Wednesday, February 20, 2013


This response is meant to be very reflective. Consider how the reading and lecture talked about how comic performances can have various layers that you recognize while watching: the character, the actor as character, the actor as someone you've seen before. How do these layers contribute to or impact your experience of the film and particular scenes?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Anarchic Comedy in The Big Lebowski

The scene in The Big Lebowski that introduces the character of Jesus is a great example of anarchic comedy. The scene is performance orientated and removes itself from the narrative of the story. Additionally, the style in which it is shot differs greatly from the rest of the scene. The character almost gets his own "music video" to perform in as he is introduced. The film also has other moments in which the narrative is forgotten for the sake of comedy in the dream sequences that Lebowski has throughout the film.

Freddy got fingered: Anarchic Comedy

This Comedy from Tom Green is new age example of an Anarchic Comedy. Tom Green plays a cartoonist whose career is going nowhere quick so he comes up with a plan to reach success using his brother. In this clip of the funniest moments from the movie you can see why its movie may not be popular in the theaters  but became a cult classic!

Monty Python

Monty Python in general is a good example of Anarchic comedy because of its non stop jokes and comedy gags. In this particular scene, King Arthur is disrupted on their journey for the Holy Grail and challenged by a Black Knight to a dual. This scene, and the entire movie, is not meant to be taken seriously and is a play on a series of comic gags, and exaggeration.

Father's Day at Children's Hospital

Children's Hospital is a TV series by David Wain. It follows a group of doctors working at a...Children's Hospital. The show is highly anarchic, containing several random physical gags that have nothing to do with the preceding scene in every episode. The clip I have selected shows the group at their apartment, talking about their plans for Father's Day. The conversation then turns into a class on similes and metaphors.

Clip starts at 2:08.

Scrub's Daydreams

These are some of the clips that happen when the protagonist J.D. from Scrubs has his daydreams. He is a textbook anarchic character because he constantly flies off the narrative storyline to show comic relief. Similar to the animated series, Family Guy, Scrubs uses its cut scenes to really emphasize that this show is a comedy. Many of the daydreams that J.D. has occur when someone has a ridiculous statement or analogy and he just visualizes in his own way. Though much of the story happens actually in the hospital in Scrubs, most of the comedy comes from the anarchic style created in J.D.'s head.

Hot Shots!

Anarchic comedy emphasizes affective immediacy, keeping the audience engaged from the first scene to the last scene usually through comic gags. This type of comedy utilizes recognizable performers, and highlights individual performances rather than narrative development. The film Hot Shots! Is a great example of anarchic comedy. Hot Shots! is a 1991 comedy parody film starring Charlie Sheen, a very popular and recognizable actor.This film carries the same comedic characteristics as Airplane!, and primarily spoofs the 1986 film Top Gun,but also uses material from various films such as Rocky, Superman, and Terminator to name a few. The plot centers around an unstable fighter pilot attempting to overcome the disgrace of his father's past, and complete a mission to attack an Iraqi nuclear plant. The film's narrative, in alignment with anarchic comedies, lacks in development and is pieced together through separate comedic performances which lead to an absurd, and rather appropriate, shoot-out ending. The following are examples of the comedic bits that keep the story line progressing:

Key and Peele and Gender

This clip from the first episode of Key and Peele presents an interesting way to talk about gender and comedy.

Mommmmm......The meatloaf

In this clip from the movie "the Wedding Crashers" we can see how the narrative is being disrupted by Will Ferrell's character. This is one of the most funny moments from this moment but irrelevant as well. It is clearly a comedy but it has nothing to do with the narrative or the story. The clip shows how John (Owen Wilson) is talking to Chazz (Will Ferrell) but Chazz keeps interrupting the conversation. He is constantly screaming to his mom to bring some meatloaf ( Min 1:20, 2:45, 3:55) in a childish behavior, not proper for someone of his age. The interruptions makes this clip an example of disruption of the narrative , but a really hilarious one.

Jim Carrey Dumb & Dumber Movie Clip - The Most Annoying Sound in the World

Jim Carrey/ Jeff Daniels Dumb and Dumber Move Clip "Most Annoying Sound in the World."

This movie clip was taken from the movie "Dumb and Dumber where both Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels play the characters Lloyd and Harry. Both of them are in a van shaped as a dog and proceeds to pick up "one of the other character." who is trying to go after them.  However, both Lloyd and Harry thinks that the person is a hitchhiker and explains that they don't pick up hitchhikers. But they pick him up anyways. So, both of them entertain the other person by first playing game called "You're It." Then, both Lloyd and Harry makes a weird shrieking noise that annoys the heck out of the guy. Finally, the person requests to turn on the radio but both Harry and Lloyd doesn't have one. Therefore, both tell the person, we'll sing to you instead and the song they both sing is "Mocking Bird." made as a comedy. Hopefully this fits has an example of "Anarchic Comedy."

