From 1993 – 2011, comedies represented about 25% market share of all movies released theatrically. From 2011 – 2016 that number dropped substantially to 16%. I may be getting old, but this article stemmed from me noticing that there hadn’t been a passing of the comedic torch to a new crew, and the amount of solid funny movies dropping considerably.
I feel like we’ve lost our “last shot” guy. You know, 4th quarter down 1 with 10seconds left – who’s taking the shot? There is no Jordan (Ferrell) Lebron (Jonah Hill) or Bird (Carrey) left to rely on. Everyone is just kind of looking at each other, taking turns throwing up prayers, and hoping one goes in. There are some funny motherfucker actors out there, so I don’t think we can have the excuse “oh the talent isn’t as funny”, because that’s just not true. Louis CK, Amy Schumer, Steve Carrel, and Zach Galifianakis to name a few are FUCKING HILARIOUS.
A fortune cookie once said “in order to know where you’re going, you need to know where you came from”. I ALWAYS get my advice from fortune cookies. Let’s take a look at movies in the comedy space broken down every 6 years since 1993 as well as which actors had the comedy belt. Each person receives 1 point for a hit comedy and .5 points for either a small role, a “good but not great” film, or a sequel (unless the 2nd was good as first in which case it gets full points).
Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Chris Farley
No question that we had peak Carrey and peak Sandler during this time.
Carrey had 5.5 hits: Ace Ventura 1&2, Liar Liar, The Mask, Cable Guy (.5) & Dumb and Dumber.
This was a time where Adam Sandler was actually, you know, funny. Something the younger generation knows nothing about. Sandler knocked Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, Wedding Singer, Air Heads (.5) & Waterboy. 4.5
Mike Myers was also giving us his best work starting with So I married an Axe Murderer followed by Wayne’s World (1&2), and then the start of the Austin Powers franchise. 4 points.
Chris Farley was a national treasure on SNL and on the big screen. His love of comedy unfortunately was matched by his love of cocaine, beer and red meat. The legend was taken far too soon, but not before giving us Black Sheep, Tommy Boy, & Beverly Hills Ninja. 3 points.
Honorable Mention Actors: Chris Tucker’s high pitched voice rocked the world with Rush Hour after Friday. He also had a great cameo in The Fifth Element. Eddie Murphy was almost at his “Dad Comedy” phase but not before he made Boomerang, Nutty Professor, & Bowfinger. Side note: Have you seen Eddie Murphy Delirious? One of the most offside, hilarious stand up comedies of all time. Wonder what 20 year old Murphy would say if you told him he would soon be starring in Daddy Day Care. I assume it would be along the lines of “go fuck yourself”. Here’s a clip:
Notable Hilarious Films: Dazed and Confused, Swingers, Vegas Vacation, The Big Lebowski, Dirty Work.
1999 – 2004:
Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn
The golden years begin! Starting off a decade full of funny-ass movies. Will, Ben and Vince kept appearing in each other’s films striking gold almost every time.
Ben Stiller led the pack with 4.5 hit comedies: Zoolander, Starsky & Hutch, Dodgeball, Meet the Parents & Meet the Fockers (.5).
Ferrell followed his film debut Night at the Roxbury with 3 of the best comedies of all time: Old School, Zoolander & Anchorman. 4 points.
Vince Vaughn was also in his prime even if he was playing the same character every damn time, giving us Made, Dodgeball, Starsky & Hutch and Old School, 4 points.
Honorable Mention Actors: Owen Wilson may be the best comedy supporting actor in history, showcasing his chops in Starsky & Hutch and Zoolander. Mike Myers put out the last 2 of his Austin Powers franchise and Jim Carrey still had it with Me Myself and Irene and Bruce Almighty.
Other Notable Hilarious Films: Office Space, American Pie, Super Troopers, Ali G, Napoleon Dynamite (Still can’t believe they never made a sequel on Kip, one of the greatest characters to grace the screen. )
2005 – 2010:
Ferrell, Vaughn, Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, John C. Reilly, Paul Rudd
Ferrell continued his decade long dominance with 5.5 hits: Step Brothers, Semi Pro, Other Guys, Blades of Glory, Talladega Nights and Wedding Crashers. Will gets .5 for Crashers because he was only in a couple scenes, but stole the show with a line that still gets quoted to this day whenever someone yells at their mom, or I guess talks about meatloaf.
