'Friends' And 3 Other Comedy Biopics We'd Watch
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When the cast of Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos was announced, I couldn’t help but do a throwback quote from Arrested Development and ask:
I was awash in a sea of confusion to see Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem cast as comedy royalty Lucy and Ricky Ricardo.
I was actually looking forward to a biopic about two comedy gems who revolutionized the television sitcom. The film could shine a well-deserved spotlight on Lucille Ball, a woman who laid the groundwork for comedy actresses both then and now. Why would Sorkin cast two dramatic actors in a film about comedy people? For that matter, why would you have the cerebral Aaron Sorkin writing such a tale?
Then I saw the movie. And it all made such grim sense. Do you remember the time when beloved comedy icon Lucille Ball was branded a dirty Communist? No? Well, this movie wants you to remember. Yet again Hollywood has taken a story of funny people and made it a drama.
This constantly happens. For some reason, Hollywood believes you really want to watch a biopic about a comedian so you can feel their pain. Love Andy Kaufman? Check out Man on the Moon to drown in the sadness of his life.
And it’s not just movies about actual comedians. There is a slew of films about fictional funny people that are anything but funny. The King of Comedy is really a movie about psychotic hero worship and kidnapping a comedian, Judd Apatow’s Funny People is about a comedian who is dying, Obvious Child featuring Jenny Slate is a movie about a comedian trying to get an abortion. And the one movie about improv, Don’t Think Twice, is about how sad it is to still be performing improv after the age of 30. How dare they?! Even the TV show Hacks is about a comedian who is burning out at the end of their career.
Why does this happen? Does Hollywood want to scare people away from a career at the yuk-yuk factory by greenlighting these depressing stories of funny people? Or are we as a society hungry to see a clown cry? Well, I for one am here to say: enough is enough. I want movies about comedians to be funny! Sue me (actually, please don’t). Sometimes comedians actually have fun making people laugh for a living. And sometimes people who go into a career in comedy don’t have to deal with dark existential moral quandaries… sometimes.
So I humbly offer you, dear reader, a few movie pitches about funny people who have a great time making people laugh. All with little to no mention of Communism. (Any similarities to Communism is purely coincidental.)
PITCH #1 Real Friends
On a dark and stormy night, a table read for a new NBC sitcom is about to begin. One by one the cast arrives until all six principal chairs are filled. Their eyes shift from person to person. They all ponder the same questions: Will this work? Will our comedy styles mesh together? Can we all truly be, you know, friends?
This film is a behind-the-scenes look at what happened when the friends on Friends became real, you know, friends. Their chemistry was undeniable, the laughter was endless. But the story takes a big dramatic turn when contract negotiations threaten to shake up this unshakeable sextet of friendship.
Who’s the biggest star in the cast? Should Jennifer Aniston get more money than David Schwimmer (yes)? Can actors who are friends become extremely wealthy actors who stay friends? In a climax that is both taut and hilarious, the six actors learn to set aside their individual worth and go for the big million dollar paycheck together. After all, they’re, you know, friends.
Thrill as the women on the show form an everlasting bond, and the men find kindred spirits in each other. Think of it in the same vein as Regina King’s film, One Night in Miami, but with absolutely no Black people.
PITCH #2: Schur Thing
A geeky comedy writer enters NBC Universal for a general meeting about potentially writing for a little show called Saturday Night Live. Lorne Michaels looks the writer up and down and asks, “Are you funny?” To which the writer responds “Sure.” A catchphrase is born!
Mike Schur (creator of Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Good Place) is getting the biopic treatment. Take a journey as Mike Schur transforms from a likeable staff writer on Saturday Night Live into a likable showrunner. You will be gripped by scenes where actors Nick Offerman and Aubry Plaza barge into Schur’s office to berate him with praise because he’s such a nice guy doing a great job in comedy. Watch as he pitches television show after television show about kind people doing kind things for other kind people. You’ll never believe the cute second act turn when Amy Poehler and Mike Schur become good pals in real life!
It’s a film about a nice guy that will leave you saying, “Wow. What a nice guy!” Rated R for one intense sex scene that Mike Schur’s people insisted be kept in the film.
PITCH #3: Leave it to Levy
Somewhere in a house, located in who-knows-where Canada, two men with larger-than-life eyebrows have a very important meeting, one that launches a Canadian revolution of sorts.
We are, of course, referring to the day the father and son duo known as Eugene and Dan Levy came together to discuss how they can get their comedy, Schitt’s Creek, aired in America. The big networks turn them down! So do the prestige cable channels! Even NatGeo takes a pass. Will anyone in America watch a show on something called Pop TV, a network slightly less popular than the one that plays on gas station fuel pumps?
You’ll be on the edge of your seat as this father and son duo argue and debate about the fate of their foul-titled show. Of course they’re Canadian, so it’s less arguments and debates and more the two of them slinging “Oh sures,” and “you betchas” at one another.
The clincher moment occurs when the stumped father and son team get an unexpected phone call from Catherine O’Hara (who will make a cameo appearance as herself). O’Hara powerfully declares, “Boys. If you don’t put me on American television, I’m walking!” Pop TV it is! Well, that and Netflix, which turns the little Canadian show into the biggest comedy winner in Emmy history.
This film has a one-act play vibe. Told from one location (the Levy’s exceptionally Canadian living room), Leave it to Levy will evoke Frost/Nixon feelings. Told in real time, you’ll thrill at watching a very pleasant interaction between father and son. An early reviewer raved that “the relationship between father and son is so healthy, it’ll make you wonder why you don’t have a better relationship with your father.”
The final scene in the movie, where Dan explains that he wants to keep working with his father because he loves him (and because he knows that Eugene Levy is a household name that would easily get any show greenlit) will leave you drowning in happy Canadian tears.
PITCH #4: The Queen Who Would Be King
Dana Elaine Owens, a young girl named from Newark, New Jersey, enters a library. Her parents have just divorced and she needs to take her mind off her troubles. Absentmindedly she grabs a book of Arabic words. Randomly she opens to the “L’s” and learns the Arabic word “latifah,” meaning: “delicate,” and “very kind.”
Hm, Dana thought, sounds like a queen’s name…
We are of course talking about Queen Latifah herself! This inspiring biopic journey follows this sad child of divorce as she evolves into a global entertainer who makes literally everyone happy. You will gasp as you watch this Queen transitions from success in one area of the entertainment industry to even bigger success in the next. There’s no entertainment mountain she can’t climb, from rapping, to sitcom star, to a jazz album that WE DON’T TALK ABOUT ENOUGH!
This biopic will be filmed documentary-style, featuring multiple interviews with people who love the Queen. Who could hate her? As this film will make clear, the answer is no one. Watch as she shyly becomes a comedy icon with her sly turn as Khadijah James on the Fox sitcom Living Single. There’s a quite powerful scene where the writers kindly ask, “May we give you more jokes? You're a funny Queen!”
The climax of this film is when the Queen gets an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in Chicago. And while she doesn’t win (her costar Zeta-Jones gets the goofy gold man), she still gets to take a victory lap. Queen Latifah arrives on the red carpet and everyone is just thrilled to see her! A storied career of being liked from the start to the present.
Or Maybe I’m Wrong
Now. I’m not a psychic. Perhaps these funny people did have sad tragic stories I could have discovered after a cursory Google search. But I argue that it’s okay to celebrate joy. And it is especially okay to celebrate those who produce and replicate joy as their career. Sometimes a laugh is a laugh. It doesn’t have to be anything more than that.
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Top image: Amazon Studios