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Breakdown of a Gag, Episode 8: Spoofs since 1970


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#1 D'Arcy

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Posted 04 October 2016 - 09:30 PM

Loved all Breakdown of a Gag. Spoofs are so entertaining. These movies take the seriousness of the world and transform them into a delightful viewing experience. I look forward to watching more of this genre of film. This class has shown me a new respect for these films and I appreciate it now. I kind of thought it was all just silly but as I've grown from the silent era to today's slapstick it is truly an art.

#2 Heather Mary

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 03:53 PM

I have enjoyed every breakdown of these gags. Thank you for taking us on this journey. It's very interesting to get the breakdown. And it's funny to also observe how these comics from the 1920s to the 1980s, have to do serious work to make it his sterically funny. Thank you both for your great insights and observations.
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#3 Bgeorgeteacher

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Posted 01 October 2016 - 06:17 PM

Oh yes, Ron Burgandy..... always remembering to "Stay classy, San Diego!"  This is an area that I have ALWAYS loved, ever since I can remember.  Both of my boys enjoy these movies as well, I guess I have taught them well!  :)

 

To see that these spoofs are a form of slapstick, referring way back to geniuses of the 40s and 50s, even to the silent age makes me want to see even MORE of those movies now.  I'm slowly catching up.  


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#4 Whipsnade

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Posted 01 October 2016 - 02:41 AM

     In “Breakdown of a Gag #8,” Edwards and Cellini explore the role of spoofs and parodies in the evolution of slapstick, with a primary focus on its development since 1970.  While the standard definition of the two terms make them synonyms, Jeffrey Miller draws a distinction between a spoof and a parody.  For him, a spoof has a comic character in a storyline that, otherwise, respects the original genre.  Aside from this comic principle, the spoof would have the look and feel of the target genre.  A parody is different, according to Miller, because it is played strictly for laughs and mocks the conventions of the target genre.  It will have multiple comic characters who create a ridiculous imitation of the original -- an imitation that, unlike a spoof, could never be mistaken for the original.  In its earliest manifestation, the spoof was a simple approach, as demonstrated by the clip from “Abbott & Costello meet Frankenstein” (1948).  The scene is uncomplicated and relatively static; the humor comes from the reaction of Wilber (Lou Costello), when he sees Dracula’s hand coming out of the coffin. In this scene, the spoof is the gag.   Dracula (Bela Lugosi) is not involved in the humor; his role is played straight.  If you take out Abbott & Costello, you have a Universal horror movie.  

 

     By the 1970’s, the nature of the “spoof” had become more complex, as demonstrated by the clip from “Young Frankenstein” (1974).  According to Miller, this movie would be a parody.  The humor in the clip involves multiple cast members and pokes fun at the horror genre.  The clip shows the meeting of the principles at Castle Frankenstein.  Frederick (Gene Wilder), Inga (Teri Garr) and Igor (Marty Feldman) are introduced to the housekeeper, Frau Blucher (Cloris Leachman).  Every time the name “Blucher” is said, the horses jump and neigh in fear.  The joke is pulled three times in context, and then one last time, in a fourth wall violation, by Igor.  While in the A&C clip, the spoof serves as the gag, in “Young Frankenstein,” we have a spoof with an extended gag in it.

  

      By the early 2000’s, the spoof expanded in size, scope and complexity, as seen in this clip from “Anchorman” (2004).  Again, we have what Miller would characterize as a parody with this story that lampoons local news broadcasting in the 1970’s.  In this clip, we have the epic battle of the news teams, loosely modeled on the gang rumble in “West Side Story” (1961).  It is an involved spoof that operates in isolation, within the context of the larger spoof that is the movie.  It is also “”a tip of the hat” to cinematic history.  In addition to the references everyone has already mentioned, I will add “Abbott & Costello meet Frankenstein.”  The “man on fire” walks through the scene in the lumbering way reminiscent of the “monster in flames on the pier.”    The fast pace of the scene, along with the complexity of the references demonstrates how elaborate the modern spoof has become.  And it ends even faster than it began, with a cut to Burgundy back at the office marveling at “how fast that escalated.”   Quite a change from the simplicity of Abbott & Costello.


