What's funny? What isn't? And why do I never get a laugh when I tell that joke about the moose?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Crash Diet

I watched about 20 minutes of “The Blues Brothers” a couple of days ago. I love watching about 20 minutes of that movie. It has some of the greatest blues artists in some of the greatest performances ever filmed.

I can ONLY watch about 20 minutes at a time because director John Landis thinks car wrecks are funny.

Seriously. There’s a scene in the movie where the two Blues are driving through an indoor shopping mall. Cut to the interior of the vehicle, Belushi reads the name of a store.

Cut to exterior shot of Blues’ car crashing through that store.

Cut to interior shot. Ackroid reads out the name of a different store.

Cut to exterior shot of Blues’ car crashing through that store.

Repeat literally ad nausium.

I really don’t get this sort of thing. I mean, I love a good car chase movie as much as the next guy—but Landis actually seems to think we’re supposed to laugh at this stuff.

John Landis seems to have trouble telling the difference between violence and comedy—see his “comedy” An American Werewolf in London. (A movie I rather liked in an ‘oh my god I can’t look at the screen’ sort of way)

But there are a lot of people who seem to think that car crashes are funny…and it honestly baffles me.

Mind you, Landis DOES have a sense of humor—the man directed Kentucky Fried Movie and Animal House for heaven’s sake. There’s just this …blip…in his psyche. (Or, possibly, in mine.)

Can you set up a car crash so that it’s funny? Sure. Laurel & Hardy had several routines about destroying automobiles that were simply priceless (more on this another time). And Chuck Jones’ Road Runner cartoons are ultimately nothing but a series of violent blackout sketches. But those are funny in context (there’ that word again). There’s nothing funny about the act itself.

Am I wrong? Is a car wreck the mechanical equivalent of a pratfall? Can you point out a car wreck that is intrinsically funny?


  1. No.

    (Just thought this post was looking lonely with no responses. But no, car crashes are not funny.)

  2. A few years ago there was a story about someone who drove his Hummer into the Quabbin Reservoir.

    Now _that_ was funny.

  3. And there's a picture circulating of a yuppiemobile in Boston with a large tree crushing it.

    I suppose the more ostentatious the car is and the more absurd the means of destruction is, the likelihood of a crash being funny increases. In fact, even a car crashing into a moose might even be funny if the moose walks away and the car doesn't.