Two Scenes of Spectator Address

Here is the opening sequence of Fatty & Mabel Adrift:

Here is the movie queue scene from Annie Hall:

Shake-a-spear in love

Scary Movie (2000) is a spoof on the numerous teen slasher films that came out around the mid-late 90’s. The movie follows the same plot line of Scream/ I know what you did last summer by having a group of teens hunted down and murdered. In this scene Brenda and Ray head to the movie theater for a date, Ray leaves to go to the restroom and leaves Brenda in the theater by herself. Brenda begins to ruin the other moviegoers experience by doing all the things that should not be done during the movie. Unknowingly to Brenda the killer sits right beside her. The Anarchic comedy starts when the audience starts to murder Brenda instead of the killer. Some of these audience members include a Rabbi, a Buddhist monk, and the Pope.

Anchorman Fight Scene

This fight scene (and its aftermath) may be an example of "narrative enclosures" characteristic of current Comedian Comedies as described by Drake (citing Seidman).

In Anchorman, I think there is also a broader cultural referencing going on, beyond that of the individual performers. For example, another narrative enclosure might be this impromptu harmonizing:

Anchorman is thus providing broader pleasures of "retro" comedy, where there is pleasure in laughing at 70s music as well as network news (not to mention fashion and hair styles).

Three Stooges on the Jersey Shore

The quality of this clip is terrible (it is recorded off someone's TV screen) but it is an interesting example of "intertexts" and different registers of comic performance. Of course, there is also a major  twist on "comedian comedy" since these aren't or can't be the "real" or original Three Stooges. It is, however, the real Jersey Shore cast.

Ferris Bueller Day Off Twist And Shout

This is the scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off that the three friends are at the parade while skipping school and instead of trying to lay low Ferris decides to make the most of his day and ends up singing on one of the floats in the middle of the parade. His performance appears to be at random along with the people dancing down the steps, the construction workers on the scaffolding, and Ferris' father in his office. The rules of skipping school don't apply in this scene, keeping a low profile has gone out the window and it becomes much more about having fun that not getting caught.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Drake - Additional Visuals

Example of Presentational Mode of Performance

In this episode of Martin, the main character Martin, addresses the live audience and viewers at home watching directly, who are all in on the joke. By doing this, Martin is colorfully bringing attention to the fictionality of the moment, which is best captured at the 1:28.

Look at me perform! 

In a different episode of Martin, Martin is losing his case in court and goes to drastic measures to get out of it. In this scene he is not only performing for people watching live and at home but for the "extras" and other actors of the series. In our textbook, Drake uses the example of Jim Carrey's performance in Liar Liar, which also took place in a courtroom. Both scenes demonstrate how characters are given time and space to perform for an audience. For the Martin clip, this is best captured at 53 seconds, and for the Carrey clip, this is best captured from 11 seconds to a minute. Also note, that the extra actors in both clips react in astonishment to the behaviors of the star performer. Drake believes the background actors react this way to motivate narrative and to react as if they are committed to conventions of classical realism.

Low Blows? Theorizing Performance in post-classical comedian comedy

Drake's main argument: Analysis of performance in comedian comedy adds depth to concept and can be used to understand performances of other genres

Understanding Performance

  • Graham Thompson - "mode of assessment," textual/character/actor interaction with audience
  • Performer first → Actor (recognized as celebrity, previous roles) → code/conventions (performance style, genre, typecasting)
  • Multiple semantic frames
  • Special decoding skill, specific to culture
Post Classical Comediam Comedy
  • Steve Seidman - "comedian comedy"
  • Centered on actors
  • Acknowledges role of comedian 
  • Opposition v. Hollywood
Performance and Narrative Motivation 
  • Comic performance - mode of performance 
  • Comedy performance - context/situation makes it funny
  • Loose narrative, logical justification 
    • Nutty Professor & Me, Myself, and Irene
  • Scenes for space "Look at me perform!"
    • Liar, Liar & Martin
  • Presentational mode of performance
    • SNL & In Living Color 
Physical Comedy, Ostentation, and Pastiche 
  • Jim Carrey - The Mask 
    • Cocobongo Club scene 
  • Autonomous - Bracketed sequence of performance, internal audience 
  • Integrated - Performance subject to narrative
  • Coherence holds little power 
Body Comedy and Cultural Value
  • Excessive v. Praised 
    • Low, dumbed down 
  • Social Disruption 
  • Quotation and intertextuality 
    • "Alrighty then!" - The Cable Guy/Ace Ventura
  • Laughter depends on orientation 
  • Audience witnesses/conspirators 
Dumbness of film less important then recognition of performer and references to his or her star image. 

