Funny Ha-Ha or Funny Peculiar: Funny People.

Jonah Hill Funny People

When you say “there’s something funny about that guy,” you usually don’t mean he makes you laugh. You mean there’s something wrong with him. The word “funny” means two very different things in our language — or so it seems. The brilliance of Judd Apatow’s new film Funny People is that it raises the possibility that the meanings aren’t different, after all. He makes the link between comedy and pathology.

It’s not that no one ever noticed that comedians tend to be screwed up. But not until Funny People has there been a movie that connected the dots. To be a good comedian, to produce over a career’s time a steady stream of life observations that have the fresh surprise we call humor, means continuously to be observing life rather than living it. That takes a toll. You can see that this is what has led the fabulously successful main character, played by Adam Sandler, to the miserable state he’s in, and you can see the struggling young comedian characters in the film, played by Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Aubrey Plaza and Jason Schwartzman, well on their way to that hell. What the film doesn’t resolve is what’s the chicken and what’s the egg. Do people who are so disconnected from themselves and others that they are borderline-autistic find their way into standup comedy because it’s the one way they can turn their mental illness into a living? Or does choosing a life of comedy, with the commitment it entails always to be an observer, always to be at a remove from life and other people, make one over time into an alienated, depressed and anxiety-stricken creature? Or is it simply that getting up in front of people and trying to make them laugh will turn anyone into a nervous wreck?

Whichever it is, Apatow has found a way to make you guffaw and feel miserable at the same time. The film is a 130-minute anxiety attack, and it doesn’t send you out of the theater feeling good, but it makes a journey into hell as much laughs as a journey into hell can possibly be. Funny, that.

Adam Sandler Seth Rogen Funny People

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4 Comments on “Funny Ha-Ha or Funny Peculiar: Funny People.”

  1. Ed Marks says:

    Very nice analysis and review, Ted. The only other people I know thus far who’ve given the movie praise were my idiot friends, so I’m glad you liked the film, too, as I did. Having read the many lukewarm reviews from critics (Ebert’s 3 and 1/2 grade doesn’t count, as that was the same grade he awarded ‘Zohan’ last summer), I admit that I felt a bit guilty for enjoying Funny People to the extent that I did. Now I don’t feel like as much of a moron, so thanks, Ted.

    By the way, I don’t know if it’s crossed your mind at all, but you look so much like Judd Apatow. I think he and Jonah Hill should hire us as doubles.

  2. Ed Marks says:

    Ted, just to make sure you know, I meant that I was glad someone with sense enjoyed the movie. As I re-read the comment, it sounded like something that could be misread without the proper tone of voice to accompany it, so no insults intended, my friend.

  3. Ted Naron says:

    Ed, no worries. I read your first comment exactly the way you intended it.

  4. Jon says:

    Here is my take on Hollywood cinema. Out of every 20 films I watch; maybe just one of those films is what I would call average (meaning 3 stars out of 5).

    I find foreign films to be much more believable; refreshing and exciting to watch. Yes there are good Hollywood films. They are just tough to find. And the rest are tough to watch…

    That being said…. I too (I am ashamed to admit) really did enjoy the Zohan film; though I find Adam Sandler to be for the most part – a “no talent” who more often than not resorts to sophmoric humor (and lousy sophmoric humor for the most part in my opinion).

    The gritty “realism” of the 1970s does not exist in the Hollywood of today. I attribute this demise to films like Heavens Gate; but also to a more materialistic and less spiritual mentality that has developed in our society over the last 30 years. The bottom line is the only important factor in the world of art and damned be art for arts sake (especially in the American cinema)….

    Rather than simply complaining about this; I will point out how improvements to films can be made (in my humble opinion).

    1) Stop the obsession with the technical and focus more on multi dimensional and believable characters and plot.

    NO THANK YOU – I do NOT wanna watch a film to experience some kind of fancy video game!!!

    2) Find actors (with depth) who can portray these characters. Geez, where are the Brando’s or Oliviers today… With the exception of a great actor like Johnny Depp;
    I dont see any around!!!


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