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#5 GSPegger

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Posted 30 September 2016 - 02:50 PM

Shouldn't there now be a breakdown of the Breakdown of a Gag episodes to raise the volume of parody and self-reference to an 11? By the way, Dr. Edwards, just as the horse and net bit in Anchorman is parodying Planet of the Apes, the trident is a parody of Spartacus when the gladiators first revolt and riot at the training school, I suppose.

 

Like some others, I too have trouble with Anchorman and Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd's type of comedy, and I am not sure why. I think it is because it is too self-aware, too constantly pointing out that it is all "just a movie" and "isn't this silly?" Paul Rudd especially seems to have one eyebrow permanently raised as he breaks the fourth wall. Yet, I think Groucho is a comedic genius and endlessly amusing when he is always making it painfully clear that he has nothing to do with the "world" of the film that he has been cast into.

 

Somehow, just the mere fact that the Marx Brothers are so anachronistic, so clearly in no way real, yet the rest of the people in the film just accept them and try to gamely continue to make a standard 30s film around them is endlessly hilarious. While films like Anchorman (to me anyway) have no interest in even pretending there is a rational world outside, and that almost lessens the impact of the outrageous.

 

I am just rambling, and clearly need a therapist. It must have been due to some forgotten childhood trauma.

 

I greatly enjoyed taking part in this course. Please do this again. The films of Hitchcock would be a great source of discussion, I think. Or, War Films would be a fascinatingly varied genre topic.


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#6 Hoosierwood

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Posted 30 September 2016 - 02:31 PM

Spy spoof and parodies were strong in the 60's. "In Like Flint" I guess would be a satire. The Dr. Goldfoot films had great slapstick. Woody Allen in "Casino Royale" which connects to Austin Powers movies. 



#7 MrDougLong

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Posted 30 September 2016 - 12:37 PM

In watching these Breakdown of a Gag episodes, I've enjoyed the freeze framing, which has allowed the hosts to illustrate points about framing, timing, acting, slapstick elements, etc. With the Anchorman scene, it was useful to see that the escalation in the fight scene fit the slapstick definition because it was both violent and clearly make believe (otherwise, the man whose arm had been chopped off wouldn't only regret that he didn't see it coming). Showing and stopping the Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and Young Frankenstein scenes, the hosts made their point that the latter film required a more precise memory of the 1930s Universal horror films for its comedy to work. To laugh at Lou Costello's fear, we just need to remember the basics of how deadly those monsters could be.


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#8 Knuckleheads Return

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Posted 30 September 2016 - 09:25 AM

I have enjoyed the "Breakdowns of a Gag" portions of the course very much. I liked the comment about "Spoofs and parodies rely on knowing winks to cinema's history". As I watched this gag I couldn't help but think about the final rumble chase scene in "Mad,Mad,Mad,Mad World"; the giant pie fight in "The Great Race", the real rumble in "West Side Story"; the gathering of the clans in "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" ; "Spartacus" ; "Gladiator"; "Monty Python" and on and on. Not only does this scene draw on cinema history but it draws on each individual viewers own history with cinema. Many on the spoof items were deliberately put in by Ferrell and McKay but others are triggered by what we bring to the watching of the film in our own lives. So where did Brick Tamland get the hand grenade?


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#9 Dubbed

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Posted 30 September 2016 - 04:03 AM

This has been a really great video series, and I really enjoyed each episode and clip presented. Vince Cellini and Dr. Edwards did a great job in supplying commentaries and explanations as the clips played. This approach provided greater depth of knowledge in the understanding of slapstick and its importance within film and film history.