Never Had A Friend Like Me

In Disney's Aladdin, the Genie is voiced by Robin Williams, who rarely lacks for something to say. This scene is when Aladdin rubs the lamp and is first introduced to the Genie, which takes more than 4 minutes. This is something that probably could be done rather quickly but Robin Williams takes hold of the reins and we are off on a raucous ride into his amazing imagination.  Much of the anarchy is displayed in what Robin Williams references in his self-introduction. A microphone, Groucho Marx and Duck Soup, Arnold Schwarzenegger and tuxedos are just a few examples of his explosive personality that do not fit within the context of the movie.

Monty Python-The Black Knight

The Monty Python group has made many movies, films and skits most of which could be described as anarchic comedy.  One of the most recognizable examples is from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the black knight scene:

In this clip alone they have purposeful continuity errors for comedy, as well as the more obvious immortal black knight who wants to keep fighting.  If you watch the green knight, before King Arthur introduces himself, you will see he keeps pulling different weapons out of thin air.  This continuity "error" makes for a pretty entertaining fight scene.  As for the immortal warrior, the audience generally expects to see someone die when they get all their limbs cut off.  But instead we see Monty Python ignoring this general rule to have the feisty knight try and continue to fight, despite being severely outmatched. 

-Travis Cantwell 

High Fidelity, High Anarchy

Rob Gordon (John Cusack) is on a mission.  As the record store-owning, chain-smoking, emotionally disheveled protagonist in 2000’s High Fidelity, he is determined to understand just exactly what has gone wrong in all of his past, highly unsuccessful relationships.  He goes on a very unusual odyssey, deciding to dig through his past to find the answer.  He begins what promises to be a very bumpy ride by narrowing his past romantic debacles down the Top 5 Most Painful Breakups.  He tracks down and meets up with all five of his former flames, and it results in some very unusual revelations for Rob.  But more significantly, his Top 5 trek has been inspired by the breakup of his most recent relationship to Laura.  Apparently, Rob’s former gal pal has had no problem moving on with ex-neighbor Ian (Tim Robbins).  Having found out that Laura is now shacking up with Ian, Rob has been calling at all hours and stalking her outside of their building.  So, Ian shows up to confront Rob to ask him to stop his obsessive behavior.  This scene, apart from being the movie’s most hilarious (and surreal) moment, is an excellent example of anarchic comedy.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Austin Powers - THE MOLE

The Mike Myers' film, Austin Powers: Goldmember, is a great example of anarchic comedy. In the movie, Austin Powers is on a time travel mission, with the help of Foxxy Cleopatra, to save his kidnapped father from Dr. Evil, Mini me, and Goldmember. The plot itself is somewhat realistic, but the jokes, phrases, and variations of characters portrayed by Myers is what make the film hilarious. The scene in the clip above is the infamous mole scene. Austin Powers and Dr. Evil are so  fascinated with the huge mole on one of the detective's face that the narrative stops for a minute in order for both characters to pay close attention and make make jokes about it. The clip at the 3:09 mark is the funniest! 

The Muppets Have Cabin Fever

The song sequence "Cabin Fever" from the movie Muppet Treasure Island is a good example of anarchic comedy. The movie itself is a comedic retelling of the classic story Treasure Island originally written by Robert Louis Stevenson. Some time after setting sail for the island the wind dies down leaving the ship to drift on the waves and make little progress. Most of the crew and passengers have a temporary fit of insanity while the plot is unable to progress.  

Although there are other songs in the movie this one stands out as being particularly anarchic. It comes out of nowhere and has no connection with the main plot. It could be cut from the movie entirely and not make a difference. The song itself is almost schizophrenic in the way it changes musical styles and there is some breaking of the fourth wall. After the song is over the characters involved seem befuddled and want to deny it ever happened.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Criticize, Criticize, Criticize!

