As film fans, we seem to pay so much attention to our favourite directors, or waves, that sometimes it’s difficult to really find the time to explore something that we aren’t sure if we’ll like – it just makes much more sense to spend your time on something you are certain you’ll enjoy.
So, with this list, the hope is that you can save some time by coming back here whenever you want to try out something new, just to see where it may take you. Comedy being so subjective, it’s hard to say that someone could really love all of the entries here, but there should be something suitable for everyone on here somewhere!
1. The Ladies Man (Jerry Lewis, 1961)
One of the weirder entries on the list, Jerry Lewis’ entire filmography is… strange, to say the least. His madcap antics seem to bore some to sleep but absolutely enchant others, which makes him very interesting to look into in more detail.
The Ladies Man is maybe even his weirdest film, as in the hardest one to really grasp, with next to no plot (the plot is literally only there as a way to connect gag to gag) and Lewis consistently shocking the audience by putting jokes aside and going straight for the heart (for example, the scene where he has a heart to heart with one of the women in the home rather than continuing to goof around as only Jerry Lewis does).
It’s unpredictable insanity, with pacing so fast it’s difficult not to get whiplash at the end, and yet, it’s completely and utterly hilarious in its innocence and creativity. It’s constantly funny, from the incredible opening sequence to the last, but also surprisingly heartfelt at times… and it may just be Jerry Lewis’ finest work, which is really saying something.
2. Throw Momma From The Train (Danny DeVito, 1987)
This best choice is… surprising in many ways. Whether that surprise comes from the Danny DeVito director credit, the constant Hitchcock references sprinkled throughout or just how fun this film is, it’s up to you.
Throw Momma From The Train is just wonderful. It’s witty, it’s incredibly fun, it’s brilliantly acted and the writing is so memorable it almost hurts. Billy Crystal gives one of his most charismatic performances in the comedy which focuses on his character, Larry Donner, and one of his students, Owen, played by Danny DeVito, as they accidentally end up in a scenario (literally) taken straight out of Hitchcock’s Strangers On A Train.
It’s mesmerisingly tongue in cheek, so brilliantly funny it almost hurts, full of great little references to Hitchcock and a huge range of other classical mystery thrillers that make this film so easy to watch it’s almost ridiculous.
DeVito’s direction also has a surprising amount of style to it, and had many subtle touches of Hitchcock snuggled in just to add the extra fun of being able to notice when he is playing on the Master of Suspense’s techniques. It’s just such a great time.
3. Boudu Saved From Drowning (Jean Renoir, 1932)
Coming from Jean Renoir, a man known mostly for the beauty of his films (A Day In The Country) or his hilarious satirical nature (The Rules of the Game comes to mind), Boudu Saved From Drowning is – to little surprise – one of the most relentlessly funny films ever made, and not without its’ satirical bite, either!
Boudu focuses on a man – unsurprisingly called Boudu – a homeless man with a dog, who jumps into a river when he loses said dog, only to be saved by a bourgeoisie family who own a library. With one of the best physical performances of all time from the incredible Michel Simon as the titular Boudu, surrounded by a film that has the anger of somebody like Spike Lee (more on him later…) and the playfulness of Tati, even at times bringing to mind the work of Luis Bunuel.
It’s a staggeringly clever film, and one of Jean Renoir’s very best achievements – which is really saying something taking into account the power that do many of his films have. A phenomenal film from a larger than life director, and one of the funniest films ever made.
4. A Countess From Hong Kong (Charlie Chaplin, 1967)
It’s definitely understandable seeing the more mixed reception to this one. Charlie Chaplin’s last film, and there’s surprisingly little resemblance to his astronomically more popular silent outings of the 1920s and 1930s – no iconic Tramp character, in fact, Chaplin doesn’t even show his face in A Countess From Hong Kong. Instead, Marlon Brando of all people leads the film, playing the American Ogden whose stateroom is taken up by Russian countess Natascha, who has been forced into prostitution in Hong Kong.
Despite lacking just about every marking of Chaplin’s involvement, it’s just one of the most wonderful films ever made. It’s pure bliss, complete and utter joy – to the point that even the sadder moments are made bittersweet as opposed to simply being bitter.
Sure, it gets repetitive, but it’s entirely intentional and it only serves to make the point that Chaplin had been making for so long – so often, people are so focused on keeping up appearances that they forget to be themselves, a beautiful message to send in Chaplin’s swan-song, and one he communicates beautifully. It’s a gentle, touching film and one that manages to completely capture Chaplin’s ideals despite the fact that he never shows his face in it.
5. Theatre of Blood (Douglas Hickox, 1973)
One of the lighter films on here despite how grizzly the premise may sound, Theatre of Blood revolves around an actor who, when one of his performances isn’t recognised as much as he wanted, exacts revenge on his naysaying critics in all kinds of grizzly ways.
Starring Vincent Price as the Shakespearean actor turned serial murderer, this horror comedy is just a great time. It’s one of the most impressive mixings of horror and comedy in that it is able to create genuine laughs and genuine gross out gore back to back without ever making the mistake of alienating the audience through these switches.
Price is just excellent in it – possibly his most fun and enjoyable performance because he just seems to be having an absolute blast – and some of the killings are so funny, so gross and so satisfying that it’s almost impossible not to have a good time with this, even if that final kill can be a step too far for some audience members with a weaker stomach.