Five Things To Know About Comedy 2022, According to Funny or Die
The state of comedy movies is more depressing than hilarious. Take away animation like Sonic the Hedgehog 2? Take away action-romances like The Lost City? Then your biggest hits of the past five years are movies like Tiffany Haddish’s Like A Boss and Kevin Hart’s The Upside. Did you see either of them? We didn’t think so.
And it’s not just a massive, yawning suckhole where comedy movies should be -- we’re also struggling to find the next generation of comedy stars. Can you think of any under 30? The list may begin and end with Bo Burnham (who’s 31, so yeah, we have a problem).
The guys over at Funny or Die, specifically CEO Mike Farah and Chief Content Officer Joe Farrell, are trying to figure out how to remedy the sitch. They recently appeared on Matt Belloni’s The Town podcast to discuss the State of Comedy 2022. (Good news: They’re optimistic.) Here are five things to know:
Comedy freaks out streamers.
Comedy is subjective and it’s original, says Farah. And those are two qualities that freak out streamers, who value broad appeal and proven intellectual properties. It’s tough for a Disney+ or HBO Max to take a chance on a new comedy when no one is even sure if it’s funny. Does it make your kid laugh? What about your mom?
The irony, of course, is that established comedies built the streamers. The endless binging of The Office, Friends, and Schitt's Creek were the foundation for the subscriber bases that form the spine of these services. As these comedies age out, new ones will be necessary to take their places.
Someone needs to rebuild the comedy ladder.
There are more ways to break into comedy than ever, says Farrell, pointing to TikTok and other social media that allow funny people to quickly build an audience. But no one is going from Snapchat to feature films -- how do budding comics make the leap?
In the early days of Funny or Die, the “ladder” went like this: Funny Person makes a short video, maybe two. Then Funny Person gets plucked for a sitcom pilot or a late-night show. Then SNL came calling. Finally, Funny Person develops their own show or feature film.
But with network TV abandoning the situation comedy and streamers afraid to pick up the slack, the roadmap had become blurry. “The ladder has been dismantled,” says Farrell, “and we’re trying to put it back together in real time.”
“There is no greater feeling than finding someone you know is talented and then convincing someone to give them a shot,” he says. In a perfect world, it works like this: Funny creators who got their start at the now-defunct collegehumor.com came to Funny or Die with a pitch that became American Vandal. Netflix picked up the show, which got some buzz, which led to a new series about to launch on Paramount Plus about esports with a cast of unknowns. “And," says Farrell, "they are incredible.”
Related: Why Comedy Needs Joe Pera
Comedies are being folded into other genres.
It’s not that no one likes comedy anymore. It’s just that movie studios are moving comedy stars into genres that they believe are more sure-fire, like superhero films (Thor: Love and Thunder) or action flicks (Free Guy).
In superhero movies alone, we have Kristen (Wonder Woman 1984) Wiig, Bill (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) Murray, Donald (Spider-Man: Homecoming) Glover, Awkwafina (Shang-Chi), Randall (WandaVision) Park, and so on. You could make a helluva comedy movie with that cast.
Streamers need to take a shot.
“We need to keep our costs responsible,” says Farrell. “But then the streamers need to take the shot. It’s the only way to find the next Schitt’s Creek or Ted Lasso. You might have to take more but if the shot hits, it goes big.”
Farrell is trying to convince streamers to commit a portion of their budgets to an experimental hour “and let us fill that with comedy.” Sure, there will be some misses, but that one monster hit will be worth it.
The future may be in … comedy movies?
Farrell used to tell people: “You’ll never get a comedy movie made. Go to TV.” But that might be changing. Case in point: Senior Year, the surprise hit comedy feature on Netflix.
“Increasingly, if streaming movies can be made for a responsible budget, you might be able to get your movie idea made,” he predicts. “I’m hopeful and excited that streaming comedy features might be a way for people to break in.”
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Top image: Paramount Pictures