The compilation of a few decades was a nice way to both revisit certain film clips and end the Breakdown of a Gag series. The parodying/spoofing nature of the three clips shown are wonderful examples of honoring films of decades past.

In viewing this last episode, I began to think of other films which implement parodying comedic aspects, although not necessarily in the the form of slapstick. The Young Frankenstein clip due to its parodying of horror films led to thoughts of the film, Scream. They're clearly two very different films, but the notions of spoofing horror are both films' models. I love the self awareness of Scream and it's subversive approach to the entire horror genre. I also love Young Frankenstein's mind boggling ability to craft a complete plot from the of toppling of its predecessor's (Frankenstein) plot derived from the core of its narrative.

I've gained more appreciation for slapstick comedy and a healthy level of insight into the basic concepts and films holistically. I hope the future brings even more TCM courses honoring film, as I adored both this course and last year's film noir course. Many thank yous to both Vince Cellini and Dr. Edwards for this series! :)

Film recommendation: Bringing Up Baby.
There are great slapstick elements within this film. Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant have impeccable comedic timing. Watch it when you can!
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#10 MyMoll

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Posted 29 September 2016 - 10:59 PM

This course sped by! I hate to see it go! I just wanted to thank Dr. Edwards and his staff and everyone involved for a great course.  I took the film noir course and this topped that one.  It was fun just like slapstick.  I really hope another course is offered. I learned so much.I gained so much from Dr. Gerhings lectures. He is a wealth of knowledge!!


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I'm NOT blogging #NoirSummer because it's over,
But I'm still blogging classic movies and Noir because
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#11 Bluboo

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Posted 29 September 2016 - 08:09 PM

I am not so sure that I agree that spoofs and parodies are a thinking man's slapstick. My opinion about spoofs and parodies is that it is fairly easy to take a film done by another director and use it As the basis for a send-up. If you can find a successful, popular film like Airport, The Exorcist, Top Gun, or Halloween, it is pretty easy to turn it into a comedy. However, it does take a genius like Mel Brooks or the Zuckers & Abrams team to do a masterful job with the comedy.
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#12 Marianne

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Posted 29 September 2016 - 04:21 PM

In many ways it seems as though spoofs and parodies are the thinking person's comedy. Wait, wait...don't throw anything! To me, as much as I have grown to love the slapstick forms of the silent and talkie eras, and even the super slapstick era by having the opportunity to see them and analyze their wonderful properties, the comedy almost seemed to be handed to me on a plate. But in order to get the most out of a really good parody or spoof you need to dig in and look for references that can be as immediate as today or go back decades. Yes, the comedy of something like Naked Gun is coming at you like an avalanche, but looking for all the various connections is lovely brain candy, like a treasure hunt. Young Frankenstein is a another great example of a movie you can really enjoy for all the comedy and complexity. This class has really opened up my thinking by giving a great taste of where it all came from and how it developed. A million thanks to you Dr. Edwards, Vince Cellini, Dr. Behring and Ball State University!

 

I felt this way about Foul Play! I enjoyed the movie just as a funny story in many ways, but reading about it and learning that it was an homage to Alfred Hitchcock made me appreciate it all the more. Now I guess I have to see many Hitchcock films again before seeing Foul Play again so I can appreciate it even more.


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#13 felipe1912t

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Posted 29 September 2016 - 10:28 AM

By watching this final episode we can see clearly that some motifs for comedic situations are present on its genre since the early days. What we can see is that some kind of skills start to being much more explored in a particular period of time. Parodies, for example, are much more present on cinema from 1970s and on than decades earlier.

 

Young Frankenstein and Anchorman are both delicious movies, with great references and great interpretations. If we go further, I'd even say that teenage movies lige Scary Movie also are part of that kind of humor. After all, they're almost all parodies from the beginning to the end!

