The Comedy Movie Rule

How many time has this happened to you? You are in a public place with friends, co-workers or even folks who are trying to get to know each other and someone brings up a line from a movie. For the next 10 minutes everyone is rolling with belly-laughs at lines from comedy movie that you saw, but didn’t enjoy. And during that time, you are looking at the crowd in a new way. The following might apply in this situation:

  1. Friends: You think they are nuts and wonder how you became friends to begin with
  2. Co-workers: Decide that there is clearly some gap in your relationship (age, gender, social status or just sense of humor) and that pursuing a friendship is out of the question
  3. Ice Breaker Strangers: Decide to move to another area of the party in the hopes that you will be able to share something in common
  4. All: Wonder what is wrong with you and why you aren’t getting the joke

Now these thoughts might just be fleeting for a few seconds, but it happens. I noticed that it seems to happen to me more with comedies than any other movie. So what is the issue?  For me, I tend to watch a movie to get a sense of the plot first, many times, I won’t even know the names of the characters until half-way through the film. I can’t explain it but that happens to me. Once I am comfortable with the plot, I usually will start filling in the other parts, which might be action scenes or comedy bits. If I don’t buy the plot or respect the movie, I usually will not enjoy the humor in it.  That is until I kick in the rule for comedy movies:

What is the comedy rule?

It is very simple. You gotta watch a comedy twice. Or more to the point, “I” have to watch a comedy twice before I even feel qualified to comment on it. It doesn’t count if it is a “romantic comedy”, that has its own rules, usually involving things like “don’t eat or drink anything 20 minutes beforehand”.

First time through:

  1. Watch it and try to get the basic premise of the plot, knowing that it will most likely be disappointing
  2. Catch the names of characters, references and any obvious jokes or themes

Second time through:

  1. Enjoy the humor
  2. Look for all the subtle things you missed, like a recurring theme or situation

I will wander into an HBO movie months later from when I originally rented a movie and find myself saying “I don’t remember that gag, that was really funny.” How did I miss it? I don’t know, I just can’t seem to pick it up in a single viewing. Any other movie besides a comedy doesn’t seem to pose this problem, but it must be the fact that the humor is in opposition to the plot.  The plot goes one way, and the character’s intentions are aiming in that same direction, but the humor takes him or her to a completely different place.

An Alternate way to do it in the first viewing:

  • Watch the first 20 – 30 minutes of the movie
  • Rewind it and begin the movie again (saves time, but you can catch the plot in the first 20 minutes and then the humor will come easier

This also works for me. I might start a movie and then my wife or sibling comes in and I start the movie over.  Suddenly the second time, it is immediately funny to me.  So if I ever recommend a movie to you that is a comedy, the unwritten rule is that I expect that you will watch it twice. Give it a try for any movie that you saw only once and said “That was just dumb” Some candidates that took me multiple viewings:

  • Get Smart
  • Wedding Craashers
  • I Love you, Man
  • Land of the Lost
  • The Big Lebowski (sorry, took me 3 viewings)
  • Quick Change (it on my Honorable list)

Ones that seem to still not work and I won’t give it a third viewing:

  • You Don’t Mess with the Zohan

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