Movies and TV
6 Reasons Why Comedy In Film is Dying

Josh Kesnik | 18 Mar 2016 12:00
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Think back to the last comedy film you saw. Was it funny? If you're nodding affirmatively, let me ask you something else: was it hysterical?

Despite comedies seeing some of the highest attendance rates out of all film genres, there has been a considerable decrease in the quality of comedies coming out. wrote an article a while ago about the top 20 greatest comedies of all time. If one wants to take a look at the article (and I would highly recommend it), they might notice that out of all the comedies on the list, only one came out after the year 2000. Even looking at Rotten Tomatoes, one will find that most high ranking comedies post-2000 end up being animated, family-friendly films - a niche of their own.

There are very few comedies coming out these days that people will consider classics in years to come. Why has the genre taken such a bad turn? Let's explore six reasons why comedy in films is dying.


1. Internet

Childish Gambino said it best: "It's because of the internet." The internet is this hive mind of billions of people gathering information from all over the world. Comedy is simply a type of information that causes someone to have a predictable reaction (i.e. laughter). The internet has been amazing for comedy over these past twenty-something years. Think about all different types of comedy there are in the world, and being able to experience all of them in one place for as long as we want. We even have certain forms of comedy only for the internet such as memes, tweets, and podcasts. Going to a film with only one plot can almost be seen as boring these days when we could go to YouTube and look up as many five-minute videos as we want with such variety that it would almost be impossible to be bored.

The entertainment industry has to compete with this. The internet is making the trends in comedy instead of following them; it has become the source of original humor. Films take so long to produce that they can't keep up with the fast-paced world of memes and topical humor, nor can they afford to take the risks that five-minute skits can take in exploring new ideas, so they stick with what's safe: recycling the same films that have worked in the past.

2. Attention

Modern studies have shown that the digital life has caused humans to have decreased attention spans, making it more difficult for people to grab and retain our attention. It's not like we all have ADHD, but we can admit there has to be something a little more than mildly interesting to get us to look up from our laptops and phones. When we have the internet to give us the many fast-paced quick moments of comedy we are accustomed to, it seems almost like a hassle to have to sit and watch the same thing for an extended period of time. If it's a truly amazing comedy then it will get our attention, but that's the problem - there just aren't as many fantastic comedies being made by the film industry as there are random people in the world making quick five minute videos. Here's a good example: I am able to go on YouTube and look up the funniest scenes from the film Airplane!without having to watch the entire film. It's an amazing film, but a lot of times I don't want to sit through the whole movie to get to a certain part.

Our reduced attention spans may even make us less likely to go watch a comedy in the theater.

There is a style of comedy that does involve extending the length of a joke to great lengths of time to make it funnier. When this happens, the time lapse over the joke becomes a part of the joke itself, and can even be the funniest part about it. A notable example of this can be seen in many of episodes of Family Guy. While this does work for Seth MacFarlane, it could not work nearly as well for a full two-hour film - and those who have seen a Family Guy movie may agree. It's just too much time for the joke to drag on, and eventually it will go from being funny to being tiring.

The thing about comedy is you want it to be fast paced. It's easier to make a joke quickly and have it end on a laugh than to let it drag on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and see what I mean? The more time you give an audience to think about a comedic situation, the less funny it tends to become. In addition to our attention spans not having the patience for drawn-out jokes, analysis kicks in, and the premise is picked apart using the terribly unfunny duo known as "logic" and "reason."

Our reduced attention spans may even make us less likely to go watch a comedy in the theater. Relying on a single source of entertainment for 90 consecutive minutes with no form of interaction can seem like a daunting time investment. Sure, it may pay off, but there is still the concern that the movie will not be funny, and while other films can suffer from poor execution in some areas and still be entertaining, an unfunny comedy is just a burden to watch.

3. Sequels

Let's look this table showing the 25 top grossing comedy films from 1995-2015.


If you remove sequels and prequels from this list, then the top 25 quickly become the Top 18 highest grossing comedy films. The problem with a good comedy is fans will always ask for more. I remember when I was 12, I thought Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was the funniest film ever, and would have loved to have seen a sequel to it. Now I'm older and even before it came out, I knew the sequel was going to be worse than the original. It wasn't bad, but it was definitely not as good, much less better. In order to make a truly great sequel, it has to take the original version and improve on it in some way. With comedy though, most fans of the film want to hear the same jokes over and over again because they believe if it was funny before, it will continue to be funny and will always be funny. The film industry understands this, and that is why we have so many sequels for comedies that never seem to be as funny as the original.

This is unfortunately something that happens with all genres of film, but comedy is one of the biggest victims. Producers tend to want more sequels from comedy than anything else (except perhaps action-adventure films). To add some emphasis, here are the top 25 highest grossing films in the "drama" genre:


I don't know what the Twilight series did, but regardless there are a lot less sequels on that list than there are original films.

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