How to Make Jokeless Comedy: Studying the 'Epic Movie' Guys
It's possible for genre spoof movies to be funny. Naked Gun proved that. Some would argue that being funny is the point of a spoof. But after stealing a copy of the Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer genre spoof Meet The Spartans, I found myself so entranced that I did the unthinkable: I watched Epic Movie, Disaster Movie, and Superhero Movie.
All of these movies have several incredible things in common with each other. The most impressive is the fact that none of them feature any jokes. Not. One. Joke. They have references to other movies, commercials and pop culture phenomena, sure, but they don't even try to make humorous observations about them. For instance:
Indiana Jones And The Kingdom of I Feel Like I'm Taking Crazy Pills
Disaster Movie features one particular scene "lampooning" Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that for some reason takes place on the set of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. The characters look at a cave wall and see the shadow of a figure putting on the trademark Indiana Jones hat as the Indy theme swells up. We zoom out and we realize we were tricked! It's not Indiana Jones at all, but the black midget from Bad Santa.
"You're Indiana Jones?" asks one of the main characters. "Indiana Jones, my ass!" the midget responds, then he proceeds to poorly use his whip and then get slammed into a wall. And that is the end. That is the entire scene. And that is what's so fascinating about these movies. In a bad comedy, that exchange might go: "You're Indiana Jones?" asks one of the main characters. "No," the midget says. "I'm Rhode Island Jones." That would be a joke. Because it's another state and he's MOTHERFUCKING TINY! Sure, it's not a very good joke, but at least it's a joke. If I thought about it for more than five seconds, I might have even been able to come up with something better but I'm not a "successful" screenwriter, so I won't waste my time--just like Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer didn't waste theirs.
But they are not simply doing a bad job. They are not doing a job at all. They are comedy writers who haven't even bothered to write comedy. This is unprecedented, not just in the film world, but in the entire history of employment. And this is not one scene in one movie. It is every scene in every movie they have ever made. Don't believe me?
You Can Tell They're Thinking About Making a Joke ...
There is another specific scene from Disaster Movie that deserves your attention, but I feel like you've had enough for now, so let's briefly (yeah, right) move on to Superhero Movie. This scene involves that Topher Grace-looking motherfucker from Date Movie and Epic Movie playing a mutant quite similar to the mutant Angel (but with a hilarious twist!).
He begins the scene hitting on the Mystique character played by Carmen Electra, who I'm pretty sure is the most bangable woman on the planet with also the worst sense of humor on the planet, because she has huge tits and she has so far appeared in Scary Movie, Superhero Movie, Date Movie, Scary Movie 4, Epic Movie, Meet The Spartans and Disaster Movie (she was not in Not Another Teen Movie, though, because that was actually pretty funny).
Anyway, the Topher Grace-looking motherfucker asks her out and she literally says "As if!" Cue the entrance of Faux-Wolverine, Faux-Storm, Faux-Rouge and Faux-Cyclops, who all look surprisingly accurate except for the fact that Cyclops's sunglasses aren't red, which doesn't make any fucking sense.
Faux-Wolverine, of course, gives the Topher Grace-looking motherfucker the business because Wolverine's dating Mystique for some reason, and then walks away. The Topher Grace-looking motherfucker delivers a real zinger as they walk away, shouting "Asshole!" You shouldn't have said that, Topher Grace-looking motherfucker, because you just made Wolverine angry, and you wouldn't like Wolverine when he's angry. They didn't actually say this in the movie, of course, but I figured they might as well have because they're so awful at making things accurate in this piece of shit that they should have gone the extra mile and fucked up the characters' catchphrases. At least then I might have actually laughed. I wish Mystique had called everyone "Bub."
So as angry Faux-Wolverine turns around, he extends his Adamantium claws and... wait for it... here comes the joke... he puts the two outside claws back in so it looks like he's giving the Topher Grace-looking motherfucker the finger!
