Squawk Radio

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Xtina Dodd asks WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH?

Have you ever watched the funniest sit-com on television and thought, “Huh?”

Me, too — but I’m talking about Seinfeld. Which one are you talking about?


Have you ever quoted one of your favorite movies and had the person you’re with stare at you like you’ve spouted horns? “WHAT is your favorite color?” isn’t funny unless you’ve seen the film.

You know how couples have one movie that mean a lot to them? Something romantic? Something meaningful? Something which colors the whole relationship forever? For my husband and I, it’s BLAZING SADDLES, the sublimely stupid, slightly incoherent classic cowboy movie spoof. Hey, it’s a ground-breaking movie!



Okay, it’s a ground-breaking movie because it contains the first fart heard in cinema (“The Fart Heard ‘Round the World”), but what can I say? We think it’s funny. We think Mel Brooks is funny. Not always — he’s done some wretched movies, but YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN and THE PRODUCERS (the original movie made in 1968 and the recent musical) are sublime.

We have friends who think Mel Brooks is so stupid, they went to see BLAZING SADDLES twice — once on their own and once, forgetting they’d seen it, on our recommendation. They, um, thought the movie was crude. And they think Mel Brooks is insulting. To, um, black people and white people and brown people and old women and cowboys and the Irish and Nazis and Jews and women with large breasts and men with large penises and the KKK and gays and bad musicals and — Methodists! That’s sort of the point, and they knew that, but they were offended anyway — because his movies don’t make them laugh.

Okay.

Then there’s MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, which we adore. (“WHAT is your favorite color?”) In my family, cutting yourself with a kitchen knife involves saying, “It’s only a flesh wound,” right before crumpling to the floor in a dead faint. But I do know there are people who don’t think see the humor in the knights who only pretend to be riding while their squire runs behind them making the hoof noises with coconut shells.



What doesn’t make us laugh? My husband and I rented RAISING ARIZONA and watched about half of it in profound silence before turning to each other and saying, “This isn’t funny. These are our relatives.” I told that to another friend who said, “They’re my relatives, too. That’s why it’s so funny!” We were uncomfortable. She was amused.



She thinks the Coen Brothers are wonderful. A fight between two knights where one gets his arms and legs chopped off with cheesy special effects makes me laugh. Someone putting a body through a log chipper does not.

Humor is not universal. There’s no explaining what works for one person and what doesn’t for another. There’s no changing it. If you don’t like the “right” kind of comedy, people with high opinions of themselves will try to tell you you’re wrong. If you laugh at fart jokes, people will make fun of you. If you think black comedies are depressing, people will try to educate you as to why you should think they’re funny. I know. It’s happened to me.

And I insist on enjoying the movies I think are funny, and I’m not going to defend myself for laughing at that scene in THE NAKED GUN where Frank sings the national anthem before a baseball game, and he’s off-tune and forgets the words. Oo, and remember the scene where the bad guy gets knocked off the bleachers, flattened by a steam roller, and the high school band marches over him playing, “Louie, Louie?” Hysterical!

Come to think of it, watching comedy like reading romances or eating Campbell’s Cream of Tomato soup. You’ve got two choices — you can defend your choices, or you can ignore the bastards and enjoy yourself.

So what makes you laugh? What doesn’t? What’s your favorite funny movie? Which one did you just not get?

And please, everyone, don’t try to explain why Seinfeld is funny — I’ve heard it all before.

Teresa, I’m talking to you.
Christina Dodd, 9:25 AM
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