Out of all the genres of filmmaking, the hardest to pin down are the comedy movies. One of the most famous sayings is that comedy is the hardest type of movie to make right, both when writing it and directing it. The reason for that is because comedy movies are subjective and whether something is funny or not comes down to the perspective of the viewer, something the filmmakers have no way of knowing ahead of time. The best comedy films are ones that make the filmmakers laugh, because that means they are making a movie for themselves instead of making what they think the audience will like.
With that said, no two audience members have the same idea of what is funny. Nothing is inherently funny, it all comes down to how a person looks at it, as well as what you find funny. I may like absurd humor, while others consider it low brow. Others enjoy more high brow humor, something that is ironically funny. Luckily for me, I find most forms of humor funny, for different reasons, whether it is low brow, high brow or something just way out there.
First up, heading way back to 1964, we have Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Love the Bomb.” When ranking movies, this one really counts as a more high brow comedy and takes a strong satirical look at the Cold War in the era of America’s battles with Korea and Vietnam. Peter Sellers starred in multiple roles in the movie, proving to be a chameleon, and with performances by men like George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden and James Earl Jones, the movie was definitely something special.
Next up, moving ahead over three decades is a movie that ranks easily as a low brow comedy effort by many film snobs. Directed by the man who brought us Airplane and starring the creators of South Park, “BASEketball” brings the absurdity of all three artist’s offbeat sensibilities to the big screen. The movie supposes that the greed of professional sports leagues turned fans against them until one day a neighborhood game mixing baseball and basketball popped up and became a national pastime.
“Hot Fuzz” is on this list is a British comedy that has a great love for buddy cop action movies, specifically referencing movies like “Point Break,” “Bad Boys” and “Lethal Weapon.” Edgar Wright brought in his cast from his previous film “Shaun of the Dead” and not only created a comedy movie paying homage to the films he loved, but also created one of the best buddy cop movies in many years.
These movies have completely different styles. While “Dr. Strangelove” has scenes of absurdity, such as Slim Pickens riding an atomic bomb like a bucking bronco, it is more of a film that uses brilliant dialogue to cut a biting satire at the world in which we live. While “BASEketball” also plays as a satire, it is more of a slapstick comedy with a lot of shocking low brow moments, meant to shock instead of inspiring discussion. Finally, “Hot Fuzz” is more of a homage to films that came before, but instead of playing a spoof, it plays as an intelligent addition to the genre it references.
The three films have different fan bases, but all three films are bitingly funny and have large fan bases. While someone might dismiss the humor of “Strangelove,” they would laugh at the “potty humor” from “BASEketball.” While others might dismiss low brow humor as unfunny and cheap laughs, they would find the homage found in “Hot Fuzz” brilliant. However, these movies were all made by men who found that specific brand of humor funny, which is why the movies found their audiences. And they remain three of my favorite comedy movies all-time.