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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Funny like Ha, Ha?

I know pop culture list-making is writer's code for, "Man, we're really low on ideas and just need to stir up some drama in easy-to-digest fashion." But I found Entertainment Weekly's latest gallery ranking the "25 Funniest People in America" somewhat interesting.

No cast of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia?" No Flight of the Conchords? Really, EW? And since Ricky Gervais is on the list, clearly you don't have to be American to be funny in, well, America. Diablo Cody at No. 20? I mean, "Juno" was good for a few heartfelt laughs, but was "honest to blog" really a knee-slappingly hilarious addition to the public lexicon? And Craig Ferguson? What, was Jim Belushi not eligible for the list?

Carell, Colbert, Stewart, Ferrell, Fey ... OK, the usual suspects are there. And while I don't have an issue with the cheap "Judd Apatow and gang" selection (that's a pretty big net to cast, E-Dub) for No. 1, having just watched "Superbad," I can't help but think that Apatow needs Paul Feig to re-enter the picture as the little devil on his shoulder.

Having struggled for years to find mass appeal on any number of critically-revered projects, I'm really happy that Apatow is making serious bank in the world of raunchy teen comedies. But as much as I enjoyed specific moments in "40 Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up" and "Superbad," it appears -- at least to me -- that Feig, the other creative force behind my all-time favorite TV comedy, "Freaks and Geeks," was the grounded figure in that partnership.

Granted, "Freaks" was made for network TV, so who knows, maybe if they were on HBO they would have ramped up the raunch factor for Daniel Desario and Co. But there was also something sweetly sadistic about Sam Weir running naked in the hallway with a blue dot over his naughty bits, or Sam, Neal and Bill having a PG-13, not R-rated, discussion about French kissing girls for the first time. I think that's where the warmth of those characters comes from -- that they were innocently and naively having mature first-time discussions, and much of what could potentially cross the line was left to the imagination. They weren't just teens with raging hard ... er, let's just say they weren't easy excitable and in a position to know everything about the opposite sex.

I mean, the awkwardness of Nick Andopolis (as played by Jason Segel) is a perfect example. If his perversion had moved beyond just being slightly creepy, would his lovestruck stoner persona have been as endearing to the "Freaks" viewership? Let's just say "Lady L" hit the right chords for that show. He didn't need to dry-hump a pie to prove a point about his desperation. Having watched the "Superbad's" of the world (and enjoyed them for the most part) I think Feig was a big part of striking that comedic balance. Not everything should be a dirty joke, you know?

It's like the infamous porn episode of "Freaks," with Sam getting grossed out by mature acts he's not quite prepared to see as an uninitiated freshman. Even in comedy, restraint can be a good thing.

Anyone agree with me, or at 28, am I just not in a position to find (rhymes with stick) jokes all that funny?

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Ha. Ha. Funny stuff, Thomas. You're one of the biggest reasons I read this blog. Thanks.

By Anonymous Anonymous, At May 22, 2008 at 8:44 PM  

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