Oh, wait, that's not a joke, because Wolverine ALREADY DID THAT IN THE FIRST X-MEN MOVIE! The Topher Grace-looking motherfucker's response to this is to use his powers. Everyone gets ready for a fight as a worried Faux-Storm shouts, "He's gonna sprout angel wings!" (because that alone is terrifying, right?... God, Angel sucks... ). He doesn't sprout angel wings, though. He clucks and then sprouts chicken wings. "More like chicken wings," chides Mystique, quite cleverly, and they all laugh louder, because the joke here is that a character stated what we the audience just saw happen. Comedy gold at its goldest.
Another problem facing these movies (that is closely tied to the lack of jokes) is the overwhelming use of references, hence "reference movie." Every second of each film is a reference to another, better movie. They do not make jokes about these movies. They simply present the movie as it was originally seen and then throw in a quick commercial for Pepsi, a dance-off or a moment where a head-shaven Britney Spears sings to a doll. Again, no jokes. Just things we recognize as things. Disaster Movie does this perhaps the most beautifully by having the main characters be the main chick from Enchanted, Juno from Juno and who I THINK is supposed to be Fat Albert (Because we all saw the Fat Albert movie, right?). These characters from movies that are not disaster movies go on an adventure experiencing disasters that are from disaster movies.
Have They Even Seen The Movies They're Referencing?
Speaking of Disaster Movie, I hate Disaster Movie so much that I'm going to delve into one more scene from it that "parodies" Jumper, because Jumper was apparently a disaster movie. Showing off to a girl, this guy who looks nothing like Anakin Skywalker "jumps" away to a kitchen and gets something from a fridge (for no reason and it is never mentioned again), then he "jumps" back and guess what? He's lying on the floor sneaking a peak up the girl's skirt!
The girl swoons for some reason and professes her love for the jumper, who immediately freaks out because guys hate that, and he "jumps" away. Where does he jump to? Narnia, where Prince Caspian (because Prince Caspian was apparently a disaster movie) is holding a sword which the jumper accidentally impales himself on.
"Little help?" Prince Caspian asks no one. "It's the guy who ruined Star Wars!" Nice dig at Star Wars, movie! Except, wait a minute... Hayden Christensen didn't ruin Star Wars; he ruined the Star Wars prequels. And HE didn't even ruin the prequels. George "I Have No Idea How I Made The Original Trilogy So Excellent" Lucas ruined them by casting Hayden Christensen, writing all of the scripts the day before shooting started, directing all of them while he was asleep and CGI-ing the life out of them (as well as 90 other things I haven't mentioned). And while we're at it, didn't these guys spend an entire Epic Movie in Narnia already? Answer: Yes.
The Little Miss Sunshine Effect
Possibly the most ridiculous and mind-boggling problem with all of these movies, however, is what I am dubbing the "Little Miss Sunshine Effect". Case in point: Meet The Spartans.
Leonidas and his gang of warriors are kicking a bunch of people doing bad celebrity impression into a large pit. The filmmakers decide that they want to stick it to Little Miss Sunshine. But there's a problem: they have literally nothing to say about that film. Notice I didn't say, "they have nothing interesting/funny to say." These writers of spoof films literally can't put together a sentence that makes reference to the year's most easily mockable movie. So instead, they do the next best thing and write the title of the movie on the shirt that Britney Spears is wearing when they kick her into the pit.
In a script that was thought about ahead of time and written down on purpose, the best reference they can come up with to one of that year's most notable movie is "write the title on something and kick it down a hole." It's almost as though they have a check list of every notable pop-culture event in the past 12 months, and a mandate to ensure the existence of that event is acknowledged, but not thought about in the least.
Another example of this appears towards the end of Epic Movie. The four siblings from "Gnarnia" find the wardrobe again in their old age. They are quite surprised at this and express their surprise with dialogue along the lines of "Oh, my goodness!" and "Look!" What does Kal Penn say, though? He says... wait for it... "Chuck Norris rules!" LOLZ!!! Hey, guys, remember when Chuck Norris jokes were popular? Remember briefly after that when everyone stopped giving a shit? Remember in Epic Movie when something surprising happened and Kal Penn said some non sequitur/reference (non sequirence?) to those annoying jokes about Chuck Norris that used to be popular until everyone stopped giving a shit about them? You should, because I just described it to you.
I believe my studies have given me the necessary knowledge and the ABSOLUTE RIGHT to predict the next movie from these kings of comedy, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. I see three possible options...
