The Comedy Canon: A Meme for You

By a rather substantial margin, Whatever readers have suggested that of the three other Rough Guide Movie books that were released with The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies, they would be most interested in seeing what The Canon for comedy films would be. I’ll get to the canons for the Horror and Gangster books later on, but now, without further ado, I now list The 50 Most Significant Comedy Films of All Time, as selected by Bob McCabe, author of The Rough Guide to Comedy Movies. They are, in alphabetical order:

Airplane!
All About Eve
Amelie
Annie Hall
The Apartment
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Blazing Saddles
Bringing Up Baby
Broadcast News
Caddyshack
Le diner de con
Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
Duck Soup
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Four Weddings and a Funeral
The General
Ghostbusters
The Gold Rush
Good Morning Vietnam
The Graduate
Groundhog Day
A Hard Day’s Night
His Girl Friday
Kind Hearts and Coronets
The Lady Killers
Local Hero
Manhattan
M*A*S*H
Monty Python’s Life of Brian
National Lampoon’s Animal House
The Odd Couple
The Producers
Raising Arizona
Roxanne
Rushmore
Shaun of the Dead
A Shot in the Dark
Some Like it Hot
Strictly Ballroom
Sullivan’s Travels
There’s Something About Mary
This is Spinal Tap
To Be or Not to Be
Tootsie
Toy Story
Les vacances de M. Hulot
When Harry Met Sally…
Withnail and I

For those of you want to make an online meme out of this, the idea is to put the list on your own blog/journal, bold the ones you’ve seen and put an asterisk next to the ones you own on DVD/video (I’ve personally left the list clean so people who copy it don’t have to unbold and unasterisk my selections). You can/should also add your own comments on the list and what you think of the films chosen, which I have done immediately below. Make sure to attribute the Canon correctly (to Bob McCabe and The Rough Guide to Comedy Movies). If you want to come back here and leave a link in the comment thread so that people can find your thoughts on the comedy canon, that’s just groovy by me.

Now for my analysis:

Films of the Canon I’ve seen: All of them, except for Le diner de con. This should not be entirely surprising as I have been a film critic for a decade and a half.

Films Whose Presence in the Canon I’m Particularly Gratified to See (pick up to five): Broadcast News, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Groundhog Day, Roxanne, Strictly Ballroom

Films in the Canon Whose Presence Should Not Be (pick up to five): Austin Powers, Dodgeball, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Rushmore, Shaun of the Dead

Films I’d Pick to Replace Them (pick up to five): Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip, Safety Last, A Fish Called Wanda, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Looney Tunes written by Michael Maltese and directed by Chuck Jones*

(* This deserves an explanation. Fact is, the vast majority of animated shorts up until the mid-1960s were produced to be shown in the theaters, and in my opinion the Jones-Maltese collaborations are the best of these. It’s also my opinion that Michael Maltese is one of the great comedy writers of the 20th Century, whose contributions to the genre are overlooked because a) he worked in animation, and b) much of his efforts are attributed to Jones, who directed most of the best shorts Maltese wrote (McCabe does a bit of this in the book by crediting the writing on What’s Opera, Doc? to Jones). This is no disrespect to Jones, of course. However, it’s a point of fact that his most memorable pieces were with Maltese, and that the two of them were better as a team than as individuals. However, it doesn’t look as if McCabe included any short comedy on his Canon list, much less animated shorts — which could be something to quibble with the Canon in itself.)

To go back to the films which should not be in the canon, I’m willing to concede Life of Brian and Rushmore, the former because I think it’s a matter of preference which Monty Python is better (or more representative), and Rushmore because I take as a given other people think more of Wes Anderson than I do (I find his work a bit nerveless). But Austin Powers is what you get when you remix Peter Sellers with a moron and both Dodgeball and Shaun of the Dead, while quite amusing, are the very model of minor comedy, neither particularly significant nor representative of anything much. If one had to replace them with movies similar in tone/era, I would substitute Wedding Crashers and the Evil Dead movies for Dodgeball and Shaun, and as for Austin Powers… hmm. There’s nothing quite like it recently, although that’s not an argument for its continued Canonicalosity, and no, that’s not a real word.