Will brought his friend John C Reilly to new heights as well, producing a 3 score with Step Brothers, Talladega Nights, and Walk Hard.
While Will kept knocking out hits, it seemed like the funny man baton was being passed on to Seth Rogan and Jonah Hill who had 4.5 & 2.5 hit comedies respectively. The duo did the legendary Superbad together as well as Knocked up. Rogan added Pineapple Express, 40 Year Old Virgin and Zach and Miri Make a Porno (.5) to his resume and still funny Fat Jonah Hill did the underrated Get Him to the Greek.
Vince Vaughn was at the tail end of his hit making career, but went out with a bang with Wedding Crashers sandwiched between The Break up, Couples Retreat (.5), and Fred Claus (.5) bringing his hit total for the period to 3.
I am inclined to bring Paul Rudd into the conversation here because he was REALLY GOOD during these years. Not “absolutely incredible leading man shit”, but very good, scoring a 3 with the awesome I Love You Man followed by Role Models, and then solid supporting roles in 40 year Old Virgin and Anchorman (.5 each). Also, scene alone gets him on the list no matter what.
How many of his friends call him “Sex Panther Paul”? I hope all of them.
Honorable Mention Actors: Jason Segal had 2 great flicks in Forgetting Sarah Marshall & I Love You Man, but would be most known for his TV show How I met Your Mother. Sacha Baron Cohen brought his TV characters Borat and Bruno to the big screen. Zach Galifianakis Quarterbacked the insanely successful The Hangover, and delivered a solid yet underwhelming movie with Robert Downey Jr. in Due Date: 2 points. The only reason I say underwhelming is because these are 2 of my favourite actors of all time and my expectations were way too unrealistic. Like, The Godfather unrealistic.
Other Notable Hilarious Films: Waiting, Grandmas Boy, Beerfest, Tropic Thunder, Kick Ass, Hot Tub Time Machine.
Rogan, Hill, Kevin Hart, Galifianakis, Melissa McCarthy, Kirsten Wig, Channing Tatum
This is where is gets murky. A whole lot of “meh” movies during this time, with a decent amount of good actors, but nobody making dem’ hits!
Rogan & Jonah keep the comedy belt, but that’s simply because nobody stepped up to take it from them post 2013. Jonah realized he is actually a hell of an actor and started doing Oscar nominated dramas, but kept coming back to his roots, putting out 4 hits with 21 Jump Street, 22 Jump Street, This is The End, and the Wolf of Wall Street. Side note: This is The End I don’t think gets nearly enough credit, especially with Michael Cera playing fucked up Michael Cera
Rogan was solid again scoring a 4 with Neighbors, The Night Before, This is the End, Neighbors 2, and The Interview (.5 for the last two).
Galifianakis kept the Hangover franchise going with 2 (great) and 3 (only .5), as well as finally teaming up with Will Ferrell with the hil-freaking-larious The Campaign, scoring a 2.5 total. To this day I am still waiting for Zach G. to take over comedy movies. Between Two Ferns is some of the funniest material I have seen in my life. He’s funny even when he is just standing there, looking at the camera. Give this man a top notch supporting cast and some scripts god damn it!
Kevin Hart put out 1,283 movies and is no doubt a funny dude but lets be honest, will Ride Along, Think Like a Man, Get Hard, the Wedding Ringer, or Central Intelligence be quoted for years to come? Probably not. I give all of those .5, putting Kevin at 2.5.
Melissa McCarthy found huge commercial success with Bridesmaids, Identity Theft, Spy, The Heat, Ghostbusters and Tammy, but only Bridesmaids from that list will resonate for years; she gets a 3.5.
Kristen Wiig is a very funny woman, but besides Bridesmaids & Ghostbusters she only has small supporting roles in Zoolander 2 & Anchorman 2. 2.5 points
Channing Tatum became the everyone’s favourite loveable meathead in 21 & 22 Jump Street and threw in Hail Caesar!,& Magic Mike (is this a comedy? I Sure as hell hope so for a male stripper movie. Haven’t seen it. Someone weigh in). 3 points.
Honorable Mention Actors: Mark Wahlberg needs to get a shout out for his comedy career in general. During this period he did Ted, Pain & Gain and Daddy’s Home. Super underrated in I Heart Huckabee’s and The Other Guys. Jason Sudekis: We’re the Millers, Hall Pass. Jason Bateman: Centrl Intelligence, Bad Words, Identity Theft
Other Notable Hilarious Films: Goon, Project X, Deadpool, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Trainwreck, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.
