Friday, April 2, 2010

Classic Comedy Review by Jeff Cohen

I'm flattered to have been asked to talk a little in this space about some of my favorite comedy films; it's my passion and my faith. Comedy is a high calling--it keeps people sane and brightens otherwise dark moments. It's important and rarely recognized as such, because when it's done right, it looks effortless. It's not. Comedy is probably the most difficult thing to do well in the arts. Except maybe juggling.

Let's look at a relatively overlooked classic, 1982's MY FAVORITE YEAR.
Starring: Peter O'Toole
Jessica Harper
Joseph Bologna
Lainie Kazan
Bill Macy
and introducing Mark Linn-Baker

Written by Dennis Palumbo and Norman Steinberg Directed by Richard Benjamin

The set up is supposedly taken from a real-life incident involving Mel Brooks (whose company produced the film) when he was a young writer on Sid Caesar's "Your Show Of Shows." In this case, the cub comedy writer (Linn-Baker) is assigned the difficult task of keeping a visiting movie idol (O'Toole, who is hilarious) sober and focused during his week as a guest star on the fictional 50's TV revue. In the course of the week, the two men bond, their bond is tested, and a lot of other stuff happens that the young man, in voice-over supposedly decades later, says "changed my life."

It's a great premise, but it's the cast of characters and the actors who play them that puts this movie into the stratosphere. Each one, with very little screen time, has moments to shine. And each one is funny, even Harper, whose big scene is about how not funny she is.

The comedy comes at you at a rapid pace, but the movie has heart, and the characters are not one-dimensional. O'Toole is brilliant in a change of pace role, mocking himself. And everyone else is perfectly cast, right down to Basil Hoffman, as one of the show's writers, who never speaks, mostly to annoy the despicable head writer played by Bill Macy.

If you haven't seen it, hurry up and do so. If you have, you know what I mean.


  1. I never get tired of Peter O'Toole


  2. Thanks Jeff,
    I haven't seen this movie so I will order it from netflix and I can't wait to read what you pick for next month.



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