However, I grant that McCabe had a rather more difficult task formulating a comedy canon than I did formulating my science fiction canon, as comedy as a genre has far more movies in it — or at least far more significant movies — than science fiction does. On balance I think it’s a pretty good list, and with the exception of Philadelphia Story and Fish Called Wanda, it features most of my very favorite comedies. And in any event, as I noted with the Science Fiction Canon, these sort of lists are the beginnings of conversations about film, not the end of them.

Your thoughts?

59 thoughts on “The Comedy Canon: A Meme for You

  1. Some time I’ll have to make a writing blog, so that I can start playing with these memes.

    Until then, though, I do need to quibble (ah, the beauty of the internet) with your take on McCabe’s Canon. I think that Shaun of the Dead is this list’s The Incredibles. In 20 years, people are going to look back on these lists and realize how prescient they were about these two movies. I think both films are sublime examples of their genres, and will hold up very well over time. Also, I laughed so hard I cried during Shaun, which is generally what I look for in a comedy.

    K

  2. I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed the frequently-overlooked Mike Maltese. What a great comedy writer! I first took note of his existence when I read Chuck Jones’s wonderful autobiography _Chuck Amuck_. While Jones himself did not draw special attention to Maltese (in the book, he gave roughly equal praise to everyone he worked with), I noted that 8 out of my 10 favorite Chuck Jones cartoons had been written by Mike Maltese. So, yes, what a great collaboration. (BTW, is there a writer credit for “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, generally regarded as another Chuck Jones triumph?)
    “However, I grant that McCabe had a rather more difficult task formulating a comedy canon than I did formulating my science fiction canon, as comedy as a genre has far more movies in it.”

    Not merely more movies, but a much more expansive definition. I don’t know what the criteria were for inclusion (how funny vs. how influential vs. how good a film over all), but I’d have a hard time coming up with a list (or nitpicking McCabe’s) because I don’t see how to compare, say, “The Graduate” with “Ghostbusters”– they’re such different *kinds* of comedy.

  3. Paul Estin:

    “BTW, is there a writer credit for ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’, generally regarded as another Chuck Jones triumph?”

    Well, that’s Dr. Seuss, with some adapation help from Bob Ogle and Irv Spector.

  4. While I agree with you on Dodgeball – apart from the ‘amusing’ bit – I believe that if any comedy from the past 20 years deserves a place in the canon it’s Shaun Of The Dead.

    Possibly this is another example of the transatlantic divide whereby Americans seem to believe that Buffy The Vampire Slayer is somehow a worthy use of television airtime, and things like Queer As Folk get streamlined for US consumption by surgically excising everything interesting about them because that’s not what people Over There want on their TV.

  5. Oh, I see. I’m what’s wrong with America!

    Actually, though, I know people on this side of the drink that are mad for Shaun as well, so it may not entirely be a UK/US divide. And to be clear, I like the movie quite a bit. Just not enough to call it canonical, comedy-wise.

  6. People may find me a sophomoric fool for stating this but I still cannot fathom how ‘Dumb and Dumber’ is not on this list.

    Especially when ‘Dodgeball’ is.

    And where is ‘Pee Wee’s Big Adventure?’

  7. Oh, it’s true that there are no absolutes, but there seems to be a strong tendency for things with that largely undefinable Americanness to somewhat lack appeal for most Europeans, and vice versa. Ionno. I just thought Shaun of the Dead was absolutely fantastic, but at the same time also thought “this won’t play well in the US of A”.

  8. I agree with Elayne Riggs, and am completely surprised that Monty Python’s lesser comedy is listed and not the Holy Grail. Don’t get me wrong, Life of Brian is great, but it falls in the ‘not as great as’ category.

    What about It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World? What about the awesome The Court Jester?

    The listmaker in this case has much to answer for.

  9. Well, not to turn this into The Great Python Debate but I think “Brian” is the superior work. I think it’s more fun seeing them play with history, rather than see them just go COMPLETELY insane like in “Grail.” Really, there’s room on both here, just as there’s still room for “Young Frankenstein” even though Mel Brooks is well represented.

    No “The Jerk?” No “Blues Brothers?” Methinks the writer has something against SNL-derived movies. Granted, that’s perfectly reasonable in most cases, particularly after the initial cast got done with their victory laps … but those two are huge movies.