This would be a reference movie that primarily references the likes of I Heart Huckabees, Being John Malkovich and any Wes Anderson movie. This would be impossible AND horrible for several reasons.
1. Most of those movies are great, so leave them the fuck alone.
2. Most of those movies are meant to be funny, which would make turning them into comedies pretty difficult and very stupid. It would be like doing parodies of Lonely Island songs: retarded, pointless and mind-numbingly painful to watch.
3. How could they think about covering quirky movies when they already wasted all their good Little Miss Sunshine material, writing the title of the quintessential quirky movie on that T-Shirt.
This would probably be the hardest endeavor to achieve that has ever been conceived by man (or at least the hardest endeavor ever conceived by me). Essentially, one would have to reference all of the aforementioned reference movies. How could this be accomplished? The best I can come up with after giving it literally seconds of thought would be to just make a really good movie about something else and call it a day.
I desperately hope this movie is made. Not because it'll be good (which it won't), not because I'll see it (which I will) and not because I think it will fail (which it probably won't), but because I've already written a trailer for it.
Yes, folks, with only some further ado (Ado. Ado! ADO!!!), I give you the trailer to Vampire Movie (originally titled The Last Half of Dracula: Dead And Loving It)...
Cue: Spooky music
We open on a pond at night. Spooky mist floats above the water. We close in on three lily pads, each of which has a frog sitting, unmoving. We zoom in closer and as they speak, we see they are each sporting a set of fangs.
Frog #1: Vam...
Frog #2: Pie...
Frog #3: Errr...
Frog #1: Vam-
Frog #2: Pie-
Frog #3: Errr...
An aluminum can pops up from beneath the water with the words "Vampire Beer" on it. The figure holding it emerges and it is Chris Tucker with fangs.
Chris Tucker With Fangs: Drink Vampire Beer, boyyeeeee!!!
The screen goes to black as a faux-movie trailer voice narrates title cards as they appear.
"THIS SUMMER... "
We see Kal Penn as a werewolf fighting with Carmen Electra as Busty the Vampire Slayer.
"COMES A FILM... "
We see Kal Penn's werewolf and Busty the Vampire Slayer fighting again. Busty farts. The Kal Penn werewolf makes a grossed-out, goofy face as in "eeewwww, no she di-in't!"
"SO HAIR-RAISING... "
Anna Faris as The Chick From Twilight: You feel cold...
Topher Grace-looking motherfucker as The Dude From Twilight: Like an ice cold Pepsi?
Anna Faris as The Chick From Twilight: Absolutely like an ice cold Pepsi...
"SO BLOOD-SUCKING... "
We see Leslie Neilson in Heath Ledger's Joker makeup.
Leslie Nielson as Heath Ledger's Joker For Some Reason: This city deserves a better class of vampire... And I'm gonna give it to 'em... Now let's suck some blood from that FACE!
"IT ABSOLUTELY DOESN'T... "
Topher Grace-looking motherfucker as The Dude From Twilight: I'm a vampire.
Some Random Character: Waaaaaall-eeeeee...
We see a bunch of fast clips from the "movie." Most of them are just scenes from Watchmen for some reason. There are a lot more farts and there's one part that "parodies" the Mac commercials where a character is all "Hi, I'm a vampire," and the other character is all "And I'm a werewolf."
"CARMEN ELECTRA... "
"KAL PENN... "
"JENNIFER COOLIDGE... "
"A BUNCH OF FUNNY MINOR CELEBRITIES WHO SADLY MAKE YOU WANT TO SHOOT THOSE FUNNY MINOR CELEBRITIES IN THE FACE FOR NEEDING PAYCHECKS SO BADLY THAT THEY GIVE AN INCREDIBLY PISS-POOR PERFORMANCE IN AN INCREDIBLY PISS-POOR EXCUSE FOR A COMEDY FILM... "
"AND HALF THE CAST OF ANY SEASON OF MADtv... "
"VAMPIRE MOVIE... "
"COMING SOON TO A THEATER NEAR... BOO!"
The screen fades to black and then the voice suddenly comes back.
"ALSO STARRING BILLY DEE WAYANS AS VAMPIRE LE GAT."
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