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chutterhanban's avatar

Do today's comedic actors live up to their predecessors?

Asked by chutterhanban (1020points) August 14th, 2008

Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, etc.

Have they created a new type of humor? Is it funnier? What do legends like Steve Martin and Danny Devito say about them?

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24 Answers

Sueanne_Tremendous's avatar

I don’t think I’d match them up with DeVito and Martin. I would more likely put them in the class of Richard Prior, Gene Wilder, Cloris Leachman. Strike that. I put those previously named with the likes of Eugene Levy, Chris Guest, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean. I would call these groups “smart comedy”. Stiller could still fall into that group, but Farrell, Wilson, Black seemed destined to be in a group I would call “stupid comedy”. I am not saying that stupid comedy is not funny or that I don’t watch it. I do…like a teenage boy, I do! It’s sophomoric humor whereas I find the humor in movies like “Waiting for Guffman” and “Spinal Tap” to be very clever in how they make me laugh. Maybe this group could best be compared to the likes of Johnathon Winters and Buddy Hackett.

Just my opinions. Good question.

poofandmook's avatar

I don’t think it’s the actors themselves, but the quality of film-making. The quality of comedy flicks seems to keep dropping as it becomes what looks to me like “quantity over quality.” Plus, they’re different brands of humor… comparing apples and oranges.

heysupnm's avatar

I agree with poofandmook. It’s a lot to do with quality of film-making. For example you mentioned “legends like Steve Martin” but think about the Pink Panther remake…

trumi's avatar

I wouldn’t lump all these comedians in together as “stupid comedy”. For example: for Ferrell have you seen Stranger Than Fiction, for Wilson have you seen The Royal Tenenbaums (which he co-wrote), and don’t forget that Ben Stiller directed the very interesting Reality Bites. Jack Black may be a static actor, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that they all are.

Also, you can’t even compare Anchorman and Zoolander to Epic Movie and Nacho Libre. Some of these modern comedies are brilliant, and others are just made for a quick buck. Which I think has been the same for decades, hasn’t it?

I agree with poof that it is about “quantity over quality”, so what we have to do is encourage the good ones ( Wes Anderson, Charlie Kaufman, Spike Jonze) to keep making movies, and then maybe kill Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer….

Sueanne_Tremendous's avatar

Good point Trumi. I am a huge Zoolander fan and loved the Tenenbaums. Lashes with a semi-wet noodle are in order. I present my backside to you.

trumi's avatar

Glad whip I could whip help. whip whip

ninjaxmarc's avatar

how about comedians turned drama actor like Jim Carrey? Who have done movies that have no comedy whatsoever. Has that changed your outlook on them?

trumi's avatar

Well, Adam Sandler did two of those and yet the majority of the public still thinks he an idiot.

Bri_L's avatar

@ trumi – I think if you look at his movies you can liken them to some of the bob hope type where the hapless but good guy succeeds despite himself.

poofandmook's avatar

@Trumi: But Adam Sandler didn’t do any serious films that were the caliber of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Spanglish is alright but doesn’t come close. ’

And it was very interesting to watch Will Ferrell in Stranger Than Fiction (another great one) and then go see him in Step Brothers.

chutterhanban's avatar

@ poofandmook: great Will Ferrell comment! lol

Do you guys think that Jim Carrey’s performance in Eternal Sunshine… was worthy of being called amazing? Or at least enough to put him on a list of high quality drama actors?

trumi's avatar

@chutter; I think Eternal is amazing because of the writing, directing, and cinematography. I don’t know if the acting even makes the top 5 best things about it :D

@poof; No, the movies weren’t as good, but the acting was. Spanglish and Reign Over Me were just okay, but he did a wonderful job. I mean, he was good in The Longest Yard as well.

My point being that all of these guys can be very funny, can be very stupid, and have quite a range.

Except Jack Black. The man has very little talent.

chutterhanban's avatar

Just because he’s a static comedian doesn’t mean he’s not funny or a good actor! Being well-rounded is just one aspect of being an amazing actor. No one has every quality!


nayeight's avatar

Excuse me trumi, but I think Jack Black is very talented. I loved Nacho Libre and most of the movies he’s done. You cannot say that the Pick of Destiny was not funny, you just can’t. I think that all comedians have their hits and flops. For instance, I think I laughed once at that stupid Zohan movie with Sandler. It was seriously a waste of my date’s $8.

trumi's avatar

@chutter and nay;
You have the right to that opinion, I just feel that Jack Black can only play the dumb, loud, annoying character he is famous for. Chris Farley did it better anyway.

No comedian is perfect (except maybe Ellen DeGeneres), but I just can’t appreciate anything about Nacho Libre. I honestly think it is one of the worst movies I have ever seen, and that it was a pathetic attempt at recapturing the temporary success of Napoleon Dynamite.

But you’re right about the hits and flops. Anchorman is one of my favorite new comedies, and Semi-Pro was just awful.

la_reine's avatar

a lot of the comedy these days is based on language, wordplay… standing onstage and talking into a microphone… it doesn’t have such a universal appeal of the physical and visual comedy of Charlie Chaplin and the Marx brothers

nayeight's avatar

Maybe it’s just me but I never thought that anything Charlie Chaplin did was funny…

Mr_M's avatar

The “older” generation comedians didn’t need to resort to the “F” word in order to be funny. With some comedians, if you remove the four letter words from their act, they’d have no act. And this includes some of the bigger names.

Bluefreedom's avatar

One example that I can think of where today’s comedians don’t live up to their predecessors is Saturday Night Live. I just don’t see any group of people surpassing the talent that made SNL what it was in it’s early years.

cade's avatar

I think it’s easier these days to be funny because gross-out comedy is now acceptable material and highly marketable. Steve Martin and others did it the hard way.

MacBean's avatar

Gross-out comedy is nothing new. Dick and fart jokes have always been popular. Even Shakespeare uses potty humor.

TexasDude's avatar

Hmmm, Dane Cook or George Carlin?

I’ll take Carlin.

Smashley's avatar

Sure there are new comedic geniuses. They just wont be recognized as such until they are a good deal older, if not dead.

Judd Apatow and his neverending stream of “chick flicks for guys” is certainly exploring new territory and showing off a few gem comedians.

South Park has taken the reigns from George Carlin and other trailblazers, consistently finding new and creative ways to push the envelope, just because the envelope exists.

Adam Sandler, after “Funny People” and “Punch Drunk Love” has shown a more interesting a creative and human side to his limitless energy, and will probably go down in history as one of the better comedians of our era. High energy will always be funny. Jack Black is such an example. In the proper vessel, he can make people roll on the floor without telling a single “joke.”

Until 1999 when it ended, Mystery Science Theater 3000 forged totally new ground for comedy,

The people behind Spongebob Squarepants seemed to have channeled Jim Henson by creating smart and funny episodes that adults can actually enjoy to watch with their kids.

Demetri Martin, though a little limited, is constantly trying out new ways to define comedy.

Comedians come in many forms. There are probably just as many hacks today as there always have been, but don’t discount brilliance because it’s modern.

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