Making People Laugh In Italian and English
Is Checco Zalone the modern king of Italian comedy?
Figuring out what will make people laugh has to be the hardest job on the planet (yes, even harder than being the president). My daughter, a very funny girl, decided to try stand-up comedy and wishes she could go back in time and never have done it. “It’s a lot harder than it looks,” she told us.
And it’s not just the failing to make people laugh, but the hostility that an audience expresses when something has failed to make them laugh. I have to admit it, when a comedy isn’t funny it makes me mad, like Carlo Verdone’s Posti in Piedi in Paradiso (A Flat For Three). I didn’t just hate it, I walked out of the theater. I couldn’t just suck it up and sit there for another half hour; I had to stand up in the middle of the theater and walk out, like I’d been deeply insulted. I felt insulted; why is that?
I think it’s interesting to see what Yahoo! Cinema Italia has come up with as a list of comedies “da vedere” – movies that Italians consider a “must see”. Take a look at their suggestions, and then read my list of Italian comedies “da vedere”.
From Yahoo! Cinema Italia
Funny “Must See” Movies
Monty Python – The Meaning of Life (1983) British Humor to the infinite power. Surreal and demented.
The Hangover (2009) Todd Philips is a purebred comedy director. An absurd story that world of mouth has made a cult classic.
Animal House (1978) Manifest of dementia ; considered the best example of scholastic humor.
Road Trip (2000) One of the best disciples of “Animal House”; it wasn’t a big hit at the box office but it became a cult classic.
Young Frankenstein (1974) Fans all over the world know the lines by heart of this Mel Brooks movie.
Love and Death (1975) Yahoo! Cinema calls this Woody Allen’s masterpiece.
Tre Uomini E Una Gamba (Three Men and a Leg) (1997) Finally an Italian choice; Aldo, Giovanni e Giacomo are very funny in this comedy of three guys transporting a work of modern art across Italy.
Fantozzi (White Collar Blues) (1975) I’d never heard of this one (but you know I am completely ignorant of anything pre-2000). A cult classic in Italy, it is the first film in the saga of the unlucky Italian clerk Ugo Fantozzi, played by its creator, Paolo Villaggio. The success of this film has remained virtually unchanged through the years.
Johnny Stecchino (1991) When I tell people I love Italian movies the first thing they ask is if I loved Johnny Stecchino, Robert Benigni’s early comedy, and I always say I did. But I’ve never seen it. There, I’ve admitted it. I’ll watch it one of these days – everyone loves it.
Who’s Minding the Store (1963) It’s not just the French who love a good Jerry Lewis movie.
That list was made by Ferruccio Gattuso. Here’s mine, all Italian. Let’s not call it a definitive “Top Ten” or “Best” list. Let’s just say it’s a list of some ”Must See” Italian Movies:
Pane e Tulipani
- This is not just my favorite comedy, it’s my favorite movie of all time. I’ve watched it so many times I can recite the lines with the characters. I love Rosalba, left by her family mistake at a rest stop when she takes too long in the bathroom. Hitchhiking home, she stays on the highway to Venice and decides to take control of her destiny.
Maledetto il Giorno Che T’ho Incontrato
(Curse The Day I Met You) – I had to put a Carlo Verdone film on the list. This one’s my favorite, the story of Bernard and Camilla, two neurotic hypochondriacs with a love/hate relationship with one another – emphasis on the love.
Tu La Conosci Claudia
(Do You Know Claudia?) – No list of “must see” comedies could be without one from Aldo Giovanni and Giacomo, my favorite comedy trio. Paola Cortellesi plays a the girl everybody wants in movie that Americans would love.
(Magnificant Presence) -
Elio Germano plays Pietro, an aspiring actor who works in a bakery and goes on auditions. When Pietro moves into a new house he finds that the old inhabitants have not quite moved out; it’s haunted by a group of glamorous actors from the past. I think that Italians definitely did not give this Ferzan Ozpetek film enough credit; we laughed out loud.
Kryptonite Nella Borsa
(Kryptonite in the Bag) -
Set in Napoli in the ’70s, this movie about a nine-year-old boy and his dead pretend friend (Italian Superman) is bittersweet and funny in a fresh, smart way.
Benvenuti Al Sud
(Welcome to the South) - From director Luca Miniero, it’s about postal employee Alberto (played by Claudio Bisio) who gets transferred to a small town near Naples and feels like he’s been sent to Hell. Sometimes I think I should be putting this one on the my top 10 list. It’s well done in every way and a laugh riot.
Che Bella Giornata
(What a Beautiful Day) – I feel compelled to include a Checco Zalone movie, particularly this one; it outdid La Vita è Bella
at the Italian box office and is now the top grossing film in Italian film history. Checco is on to something and I can’t wait to see what he does next. Che Bella Giornata is a little stupid; the kind of movie you hate yourself for laughing at but can’t help it.
Si Può Fare
(You Can Do It) – With Claudio Bisio and Giuseppe Battiston Si può fare
is based on a true story, or as the closing credits say, “a lot of true stories” about life after the 1980′s Basaglia Law, when the Italian government closed down mental hospitals and released thousands of unprepared patients. Director Giulio Manfredonia delicately brings out the humor in this poignantly told story.
(The Perfect Man) - L’uomo Perfetto
has the ensemble perfetto, with two best girlfriends Lucia and Maria played by Francesca Inaudi and Gabriella Pession, Maria’s fiance Paolo, played by Giampaolo Morelli, and the man Lucia hires to break them up, Antonio, played by Riccardo Scamarcio. It’s a stupid plot in the way that plots are stupid in many comedies but it’s got a lot that rings true. Maria was that girlfriend in high school that everyone had – the one all the boys liked, and no guy you liked was safe around her. She’s the one that no matter where you went, how great you looked, or how much the guy seemed into you in Algebra class – he’d be making out with her by the end of the night. But Maria and Lucia had been best friends since childhood and really do love each other. They just had the one problem – Maria got engaged to the only man who Lucia ever loved.
Pranzo di Ferragosto -
Written by, directed by, and starring Gianni Di Gregorio, who also helped write the screenplay for the excellent Gomorrah,
it’s about an unemployed, middle-aged Roman who lives with his 93-year-old mother and starts babysitting all the other old ladies in his neighborhood over the summer holiday.