    I’d throw “Beverly Hills Cop” in as well.

  10. I am thrilled to see that “Raising Arizona” made the list. I’m always shocked at the number of people who have never even heard of the movie, so now maybe they’ll listen to me when I say that it’s one of the most brilliant movies ever produced.

    Even though I love “Spinal Tap,” I think if I had the opportunity, I’d trade it for “A Mighty Wind.” Christopher Guest really hit his stride with that film, but of course I understand that Spinal Tap defined the whole “mockumentary” genre. Not to mention everything it’s done for the number eleven.

  11. Comedy movie Canon

    Here is the list of the 50 most significant comedy films of all time, as selected by Bob McCabe, author of The Rough Guide to Comedy Movies. As per the meme started by John Scalzi I’ll give the list here,…

  12. Oh, Local Hero made the list. I might not agree with everything, but that certainly belongs on the list.

    I’ve never heard of The General – but I have The Inspector General with Danny Kaye. That or The Court Jester should be on there too.

  13. I am a fan of older movies so I was thrilled that such classics as Bringing Up Baby and The Lady Killers wern’t left out of a list that seems to focus on recent hits more that long-lasting classics. The film I’m most disappointed not to see on the list is Harvey.

  14. I’d go for Life of Brian as well. The scene where John Cleese as a Roman Centurion forces Brian to conjugate “Romans Go Home” is singly one of the most hilarious moments on film ever. It’s altogether a better movie, if not nearly as well known.

  15. If I had to choose, I would probably put Grail on the list ahead of Brian, only because it was the first time they did more than just rehash their TV sketches. But I don’t see why they both can’t be on the list.

    I would also put Young Frankenstein on the list, as well as The Princess Bride.

  16. Dodgeball is the absolute wrong Ben Stiller film to put on that list. Almost any other would be preferable, but arguments could be made for Meet the Parents and Zoolander in particular.

  17. While it warms me crusty old heart no end to see Ealing’s two greatest black comedies up there on the list, I gotta say: What no “Carry On”??? Ignoring the toss, an Up the Khyber or Screaming would easily whup weak or minor entries like Austin Powers and Shaun. One of the great British institutions, y’know – can’t say more canonical than that.

    FWIW I’d also tend towards Delicatessen rather than Amelie in the “What did the French ever do for us?” category – a terrific film in its own right and the latter’s spiritual daddy, if not as well known. Pretty stonking selection overall though.

  18. Life Of Brian may show more craftsmanship than Holy Grail, but on the other hand Holy Grail is memorably hilarious all the way through where Brian only intermittently manages to get off the ground, and is only quite funny where its brother is side-splitting.

    Four Weddings & A Funeral and The Graduate both seem a bit lost on this list – both feel more like dramas with a slightly absurdist bent than comedies as such. I can’t say I laughed at any point while watching either.

    Dodgeball is just plain inexplicable. While I appreciated the fact that there was a man who talked like a pirate, which was never quite explained or gone into with any detail, I couldn’t find anything else to like. An ironic self-mocking satire on parodic screwball comedy is just way too many levels of meta to actually work, particularly if no good lines, good characters, or good comedians are involved.

    If I had to pick something in the same general style and era to fill Dodgeball’s empty spot, I’d have to go with Anchorman.

  19. I’ll probably speculate on the comedy list elsewhere, as is my wont, but I wanted to note this publicly about Maltese/Jones.

    The Fifty Greatest Cartoons (ed. Jerry Beck), which is a pretty good stab at a canonical list to my mind, lists *fourteen* Warner/Schlesinger shorts if I have counted properly, making them the clear dominators of the list. Of those fourteen, eight are Jones and Maltese; an additional one is Maltese writing and Friz Freleng directing. No other writer of cartoons has that hit rate. By the by, these cartoons were chosen by polling a thousand animation professionals.

    (Those who like a challenge and have not read the book should now try to guess the eight Jones/Maltese cartoons selected, less the one I am about to give away.)

    In the comments on “Rabbit Seasoning,” Joe Adamson notes of this and its brothers-in-arms “Rabbit Fire” and “Duck! Rabbit! Duck!”: “This is the most famous authentic trilogy in the history of American studio animation, and, assembled together, would constitute the only Bugs Bunny two-reel comedy … The dialogue in these cartoons, savored by connoisseurs for years, was an element singled out for praise by Boxoffice (magazine) as soon as the first of the trilogy appeared.”

