The awesome recent award-winning documentary "That's Not Funny" by charming and highly knowledgeable die-hard comedy fan Mike Celestino is the perfect film for those of us who remember when people reasonably reacted to humor based on properly understanding the context of jokes. Simply using "blue" language in a controversial manner or mining humor from a subject that is very personal to some was inadequate to make you Public Enemy Number One in those good old days.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, expertly conveys the theme of "Funny" and provides a sense of the astonishing plethora of hilarious clips of comedy bits in the film.
The fact that your (occasionally) humble reviewer feels compelled to use asterisks regarding a word that every reader f**king well knows that he is using in the subheading of this post nicely illustrates the point of Celsetino in the film that he expertly narrates, writes, and directs and that he aptly describes as "a dead serious documentary about comedy."
As shown below, an even more relevant prediction from someone other than Celestino during the mid-90s is that the efforts in that era to unduly regulate Internet content included speculating that online references to a classic '60s sitcom would be to "The D**k Van D**e Show." This further illustrates the view of Celestino regarding the importance of understanding context.
Celestino nicely covers this form of undue censorship both with an overview of the uproar regarding the must-see Geoge Carlin "seven words you can't say on television" routine and the modern trend of using the term the "n word" in lieu of the word to which it refers.
The discussion of the former includes a clip of a wonderful early SNL skit from the good old days in which an interviewer whom Chevy Chase plays increasingly angers an interviewee whom Richard Pryor plays by using increasingly offensive racial terms.
A personal interest in "Funny" also extends to the sense of humor of your reviewer. One relevant example is stating on talking to friend within MINUTES of learning of the kidnapping of the school girls in Nigeria that a Nigerian prince had just emailed an offer to repay me with interest if I sent him money to pay the kidnappers ransom. I then added "too soon?" in making this joke.
My friend, who laughed and awesomely replied "its never too soon" understood one of the main points in "Funny;" humor must be understood in the context of the intent of the joke. It was clear in this case that the humor related to the flood of scam emails allegedly from African royalty, rather than the abduction of girls.
This example further demonstrates another well-presented point of Celestino; one must understand the REASONABLE sensitivities of the audience. I would not have told the joke to a friend or relative of a current or past captured girl.
Celestino starts this well-organized analysis of how comedy has reached the stage that folks with unduly sensitive natures regarding some topics are ruining it for the rest of us with a discussion of vaudeville and early films. This segment awesomely includes a hilarious skit from "The Dick Van Dyke Show" in which the titular star performs a bit in which he derives huge laughs from repeatedly injuring himself while presenting a lecture that praises modern audiences for evolving to the point of not laughing at the physical pain of others. Oh, Rob!
A portion of the extensive look at the broad range of humor directed at Adolph Hitler that is designed to make that record-breaking mass-murdering maniac (of course, that is just one opinion) seem less menacing illustrates that aspect of the power of laughter. (Celestino earns extra points for knowing of the one-episode Britcom "Heil Honey; I'm Home" that did not go further for obvious reasons. The annoying Jewish neighbors are heilarious.)
The personal note this time relates to making jokes in the wake of watching a documentary on Hitler relatives in the United States. One example of this is a wife in New Jersey telling an irate man who wants to call the Hitlers down the street after their dog poops in his yard that he must let it go.
A more "ripped from the headlines" topic in "Funny" is the deadly violent manner in which some Muslims react to someone merely depicting Muhammad in even a non-offensive manner. This "chapter" in the film focuses on the "South Park" treatment of this subject several years ago and includes the hilarious manner in which Trey Parker and Matt Stone ultimately end the story arc.
The scope of "Funny" also includes specific high-profile scandals related to comedians such as Michael Richards and Daniel Tosh who find themselves the subject of public scorn.
The most satisfying clip has the late great Joan Rivers expressing justifiable indignation in response to a heckler. Her stating that the offensive joke is funny and that an assumption of the audience member is inaccurate makes one watching "Funny" want to stand up and cheer.
Celestino ends all of this with a wonderful sitcom-style "this is what we learned" statement that is truly insightful and not at all sappy. One can only hope that this can lead to being able to joke about reporting a burned out light bulb in a Warsaw hotel to see how many people come to replace it without ultimately having to apologize for that remark.
The special features include interviews with Greg Proops and other notable comedians on the topics in "Funny." The following clip, again courtesy of YouTube, of an alternate trailer for the film is full of terrific segments from these discussions.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Funny" is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy. The message to offended readers who drop this site based on my humor is that I am sincerely sorry that I unintentionally offended you but do not apologize for what I wrote. I (and many others) consider it amusing and (presumably like Celestino) understand the intent and context regarding it.