secondary to the shtick, and this is Fields at his best.

17 - Scared Stiff – Lewis and Martin (yeah old school) doing their crazy act. I am not necessarily a big fan of Lewis in his own right, but the counter point with the dry humored big brother character of Dean’s always got me. They go to a scary Caribbean island, and things just go wrong and go wrong. Lots of music and Carman Miranda doing her fruit hat numbers are great. The monsters are a little too much for Jerry who just gets terrified, and is very funny doing it. This is my favorite of theirs.

16 - Good Neighbor Sam – Jack Lemmon in what has to be one of the most embarrassing comedies ever. It almost gets hard to watch as it goes on. Jack is an ad exec and part time inventor. He goes through the whole film trying to appear normal, and yet living his weird life at home. There is a very funny running gag involving a Hertz rental car commercial and a guy getting dropped into the car from wires…it never works out, and by the end you are just itching to see what will go wrong with it next. Jack is also stuck up on a bunch of billboards all over town and has to run back and forth to them again and again…. it is high paced and just sometimes unbearable. Lemmon doing a wonderful job and making me laugh.

15 – Coneheads – And here is where the SNL alumni begin to take over my list. This movie is just one series of silly scenes after another. Dan Akroyd, Jane Curtain, and Michelle Burke are the Conehead family. Sent to earth to take it over, they are stranded here and must make a life for themselves while they await word from the mother planet and perhaps a rescue ship. They do make a life in the burbs, working, golfing, entertaining, grilling out with neighbors and involving themselves in their child’s life in high school. They are chased constantly by the I.N.S., because of the “alien” status and working without a green card. The cast is amazing, Chris Farley, Garrett Morris, David Spade (very funny role for him doing his normal man-secretary thing) he is snippy, curt and just annoying, Phil Hartman, Sinbad, Michael McKean as the I.N.S. manager who chases them the whole movie long – ripping up the anti-government stupidity lines and comedy, Jan Hooks doing her sexy thing, Adam Sandler, Tim Meadows, Kevin Nealon it just goes on and on and on.

The story is vintage Saturday Night Live, and the laughs never stop. At one point, Akroyd tears the top off Farley’s car and threatens to crush his blunt skull because of a believed slight with his daughter. He also does a half time fire works display for the school that looks like a small A-Bomb going off…

14 - Ferris Buhler’s Day Off – And here we have an absolute classic. A John Hughes “Rite Du Passage” movie – to quote Mike Meyers. The quintessential skip school movie, and the first really big thing for Matthew Broderick. Ferris is faking sickness; he is brilliant and puts so much effort into his skip day that he could probably rule a small nation for his organization skills. The faking with his parents, the going to a Cubs game, the scene with the great car going through the glass wall and off into the river…it is just endless. Jennifer Gray is Broderick’s sister in the film and plays the protagonist very well. She is disgusted with the always-slacker brother who is every ones hero, so she decides to get him, but in the end, she finds her own groove and realizes that old Ferris is not so bad.

Also in this movie is Alan Ruck (Twister & Speed) playing the long faced and tense friend along for the ride. He has to come of age somewhat in order to hang with Ferris and that is really the point of the movie ultimately anyway. The chase scenes are tense and funny, the principle is a dork, and Ferris is just delightful. This is a great movie.

13 - My Blue Heaven – “I want the drink you made the night Mary was shot” (bad Mafioso voice) – Steve Martin and Rick Moranis in a classic. Steve is a mob informant that is put into witness protection. He goes to a smaller town in Southern California suburbia and begins to wreak havoc. Rick Moranis is his special agent in charge and living a miserable sad life. Martin’s character takes him on the town in New York, dresses him, and gets him dancing the Meringue. This movie is a lot of fun. He finds a bunch of other guys who are also all in witness protection and they start their own local “family” business. Lots of funny mob parody and Martin just turns the little town up on its ear with his crime wave.

Good acting also by Joan Cusack as the local D.A. who is coming after Martin and whose life he is making miserable. This is a very funny movie…”hey guys, what a day for a mow.”