    Perhaps we could make a case for taking these as a single feature film and putting it on the list to represent the Maltese contribution?

  20. I don’t know if the selection was stonking, but since the point of the exercise (as I understand it) is to complain about the ones that were left off, and thus alert passersby to Funny Movies to put on the old list, I’ll cry about the exclusion of One, Two, Three.

    Waaaaaaaah! I want One, Two, Three to be on the list! Waaaaaaaah!

    Ahem.

    Broadcast News? Not The Front Page, but Broadcast News? Waaaaaaaaah!

    Ahem.

    To round out the five, how about Cold Comfort Farm, O Brother Where Art Thou (certainly over Raising Arizona, to my taste) and … um … The Rocky Horror Picture Show!

    I’m guessing To Be or Not to Be is the original, yes? Just for clarity. Yes, I should buy the book to find out. I’m surprised and pleased to see The Ladykillers over The Lavender Hill Mob, although both were great. I, too, prefer Delicatessen to Amelie, but I’m not sure I would put either on The List. Also, is it a rule that Musicals are not Comedies under the meaning of the act?

    Wait, wait, one more: Ball of Fire! Waaaaaah!

    Thanks,
    -V.

  21. Just popped in to notice the irony that the cover art is from one of the films being disputed. Personally, I would vote for “Holy Grail” over “Brian” as well.

    Also throwing in my vote for “Young Frankenstein” and at risk for over-recommending Mel Brooks, “Space Balls”.

  22. Jim W:

    “Just popped in to notice the irony that the cover art is from one of the films being disputed.”

    Heh. Well, if my experience is any guide, the cover was chosen at some time well after the premilinary Canon list was sent in, and may not have even been the original cover (the first proposed cover for the Sci-Fi book was a shot of Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty, but I think there was a problem with permissions). Fortunately for me, however, no one disputes the canonical status of Metropolis the film whose android graces the current cover.

  23. A pretty good list, overall. Instead of slagging on the half-dozen or so really unfortunate choices (Austin Powers, I’m looking at you!) I’ll go with the step-wise improvent sub-theme:

    Drop Broadcast News for either Lost in America or Real Life. The essense of Albert Brooks should be taken straight, not watered down.

    Replace Four Weddings and a Funeral with Notting Hill. A marginally better film, and funnier as well.

    Replace Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. I will stand up for Ferris, but Matthew Broderick somehow just isn’t quite as funny as Steve Martin and John Candy combined.

    If the Cohen’s only get one slot for balance purposes, then Raising Arizona is the right one. That said, The Big Lebowski is better and funnier than at least five movies on this list.

    Someone clearly mistyped Manhattan when they obviously meant Zelig.

    If one must see Ben Stiller on screen, replace There’s Something about Mary with either Mystery Men or preferably The Zero Effect. Unfortunately, these were box-office failures, which argues against canonosity.

    Shaun of the Dead is going to grow to be seen as a classic. With luck, it might also represent the end of this tranche of zombie movies, once it gets a bit better known via DVD word-of-mouth.

  24. Okay, this looks like fun and I can’t resist…

    Films of the Canon I’ve seen: All except for Le diner de con and Les vacances de M. Hulot, though it’s fair to say it’s been a long time since I’ve seen many on this list.

    Films Whose Presence in the Canon I’m Particularly Gratified to See: Blazing Saddles, Dr. Strangelove, The General, Groundhog Day, Raising Arizona.

    Films in the Canon Whose Presence Should Not Be: Dodgeball, Good Morning Vietnam, Roxanne, Rushmore, Shaun of the Dead.

    Films I’d Pick to Replace Them: How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Office Space, The Princess Bride, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Young Frankenstein.

    John, I don’t think we disagree too strongly here, except on Roxanne, which you’ve included in your “gratified” category and I’ve put in my “should be replaced” category. Perhaps I need to see it again, but I just don’t understand why it should be on this list at all. In fact, I don’t even think it’s the funniest Steve Martin movie that could have chosen. What am I missing?