Will Ferrell: 9.5
Seth Rogan: 8.5
Vince Vaughn: 7
Jonah Hill 6.5
Jim Carrey: 6.5
Mike Myers: 6
Zach Galifianakis: 4.5
Adam Sandler: 4.5
Ben Stiller: 4.5
Melissa McCarthy: 3.5
Paul Rudd: 3
John C. Reilly: 3
Channing Tatum: 3
Kevin Hart: 2.5
Kirsten Wiig: 2.5
The movies above by anyone not named Hill or Rogan from 2011 (especially since 2013) are simply underwhelming. History typically has a few people ready to take the crown, but the King of Comedy Film is as confusing as the rightful King in Game Of Thrones. Maybe Kit Harrington should start telling jokes?
SO WHAT HAPPENED!?!
I have some theories…
Studios Are Cock Blocking
Hollywood is getting WAY too much about the bottom line. Sequels, part 3’s, and remakes are all too common because they figure it’s a formula that has already worked. Did you guys know they remade Rush Hour (cancelled after 7 episodes), Lethal Weapon, & Training Day TV series ALL IN THE SAME YEAR! That is INSANE. These guys get hundreds of scripts a day, and THAT is the best we get?
Studios are also leaning on animation and kid-friendly “comedies” as they are pure money makers. Take a look at the top 5 grossing comedies from 2015:
2.) Pitch Perfect 2
3.) Hotel Transylvania 2
4.) The SpongeBob movie
5.) The Peanuts Movie
These films combined to gross a billion dollars in 2015 alone. So yeah, we get it, kids movies work. Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, the most successful comedy actors of their generation, teamed up to make Get Hard, which made 72 Million dollars less in 2015 than the top 4 on that list. Sometimes the math just makes sense for the studio, and art takes a back seat.
Comedy found it’s home on the small screen.
The problem with trying to do a blockbuster comedy is that you’re forcing an intricate plot amongst a bunch of jokes. Some directors and producers feel the need to make a “larger than life” comedy (see: The Heat, Masterminds) which can be fine, but generally isn’t needed. What makes a good comedy? Solid actors, situations that let those actors thrive, and obviously home run jokes. If you find the right formula it makes more sense to spread it out amongst numerous season instead of competing against Super Hero’s CGI, Oscar flicks, and bad Rotten Tomatoes / IMDB ratings. Comedies notoriously get ROASTED on the ratings sites. Wedding Crashers & Old School only got 7 each. SEVEN! Billy Madison & Ace Ventura got a 6… come on.
Some of today’s funniest comedic concepts have just found more success with TV. The Office, Louie, Parks and Rec, Eastbound and Down, Atlanta, The League.
It’s a Politically Correct World
We live in an extremely sensitive society these days. You can’t sneeze without offending someone to the core. Even just a decade ago, writers and actors could get away with a lot more without worrying about some group on the internet trying to ruin their career. I mean, could Sacha Baron Cohen make Bruno or Borat today without substantially more backlash? The Ace Ventura franchise never would have been made in 2017 due to animal cruelty concerns. No chance.
Writers, actors and studios have this extra level of concern due to extreme public criticism. Seth Rogan and James Franco had their movie The Interview PULLED FROM THEATERS due to threats. Now albeit those threats came in the form of North Korean war and not a 13 year old typing on a computer in their basement, but still.
Comedic talent pool has taken power away from the studios
Young people are also consuming content, especially comedy, much differently than 10 years ago. YouTube & social media stars have grown substantially and the talent pool is a lot bigger. Everyday funny people now have numerous platforms to easily record and upload their videos. Sketch comedy has become big business. Young comedians can spend a few hundred bucks to bring their ideas to life and the famous ones generate millions of views through instagram, twitter, YouTube, and vine (RIP) as opposed to going through miles of red tape, executives, and needing a 20 million dollar budget for a solid professional film. It just makes more sense for the young, funny actors to reach their fans directly.
All in all, these are just theories.
Maybe I am just sad that Will Ferrell is past his prime. Maybe I’m 30 and have turned into the “turn that god damn music down” type of person out of touch with the youth. Maybe Kevin Hart’s movies are all actually hilarious… (cut to reader shaking their head). Or… maybe I am right and it’s the 4th quarter with 5 seconds left down by one… and everyone is still looking around for someone to step up and score. Who’s going to tell us “I got this”?