Funny schlubby white guys

Ok, just had to get that out of my system with the title. And there is at least one female comedian and one minority comedian in Funny People. They each have like two scenes, it’s amazing. Okay, I’m done. Okay, probably not.

Funny People, like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up before it, asks a serious question in the way that many comedies do not. We see now the pattern of Judd Apatow’s films, and no it’s not just “chick flicks for stoner dudes.” His films all center around a main character who has been, if not content with, at least accepting of, the stagnant path of their life. Then something happens to push them off that path. Friends figure out you’re a virgin and decide to help you grow up; you get a girl pregnant; you find out that you’re sick and probably dying. We’re moving on to bigger and bigger problems, and I like that. We can always use more comedies that are real movies, that are about something.

I love it when watching Adam Sandler is enjoyable. It’s very enjoyable here. As George Simmons, the comedian and movie star who has an 8% chance of beating a rare blood disorder, Sandler constantly works on two levels. Inner George and Outer George, for lack of more eloquent terms. We can see the persona he puts forth, a lot of which is real, honest to god misanthropy, just masked as the curmudgeonly sarcasm of a certain type of comic. We can also see the regret underneath all that.

It takes a little longer for Ira Wright (Seth Rogen), George’s new assistant, to catch up with the audience about how much pain George is going through. Even then, Ira doesn’t really want to put up with George’s shit, and we can’t really blame him. As an aspiring comedian, Ira idolizes George and wants to be like him. He’s also perplexed by him, and unable to modify his own behavior to what George claims to need. This is a complex relationship, one I was genuinely interested in, and I was genuinely not sure how it would turn out. It’s just good writing, and acting.

We’re also treated to a whole lot of those trademark uproarious one-liners. It adds a new level to that Apatow-Gang humor to have the characters themselves be in a position to talk about whether or not what they just said was funny. Maybe there are a diproportionate number of films made in Hollywood that have to do with Hollywood things, but I won’t complain as long as they use that conceit to be this clever. It should also come as no surprise that the supporting cast is a joy: Leslie Mann, Jason Schwartzman, and Aubrey Plaza in particular for me. We should also watch out for Maude Apatow: she’s got the family talent.

The movie is too long. That is my main complaint. 140 minutes is too long for a comedy, even one like this that is almost a drama. But, it must be hard to cut scenes from your own movie when everyone in it is your friend or relation. In particular the “domestic” sequence at the end of the film, with Leslie Mann as the showcase, drags noticeably. But what’s a guy to do, cut all his wife’s scenes? I have a solution, Judd: write a movie where she gets to be the star. Ah, there I go again.

See Funny People, laugh and think.


1 Response to “Funny schlubby white guys”

  1. 1 patty August 4, 2009 at 10:14 pm


    (i haven’t seen the movie yet, but i love aziz and follow him on twitter so i’m pretty sure you know what i just typed.)

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Other projects:

Downton Gabby: podcasting about Downton Abbey from a funny, foul-mouthed, feminist perspective

Quick Lit: reading one short story a day in 2015

Grand Dames: collecting sundry achievements of admirable women

The MacGuffin: archive of my days as a film critic

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