12 – Caddyshack – Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Ted Knight, Rodney Dangerfield, and it is the very funny story of a golf course, a country club and some star struck crazy kids having sex and laughing. Bill Murray really steals the show with his crazy groundkeeper character. He talks about caddying for the Dali Lama and describes working the loop for him, and the Lama blesses him, “so i got that goin’ for me.” Chevy Chase is this brilliant golfer, who is a total flake, and a strange agent to boot. Rodney Dangerfield is a loud and rude rich guy, no class, and a lout. He wants to join the fancy country club and golf with the richies…and he is summarily rejected of course. There is an ensuing golf tournament to decide who gets to stay and who gets to go, and the caddys frolic along before after and during….

Remarkable to me was Brian Doyle-Murray, Bill’s brother, who plays the boss of the caddys and just makes good with the comic lines and delivery.

11 - Johnny Dangerously – Yet another Mob movie parody. Michael Keaton and Joe Piscopo are great as mobsters who are climbing the ladder and paying off killer doctor bills. Keaton starts out in the mob as a kid, running numbers, and doing little odd jobs, and eventually is promoted along. There are some funny bits in this movie. There is a running gag with Piscopo saying “You shouldn’t hit me Johnny, my brother hit me once…ONCE,” and it just keeps coming up. Johnny begins to run the mob as a corporation, and is concerned about the competition from the Japanese gangs who he says are doing it faster and more efficiently.

The gang gags lead to old prison movie gags and many just plain old silly sight gags. It is a very funny film; just get ready for the unexpected.

10 - L.A. Story – One of the beautiful movies on the list. Enya did a bunch of the soundtrack, and the love story at the heart of it is a favorite of mine. Steve Martin fills the screen with his normal kind of comic madness. This movie is ripping on Los Angeles, it is making fun, but not really mean. Martin laughs about going on a date and having high colonics ("it was a total wash out"), and every one at a table ordering lemon in their drinks, showing up late for every thing, driving every where, the short history of the buildings and the like "some of these houses are over 20 years old", the stop lights that say "uh, like walk", "uh like don't walk", the big giant signs on the freeway that talk to you about the traffic conditions (one of these comes alive and becomes a character....) the craziness in general and just the fact that there are people teaching spokes models at spokes model school. The bottom line ends up being that those in L.A. are forming their own destiny, creating a life that they love...and that it is possible to find love there - even if it takes a looking in the remotest reaches. Great Movie

9 – Coming to America - Eddie Murphy as well as Arsenio Hall playing it to the absolute hilt. Eddie plays an African Prince, an old Jewish Man and a horrible lounge singer, and Aresenio's old man barber and Preacher are priceless....James Earl Jones is great as well, and if you look underneath the Afro sheen, there is an early performance by Eriq Le Salle...this one is a classic

8 - A Night at the Opera – Tremendously funny Marx Brothers movie. Groucho doing his normal bits and one-liners. The plot isn’t the real key with their movies, more the stand out sense of comic timing. This movie is timeless.

7 - So I Married an Axe Murderer – Mike Meyers is at his best here, playing a modern day beat poet. He has no luck in love, and always ends his relationships with a particular poem at the coffee bar where he works. He does the “woman woman woman” poem. It is pretty much a scream. Then comes along Nancy Travis and her craziness. He meets her in a butcher shop, trying to buy a Haggis for his crazy Scottish father (whom Myers also plays), and just falls for her. They end up going around together and dating and falling in love. But her strange past keeps coming up, until eventually, they discover the truth. The funniest lines are probably the Scottish dad (Stuart) who has some hilarious shtick about Myers younger brother and his huge head. He goes on and on saying that his head is “like Sputnik, has its own weather system, giant cranium” – all in this brogue that just slays. This is a classic.