 

My final reflection about this lovely journey: is slapstick glued to its origins? Don't we have any kind of revolutionary skill to keep the audience interested in comedy? The course itslef puts all body of work from 1970s on on the same space, maybe because what we can see from that point on is too much linked with what we saw earlier. Perhaps that why the silent age is commonly remembered as the golden age of slapstick!

 

Anyway, it was a privilege to be among so many talented names for the second year in a row, watching spectacular movies and hearing some of the great masters of film in US. Thanks to Prof. Richard Edwards and TCM for that! Hope to see you next year in another course!


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#14 Chris_Coombs

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Posted 28 September 2016 - 11:18 PM

Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein was made at the end of Universal Studios run of monster movies. It was as if there was nowhere else to go but comedy. In that way it is different from Young Frankenstein, because the latter could look back with nostalgia at the classic films, and parody it. Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein was just that - a meeting of two current genres: An Abbot & Costello film and a Universal Monster movie.

 

I have only seen parts of Anchorman, but it seems to be more of a satire of certain attitudes of that era of the 70's (such as sexual discrimination,  self-absorption, and ambition), It doesn't seem to spoof a genre.



#15 Patti Zee

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Posted 28 September 2016 - 10:59 PM

Sorry, Dr Gehring, my spell check decided to change your name.

#16 Patti Zee

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Posted 28 September 2016 - 10:56 PM

In many ways it seems as though spoofs and parodies are the thinking person's comedy. Wait, wait...don't throw anything! To me, as much as I have grown to love the slapstick forms of the silent and talkie eras, and even the super slapstick era by having the opportunity to see them and analyze their wonderful properties, the comedy almost seemed to be handed to me on a plate. But in order to get the most out of a really good parody or spoof you need to dig in and look for references that can be as immediate as today or go back decades. Yes, the comedy of something like Naked Gun is coming at you like an avalanche, but looking for all the various connections is lovely brain candy, like a treasure hunt. Young Frankenstein is a another great example of a movie you can really enjoy for all the comedy and complexity. This class has really opened up my thinking by giving a great taste of where it all came from and how it developed. A million thanks to you Dr. Edwards, Vince Cellini, Dr. Behring and Ball State University!
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#17 MrZerep

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Posted 28 September 2016 - 09:47 PM

The "Breakdowns of a Gag" lessons are awesome.  In 6-8 minutes we're treated to funny scenes and great comments and what to look for by Vince and the good Doctor.

As they stated that people even today and in the future will laugh at Charlie Chaplin slipping on a banana peel.  I guess it's human nature to see some form of humor in a slapstick situation.  

There is an innocence in the slapstick of the silent era to the early 60s; as the world changed in the 60s, so did our choices of how and why to laugh.  No longer would silly situations be sufficient, but spoofing the past and creating outrageous and even adult oriented comedy gags.  I guess the spoofs and parodies of the 70s are original forms of the what is now known as "re-imagining."


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#18 ScottZepher

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Posted 28 September 2016 - 09:44 PM

Thank you, Dr. Edwards, using the ESPN telestrator concept, and inviting Vince Cellini.   Together with Dr. Gehring's  illuminating lectures, you gave the course a valuable and entertaining learning source. 

 

Poor Lou, wouldn't be the last time he'd have problems with hands.  Hand gags were almost always part of the repertoire, as seen at 29:37 on this episode of the Colgate Comedy Hour:

 

 


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#19 johnseury

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Posted 28 September 2016 - 09:37 PM

All three clips were funny but I think that the Anchorman clips suffered from too much self-awareness. It was overall a funny film but like The Great Race and some of the other super slapstick films, it was bloated and ultimately weighed it (and the others) down. Sometimes you wink so hard that you can't see.
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#20 clark2600

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Posted 28 September 2016 - 07:08 PM

It was "a really big show."  Only regrets that I have to say.  Hope  that Dr. Rich Edwards, as well as the rest of the team "play it again, Sam," next year, or sooner.  Best regards.






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