Friday, June 27, 2008

Just Going Across the Border for Some Pooteen

My girlfriend's neighbor is one of the true Renaissance men. Seriously, it's unfair that one person has so many talents that he can continuously exercise at will. David Wilmington is a good friend of mine in the grad program I'm in and enjoys a good beer, so this was the basis of our friendship--that, and he lives next door to the woman I love, so I started seeing him and his family as much as I saw Sarah. Aside from being a clear thinker, he plays soccer, the clarinet, taught high school literature, and writes screenplays for films. I'm not making this up.

I say all this to preface that this Saturday, in Waco, he's inaugurating the first segment of the Waco Film Festival, which will be me, him, and two of our friends in town sitting around and watching a lot of movies. David, being the true student of film among us, suggested comedy for the first round. He's thinking Woody Allen, Cary Grant...the subtle comedy of yesteryear. My contribution? Only because Jackass isn't worth watching after the first time, my selection is the movie that never stops being funny: Super Troopers.

The first time I saw this movie, it was started at 11 on a school night. I was skeptical. The premise is simple: Vermont state patrol cops who pull all kinds of silly shenanigans try to keep their station from getting shut down, while trying to thwart a drug smuggling ring. But like a good comedy, that's just the premise, an excuse to do other ridiculous things which shall not be named.

I could ruin the good parts, of which there are legion, but since I've posted the above clip, I'll limit my comments to that one part. The driver in the car is none other than Jim Gaffigan (HOT POCKETS), which makes this scene even more funny, that he's the straight man in the sketch. As the scene unfolds, the cops try to keep a straight face while acknowledging that saying meow ten times in two minutes is funny exactly because IT'S COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS. And therein lies the genius of the movie: pulling together elements that are totally juvenile into 'adult' situations and keeping a straight face.

There's some comedy with a sharper edge, satires that go for the dark underbelly. There are dramadeys, comedies with a serious tone. There are slapsticks, dry comedies, spoofs, and so forth. But the essence of comedy, as I see it, is blurring the line between the juvenile and the adult with a totally straight face. This is precisely where Will Farrell movies mostly drive me crazy, Old School and Stranger than Fiction excused. In Farrell's movies, you have this total buffoon being juvenile and having no idea that there's anything wrong with it. In Super Troopers, the juvenile behavior is done with a straight face and total internal logic, acknowledging that chugging syrup or chasing down pot smokers in costume is, of course, absurd, but that if you're going to have fun, you should try to do it in a way that doesn't tip your hand that anything at all out of the ordinary is going on. And in doing so, you communicate that there's a great deal in life that's inherently absurd that people take far too seriously.

Police hats
Roller skates
Waffle fries
Lapel pins
Marketing schemes

All Super Troopers does is tell us the obvious: that a lot of things in life are ridiculous already, and thus, the best way to undo them is to mock them with a straight face. And seriously: who hasn't wanted to pistol whip Farva?


the hamster said...

two things:

1) i've always thought that you, sir fist, were one of the last true renaissance men alive.

2) JACKASS is funny even to the tenth and twelfth time. depending on the skit. wee-man and preston and the bungee never gets old.

John Barber said...

Why have I not seen this? I love infantile. Infantile is my thing. I do infantile better than anyone.


the hamster said...

two things:

1) i've always thought that you, sir john, were one of the last true infantile men alive.

2) again, this is a prime example of the "pure dumb" that numb-nuts like us stampede to, while our ladies just shake their heads.