A lot of visual comedy is driven by big personalities and even bigger setups. However, not all comedy films or shows are in it for the laughs. Some do have a more serious message for audiences in mind, slipped between the punchlines.
In anticipation of Tina Fey‘s Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, here are four times comedy invaded more serious issues!
Call Me Lucky
Bobcat Goldthwait‘s documentary about the rise, fall and resurgence of comedian Barry Crimmins is a superb effort that blurs that lines between comedy and tragedy. The figure at the film’s center is a hugely influential one within the world of today’s stand-up comedy and Call Me Lucky does him justice.
It also doesn’t shy away from the darker side of Crimmins’ story – examining his identity as a victim of child abuse and a force for positive change. Featuring interviews with Marc Maron, David Cross, Margaret Cho, Patton Oswalt, Tom Kenny, Kevin Meaney, Lenny Clarke, Steven Wright, Billy Bragg, and Cindy Sheehan – Call Me Lucky is easy to recommend.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Created by comedy vets Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has been praised for both providing a fascinatingly authentic portrait of a character pushing to recover after a life-changing trauma and being hilarious.
Though the show has a pretty whimsical approach, it’s at odds with the cynical darkness of its premise. Kimmy’s (Ellie Kemper) imprisonment at the hands of Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm) is often played for laughs but it’s based on some pretty dark real-world events. That said, this is balanced by the lessons Kimmy learns and her attitude towards rehabilitating to life after victimhood – which remain valuable even if you haven’t spend a decade locked in a bunker by a cooky cult-leader.
The World’s End
Plenty of films have tackled alcoholism but few have tackled it quite the same way as Edgar Wright‘s The World’s End. The third film in Wright’s “Cornetto Trilogy”, it sees Gary King (Simon Pegg) reunite his high school friends for an epic bar crawl that brings them face-to-face with the sinister forces lurking within their hometown.
The World’s End makes lots of subtle comments about things like consumerism and conformity but its depiction of alcoholism is one of Wright’s sharpest – and it’s one that leaves your understanding of Gary King equal parts sad and hilarious. Film Crit Hulk has an amazing write-up of it that’s well worth recommending.
Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese‘s thumping black comedy may have not won Leonardo DiCaprio an Oscar but it’s hard not to recommend when it comes to comedies that bring together comedy and serious issues in the form of high-stakes securities fraud.
Uplifted by a sense of disbelief at the events in the film really happened, The Wolf of Wall Street is an absurd look at the world of stock-trading and comes away as enthralled as distraught. Given the way that Belfort’s life unravels around him, it’s hard to imagine someone watching the film and seeing DiCaprio’s character as a role-model, hilarious though it is.