The following movie Django Unchained, is about a freed slave who has agreed to help a bounty hunter search for his next bounty, the Brittle brothers. In return, the bounty hunter agrees to help Django find his wife who is “property” of a very unforgiving and relentless plantation owner. In the following scene, “Big Daddy” and his crew are after Django for creating havoc. Throughout the entire movie, the main characters all have small, quirky jabs in some of their lines, but this scene takes the cake for the funniest scene in the movie. It is an anarchistic scene due to the fact that it essentially has nothing to do with the movie, momentarily pausing the narrative. The scene portrays a mob ready to attack the unsuspecting Django and bounty hunter, but it seems as though the mob is not as prepared as they seem when they turn into a group of whiners. They comically complain about how nobody can see out of their eye holes and how the wife who made them only had one job and she could not even do that correctly. The scene is hilarious and unexpected, and portrays Quentin Tarantino’s style as a film producer perfectly.


                If anarchic comedy, as described by Jenkins, is nothing more than cheap jokes having nothing to do with the narrative of the story, than the movie Freddy Got Fingered is a perfect example. The overall “plot” of the movie, if you could call it one, is how Freddy’s (Tom Green) parents want him to go out and get a job to better himself. However in this scene, Freddy has strung up sausages throughout the room and tied the other ends of the strings to his fingers so that the sausages go up and down as he bangs on a keyboard chanting, “Sausages. Sausages…” This has nothing to do with the narrative, and is thus anarchic comedy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Date Movie

The following movie that I’ve analyzed titled Date Movie (2006) is a movie about a love story that is mixed in with a compilation of romantic films into one, but making it into a comedy.  As an example of an anarchistic scene, Grant Funkyerdoder takes Julia Jones into a jewelry store and she is stunned. Not knowing what had hit her, he pulls out a ring and proposes to her which she obviously says yes. However as soon that part of the scene was over, anarchic comedy takes over and brings in “The Lord of the Rings.” Frodo begins to walk up to the jeweler to sell the one ring to rule all and Gandalf is shocked that Frodo wants to do this. Frodo still went on to sell the ring regardless of Gandalf’s approval and had only made 50 bucks. Gandalf then complains to Frodo that he’s making a big mistake, but Frodo not having a care in the world quickly goes up to Gandalf telling him to “Screw off Wizard!” making a move to kick him in the nether regions continuously. Frodo then looking very flamboyant tells Sam “Let’s go get some wine coolers and strippers” and they run off. Gandalf then mimics the famous Smeagol line by yelling “My Precious!” as he holds his jewels helplessly on the ground.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Blazing Saddles and The French Mistake

Blazing Saddles (1974) is a Mel Brooks film about a corrupt political boss named Hedley Lamarr who appoints a black sheriff in order to ruin a small western town.  As one could expect from a typical Mel Brooks film, it is full of gags and shticks throughout the entire movie.  However, there is one scene in particular towards the end of the film that goes on a complete anarchistic tangent that brings the actual narrative to a sudden halt. This scene follows a huge town-wide brawl as it makes its way from the original set of the film to a completely different set in Hollywood altogether.  What this clip doesn't show is that this scene doesn't simply end here, but rather goes on a chaotic rampage through many other different sets of would-be films.  I personally feel like this is still one of the most classic examples of an anarchistic scene in Hollywood history.

Spaceballs- ludacris speed

The film Spaceballs (1987) is an example of anarchic comedy. The movie is a parody of Star Wars that has a story line of the rescue of a princess and the battle between Lone Starr and Lord Dark Helmet who wants to steal the air supply of Planet Druidia for his own planet. The movie’s main story line is interrupted by the crazy antics and comedy scenes throughout the movie. The video clip shows the scene when Lord Dark Helmet chases Lone Star in his spaceship. In order to catch the runaway Lone Starr, Lord Helmet orders his ship’s leader, Colonel Sanders to move by past light speed and move to Ludacris speed.

Airplane! - "Anarchic Comedy"

This is the movie Airplane! (1980).  A former fighter pilot with, what is probably supposed to be, PTSD is tasked with landing a commercial airliner when the flight crew is stricken with food poisoning mid-flight and is now incapacitated.  The entire film film feels like it is motored by the series of gags, one-liner zings, and outrageous context and wordplay in every scene.  The particular scenes that are my favorite start at 05:38 of the clip.  Immediately, just after asking if anyone aboard the flight can fly a plane, the entire passenger section goes completely berserk.  People from different faiths are seen trying to choke each other out, and two guys begin sword fighting.  At 07:00, a woman begins to have a panic attack/nervous breakdown on the flight, and the fligth attendant tries to get the woman to pull herself together.  Another man tries to help by excusing the attendant and proceeds to shake the woman and slaps her.  The doctor, who is standing in the aisle directly behind the man, excuses the man and asserts his aid.  The doctor proceeds to violently shake the woman and strikes her with an increased amount of force.  The camera soon reveals a very long line of passengers in the aisle waiting for their turn to "help" with woman regain control of herself. 