  25. “That’s a hell of a canon. What do you call it?”

    The Aristocrats!”

    If slapstick is included, as in Buster Keaton’s The General, then Jackie Chan is sorely missed. I would put Drunken Master 2 on the list, except the American version (Legend of the Drunken Master) has a dub job that totally sucks out the funny from Anita Mui’s performance. Stephen Chow’s Shaolin Soccer coulda been a contenda, too.

    If Austin Powers simply must be replaced, the only movie that could replace it is So I Married an Axe Murderer. The Mel Brooks selection is fine (To Be or Not To Be is the Jack Benny version, right?), the Coen Brothers entry could have been swapped with Big Lebowski or O Brother, Where Art Thou?

    Speaking of O Brother, why is Sullivan’s Travels on the list? Now, I’ve only seen the second half of the movie, but I’ve seen that half two or three times. It may be about the healing and redemptive power of laughter, but it’s from the audience in the movie, not the audience watching the movie.

    The musical comedy is probably represented in his book, but the canon whines for it. Singin’ In the Rain should be here for the “Make ’em Laugh” number alone! Where is South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut?!

    I think Shaun of the Dead deserves its spot, and every accolade besides. But if it had to be replaced with another movie with a few sight gags and more witty banter, with everything flowing from well-realized and sympathetic characters (if a little young) stuck in a situation in which they had no control, Clerks would join the list in a hot second.

    Finally, why isn’t Battlefield Earth on the list? That movie was hilarious!

  26. Dodgeball is an abomination. Now that that’s out of the way…

    City Lights is a better film than Gold Rush. Until Ebert and a few others started pushing for Citizen Kane, City Lights topped film critics’ best films ever lists for years and years.

    Holy Grail is a better choice than Brian, though Brian might be more influential because of the uproar over it when it was released. The General is a great choice. I would have liked to see Sherlock, Jr. on the list as well. It’s much more “significant”, I think for the looseness of reality in the film. I agree with previous commenters that Philadelphia Story and Harvey also belong on the list.

    Where is It Happened One Night or La Cage aux Folles? IHON swept the Academy Awards, and I’m pretty sure that LCAF was the first mainstream movie to feature openly gay characters in a sympathetic way (unless you count the ending of Some Like it Hot). Both seem to be significant accomplishments

    The Sixties are not very well represented (3 films in all, I think?). “What’s up Doc?” would fill that hole, nicely.

    Finally, if you are arguing the significance of films, you might want to have one of the Hope/Crosby Road movies, a Laurel and Hardy, an Abbot and Costello, a Rock Hudson/Doris Day and a Martin and Lewis film. None of them are particularly “great” (and most aren’t really “good”) individually, but the series were all dominant and/or significant at one point or another.

  27. The biggest genuine ommissions I see ( I could argue of the archetypical Python or Brooks movie, but won’t) are Heathers and Ninochtka. Maybe it just got inched out because, I don’t know too many mid-to-late 80s dark comedies for Heathers and there are a decent number of screwball comedies I suppose. But including Dodgeball is just riduculous.

  28. I was surprised not to see it in the cannon, but shocked not to see it mentioned in the comments section. The Princess Bride? Hello? I’m going to have to find a cooler place to hang out.

  29. it’s been said… but there is a real lack of slapstick and action-omedy on this list.

    Men in Black may not have been the best movie EVER, but it was good, and represents fairly well a whole genre (okay, so it’s populated almost exclusively with Will Smith movies… maybe I can accept its exclusion)

    Half Loaf of Kung Fu? Drunken Master? Police Story? Any of the mid-era Jackie Chan. Hell… I’d settle (and it would be a dramatic SETTLING) for Rush Hour.

    Also, either Twins or Oscar, as a figurehead for the comedies by actors trying who want to do something other than shoot machine-guns and dodge grenades. (Sometimes, being big and dopey is funny!)

    (FWIW, Oscar with Sylvester Stallone is a truly great situation comedy with a tight script and some of the best pacing and timing in the last couple decades.)

