The best comedies are not the “funniest” but the ones that make you laugh and pluck your heartstrings. I know that sounds sappy but it’s true. Exceptional comedies always touch bottom on some level by saying something true and lasting about the need for love and soul food, and by adhering to the rules or at least the attitude of good, well-written relationship dramas. You could say, in fact, that comedies that are just out to be “funny” are arguably the least impressive. Remember the words of the immortal Michael O’Donoghue: “Simply making people laugh is the lowest form of humor.”
The Writers Guild has officially voted Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman’s Annie Hall (’77) as the “funniest” screenplay of all time. How does that sit?
I love Annie Hall because it deals with real-deal neuroticism and urban-smart-people issues all the time, and so I have no problem with it winning. But calling it the “funniest” doesn’t sound right. Like the WGA’s the second- and third-place finishers Some Like It Hot and Groundhog Day, Annie Hall is a funny but wise film that deals with the altogether. And because it reminds every viewer that life is often miserable and is over much too quickly, and that we keep getting bruised in relationship after relationship because we “need the eggs.”
My fourth-place finisher is Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Peter George and Terry Southern.
My fifth-place choice is Young Frankenstein (’74) — screenplay by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks, story by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks, based on Characters in the novel “Frankenstein” by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. “Blucher!”