Monday, February 11, 2013

I'm not a Bum, I'm a Jerk

The Jerk (1976) is a film starring Steve Martin is about his character exploring the world beyond his roots, in pursuit of becoming somebody. The performance from Steve Martin results in immediate results of laughter.  The clip immediately revealing that Navin's information had been published in the new phone book. The entire film has you thinking you can't be that absurdly ridiculous, and live day to day; and somehow Navin does. It makes absolute no sense but is incredibly gut busting hilarious. The film's nonsensical nature is what finds itself being categorized as anarchic comedy.

The Sweetest Thing Movie Montage

The video below is a clip from the movie The Sweetest Thing which displays anarchic comedy. In this part of the movie, Christina and Courtney find themselves in a situation where they are in need of dresses for a wedding that is minutes away. In this scene they found the only dress shop in town waiting in the dressing room analyzing their bodies waiting for the shop owner to bring in some dresses for them to try on. When she drops off the dresses, the girls look over the dress and declare a "movie montage" This is an example of anarchic comedy because this comic performance disrupts the narrative of dwelling on their body images and panicking about finding a dress. The characters completely stop their narrative story and move into a "blast from the past" moment where they try on outfits from the 70's, 80's and 90's such as Grease, Pretty Woman, and Dumb & Dumber. It is a performance that does not relate to the scene or purpose of the movie.(I apologize for the foreign subtitles.)

Paul Rudd is Really Lazy

In this clip from Wet Hot American Summer, Paul Rudd plays a lazy camp counselor who is asked to clean up a mess by the camp director. It’s only a plate and a few utensils that he’s tossed to the ground, but he claims that he “doesn’t have time right now.” When he reluctantly gets started, he flails around in an exaggerated manner, dropping more items and having to pick them up again...and this goes on for a good 40 seconds. Humor is found in the huge deal he makes out of the situation, but it adds nothing to the narrative. Furthermore, no reason is even given for him throwing his things off the table in the first place.

Duck Soup as Anarchic Comedy

In the clip below, we see one of the first scenes with Groucho Marx as Rufus T. Firefly, engaged in conversation with the aristocratic Mrs. Teasdale played by Margaret Dumont. To describe this clip as a conversation is's more like a string of jokes with Mrs. Teasdale setting up Firefly's wisecracks. Still, it advances the narrative (or what excuse there is for one) because it establishes Mrs. Teasdale's romantic availability, as well as the ridiculousness (danger?) of Firefly as leader of the country.

Essentially, throughout the film there are comic disruptions to the narrative, which serve almost as separate comic performances to highlight the Marx Bros. The narrative strings together these "bits", leading to a climactic shootout with a nonsensical (and therefore appropriate) ending. Musicals were another genre that shares characteristics with the anarchic comedy in the sense that separate "numbers" are linked together by narrative. Duck Soup has its own brand of "anarchic musical" segment, seen here:

Last Year's Midterm???

In the interest of experimenting to find the best way to teach and learn about screen comedy, I am posting here last year's midterm exam questions. Will they be the same this year? Probably not, not exactly anyway. But these are the sort of connections you will be expected to make. Have a look, and do so quickly, because this probably won't stay up long...

1. Seidman suggests that “Comedian Comedy” films mediate between the tradition of entertainment spectacle and narrative protocols adopted from drama and the novel because the audience experiences presentational moments or sequences in the midst of the predominantly representational mode. Elaborate on what this means by referring to the Seidman reading and specific textual examples from Duck Soup. (Note: the Introduction to the Hollywood Comedians reader may also be helpful.)

2. Explain the difference between genteel comedy and anarchic comedy. Mathew Arnold and Mikhail Bakhtin present very different views on what constitutes “culture.” How might anarchic comedy be compared to Baktin’s “culture of the marketplace”? Why would Mathew Arnold prefer “genteel” comedy to anarchic comedy? You must refer to Jenkins on anarchic comedy and Stott on Bakhtin and Arnold at least once each.

3. Despite having its share of silly behavior, Bridesmaids does not easily fit within the screwball comedy genre like Bringing Up Baby. Why not? Draw upon definitions of screwball comedy from Neale and Krutnick and use specific textual examples from each film.

4. Referring to Stott and specific textual examples from the film, why might we understand Chaplin in City Lights as a “clown” figure rather than stereotype, trickster, or wit? Explain how the film’s plot and theme (or its text and subtext) have to do with various struggles over power.