  30. I agree with many of the comments here. I was pleased to see Broadcast News, which is one of my very favorite movies. I love it both for the big Albert Brooks and Holly Hunter moments and some the smaller bits–“I certainly hope you die soon.” There’s not a lot I would throw off there (I haven’t seen Dodgeball, but I can’t imagine it’s canon-worthy, and I can see the arguments against Austin Powers and Good Morning Vietnam), but there are several I’d love to see on there. If I had to go with five: A Fish Called Wanda, The Thin Man (or is that considered in another category?), Young Frankenstein, Heathers, Office Space.

  31. I enjoyed the hell out of Dodgeball for its utter absurdity (and I must fervently disagree with whoever said it has no memorable lines–I can think of about 30 off the top of my head) but I would agree it’s not exactly canonical. Anchorman, though to my mind less funny, is much more representative of the whole meta-postmodern-comedy-with-Vince-Vaughn genre, so I’d be comfortable going with that.

    But for the love of all that is holy, where is HIstory of the World Part 1 ?! Blazing Saddles may be funny, but History of the World is classic!

    I also find it odd that there’s no Adam Sandler comedy on the list. I know, I know, lots of people (including our host, if I remember correctly) wish that Sandler would crawl up his own ass and disappear; that doesn’t change the fact that his flicks have been a comedic cash cow for years. If you can describe a film as “an Adam Sandler comedy” and have someone know what you’re talking about, then at least one should be in the canon. My vote is for the surprisingly sweet 50 First Dates.

    A good list overall, though. Very nice to see Amelie on there. Wish there’d been room for Harold and Maude.

  32. Yes, “Romani ite domum” was a classic moment.

    That’s one classic moment in the whole movie. Holy Grail is overflowing with classic moments: the Black Knight; the anarchosyndicalist peasant (“Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government!”); the Knights Who Say Ni (“…with a herring!“); the Bridge of Death; …I could go on. Really, I don’t see how anyone can call Life of Brian a better movie, let alone a funnier or more significant one.

  33. Films I’ve seen: Maybe two-thirds of the list.

    Films I’m particularly gratified to see on the list: Local Hero, Groundhog Day, Spinal Tap, Roxanne, Annie Hall

    Films ain’t got no business being there:

    Caddyshack – Many people love it, but it’s just a failed SNL skit to me.

    A Hard Day’s Night – Admittedly, I was twelve when I saw it with a theaterful of screaming teenage girls, so missing half the dialog may have been a factor here.

    Amelie – I liked it, but it’s not top 50 material.

    Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – The only funny thing about this movie was the fact that years after its release, Ben Stein, who played the world’s dullest teacher (Anyone, class? Anyone?) wrote a magazine article decrying Hollywood’s lack of respect for education. Laughed ’til I cried. And it’s Dan Quayle’s favorite movie.

    Replace ’em with:

    The Big Lebowski – Jeff Bridges is one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood, and John Goodman is proof that God isn’t totally fed up with us.

    The Princess Bride – You keep using that word…

    The trailers at the end of History of the World, Part IJews in Space and Hitler on Ice are great. Sometimes less is more.

    Did I mention that these are just my opinions? Well, they are.

  34. Since I see no mention of these, what about:
    O Brother Where Art Thou
    The Naked Gun

    Personally, I think there’s too much Bill Murray on the list:
    Caddyshack
    Groundhog Day
    Ghostbusters
    Rushmore

    I’ll agree with Caddyshack and Ghostbusters, but Rushmore and Groundhog Day? I guess maybe I’m Groundhog Day’ed out, since it’s on cable so much.

    I WAS relieved to see no mention of Royal Tennenbaums. I’d heard that movie was hilarious, so I rented it and it was one of the dumbest, worst movies I’ve ever seen.

  35. I’m a huge fan of the Austin Powers movies– came to them late, but made up for it afterwards– and yet I’d still dispute AP:MoM – if there must be an Austin Powers movie, and I’m not convinced there needs to be, it’s the second in the trilogy, The Spy Who Shagged Me. A better overall piece, funnier, more long-lasting, and filled with the highest ratio of quotable lines.

    I’m going to stand up for Life of Brian over Grail. I love Grail, honestly, and it is truer to the television show, but I prefer the drier humor in Brian.

    Another vote for the South Park movie. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but far and away significantly funnier than any of the television episodes.

    I think I’d also agree with the general sentiment that this is a harder canon to come up with, as there’s so much breadth – from straight slapstick to romantic comedy to dark humor. It’s hard to decide what belongs where.