6 - Planes, Trains and Automobiles – John Candy and Steve Martin are both trying to get home for Christmas time, and the harder they try, the worse their circumstances start to get. Candy is a loud-mouthed salesman who never met a stranger; Martin is an anal-retentive ad exec, who just cannot seem to bear up under the stress of Candy’s funkiness. They end up close, but the characters that they meet along the way are classic. They start on an airplane, they try to take a bus, and then a train that breaks down on them, they rent a car (which burns up completely), which they finally end up crippling in to Chicago. This one is worth it just to see Martin race Kevin Bacon in the beginning of the movie for a cab; it is a foreshadowing of the struggles to come.

5 - Beverly Hills Cop 1 - I went back to the theater about seven times, and just could not stop myself from laughing. Eddie's delivery and shifting into and out of characters was just so good. From his falsetto, to his imitation of the old white chief of police to his ordering people is a classic, and watch carefully when he gets something off of the fruit plate, and see Damon Wayans doing his best falsetto too...

4 - Grosse Pointe Blank is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. This was by far John Cusack’s finest work. The writing was hysterical, lightning quick and very intellectual. The chemistry between Cusack and Akroyd was magical.

Cusack plays a hit man, who is professionally competitive with Akroyd. At one point in the movie Akroyd proposes that they form a union, and Cusack ignores his request, but at the same time in awe at the fact that their direction as hit men could be solidarity. There were also a couple of very funny dialogs between them over coffee, discussing drugs, killing, and health food.

In addition, magic happens between Cusack and Minnie Driver as a former couple. Cusack left town after high school, leaving Driver without an explanation. He returns for his high school 10th reunion, and to do a hit. He manages to make contact with his old friends and family (his mother is now insane). He also finds that his former home has been replaced by a Stop-n-rob mini mart. This mini mart of course is blown up during the course of the film. Cusack and Driver meet up and begin to reestablish the freightengly powerful relationship that they had, after she makes him pay for his lack of communication.

Cusack has some hilarious moments with his therapist (Alan Arkin), who helps him work through feeling conflicted about killing. He starts to wonder if it is all-okay, but Arkin does not want to continue with their relationship, but Cusack won’t let him out of it. Their dialog is funny and insightful. This was before the Sopranos or Analyze This came out.

Finally Joan Cusack steals yet another movie with her beauty, and humor as Cusack’s secretary. She can order ordinance, whip up a mean Chicken Soup, or help John with inside information about the latest terrorist killer competing with him for a hit.

3 - Monty Python and the Holy Grail – They Python in their finest moment as well. Who hasn’t heard of the Knights who say NEE, or the holy hand grenade of Antioch, or the monks that chant and hit themselves on the heads with books, or the killer rabbit “that’s one ferocious ferret”, or the spurting blood, or the silliness of Camelot. How about the French who taunt the English knights from their castle and pick on them about their stuffiness….”go away, before i am forced to taunt you again” The French knights are just perfect with their snobbiness, and ‘outrageous accents’ - Cleese, Idle and the boys are absolutely famous for this manic type of comic building. You cannot live without this one.

2 - Eddie Izzard – Dressed to Kill – Relatively new on the stand up circuit in America and the only stand up comedy to make my list. Izzard dresses in drag, insults our intelligence a bit along the way, and points out that without a little historical perspective you are not going anywhere really. He picks on himself, and on America and on Britain. Izzard is the best that there is right now for an hour of deeply intellectual comedy and great information. Do not watch this unless you are ready to listen.

1 - Princess Bride – And my number one choice is the Princess Bride. Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright), Wesley (Carey Elways), Miracle Max (Billy Crystal), Fezzik (Andre the Giant), and Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patankin) are an amazing cast. This is the story of true love. The dread Pirate Roberts, and some questing and a lot of sword fighting. The one-liners come fast and furious, but the script is so very solidly built. Again a parody of swashbuckling movies to be certain. Mandy Patankin is perfect in his role as the brilliant Spanish sword fighter. So is Wallace Shawn as Vizzini, the leader of the bad guy crew. There is a priest with a hair lip who cannot get through his marriage vows without dragging every vowel. There are forces of good and evil, but ultimately true love wins out. The finest comedy ever made in my view.

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