Tuesday, December 08, 2009

You Can Do It!!


Yes, I secretly love Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider.

I watched the movie "Funny People" last weekend, which is a Judd Apatow film starring Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen. I loved it. It was wrongly marketed as the more typical Apatow boys club-gross-out-comedy film. It's more serious than those usually are, and Sandler gives a fantastic performance as the cranky and relationship-challenged George Simmons. Simmons is a wildly successful comedian who has made popular films and done stand-up. When we meet him, he receives some life-altering news. He starts to have to question his life and his choices. I don't know who the character is modeled after - I felt like perhaps George Carlin, if Carlin had made a lot of Adam Sandler type films (featuring such classics as "Merman" and "Sayonara, Davey!!"). Possibly Eddie Murphy? I don't think it's really modeled after Adam, though. George Simmons gives off a different level of success than Adam's had, to me.

The movie is an interesting combination of pain and laughter. The fun part is the relationships between the characters in the film - all comedians, some more successful than others. Jason Schwartzman rocks as a not-that-funny-sitcom-actor-in-an-equally-bad-sitcom. His show is called "Yo, Teach!!". That alone makes me laugh. It's a combination of 'Welcome Back, Kotter" and that one show that I never watched....something about the bell. Oh - "Saved By The Bell". There are plenty of show-within-the-show thing to give us a glimpse of all the work that these characters do. They even made some web sites for the characters. I feel like Apatow is calling out some of his buddies, and himself, on some of their bullshit. It's kind of a labor of love, and I think it was pretty personal for Apatow. It gave me even more respect for Sandler than I'd had before. I always like him, even when he was acting like an idiot. I confess that love his music act. Yep. Yesterday's meatloaf is today's sloppy joe...

Comedy is one of my passions and hobbies. I think this film is made for someone like me. I did a presentation once at an ASA conference (American Sociological Association) on comedians. I had done a qualitative study of them while I was a grad student in sociology at the University of Chicago. So I am, by nature, just fascinated by watching comedians. Apatow includes many of the things I wrote about in my paper - the hierarchy of what is considered 'good' material, the intellectualizing of the comedy (as evidenced by one comedian watching another do a funny bit, but not laughing, and instead saying "That's funny."). It's all there.

I've often wondered why I feel such a very strong affinity with comedians. I suppose it is because early on I dealt with my own pain through being funny. It's how I survived. The cause of the pain has varied over the years - early on it was being fat. Then dealing with an intolerable chronic depression. Then it was graduate school. That was so painful, I had to take improv classes at Second City. At the time I was doing my paper for the ASA, I was hanging out with comedians, performing the Harold* with them, dating them. Mainly, I wanted to be them. Then my life moved on, and it was about having babies, being married, being separated, having more babies - the stuff we all do. Later it was MS and losing my cognitive skills, my bladder control and using a cane. Finding and losing Tysabri, finding LDN. Comedy made it all temporarily "ok". I've really idolized certain comedians who have made that into an art.

I continue plodding and waltzing through life, finding the humor in everything. I thank the universe for coming up with humor. I cannot imagine my life without it.

*"The Harold" is not a sex act, but a longer-form improv format. I swear - look it up! And let's be thankful for Del Close while we're at it.


Jay Livingston said...

I wish the movie had had more on doing comedy. I thought that was the strongest part of the film -- showing how comedians do what they do, and how some do it a lot better than others. The rest of the film did a lot of cheating.

trrish said...


Have you seen Jerry Seinfeld's film 'Comedian'. It's a great glimpse into the lives of comedians. I loved it, of course, because there is a lot of Jerry. But also there is a lot of other comedians in there. Not so much them performing, but them talking about what they do. Now that I'm talking about, I'll have to watch it again very soon!

Jay Livingston said...

Trrish, I think I did see that film. What struck me was how Seinfeld has to work to get his chops back. And there was one scene where he's working some very ordinary club, and there's a heckler. And Seinfeld doesn't know how to deal with him.

I can't remember what Seinfeld does -- does he ask the guy to lay off? does he just walk off stage? -- but whatever it is, it's not some great zinger that silences the heckler and gets the audience back on the comic's side. It's not gold, Jerry.