  36. I’m repeating some others, but I found conspicuous by absence:

    The Princess Bride &
    What’s Up Doc?

    And what about Return of the Pink Panther?

  37. How could I possibly have forgotten! Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.

    Best “road” comedy.
    Best drug comedy.
    Best ethnic comedy.
    Best comedy written by a University of Chicago undergraduate!!!

    Not in the canon, yet, but undoubtedly will be.

  38. Blog Meme: The Best Comedy Films

    John Scalzi has created a blog meme to discuss the proposed canonical list of film comedies from Bob McCabe’s The Rough Guide to Comedy Movies. The idea is to annotate the list as follows: Films in bold I have seen…

  39. My version is here: http://emmanate.org/wretch/archives/000123.html

    To summarize:

    Films Whose Presence in the Canon I’m Particularly Gratified to See (pick up to five):
    Blazing Saddles, Groundhog Day, Kind Hearts and Coronets, Local Hero, His Girl Friday

    Films in the Canon Whose Presence Should Not Be (pick up to five):
    When Harry Met Sally, Dodgeball, Amelie, Shaun of the Dead (haven’t seen it), Good Morning Vietnam

    Films I’d Pick to Replace Them (pick up to five):
    O Lucky Man, If, The Lady Eve, Nashville, Mon Oncle

  40. Commenting on this list is kind of tough without reading the justifications.

    Offhand, I’m guessing Austin Powers is on the list because it was one of the first movies to really show the might of DVD – a modest hit in theaters, it made lots and lots and lots of money on video and DVD, and came back with a second and third part that made more money than the first.

    If it wasn’t the first time this ever happened for a comedy, it was almost certainly the first time in a long time.

    One can argue whether Brian or Grail is a better movie, but more people KNOW Grail, and more people quote Grail, and as it is PG and not R it is more often the gateway drug for Python. Grail should have replaced Brian on the list.

    I’d be very curious to read the justification for Dodgeball, though I can think of one: Ben Stiller. He’s been in somewhere around 20 comedies in the last 10 years, giving him a large body of work to pull from. And he’s probably got another five or ten years worth of leading roles and cameos to come.

    Picking just one of the movies with his name above the title is probably pretty tough – and I’d argue (not well, I’m sure) that Dodgeball will probably hold up as the years wear on – if for no other reason than it doesn’t really have anything that “dates” it.

  41. I would be remiss not to salute the absolutely right and necessary inclusion of Withnail and I, which just brings and brings and brings the funny. Just a marvelous movie.

  42. Here’s my list. I’ve seen half (or better, if you count only seeing segments of a movie) and we own four.

    I haven’t mentally chewed over the list myself, but Hubs says, “Very suspect list. Has “Life of Brian” but not “Holy Grail”. Has
    “Ghostbusters” but not “Blues Brothers” or “Stripes”.” This was before he bothered to pop over here and see what you’d said.

    I agree that if you’re going for the best of Ramis, Ghostbusters may rank in box-office take but not in humor.

  43. This reminds me. Based on your inclusion of it in the Sci-Fi canon, I watched Buckaroo Banzai.

    I wany my two hours back.

  44. The Comedy Canon

    It’s movie canon time again. This time, Scalzi presents the list is from The Rough Guide to Comedy Movies. Same drill as the Sci-Fi list: mark movies you’ve seen and movies that you own a copy of*.

    Airplane!
    All About Eve
    Amelie
    An…

  45. It’s pretty much a crime that Carole Lombard is off the list. NOTHING SACRED and MY MAN GODFREY should both be on there, replacing two of the weaker entries others have mentioned.

    The list skews too modern.

  46. I think the Holy Grail is funnier because it has the black knight wanting to bite Arthers leg off when he has his helmet on.

    I agree with Derek Johnson because James Bond Moonraker is better then Austin Powers because, has more killing and some small jokes to giggle at.

    I almost have all James Bond movies

    Are the only funny ones

    Austin Powers set 1-3
    Monty Python set 1-?
    Zoolander
    Dumb&Dumber
    Pink Panther set 1-?
    Scary Movie set(not so scary just stupid)1-4
    F Troop set 1-?

    and much more

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